As we all seem to be spending a lot of time with the same people, tension is bound to brew. For some it is simpler to just be easy going and put ones own needs aside in order to avoid confrontation. For others, not feeling respected or heard brings out a more aggressive tone to communicate ones needs with urgency and attention. The down side to both of these communication styles are that putting others first, never prioritizes your own needs, and being aggressive often does not lead to respectful and healthy relationships. Rather, we aim to be assertive so that we can communicate our needs and self advocate while also being able to listen to the perspectives and needs of others. But the boundaries between passive, assertive, and aggressive communication styles are often blurred together.
The esteemed couples therapist Esther Perel stated in one of her Youtube videos that assertiveness communicates confidence whereas aggressiveness is defensive. She also noted that assertiveness is a dialogue whereas aggressiveness is a debate.
If we think about these different styles of communication and how they are present in our lives it is clear that our communication styles can impact our professional, social, romantic, and familial relationships. No matter what context we are in our communication has an impact, and the demeanour and tone communicates much more than the literal meaning of our words. It may be helpful to think of times when we tend to be more passive, and environments that bring out our aggressive communication style. The assertive communication style is ideal because it allows both parties of the conversation to express their needs and heard and facilitates collaboration rather than competition.
The last few months I have been working on creating more awareness in my own use of communication in order to create more intentionality. Where some people find it is their natural tendency to not be assertive enough, others struggle to maintain assertiveness without crossing into aggressive territory. There are moments where each of these styles of communication are necessary and appropriate, but more often the middle ground of assertiveness may be most productive.
How do you find a healthy balance in your communication styles?
Let us know on our Instagram account which style of communication you tend to find yourself in.
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Jessica is a member of the clinical wellness and learning support team at FLEX Psychology. Jessica started Wellness Wednesday out of a desire to provide further opportunities for her clients to extend their wellness journey to all avenues of their life. You can learn more about Jessica by clicking here or by learning more about her and the clinical team at FLEX Psychology by clicking here.