Some people have a knack for saying what they mean in a direct and confident style of speaking. These assertive communicators are able to stand up for themselves, express their point of view clearly, and respect the rights of other people and beliefs. People listen to these speakers and continue to dialogue even when conflict exists.
This assertive style of communication can boost self-esteem, increase the ability to be heard and understood, reduce stress…and best of all, it can be learned. Being assertive means that you express your thoughts and viewpoints based on mutual respect. This is a direct communication style, and gives you a solid chance of successfully delivering a message. It indicates that you respect yourself and others. You have something important to share that deserves attention.
Assess Your Communication Style
Passive communicators do not speak up or share their views or wants, especially if it differs from others’ expressed ideas. People with this communication style can be shy, or very easy-going and laid-back. Passive communicators aim to “not rock the boat,” or “go with the flow,” or have difficulty saying “no” to requests. Passive communication seeks to avoid conflict with others at all cost.
Unwittingly, this avoidance of conflict with others frequently results in internal conflict that spills out when it becomes too much. This style communicates that your thoughts, feelings, or insights are not as valuable as others’. In a professional environment, you may be undermining your own promotion or advancement by not sharing your unique perspective or making adequate contributions. You may accept or agree to work on a task, even if it outside of your skills or time limits, which can set yourself up for failure or poor performance. In friendships and intimate relationships, you aren’t allowing the other person to gain insight into your needs and wants, which can stunt relationships and limit genuine interaction.
Negative emotional experiences linked to an overly passive style of communication include: increased stress, resentment, seething anger, feeling victimized, desires for revenge, poor self-esteem.
Aggressive communicators speak up frequently and typically overpower others to get what they want. They disrespect or violate the rights of others. People with this style of communication can come across as conceited, self-righteous, superior, or condescending. Extremely aggressive communicators may humiliate, use intimidation, physical posturing, or threaten physical harm. This style is not based on respect of others and results in people trying to avoid, oppose, or resent this communicator.
In a professional environment, others may dread to work with this communicator. Advancement may be limited due to being seen as “hot-tempered” or having poor judgment, or the need to shield this person from interactions with clients.
Negative emotions linked to an aggressive style of communication include: feeling surrounded by inferior people, feelings of stress, worry, anger, loneliness, poor self-esteem.
Passive-Aggressive communicators use seemingly passive communication tactics to aggressively gain what they want. It is an indirect style of communication where a person may say “yes,” when they mean “no,” use sarcasm, gossip, or complain to others. Feelings are not communicated in what is verbalized, but rather are expressed through bad attitudes, non-compliance, avoidance, or undermining the efforts of others, after expressing consent and agreement.
These communicators are typically not comfortable expressing their thoughts, wants, and perspectives, or have not learned a direct style of doing so. Over time, this indirect communication can impair relationships as this communicator verbalized agreement but then displays behaviors and attitudes that seek to do the opposite or ruin the agreed upon plan. In professional settings, this can be self-sabotaging as agreed upon tasks are left undone, and commitment statements are not relied upon. In friendships and intimate relationships, trust and mutual respect can be questioned. This style can create extreme experiences of conflict as the communication between what is said and what is done is not congruent.
Negative emotions experienced by passive-aggressive communicators include: anger, resentment, feelings of victimization, not having needs or wants met, vindictiveness, shame, poor self-esteem.
No matter which style is currently your default communication style, assertive communication can be learned or strengthened. Benefits of assertive communication include an increased ability to express your wants and needs, increased ability to have messages heard by others, increased self confidence and self esteem, increased respect and positive interactions with others, increased job satisfaction, and increased intimacy and authenticity in relationships.
Working with a psychotherapist can assist you to learn, practice, and strength assertive communication to benefit professional and personal relationships.