Be the Change You Want to See In Your Communication
In therapy, counselors may focus on helping their clients understand some of the differing communication styles. See if you recognize yourself in any of them.
- Passive – These communicators don’t believe their needs matter. They tend to be timid when communicating with others and will often doing anything to avoid confrontation. They often go out of their way to please others, sacrificing their own needs and wants. Which can be a breeding ground for resentment.
- Aggressive – This is the exact opposite. These people act as though their needs are the only ones that matter. They often use accusation, threats, insults, and yell to dominate others and get their way. Sadly, passive people often find themselves in relationships with this type of person.
- Passive-Aggressive – This is a mixture of the two. These people often manipulate others via guilt or subtle games to get what they want. They may feel aggressive, bitter, and angry, but they hide it beneath passive behaviors like giving the “silent treatment”, deliberately forgetting things, refusing to listen, changing plans at the last minute, or being late.
- Assertive – This style recognizes that the needs of others are important, and will use honest, but non-accusatory, language. It expresses needs and wants without blame or finger pointing. It uses objective language and only reports on what the speaker observes, feels, needs, or wants. It requires emotional vulnerability and a higher level of maturity to be an assertive communicator. The result is healthier relationships, needs being met, others being heard, and stronger connections.
If you recognize yourself in the first three, and would like to be more like the fourth, here are a few tools to help you on your way:
- Takes some deep breaths before beginning your communication with someone
- Show compassion. Stay in the present and avoid bringing up the past.
- Listen fully and pay attention to the other person. Let the other person finish their thought before responding. If this is difficult takes some more deep breathes.
- Talk about what you need and how you feel while avoiding finger pointing, insults, and the always inflammatory “you always!”. Speak only what you know to be true.
- Pay attention to your own feelings, tone of voice, facial expression, and body posture. Much of communication is nonverbal.
- Can you relate to another person? Can you see their point of view? Are their similarities in your own?
- Take a break. If things are getting nowhere, or have become too heated despite your best efforts, take a break. Come back to the discussion when heads are clear and emotions calm.