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4 Communication Styles and Their Pros and Cons

Shmuel Fischler, LCSW-C · January 13, 2021

There are four main communication styles that we use in our daily lives: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive and assertive. With exception to passive-aggressive communication, each method has its own pros and cons that we should consider to ensure we communicate effectively and appropriately.

Passive

Passive communicators typically avoid expressing their true feelings to avoid engaging in confrontational conversations. This method is useful when trying to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or to deescalate a situation, but you should be careful not to slip into a cycle of passive communication. Those who communicate passively over long periods often feel depressed, anxious or out of control. All of these feelings can eventually lead to aggressive outbursts and a decreased sense of self-worth.

Aggressive

Aggressive communicators are generally very focused on their own thoughts and perspectives and outwardly express them with little regard for the consequences of their words. In general, an aggressive communication pattern will lead others to feel fear, intimidation and general discomfort. As such, it’s best to limit this form of communication unless it is your last resort in a threatening situation.

Passive-Aggressive

This form of communication occurs when individuals present themselves as passive but are subtly revealing anger simultaneously. Someone may try to communicate in a passive-aggressive way if they’re feeling powerless or resentful, but they may deny that there is a problem at all and shift blame to whoever they are speaking with. This often results in peer confusion and frustration, which can ostracize those who are involved.

Assertive

Passive communication can make the communicator feel alienated, and aggressive communication can make others feel alienated and passive-aggressive communication makes everyone feel alienated. So how should we be communicating?

Assertive communication is believed to be the healthiest form. Assertive communicators clearly state their attitude and feelings while having the feelings of others in mind. As such, they can advocate for themselves without alienating those around them. After they speak, assertive communicators then listen to responses actively without interruption. Naturally, this form of communication is fundamental for building connections with others and forming healthy relationships. 

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https://www.uky.edu/hr/sites/www.uky.edu.hr/files/wellness/images/Conf14_FourCommStyles.pdf