The Four Basic Styles of Communication: This resource is provided by the UK Violence Intervention and Prevention Center
1. PASSIVE COMMUNICATION is a style in which individuals have developed a pattern of avoiding expressing their opinions or feelings, protecting their rights, and identifying and meeting their needs. As a result, passive individuals do not respond overtly to hurtful or anger-inducing situations. Instead, they allow grievances and annoyances to mount, usually unaware of the buildup. But once they have reached their high tolerance threshold for unacceptable behavior, they are prone to explosive outbursts, which are usually out of proportion to the triggering incident. After the outburst, however, they may feel shame, guilt, and confusion, so they return to being passive. Passive communicators will often: fail to assert for themselves allow others to deliberately or inadvertently infringe on their rights fail to express their feelings, needs, or opinions tend to speak softly or apologetically exhibit poor eye contact and slumped body posture The impact of a pattern of passive communication is that these individuals: often feel anxious because life seems out of their control often feel depressed because they feel stuck and hopeless often feel resentful (but are unaware of it) because their needs are not being met often feel confused because they ignore their own feelings are unable to mature because real issues are never addressed A passive communicator will say, believe, or behave like: “I’m unable to stand up for my rights.” “I don’t know what my rights are.” “I get stepped on by everyone.” “I’m weak and unable to take care of myself.” “People never consider my feelings.”
2. AGGRESSIVE COMMUNICATION is a style in which individuals express their feelings and opinions and advocate for their needs in a way that violates the rights of others. Thus, aggressive communicators are verbally and/or physically abusive. Aggressive communicators will often: try to dominate others use humiliation to control others criticize, blame, or attack others be very impulsive have low frustration tolerance speak in a loud, demanding, and overbearing voice act threateningly and rudely not listen well interrupt frequently use “you” statements have an overbearing or intimidating posture The impact of a pattern of aggressive communication is that these individuals: become alienated from others alienate others generate fear and hatred in others always blame others instead of owning their issues, and thus are unable to mature The aggressive communicator will say, believe, or behave like: “I’m superior and right and you’re inferior and wrong.” “I’m loud, bossy and pushy.” “I can dominate and intimidate you.” “I can violate your rights.” “I’ll get my way no matter what.” “You’re not worth anything.” “It’s all your fault.” “I react instantly.” “I’m entitled.” “You owe me.” “I own you.”
3. PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE COMMUNICATION is a style in which individuals appear passive on the surface but are really acting out anger in a subtle, indirect, or behind-the-scenes way. People who develop a pattern of passive-aggressive communication usually feel powerless, stuck, and resentful – in other words, they feel incapable of dealing directly with the object of their resentments. Instead, they express their anger by subtly undermining the object (real or imagined) of their resentments. Passive-Aggressive communicators will often: mutter to themselves rather than confront the person or issue have difficulty acknowledging their anger use facial expressions that don’t match how they feel – i.e., smiling when angry use sarcasm deny there is a problem appear cooperative while purposely doing things to annoy and disrupt use subtle sabotage to get even The impact of a pattern of passive-aggressive communication is that these individuals: become alienated from those around them remain stuck in a position of powerlessness (like POWs) discharge resentment while real issues are never addressed so they can’t mature The passive-aggressive communicator will say, believe, or behave like: “I’m weak and resentful, so I sabotage, frustrate, and disrupt.” “I’m powerless to deal with you head on so I must use gorilla warfare.” “I will appear cooperative but I’m not.”
4. ASSERTIVE COMMUNICATION is a style in which individuals clearly state their opinions and feelings, and firmly advocate for their rights and needs without violating the rights of others. These individuals value themselves, their time, and their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs and are strong advocates for themselves while being very respectful of the rights of others. Assertive communicators will: state needs and wants clearly, appropriately, and respectfully express feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully use “I” statements communicate respect for others listen well without interrupting feel in control of self have good eye contact speak in a calm and clear tone of voice have a relaxed body posture feel connected to others feel competent and in control not allow others to abuse or manipulate them stand up for their rights The impact of a pattern of assertive communication is that these individuals: feel connected to others feel in control of their lives are able to mature because they address issues and problems as they arise create a respectful environment for others to grow and mature The assertive communicator will say, believe, or behave in a way that says: “We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully to one another.” “I am confident about who I am.” “I realize I have choices in my life and I consider my options.” “I speak clearly, honestly, and to the point.” “I can’t control others but I can control myself.” “I place a high priority on having my rights respected.” “I am responsible for getting my needs met in a respectful manner.” “I respect the rights of others.” “Nobody owes me anything unless they’ve agreed to give it to me.” “I’m 100% responsible for my own happiness.” Assertiveness allows us to take care of ourselves, and is fundamental for good mental health and healthy relationships.