Whether it is in our professional or personal life, communication is fundamental to healthy, successful relationships. Without good communication skills, relationships can be marred by unnecessary misunderstandings.
Have you thought about how you communicate with people? What style of communication do you typically use, and can you improve your communication to have better and stronger relationships with those around you?
There are some definitely some good and some destructive ways to communicate. Some styles of communication make it easier to communicate with other people without showing any disrespect. Respectful communication is effective communication, and reduces conflict and promotes healthy relationships.
On the other hand, communicating in the wrong way will add to misunderstandings and can possibly harm the other person.
Knowing the different styles of communication will help you to identify and improve yours. In this article we are going to look at four of the most common styles of communication which are talked about:
Some of these might sound familiar already. Perhaps you have even use the terms to describe people you know before. Here we will break down these four styles to better understand their characteristics. The assertive style is typically seen as most effective, so we will look at some ways to cultivate that.
Before we dive into it is good to keep in mind that communication is a reflection of our internal world. A reflection of our mind, our emotions, and our will. Thinking about this helps us to gain a better understanding of, and ultimately control over your own communication style.
Fear and lack of self-understanding derail communication
There can be many internal motivations for our behavior, many of which we may not be consciously aware of. Fear is one thing which can dictate our communication – mostly in ways which are unhelpful and can hurt our relationships.
It might be fear of confronting how you really feel about something, or it could be fear driven by an inability to adequately translate your thoughts and feelings into words that someone else will understand. Either of these can cause you to hold back and not engage fully in communication.
In order to effectively communicate, we must have the courage to face what is inside ourselves first. Without the ability to face our own truth, we will likely communicate confusing or even false information.
As Danny Silk asks: if you never learn to value and understand what is going in yourself, how can you ever value and understand what is going on in another? And, furthermore, if you never know yourself, how can you know another?
So, our communication style has a lot to do with how much we value ourselves and value those people around us. It is easier to communicate in a healthy manner with others if you have a high level of respect and value for yourself first. Only when you can communicate honestly with yourself, you can also communicate honestly with others.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the four styles. You will see how the above fears and core beliefs play out in the different styles.
Submissive communicators devalue themselves and will often act as if ‘everything is fine’, even when things aren’t. Typically, they wish to avoid conflict and confrontation, so will avoid telling others the truth of how they feel.
They would rather repress their emotions to keep others happy and endure the internal turmoil. But, the behavior is one of self-protection and not to benefit the other person, as there is often a fear that they will be punished for admitting they have needs, for telling the truth, or that the other person will think they are selfish.
Submissive communicators will often be overly apologetic, remain quiet, avoid eye contact, but also refuse to try out initiatives to improve communication. The person on the receiving end can often feel guilty, frustrated and exasperated.
This is ultimately not healthy and the submissive communicator can struggle to develop mutually honest and deep relationships. As it lies, it is unsustainable. They will often struggle with resentment and anger as they find that their needs are not met.
The aggressive communicator is the polar opposite of the submissive – they are sure that they matter more than those around them. They are the communicators who will dominate the conversation, and often in a loud and forthright manner.
It is not uncommon that they will intimidate other, and not give other people a chance to be heard or understood.
Ultimately, they are demanding, controlling in an effort to ‘win’, and they will ignore the feelings of others in order to get what they want. Underlying this is fear that is being expressed as selfishness and a need for control.
Passive-aggressive communication is also another form of dishonest communication. It can sometimes be hard to detect quickly, as there are often two sides to the person.
Passive-aggressive communicators don’t just come straight out and be honest about how they feel, so they communicate in a round-about and sometimes manipulative way instead. They can be nice to your face and then horrible behind your back, leaving people feeling confused and controlled.
People who communicate and behave in this way usually feel powerless and resentful, and express their feelings by subtly undermining the object of their resentment- even if it is imagined. It can be very difficult to handle a passive-aggressive communicator, as it is hard to confront when there is a secretive element to their behavior.
They can be sarcastic, sulky, devious, gossipy and out-right two-faced. Inside, passive-aggressive communicators often struggle with fears of rejection and loss of control.
Assertive communication is the ideal for healthy relationships, and comes from a core belief of ‘You matter, and so do I’. Assertive communicators are confident in who they are and appreciative of who others are.
They have a strong sense of identity and respect themselves and others around them. Their communication comes from a place of honesty and self-awareness, as they have a good understanding of their own thoughts, feelings, and needs, and are able to express them honestly and openly.
Assertive communicators also welcome and encourage others to communicate in the same open and honest manner.
Furthermore, they will set boundaries and not engage with communication that is not respectful, and where both people do not have a high and equal value. They will not engage with the aggressive communication or the dishonesty of the passive-aggressive.