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Identifying Your Communication Style

Hannah Hopper, LPC  

One topic that continues to come up in many of my sessions is communication styles. We are constantly communicating with those around us, and our communication style can either serve as a bridge or be a barrier to creating connections. Going to therapy is an incredibly effective tool for working on communication, and this blog will give a brief introduction on three styles of communication. 

Passive Communication

Passive communication is characterized by expressing thoughts and feelings in an apologetic and submissive way so that others may disregard them. People who use passive communication typically are not expressing honest feelings, beliefs, thoughts because of a fear that they will disappoint another person if they are honest. But there are some benefits to passive communication because others may protect and look after you, praise you for being selfless and easy-going, and there is often little blame when things go wrong. The downside however, is that people with passive communication may be more likely to bottle up anger and stress till it explodes in an aggressive way, or get taken advantage of in relationships that aren’t healthy. Some ways to identify this communication style include phrases like “If it wouldn’t be too much trouble” “I might be wrong”, “I’m so sorry to bother you”, “It’s only my opinion”, or “It doesn’t really matter.”

Aggressive Communication

A definition of this communication style is standing up for personal rights and expressing thoughts, beliefs, and feelings in a way that’s usually inappropriate and can violate the rights of someone else. People who use aggressive communication attack when they’re feeling threatened, and a sense of superiority is kept up through putting other people down. The benefits of aggressive communication include feeling powerful and in control, being less vulnerable, and getting others to carry out your wishes. But this kind of behavior comes at a high cost. Aggressive communicators can create resentment in those around them, end up feeling fearful and paranoid around other people,  and have increased feelings of guilt and shame from putting other people down. Some ways to identify this communication style include phrases like “You’ve got to be kidding me”, “I haven’t got problems like yours”, “Nobody wants to act like that”, “Haven’t you finished yet?”, or using phrases like “should” and “bad.” 

Assertive Communication

This is the healthiest of the three communication styles, and it is communicating thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in an open and honest way that respects the rights of others. In passive communication we abuse our own rights, and in aggressive communication we abuse other’s rights. People who use this style don’t allow others to take advantage of them, and are comfortable with others having ideas and feelings that are different than their own. The upside of this communication style is that the more you stand up for yourself, the higher your self esteem will be. Also, chances of getting what you want in life greatly increase, and you’re less likely to harbor resentment for not expressing yourself. The cost of this communication style is that there is no guarantee of an exact outcome, and there is often pain involved in being more assertive. Some ways to identify this communication style include phrases like “My experience is different”, “I feel hurt when you interrupt me”, “What are your thoughts on this”, “How can we solve this problem?”, and “Would you like to…?” 

Learning to use an assertive communication style can help you to use your voice and express yourself in a way that is respectful of others. If you’d like to understand more about your own communication style and how it impacts your relationships, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our licensed therapists at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry today by calling 312-578-9990 to get matched with one of our Chicago counselors.

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