Alyce Galea. Psychologist
The way we communicate with others tends to fall into one of four styles: Passive, Aggressive, Passive Aggressive and Assertive. We may often adopt the one communication style in all interactions, or we communicate with different styles depending on who we are speaking with.
Let's look at the main traits of each communication style...
Passive: Passive communicators have a tendency to avoid expressing their feelings or opinions, and shy away from standing up for themselves and their rights. This is often due to a fear of conflict, low confidence or anxiety about how people will respond to them. Because they don’t feel comfortable expressing themselves, they will often harbour resentment and let emotions buildup until they reach breaking point. Following an emotional outburst, they may feel shame and guilt, and return to being passive again.
Aggressive: Aggressive communicators sit at the other end of the spectrum. They are very confident in expressing themselves and getting what they want, regardless of how their actions affect others. They often issue commands, are bad listeners and often lack empathy for the feelings of others.
Passive Aggressive: Passive Aggressive communicators appear passive on the surface, but often express subtle or indirect aggressions. They are often aware of their needs and emotional experiences, but struggle to express them in a helpful way. Instead of openly communicating what they need or how they feel, they may instead express their grievances or annoyances through giving someone the silent treatment, spreading rumours, or making sarcastic or unhelpful remarks. These communicators often feel powerless, stuck and resentful because they are unable to effectively express themselves.
Assertive: Assertive communicators are able to express their needs and feelings in a healthy and helpful way. They are empathetic and aware of how their actions may impact on someone, and are able to negotiate ways of having their needs met, without being overbearing, rude or hurting others. Assertive communicators understand that they may not get what they want all of the time, but are willing to compromise if it means having some of their needs met.
When communication breaks down, it’s often because the ways we communicate and the habits we’ve formed often get in the way. We might have good intentions and an idea of how we would like to express ourselves going into a conversation with our teens, but as emotions heighten and we find ourselves feeling frustrated or impatient, what we want to say and how we want to say it might come out wrong or get misunderstood, leading to further breakdowns in our communication with them.
The good news is that with practice, we can improve the way we relate and communicate with others!
For more personalised support around communication and relationships in your life, please book in with one of our friendly psychologists.