Communication styles

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Communication styles are the different ways in which people communicate with each other.  

Three communication styles are: passive, aggressive and assertive.

Passive communication is a style where the individual avoids expressing their opinion and feelings and does not communicate their needs.

Aggressive communication is a style where the individual expresses their opinions and feelings in a dominating manner, often without consideration for others.

Assertive communication is a style where the individual expresses their opinions and feelings in a way that is clear and direct, while still respecting others. 

Learning to use assertive communication at work can help minimise conflict and may help you to manage your relationships with other people.

Passive communication

  • You put the needs and wants of others above your own, even if it is at your own expense.
  • You do not express your own needs and don’t stand up for yourself.
  • Other people might take advantage of you.

Aggressive communication

  • You express own your needs and ignore other people’s needs. •You are unwilling to compromise and don’t offer solutions
  • You speak in a loud, overbearing way and become easily frustrated.
  • Other people might not want to communicate with you.

Assertive Communication

  • You express your needs and listened to the other persons needs, both are respected.
  • You are willing to compromise and offer solutions
  • Listen without interruption to each person.
  • Other people feel they can communicate with you effectively

Tips for being an assertive communicator

  • Respect yourself. Your views are as important as anyone else’s. Just make sure you express what you want in a way that is respectful to others.
  • Express your thoughts and feelings calmly. Yelling, threatening and being angry and disrespectful to others is never okay.
  • Take your time to formulate your reply. It’s okay to say you need time to reply; that you need to think about your response.
  • Plan what you are going to say. Do your research, know your needs and come up with a plan for your conversation. If you are raising a problem, have some solutions you can offer.
  • Say ‘no’ when you need to. No one can say ‘yes’ all the time. It is ok to say ‘no’ at work, but it is good to give the reason for saying ‘no’ or offer an alternative solution: ‘I can’t do that work at the moment because I am busy doing something else, however I could do it tomorrow’.

Communicating assertively means that you can clearly and calmly express what you want without being too passive or too aggressive.

Learning to communicate assertively can help to improve your relationships with other people.

3 tips for better assertive communication:

  • Use “I” statements: “I would like you to explain why that is not the right way to do it.”
  • Describe how other peoples behaviour makes you feel: “When you raise your voice it makes me scared.”
  • Prepare what you want to say and rehearse it if needed. It’s ok to take notes with you.

End of Module Questions

  • Can you think of a time you have communicated aggressively or passively and what happened as a result?
  • With what type of communication style did you mostly identify?
  • Why is assertive communication important when talking with others, especially in a workplace?
  • Scenario – your team leader asks you to stay back to complete a piece of work, but you have another commitment scheduled after work. How could you communicate assertively to your team leader to say that you are unable to stay back. Consider offering a solution phrased using ‘I’ statements.