What Is Your Communication Style?
Updated: Sep 29, 2019
Do you know what's your communication style?
Communication is everything in any relationship: family, friendships, romantic, professional. Essentially, improving relationship quality, reducing stress levels and enhancing self-esteem is directly linked to developing better communication skills. What matters is both what you say, and how you say it. Actually, how you say something matters even more!
Understanding your own communication style requires an adequate level of self-awareness. By recognizing your style, you may also better conceptualize any weaknesses you may have in how you communicate with others, and thus strive for better outcomes. Not only that, but you will manage to understand others better by observing how they handle criticism and the expression of any opinion- especially the ones they don’t fully agree with.
There are 4 main communication styles : Passive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive and Assertive communication. Assertive communication is the ideal way to communicate, however different situations and people may require fluctuating between different communication styles.
Passive communication is a pattern of communicating where the individual is used to avoiding expressing their own needs, wishes, thoughts and feelings. They are usually submissive and docile and their self-worth is low. This pattern has probably been developed as a result of a lack of Allowing to be themselves while growing up. These individuals may come from families where they were often put down, punished for expressing their emotions or belittled and unappreciated when they did so.
That person may think little of themselves, have low self-esteem and consider themselves as "less" than others. It is likely that they compare themselves to others and regard themselves in a negative light. They are prone to not directly responding to hurtful comments, not asserting their own opinions and allowing violations of their own boundaries- that they may be completely unaware of, until they are crossed. Because they are conflict avoidant, these individuals will likely keep silent or speak apologetically when treated unfairly. They may often agree with others’ requests and state that they don’t really mind whatever the outcome, even when they do mind.
Their passive attitude may be driven by an inherent fear of rejection and abandonment from others, which perpetuates their situation and contributes in them actually not being treated fairly by others, because such an attitude does not evoke respect. In contrast, it gives the impression that this individual is very fragile and open to be stepped on and hurt.
The passive communication style also reflects on the body language of the individual, who may have difficulty with maintaining eye contact during conversations, because that may feel too confronting and threatening. In intimate discussions, they may make themselves look smaller by taking a slumped body posture, and speak in a low and soft manner. If they are repeatedly hurt, they may exhibit strong emotional outbursts that may seem out of proportion as compared to the trigger that caused them; which is why they tend to feel guilty afterwards, and return to their passive and submissive communication style. They are prone to anxiety and depression, and may have a victim mentality that leaves them open to abusive relationships.
Passive Communicator's Beliefs about Self
You’re ok, I am not ok
I am weak and cannot stand up for myself
I am unable to express myself
I don’t have control of what happens in my life
Others always treat me badly and are inconsiderate of my feelings
Aggressive communication is the typical communication style of abusive individuals. These individuals may have underlying beliefs that they are superior to others, and are thus entitled to always getting their own way. They are controlling, patronizing, and ridiculing the opinions of others, aiming to dominate them. By exerting such control their goal is to minimize the needs of others and make them feel bad about themselves, therefore submitting to their own wishes. They may use a variety of methods to belittle others and assert their control and superiority, such as accusations, humiliation, verbal attacks, blame game, ignoring, gaslighting, rudeness (read more about emotional abuse).
They do not respond well to criticism, nor do they easily hold responsibility for their shortcomings. Their listening skills are low , because they usually do not regard what another person says as significant during a dialogue- instead, they focus their attention on asserting themselves.
Their aggression reflects on their body language too, as they tend to make themselves look bigger , and they will usually raise their voice. They are comfortable with arguments and will most of the times provoke them, but unlikely to offer an apology or accept responsibility later on- or they blame it on how emotional they were feeling, and get even more angry if others find their behaviour unacceptable. They act impulsively and have a low frustration and irritation threshold. They are demanding, demeaning, hostile and bullying in their communication.
Usually these individuals are raised in households and families that taught them that only through violence and control can someone make their own point come through. The abusers were most of the times abused themselves, and had to develop such an aggressive style as a protection mechanism in order to survive. Their behaviour is a mask for their low self-worth, as one who is truly confident does not feel the need to control others.
Aggressive Communicator's Beliefs about Self
I’m ok, you’re not ok
It’s my way or the highway
I am better than others and entitled to have my own way always
I can control and dominate others
Others are worthless
I am better than you
I am always right
These individuals appear passive on the outside, but act out their frustration in indirect ways. Like the passive individuals, they have difficulty with being clear about their boundaries and expressing their thoughts and feelings in an honest, direct way. They also have low self-worth and may be invested in always pleasing others- on the surface. They usually feel powerless, frustrated and resentful, unable to express themselves clearly out of fear of rejection and loss of others’ approval. They feel inferior and incapable of dealing directly with an issue that may bother them.
