Communication is your way of expressing yourself to the world and the people you encounter. In today's society, we have more ways to communicate now than ever before. Texts, emails, phone calls, face-to-face, video chatting, the possibilities of sharing with others are endless. How you communicate makes all the difference.
We have all received one of those emails from our boss or text from a potential significant other that simply says "K." What does "K" mean? Are they mad at me? Did I say something to offend them? Why the period? And so begins the fall down the rabbit hole of trying to decipher the motive and emotions behind someone's words. This is not just an issue for text conversation but also face-to-face and nonverbal communication. Everyone has different communication styles and understanding what those styles are can help you communicate with just about everyone in an effective manner.
Let's talk about three main types of communication - Passive, Aggressive, and Assertive styles.
Passive communicators tend to feel like their needs are not as important as the person they are communicating with. Passive communicators tend to give in to the other person's wants or needs and set aside their own needs. Passive communication is not always heard, and there can be hesitation in sharing one's actual thoughts and feelings. Passive communicators are "yes people" who agree regardless of their opinions. When talking to someone who is passively communicating, it can feel impossible to get any feedback. Asking them open-ended questions can help to get out their true feelings. Open-ended questions are questions that require more than just a yes or no answer. This is a way for you to invite them to share in the conversation and make them feel valued. Listening closely and looking for non-verbal cues can also be helpful. When you notice something is off, seek clarification and ask them directly what they are feeling. If you know someone who is habitually a passive communicator, sometimes starting a conversation by asking them for their opinion before sharing your own is a great strategy to get out how they feel genuinely.
Aggressive communicators know what they want, and they are not about to take the time to listen to anyone who tries to change their mind. Assertive communicators care about their needs only and are reluctant to hear any other opinions that do not align with their own. Aggressive communicators bully others, talk over others, and often shout or become angry. Aggressive communicators take over a conversation; they usually have their minds made up before they even begin communicating. Dealing with an aggressive communicator can be emotionally draining, and although it is tempting to argue back with them, it is counterproductive to do so. Aggressive communicators feed on your anger or frustration, and it gives them more incentive to defend their point of view. When you encounter an aggressive communicator, the best thing to do is remain calm, use empathy, and try your hardest not to blow. Use clear and direct communication, taking time to allow for yourself to formulate your thoughts so that you do not say anything that will escalate the aggression. Using "I" statements to express how you feel rather than "You" statements is also helpful. When you use "I" statements, you focus on your feelings and thoughts, whereas "You" statements assume the other person's feelings and often blame them. Be honest with yourself when speaking with an aggressive communicator. That means being self-aware of what type of non-verbal cues you are giving, such as saying you feel empathy towards their feelings, while you roll your eyes may not be empathetic. Be patient. Aggressive communicators often need time to come around, allow yourself to step away from the conversation, and come back later on. Your feelings, opinions, and views matter, so even if you are talking to an aggressive communicator, you still deserve to be heard and get your points across. Finally, use some Jedi mind tricks on them. Research shows that people are more likely to believe something if they reach that resolution on their own. By staying calm, confident, clear, concise, and empathetic, you can actually lead an aggressive communicator to your point of view. Most important, regardless of the conversation is your safety. If you are in a heated conversation with an aggressive communicator and you feel unsafe or like things are escalating to physical outbursts, pause and get to safety.
Assertive communicators are a God sent after reading about passive and aggressive styles. Assertive communicators have an easy flow of both active listening and disclosing. These individuals understand that their own needs are equally important as the person they are communicating with. Assertive communicators speak their true thoughts and feelings and stand up for themselves, but in a respectful way. Fairness and open, honest communication are at the forefront when chatting with an assertive communicator. This is where compromise can happen, and resolutions can be reached. When engaging with an assertive communicator, be clear in your thoughts and feelings. Asking for clarification and being open to questions and information sharing can help keep these encounters positive.
So whether they are passive, aggressive, or assertive, we have all encountered someone we have trouble speaking to. But now, you can go confidently and be ready to face them with your new tips and tricks.