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What is Your Communication Style? (4 Types with Examples)

Understanding your communication style is essential for effective interaction with others. Becoming aware of your own tendencies can empower you to adapt to different contexts. So, let’s discuss 4 main types of communication styles: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. Recognizing these styles can help you improve your communication skills and adapt to different situations.

Passive Communication

Passive communicators typically avoid confrontation and may struggle to express their opinions or needs openly. If you exhibit passive communication, you might often agree with others, even when you don’t genuinely agree, to avoid conflict. Although this style can contribute to a more peaceful environment, it may also lead to frustration and unaddressed issues. To improve your communication, practice asserting yourself and expressing your thoughts and feelings effectively.

Examples of passive communication include:

  • Avoiding conflict or difficult conversations altogether, even when it’s necessary to address a problem.
  • Failing to express your own opinions, thoughts, or feelings, even when it’s important to do so.
  • Apologizing excessively, even when you haven’t done anything wrong.
  • Being overly accommodating and going along with other people’s wishes, even when it’s not what you want.
  • Minimizing your own needs and wants, and prioritizing the needs and wants of others.
  • Allowing others to interrupt or talk over you without standing up for yourself.

It’s important to note that passive communication can lead to feelings of resentment, frustration, and dissatisfaction, and it can also prevent people from achieving their goals and fulfilling their needs. It’s important to find a balance between your communication styles to effectively express your own needs and desires while also respecting the needs and desires of others.

Passive communication body language includes nonverbal cues that convey a lack of assertiveness or confidence in communication.

Examples of passive communication body language include:

  1. Avoiding eye contact
  2. Slouching or hunching over
  3. Crossing arms or legs
  4. Fidgeting or playing with objects
  5. Speaking softly or hesitantly
  6. Smiling excessively or inappropriately
  7. Nodding excessively or too frequently
  8. Avoiding physical contact or touch
  9. Exhibiting nervous habits such as biting nails or tapping feet.

These nonverbal cues can convey a lack of confidence, self-esteem, or assertiveness, and may result in ineffective communication or misunderstandings.

 

Aggressive Communication

Aggressive communicators may dominate conversations and push their opinions onto others. If you communicate aggressively, you might be assertive and decisive, but also risk damaging relationships or making others feel disrespected.

To mitigate this, focus on developing empathy and finding common ground with others, while maintaining confidence in your convictions.

Examples of aggressive communication:

  • Interrupting the other person while they are speaking and raising your voice to dominate the conversation.
  • Using insults, name-calling, or profanity to attack the other person.
  • Blaming the other person for the problem and not taking any responsibility for your role in the situation.
  • Threatening the other person with physical or emotional harm.
  • Using aggressive comments to express your displeasure.
  • Refusing to listen to the other person’s point of view and dismissing their opinions as irrelevant and unimportant.
  • Making demands or ultimatums to force the other person to comply with your wishes.
  • Using body language like pointing, finger wagging, or invading the other person’s personal space to intimidate them.

It’s important to note that aggressive communication can be harmful and damaging to relationships, and it’s often not an effective way to resolve conflicts or communicate effectively.

Aggressive communication body language includes nonverbal cues that convey a confrontational or threatening attitude in communication.

Examples of aggressive communication body language include:

  1. Staring or glaring at others
  2. Invading personal space
  3. Pointing or jabbing with fingers
  4. Clenching fists or showing other signs of tension
  5. Raising one’s voice or speaking in a harsh tone
  6. Interrupting or talking over others
  7. Exhibiting dominant body posture such as standing with hands on hips or chest puffed out
  8. Using aggressive gestures such as finger pointing or fist pounding
  9. Exhibiting a lack of empathy or understanding of others’ perspectives.
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These nonverbal cues can convey a threatening or intimidating attitude, and may result in conflict or hostility in communication.

Passive-Aggressive Communication

Passive-aggressive communication is a style of communication where the person appears to be passive on the surface, but is actually expressing their anger, frustration, or resentment in a covert or indirect way (for example, through sarcasm or concealed anger). If you exhibit passive-aggressive communication, try to identify the underlying reasons for your behavior and work towards addressing them.

Examples of passive-aggressive communication include:

  • Making sarcastic or snarky comments that are intended to hurt or criticize the other person.
  • Giving the silent treatment or withholding communication as a way to punish the other person.
  • Using backhanded compliments that sound like praise but are actually meant to insult or undermine the other person.
  • Agreeing to do something but then intentionally doing it poorly or not doing it at all.
  • Engaging in subtle acts of sabotage or undermining the other person’s efforts.
  • Using humor to deflect or avoid addressing the real issue at hand.
  • Making excuses or blaming others for your own mistakes or shortcomings.