Instead, they employ indirect ways for expressing how they really feel, such as sulking, the silent treatment, aggressive or sarcastic comments at different occasions, complaining etc. Their actions, words, facial expressions and body language may not match each other. They may find it challenging to acknowledge their feelings and admit there is a problem. This may be especially so with difficult and unacceptable emotions such as anger, or showing vulnerability.
Their communication style, if recognized by others, may make them unreliable and untrustworthy, as others may clearly realize they don’t mean what they say and vice versa. This can leave others confused about the underlying messages of the communication. Frustration and resentment may be dormant emotions in passive-aggressive individuals, because they hope that others can understand how they really feel without having to express it directly.
These individuals may have grown up in a family environment that was not encouraging them to be authentic and allowing them to express themselves truthfully, thus accepting them as they are. With their attitude, they may indirectly sabotage their relationships and how others regard them.
Passive-Aggressive Communicator's Beliefs about Self
I am not okay and neither are you
I am misunderstood
Others do not satisfy my needs
I am incapable of expressing myself
I feel powerless and resentful
I am afraid to say what I think
The assertive communication style reflects a healthy individual with high self-esteem and self-worth that is fearless to express themselves. They are confident and clear about their boundaries , they say what they mean and mean what they say. This is the ideal communication style, as it implies honesty, authenticity and transparency.
These individuals are aware of what their personal limits are, and politely yet firmly do not allow others to cross them. They also do not feel the need to resort to manipulative or aggressive games in order to get their message through. They respect themselves and others, have good listening skills and regard others as equal to themselves.
They come across as relaxed, calm and balanced and this enhances feelings of comfort and safety from others as well. They feel competent and in control, able to express themselves clearly, appropriately and respectfully. They are not reluctant to say no, nor are they directed towards pleasing others. They are able to address and resolve issues as they arise and acknowledge their emotions.
Being assertive can mean that this individual was raised to feel accepted, comfortable with themselves, and allowed to be vulnerable and authentic. Yet assertiveness is a skill that can be practised and mastered, since this is the optimal way of communication.
Assertive Communicator's Beliefs about Self
I am ok, you are ok
I am confident in my own skin
I respect myself and others
I realize my boundaries and can assert them in a respectful, direct and kind way
I am in touch with my emotions
I can control myself
I am responsible for my happiness, choices and actions
Why Is this Important?
Understanding your own communication style actually means gaining valuable insights into who you really are. Therefore, a first and extremely important benefit is that you build on your self-awareness. The better you know yourself, the better your interactions with others will be too.
Strive Towards Conscious Adjustments When Necessary
By assessing your personal communication style, you can move into action towards changing what doesn’t work well and strengthening what does. Realizing what makes you a better communicator, what are your strong points towards gaining trustworthiness, credibility, reliability and clarity from others, you can thereby work on enhancing those points further. At the same time, you can reflect on what hinders your communication, and work on minimizing it and replacing it with healthier and more effective communication approaches.
Improve Your Impact On Others
Understanding your own communication style helps you by enabling you to structure your ideas in such a way, in order for them to be received more efficiently by others. By understanding yourself, you learn how to observe yourself. Your observation skills also extend to others- you will probably find it easier to recognize the communication style of others, once you have a good understanding of yourself. This way you can influence others better, by knowing how your idea has better chances of being listened to attentively.
Some Points To Consider...
Do you employ different communication styles in different situations and towards different people?
For instance, you may find out that the way you communicate with your family members may greatly differ in comparison to how you approach your partner or different friends.
What challenges you when communicating with others, and what makes it easier for you to express yourself?
What are examples of successful communication you have had? When and how did you manage to get your point across most effectively?
What happens to you when the person in front of you employs each of the 4 different communication styles? Focus on your emotional reactions and thought processes –
Where have you experienced each of these styles before?
How was it for you to be at the receiving end?
How do you act in response to each of the 4 styles?
Communication is a two-way street; it consists of the sender and the receiver of the message to be communicated.
It therefore depends on both parties, but since you only really have control of yourself and no one else, it is worthwhile to recognize your own style in order to be able to adjust the way you communicate to best suit whoever is the receiver of your message.
How you construct and express your ideas is actually more important than simply stating them!