Talking Together: Get a Foot in the Door, Not a Door in the Face

As humans we communicate in many different ways and as technology changes our communication pathways will expand and become easier but complicated at the same time. What do I mean by that? With the rise of texting and social media it lessens the need for a key component to communication: speaking. Even though technology has changed the pathways we communicate, the styles we use are still the same.

Communication Styles

There are four main communication styles: Passive, Passive-Aggressive, Aggressive, and Assertive. No matter which pathway we are using to communicate we are always using one of these styles to communicate.
Fun Fact: Only one is a sustainable and healthy way to communicate. Which one do you think it is?
Let’s break them down and explore them before we answer that question.

  1. Passive Communication

This communication styles is all about avoiding conflict at all cost. People who communicate this way let people make decisions for them and sometimes appear anxious and withdrawn. Not expressing ones thoughts, feelings, and desires are a part of this style. Completely foregoing yourself for someone else.

  1. Passive-Aggressive Communication

This style is all about not accepting responsibility. Sometimes called the “smart-ass” style of communication people who use this style do not relate directly to people, do not accept what is happening, and indirectly retaliate. An example includes someone saying, “Let me clarify, because I’m sure you didn’t understand.” The speaker is attempting to make it sound like they are doing something for the receiver however an indirect insult is included.
Passive-Aggressive communication can cause confusion and frustration. The receiver may feel “stung” but not exactly sure why and the speaker can act as though they have done nothing at all.

  1. Aggressive Communication

This communication style is all about force. Aggressive communication involves attacking people and always attempting to be the one in control. People who use this communication often yell and use physical force to express themselves. Usually talking over people and making sure their thoughts and feelings are heard with no regard for anyone else.

  1. Assertive Communication

This style is all about respect. Assertive communication is knowing what you feel, think, and want, and expressing it in a thoughtful and respectful manner without violating the rights of those around you.  People who use this communication style are always accepting responsibility and using “I” statements instead of “You” statements. An example includes: “I feel sad when you call me names, I would really appreciate it if you would stop.”
So, which do you think is the healthiest way to communicate?
If you said Assertive Communicate you are right and should get a gold star!
Aggressive and Assertive: Looking Past the Confusion
A lot of times in our culture we misuse Assertive and Aggressive and get them confused for each other. Aggressiveness is all about retaining power over someone else where Assertiveness is all about respecting the other person while getting your thoughts and feelings expressed and heard.
This is the most important difference to remember!
In our culture, we teach that it is ok for boys to be aggressive and that it is natural to the nature. Simply put, this is wrong. Teaching boys from a young age that they can be aggressive lead to feelings and thoughts of entailment and the inability to empathize with other people. This is the birth of “rape culture.”
It is imperative that we teach all children, no matter their gender assignment and identity that being aggressive is not ok in relationships. Teaching children to be assertive and respect those around them will make a huge impact on our culture.
It’s All About the Tone
When we are communicating with people the style that we use is an even split between the words we choose to use and the tone that we say them in. For example, “Ok, fine” can be expressed many ways depending on how we say it. If it is said in a meek tone, it will come off as passive. If the “Ok” if said in an aggressive tone, followed by the “Fine” in a defeated sigh, it will come off as passive aggressive.
Can, “ok, fine” be said in an Assertive way? Short answer, no. In Assertive communication, you always say how you feel and what you think. It isn’t open to the receiver’s interpretation. You can say, “I feel good about that decision and am more than happy to do that.”
Assertiveness: Talking to Your Child and Getting a Response
When you’re speaking to your child can it sometimes feel as if you are speaking to a blank wall? Why, do you think that is? Parents want direct responses and explanations from their children and often they request an explanation without sharing their own thoughts and feelings.
Have you ever said something like, “Tell me why you did it” or “Explain yourself”? It isn’t likely that you’ll get a fulfilling response from your child. The response will probably be defensive and full of excuses because they feel like they must defend themselves from you.
Try saying it in a more assertive way. For example, “I get scared when you scream and yell because I don’t know what it wrong with you. Can you tell me what you are going through and how I can support you?” In that statement, you are saying how you feel and what you think and following it up with a request and not a demand for information while stating that you want to support them.
Removing “Why”
There wasn’t anything in that statement to conjure up feelings of defensiveness. Because of this I suggest you remove questions that include, “Why” from your vocabulary when speaking about heavy and emotional topics.
“Why” is a defensive question. Not one of us can be asked a question that includes “why” and not go on the defensive because it is a requiring us to defend ourselves. Removing this one word and restructuring the question can make all the difference.
Teaching by Doing
Children develop their communication style from the people that they are around most. Unfortunately, this isn’t just the parent but also their friends and teachers. However, how parents choose to communicate with their children has a greater impact than the others. If you choose to communicate assertively than your child is likely to follow suit.
When your child says something passive-aggressive, passive, or aggressive, then talk to them about it. Ask how it could have been stated assertively. Most of the time we parrot what is said around us and don’t think about a better way to say it.
Talking to your child about communicating assertively can make the difference in your relationship and it makes it more likely that you will get a foot in the door and not a door in the face.