Updated: Dec 15, 2021
I used to be a people pleaser. I would say yes to everyone and everything for what I thought would be a quieter life. This is known as passive communication. There are four different types of communication styles, and these are known as passive, passive aggressive, aggressive and assertive. I could also at times slip into being passive aggressive, mostly through body language such as eye rolls and silent treatment. However, I was then trained in the art of assertive behaviour which is the more preferable of the four different styles.
We will all fall into one of the four categories predominantly. However, our emotions can affect our ability to communicate effectively. It is also important to remember that how we believe we are communicating is not necessarily how we are perceived by the other person, and everyone is different. What is acceptable for one person, may not be acceptable for someone else.
A passive communication style is often characterised by submitting to the other person. The problem with this is it can lead to a build up of resentment. Resentment can then manifest in a variety of ways. The most likely is that accumulation of negative emotions which will need to at some point be expressed. Be it internally or externally. If it is expressed externally it could result in an aggressive outburst, and not necessarily at the source of the resentment. It could be for a small conflict in opinion with someone close to you. If it is expressed internally, you could suffer from stress and shame, neither of which will result in any positive emotions or behaviours. Others may also take advantage of you.
A passive aggressive style is generally characterised by sarcasm. Be it through your verbal or non verbal communication. Body language such as eye rolling, tensed facial expressions and slamming doors are examples of passive aggressive communication. It is aimed at the other communicator, so it could be anything that you would know makes them feel uncomfortable. What would that do to your and the other person’s emotions? It will likely again bring about regret, shame and remorse for the communicator. For the recipient, it will not do the relationship any favours and it may have the effect of making the other person uncomfortable at the least.
An aggressive style is often used to intimidate other people to get what you want. It doesn’t have to involve physical violence, but it could also be verbal or non verbal. Body language such as invading someone’s personal space, staring and exaggerated limb movements might indicate aggressive communication. The tone of voice will likely be raised, and words used to wound. Again, this style will often lead the communicator to feel regret, shame and remorse. For the recipient it could potentially traumatise them.
Assertive communication is characterised by confidence, consideration, and responding rather than reacting. When we react we are letting our emotions control us. When we respond, we are taking back control of our emotions. An assertive communicator will be interested in what is appropriate for all parties involved. It may involve skills such as negotiation which means that co operation is key. However, it is the most effective way to prevent elevated negative emotions on both sides.
Whilst mentioning that we will all fall predominantly into one of these categories, our circumstances, and the situation itself can affect how we communicate. If our emotions are elevated, we can slip into aggressive or passive aggressive behaviours. In these instances, it will likely provoke an even more intense emotion of shame for our actions.
It might not be verbal communication either, it might be an e-mail or text message. The majority of communication is body language. Without that, misinterpretations are increasingly likely.
Managing our emotions affects all components of our life. Communication is a key example. It could be communicating with friends, family, colleagues or anyone we interact with such as professionals. My recommendation would be to monitor those emotional cues, take a step back and deep breath before communicating. It may even be wise to wait on the interaction until you have de-escalated your emotions.