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Understanding Communication Styles: What’s Yours? Part I

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC

Did you know that behavioral traits affect communication? Learning about and being able to understand communication styles can drastically improve your relationships. How knowledgeable or skilled you are in navigating difficult conversations depends upon your ability to connect with other people. According to Christian, “when communication breaks down, it’s often because the patterns and habits of how we communicate — our communication styles — get in the way.” In working to develop stronger leadership characteristics, better communication is essential to creating a positive culture within your home, workplace, relationships, classroom, and community.

We all thrive off of connection in life and it’s an essential part of our happiness levels. Statistics show that people who have more meaningful connections in their lives live longer! Maintaining meaningful connections has positive physical and mental health benefits and those who feel more connected to others have “lower rates of depression and anxiety.”

Connection requires conversation and conversation requires communication. Meaningful connection is what it’s all about, and it makes all the difference when we get it right. According to Christian, “the most important dimensions of human behavior are assertiveness and responsiveness.” Unfortunately, what we say doesn’t always align with what we mean, and sometimes we have to clarify or try again to get it right. This happens because our behavior patterns tend to become habitual over time, and they don’t always match our “evolving thoughts and emotions.” That being said, we also fail to judge the habitual behaviors of others, and sometimes we don’t correctly understand what they are trying to convey. When this disconnect seems to happen, I often urge my clients to ask themselves “Is this a “me” thing or a “them” thing?” What I mean by that is that often when others hurt or offend us, it’s more about them than it is about you. According to Glaser, “9 out of 10 conversations miss the mark.” Therefore, “we have an intention when we speak, but our style, our patterns, and our perceptions get in the way of the other person picking it up.”

So, to ensure that what you say aligns with what you mean, it might be helpful to develop a better understanding of the basic three communication styles.

3 Types of Communication Styles

Passive Communicators 

Passive communicators typically have difficulty expressing themselves and tend to “give in to others.” Unfortunately, failure to express thoughts and emotions typically leads to miscommunication and or built-up resentment and anger. The following behaviors are typical of those who communicate passively:

  • Difficulty or avoidance in making eye contact
  • Inability to say “no”
  • Follower / go with the flow
  • Poor posture

Aggressive Communicators 

People who communicate aggressively tend to dominate conversations. They don’t hesitate to issue commands and ask questions. Sometimes listening to others is challenging for aggressive communicators. The following behaviors are typical of those who communicate aggressively:

  • Talking over other people
  • Poor listening skills
  • Interrupting
  • Demanding remarks
  • Finger-pointing
  • Frowning
  • Glaring and staring
  • Criticizes, intimidates, or threatens others

Passive-Aggressive Communicators

At first, passive-aggressive communicators can seem passive, but if you look closely you will realize that there is hidden resentment that is evident in subtle and indirect ways. The following behaviors are typical of those who communicate passive-aggressively:

  • Frequent sarcasm
  • Words don’t align with actions
  • Facial expressions aren’t in line with words
  • Difficulty acknowledging emotions

Be sure to check out part two of this two-part blog series about communication to finish learning about the different styles of communication. If you’d like to talk with someone about the different types of communication, or you’d like to work on becoming a better communicator, our Chicago counselors can help. Reach out to Symmetry Counseling today to learn more! 

Retrieved from:

Christian, L. (2019). The 4 communication styles: How behavioral traits affect communication. SoulSalt. Retrieved from:

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