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How your communication style speaks

Updated: Jun 7, 2022

We all have ways of communicating to others, but how effective is your communication? There are four main styles of communication, Passive, Assertive, Aggressive, Passive Aggressive. Three of these styles are not beneficial or effective, do you know which one is the most effective?

The passive aggressive style can be sarcastic, they can often mutter things under their breath. They do not outright say things that derail communication. They could use backhanded compliments and sarcasm. Some things they say may sound like, “ You are so lucky you got that promotion, You’re so sensitive, I don’t mean to be rude but.” The passive aggressive person could often pass the blame onto someone else. This person can be critical of others in private, or make jokes at others expense. This person doesn’t want to outright voice their discontent, but respond with an “I’m fine, we’re fine, everything’s just fine”. They’re voicing one opinion now but being cruel later.

An aggressive communicator can often come across as a bully. They can commandeer a meeting. They often will talk loudly and interrupt others. They do not like to be wrong and want to make sure that people listen to them. The aggressive communicator can use hurtful language and often not listen to what others are saying.

The passive communicator is the opposite of the aggressive communicator. This person has a hard time voicing their opinions. They are often soft spoken or come across as shy. Their body language may appear slouchy or fidgety. This person struggles to say no. They will not openly voice their displeasure, and might have difficulty making or keeping eye contact.

The Assertive communicator makes their thoughts and feelings known without hurting or disrespecting anyone’s feelings in the process. The assertive communicator can use statements like “when you say that I feel, let’s agree to disagree, I would rather not.” They are able to say no and not feel the need to use sarcasm, put downs, yell or scream at people to get their point across. Assertive communication is the most effective communication of the four styles. When you are using assertive communication you take responsibility using “I” Statements. They are not placing blame elsewhere but letting you know how the action has made them feel. They use their words effectively and can be very productive in meetings, because they do not engage in tactics that can derail meetings.

Now that we know what the four styles are, how can we work with them? Did you ever hear the saying two wrongs don’t make it right? That question can be applied here. It’s best to not mirror the other person's style. If you try being passive with the passive communicator to make them feel more comfortable it will not make for a productive conversation, no real results will be seen.

If you try to be aggressive with the aggressive communicator, it will likely result in needing to use the fire extinguisher because it’s about to get heated in there. Using passive aggressive techniques will result in lots of resentment and stalemates.

How to best work with the Passive Communicator

The passive communicator may do better in a one on one setting. In a meeting the passive communicator will often remain silent, or just agree to whatever is being said to avoid conflict. Provide a scheduled time where they feel comfortable opening up. Allow that person a safe space to give feedback without ridicule or verbal tirade. This is not to say that the passive communicator can’t attend the meeting, but make sure they have a space to open up privately. Ask them their opinions, “ how did you think the meeting went, what would you have liked to see happen?” These types of questions allow the passive communicator to come up with an answer that is not simply yes or no. Give this person the time they need to respond. Remember, this needs to be a comfortable spot for them to open up. If you are continually jumping in, they will not feel like they can communicate effectively.

How to work best with an Aggressive Communicator

The answer is not to just give in to everything they want, that would only add fuel to the fire. The aggressive communicator needs a person who can remain calm and measured and speak to them in a manner that does not ignite their flame. In a private setting address the aggressors behavior. This should not be done in a shameful manner but using the “I” statements so they become aware that their behavior was hurtful. An example could be “ I felt disrespected when I was spoken to in that manner.” Another technique is to ask them questions about why they chose to respond in that way. Allow the person to give you their thoughts. Be empathetic and an attentive listener but try not to sweep the behavior under the rug by saying something like “ it’s ok, try better next time.” This basically gives the communicator a free pass. State your opinions concisely and clearly.

How work best with a Passive Aggressive communicator

Approaching this person is going to be very similar to the aggressive style. You will need to be direct in your approach. Handling the situation subtly will not get your message across effectively. This is another private conversation you will need to have. This conversation will be most effective when using the “I” statements instead of placing blame on the person. The passive aggressive person will often not take responsibility and pass it off onto someone else when they feel threatened. Use statements such as “ I noticed you were late today, tell me about what’s going on” This again gives the person a chance to tell their thoughts instead of being blamed for being late.

Tip 1: address the behavior immediately. Do not hide or let time pass before the behavior is dealt with. This will only allow the behavior to boil and let the person know their behavior is tolerated.

Tip 2: Set up very clear and understandable boundaries and consequences. From the very beginning of a person’s career at your company it should be crystal clear what the expectations are and what will not be tolerated. It is very important to stop the behavior before it’s had a chance to grow and morph into something unmanageable.

Tip 3: Praise in public and correct in private. No one wants to be publicly humiliated or called out. When a person is publicly rebuked they will feel resentful, hostile, and defensive, which will only amplify the behavior.

Using the Assertive Communication style

Yep, you guessed it. The Assertive style is the most effective style. It allows you to get your point across with out trampling on others. You are able to clearly state your thoughts and voice your opinions. You may not agree with others but could say things like " Let's agree to disagree, I would rather not, When you said that I felt hurt. " When you are able to voice your opinion in a way that doesn't place blame on the other party, you will have a much more productive meeting. Assertive communication may take practice to get it right. Just remember, you want to clearly state your thoughts, without disrespecting others. Take responsibility for your words, "I feel, I am not comfortable with that are examples of how you can take responsibility for your feelings.

Communication styles can change. It is never too late to correct a communication style. If you are reading this right now and thinking, “ Oh man, that sounds like my place, I just need to start over.” That’s not the answer. The answer is, “how can I help my colleagues learn a better communication style?” Well, great news Personalized Coaching solutions can help. At PCS we help you and your team understand how communication styles affect everyone around us and how to apply a different style in your everyday world.

Watch more hilarious workplace pitfalls at Personalized Coaching Solutions YouTube Channel:

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