Passive-aggressive communication can be damaging to relationships and can create a toxic environment. It’s important to address conflicts and issues directly and honestly, and to find constructive ways to express your feelings and needs without resorting to passive-aggressive behavior.

Passive-aggressive communication body language includes nonverbal cues that convey a combination of indirectness and hostility in communication.

Examples of passive-aggressive communication body language include:

  1. Rolling eyes or making sarcastic comments
  2. Sighing or making other sounds of frustration
  3. Using a fake or insincere tone of voice
  4. Giving the silent treatment and avoiding eye contact
  5. Making backhanded compliments or insults
  6. Exhibiting a lack of cooperation or commitment
  7. Using ambiguous or vague language that can be interpreted in multiple ways
  8. Exhibiting a lack of enthusiasm or interest
  9. Using body language that contradicts verbal messages, such as smiling while saying something negative
  10. Exhibiting a lack of accountability or responsibility.

These nonverbal cues convey a sense of resentment or anger, but in an indirect or passive way.

Passive-aggressive communication body language can be confusing and frustrating for others, and can result in misunderstandings or conflict.

Assertive Communication

Assertive communication is a style of communication where the individual expresses their needs and desires in a clear, direct, and respectful manner, while also respecting the needs and desires of others. Assertive communicators are self-assured and able to express their thoughts and feelings openly, without resorting to aggression or passivity. This communication style is generally considered the most effective and healthy way to interact with others.

If you aim to develop assertive communication skills, focus on active listening, building empathy, increasing self-awareness, and standing up for yourself while respecting others’ viewpoints.

Examples of assertive communication include:

  • Speaking in a calm and confident tone of voice, without raising your voice or becoming defensive.
  • Using “I” statements to express your feelings and needs, such as “I feel frustrated when…” or “I need…”
  • Acknowledging the other person’s perspective and feelings, while also expressing your own.
  • Setting clear boundaries and expectations, and communicating them in a respectful way.
  • Using active listening skills to understand the other person’s point of view. (Learn more: Active Listening: Techniques, Examples, Tips)
  • Taking responsibility for your own actions and apologizing when necessary.
  • Using problem-solving skills to find mutually beneficial solutions to conflicts.

Learn more:

Authenticity: How to Be Your Authentic Self (Examples & Strategies)

How to Cultivate Self-Awareness (10 Tips)

What Is Active Listening? (Examples, How-to’s, Best Practices)

How to Live By Your Values (and Core Values List: 150+ Awesome Examples of Personal Values)

Assertive communication body language includes nonverbal cues that convey confidence, respect, and clarity in communication.

Examples of assertive communication body language include:

  1. Speaking clearly and confidently without raising one’s voice
  2. Standing or sitting up straight with an open posture
  3. Making eye contact without staring or glaring
  4. Using gestures that emphasize key points without being aggressive
  5. Using appropriate facial expressions to match the message being conveyed
  6. Using appropriate physical touch such as a handshake
  7. Using appropriate humor or warmth to build rapport
  8. Demonstrating empathy and understanding of others’ perspectives.
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Influences on Communication Style

Various factors can influence your communication style, including relationships, feelings, past experiences, and trust issues.

  • The nature of your relationships impacts the way you communicate.
    Relationships can be shifted by power dynamics or the closeness you share with others. You may use different communication styles as you interact with friends, family, coworkers, or authority figures.
  • Your feelings play a significant role in shaping your communication style.
    Emotions can affect the tone, body language, and choice of words in your interactions. Being aware of your emotional state and practicing emotional intelligence can lead to more effective communication. For example, expressing empathy helps establish connections and allows others to feel understood. Learn more: Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – Examples, Tips
  • Another important influence on your communication style is your personal history and past experiences.
    Your upbringing, cultural background, and past interactions shape your communication habits. Acknowledging and understanding these influences can help you overcome possible communication barriers and adapt your style when necessary.
  • Trust is a crucial element in communication.
    Establishing trust with others is key to productive and meaningful interactions. When there is a lack of trust, it hampers open communication and may lead to misunderstandings or conflicts. Building trust takes time and means being reliable, consistent, and honest in your communication. Learn more: How to Build Trust [18 Effective Solutions]

Impact of Communication Styles on Relationships

Your communication style can either cause conflict or promote harmony. Let’s discuss the impact of communication styles on relationships, conflict, and decision making.

Healthy Relationships

Good communication is the foundation of healthy relationships. When you are aware of your communication style and consider other’s styles, you can adapt and create an environment of mutual understanding and respect. This can lead to stronger bonds, better collaboration, and a greater sense of trust between you and the people in your life.

Assertive communication is considered the most effective approach for cultivating healthy relationships, because it balances expressing your needs and feelings while respecting the needs and feelings of others. Developing and applying assertive communication skills can help reduce misunderstandings and prevent resentment from building up.

