Communication Styles

We all have different ways of moving through and interacting with the people and the world around us. Specifically, the way a person communicates with and connects to other people is referred to as their communication style. Communication style is important when it comes to building and maintaining relationships in both the personal and professional areas of life. Positive communication leads to deeper, lasting, positive connections. There are four different communication styles, and each of us falls into one of these categories.

Passive Communicators typically tend to have difficulty communicating, and this style is marked by poor eye contact and posture, difficulty saying “no”, and difficulty standing up for oneself. Passive Communicators typically avoid conflict, apologize frequently, and are afraid to express themselves

Aggressive Communicators are the polar opposite of passive communicators, and often make demands, interrupt others, have difficulty listening to others or accepting their opinions. Aggressive communicators are often described as rude, or dominant, and may use devices like shame or humiliation in their communication.

Somewhere towards the middle of that spectrum, we find Passive-Aggressive Communicators. These communicators may appear aloof, or uninterested, employing sarcasm frequently and have difficulty identifying, acknowledging or expressing emotions.

Finally, Assertive Communicators are often described as the most effective communicators. Assertive Communicators make consistent eye contact, are calm and clear in their speech, are able to both express themselves, while also listening to and acknowledging others, engage in a balanced dialogue, and most importantly are able to use “I” statements to express themselves. I statements are statements like “I am upset about this” or “I feel frustrated.” These statements are assertive in that they take ownership of a feeling, and don’t ascribe a feeling to someone else. These statements are the opposite of “you” statements, which are often construed accusatory or a way to place blame on someone else.

Communication is a skill that can be learned and communication styles can also change based on circumstances. For instance, you may find that you’re more assertive at work, but passive-aggressive in your relationship.

A therapist can assist a person with both identifying their communication style, and either honing that skill or learning new skills. It can be difficult to look through this list of traits and label yourself with them; it may be difficult for someone to acknowledge that they can’t stand up for themselves, or that other people describe them as rude. Therapy can assist in identifying these traits in a way that is nonjudgmental. A therapist can help someone with a typically passive communication style learn confidence, practice making eye contact, and practicing the use of I statements in a safe space. Similarly, a therapist can safely provide guidance for an aggressive communicator to listen, to allow others to speak, and to practice I statements in a safe space. While it can be difficult to confront changes you may need to make on your own, a therapist offers the guidance and safety necessary for you make lasting change to your communication style that can have a positive impact all areas of your life.

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