Conflict

Conflict arises when there is a disagreement between people with differing communication styles. For example, aggressive communication can trigger defensiveness and anger leading to counter-aggression; passive and passive-aggressive communication styles can foster hidden resentment and unaddressed issues between people.

Related:

How to Choose Conflict Management Style? [5 Styles with Examples]

How to Manage Conflict in the Workplace [with Examples]

Decision Making

Each person’s communication style plays a significant role in the decision-making process. When you understand your communication style and the styles of others, you can participate and contribute more effectively to the decision-making process. Misunderstandings and confusion can arise if some people dominate the conversation or don’t express their opinions clearly. By practicing assertive communication, you can help ensure that everyone’s points of view are considered, leading to better-informed and collaborative decisions.

Related:

6 Steps of Ethical Decision Making Process

Improving Your Communication Style

Understanding your communication style is one step in the process of becoming a more effective communicator. The next step is to improve your skills and adapt your style to different situations. Let’s discuss various tools and techniques, body language, and processing thoughts and feelings to enhance your communication abilities.

Tools and Techniques

Several tools and techniques can help you refine your communication style:

  • Active listening: Fully concentrate on and engage with the speaker, making an effort to understand their perspective.
  • Using “I” statements: This can help express your needs and ideas without being blameful or accusatory.
  • Seeking feedback: Requesting input from others on your communication strengths and areas for improvement can help you constantly refine your style.
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Body Language

In addition to verbal communication, body language plays a significant role in conveying your message. Some aspects of body language to consider include:

  • Maintaining eye contact: This demonstrates engagement and sincerity.
  • Using open gestures: Keep your arms unfolded and maintain an open posture to convey openness and receptiveness.
  • Facial expressions: Ensure your facial expressions match your emotions and message to avoid confusion.

Processing Thoughts and Feelings

It’s essential to process your thoughts and feelings before engaging in communication to prevent misunderstandings or unnecessary conflicts:

  • Take a few moments to consider what you genuinely want to communicate and how you wish to convey it.
  • Be aware of any strong emotions and recognize their influence on your communication style. Acknowledge your feelings and aim for a neutral tone.
  • Ask clarifying questions before responding: this can help you better understand the message and avoid assumptions.

Understanding Dominance and Steadiness in Communication

It’s important to discuss the concepts of dominance and steadiness. These styles are derived from the behavioral styles outlined by American psychologist William Moulton Marston in his book “Emotions of Normal People”.

  • Dominance in communication refers to a direct and decisive manner of expressing oneself. As a dominant communicator, you may focus on solving problems and overcoming challenges. You likely have high confidence in your abilities and make decisions quickly; your communication often involves controlling the conversation and influencing its direction. However, dominance can sometimes come across as aggressive or overpowering to others.
  • Steadiness in communication relates to a calming, consistent, and reliable style. If you have a steady communication style, you prefer to work at a measured pace and maintain harmony within a group. You prioritize cooperation, support, and collaboration. Steadiness focuses on building strong relationships and seeking consensus among team members.

To improve your communication style, consider employing the following strategies:

  • For Dominance: Take time to actively listen to others and ask for their input. Show empathy and understanding, and adapt your approach to foster collaboration.
  • For Steadiness: Develop your confidence in expressing your own opinions and ideas, even if they differ from those of the group. Learn to assert yourself and embrace change.

Recognizing and Addressing Aggressive and Passive-Aggressive Communication

  • Aggressive communication is characterized by high emotion, low empathy, and a focus on winning the argument at any cost. Aggressive communicators often dominate conversations, make accusations, and disrespect others’ rights and opinions.
    To counter aggressive communication, try remaining calm, assertive, and respectful while expressing your feelings and needs. Establishing boundaries and maintaining self-respect can help you in handling aggressive communicators.
  • Passive-aggressive communication is characterized by indirect expressions of anger or hostility, such as sarcasm or subtle sabotage. Passive-aggressive communicators may appear outwardly agreeable but secretly undermine or resist others.
    Recognizing this behavior in yourself or others is crucial in addressing it. Open and honest communication is key to mitigating passive-aggressive tendencies. You can also practice assertiveness to ensure your needs and feelings are respected while respecting those of others.

Strategies to help with aggressive and passive-aggressive communication include:

  • Pause and reflect on your emotions and intentions before speaking.
  • Stay calm, respectful, and assertive.
  • Focus on “I” statements instead of “you” statements to express your feelings and needs.
  • Listen actively, and ask open-ended questions to better understand the other person’s perspective.
  • Acknowledge the concerns of others, even if you disagree with them.
  • Offer possible solutions instead of criticisms or personal attacks.
  • Build rapport and trust by sharing positive experiences and feedback to create a safe space for open conversation.