The 3 Main Styles of Communication (with Examples)

Main Styles of Communication are passive, assertive and aggressive, being accepted that the assertive is the most appropriate to establish personal relationships and communicate.

Communication is a capacity, in addition to a need, proper to the human being whose abilities develops and improves throughout our existence. With it, we transfer information related to our emotions, expectations, feelings, data, opinions, etc. Communication helps us grow both personally and on a group level.

Main Styles of Communication

Communication elements

Seen from a more definitive point of view, communication is considered as a dynamic process in which 3 elements intervene:

  • Issuer: is the one who transmits the message.
  • Receiver: is the receiver of said message.
  • Channel: is the medium through which the message is transmitted. This can be verbal, vocal or visual.

A communication always aims to get a response. This response is considered the purpose of the message. When the response we receive from the receiver matches what we expected, the communication is considered to have been effective.

Main Styles of Communication

Communication Styles

Each style of communication can be described in terms of the components of social skills used by the individual. Each person has a style of communication that predominates in relation to the other two.

While it is true that we usually communicate more frequently in one of these styles, depending on our partner, the subject or the situation, we can rotate between the three styles that exist.

For example, if we are in an environment that we consider unsafe as work can be, we most likely adopt a passive communication style. On the contrary, in the family environment we usually adopt a style between aggressive and assertive, due to the confidence that this environment generates.

Some of these styles will serve to facilitate relationships with others, while others will hamper it affecting the bond that unites us with that person. The facilitating factors of communication are all those that contribute to decrease the effort that the receiver has to make to understand the message.

These factors generate in this individual a positive and collaborative attitude, benefiting the relationship between sender-receiver. Thus, it will depend on the style of communication that we use to communicate, that our message reaches the recipient as we wanted to issue it from the beginning and not be misunderstood.

Three are the existing communication styles:

Assertive communication style

This style is the intermediate between aggressive and passive style and is characteristic of people who are able to defend their own interests and opinions while respecting that others have their own. It is the only style of communication that facilitates the relationship between people.

The assertive person knows how to defend their rights while also disagreeing and also understands and respects the views of their interlocutor. They are often people who enjoy good self-esteem, have self-confidence and are confident.

They look for communication solutions that are satisfactory to both parties without any intention of manipulation. In short, they feel relaxed and in control of the situation, which facilitates communication. They like themselves and like others. These people usually use “I” messages, that is, messages such as “I think”, “I believe”, “I desire”…

The communicative skills that assertive-style people often have are:

  • On the one hand empathy, that is, the ability to put oneself in the place and point of view of the other and be able to put themselves in their situation, taking into account their feelings, expectations and their interests.
  • On the other hand, active listening, which consists of perceiving and understanding all the information we receive from our interlocutor and its context, avoiding interruptions or previous judgments.
  • At the same time, we will send our feedback through non-verbal communication (gestures, signals and behaviors) so that the other person knows that we are receiving their message correctly.

These people adapt to each context where the interaction with the other individual develops, being able to communicate in the most optimal way possible in each situation.

This style favors affection and strengthens family bonds at the educational level, teaches to resolve conflicts in a respectful way, establishes the rules well and uses the contingencies appropriately. All these aspects will help that, as you approach adulthood, the person develops autonomously and with maturity.

His non-verbal behavior is characterized by a friendly and relaxed facial expression. They stare at their interlocutor, but always respecting the necessary breaks. They smile frequently and stand face to face with each other but always respecting personal spaces.

They make use of firm gestures frequently, but without being threatening. He is attentive to what his interlocutor wants to transmit by asking appropriate questions and, also responding optimally; to the type of question he receives from the other individual.

In relation to verbal behavior, they make use of the first person singular of each verb to show openly their own opinions and ideas, emotions, and feelings.

Although it is the most effective communication style, it is quite difficult to be assertive in all situations and with all people. However, there are methods and tools that help us increase the fluidity and frequent use of this style.

I am going to put an example. We are in a group discussion, in which your opinion differs from the rest of the participants, how would this style work?

An assertive person would defend their opinions and if the situation arises that other people disagree with him, he would understand and respect it.

Thanks to this style, the feelings that you have every time you interact are of satisfaction, security and emotional control and the situation.


Aggressive communication style

People who use this style try to impose their criteria and achieve their goals regardless of the opinion or feelings of their interlocutor. The modus operandi of these individuals is the use of strategies such as threats, intimidation, sarcasm, accusations, and feelings of guilt, anger and reproaches.

At no time do you consider the rights that others should have and their language usually has an excess of expressions such as “you have to …”, “you must of …”, “I will not allow you ..” interrupting the other person’s speech and giving orders. His behavior is egocentric.

His verbal behavior will be characterized by elevated and cold tone of voice preventing the intonation, fast and fluid speech, making use of monologues and with very little interval between one intervention and another, not letting his interlocutor of his opinion. In addition, they make use of an imperative verbal mode.

They criticize the behavior of others, even spreading insults towards the other. They do not show any kind of interest by their interlocutors, answering the questions that are asked with another question, and even ignoring them.

Characteristic traits of his non-verbal behavior are usually a forward body, penetrating gaze with signs of tension or constant anger, excessive threatening gestures towards his receiver, a tight face, invasion of the other person’s vital space, standing face to face, among others.

These behaviors cause feelings in the other person of tension, lack of control, poor image in relation to the emitter, humiliation, frustration and rejection.

If we take the situation of the group discussion exposed as an example in the case of assertive language, the reply in the case of the aggressive style would be totally different. In this case, the individual would intervene in the debate abruptly and expose his ideas above those of the other participants, without showing any interest in my decisions.

Passive or inhibited communication ethos

Individuals who are characterized by this style inhibit their behavior in order to avoid confrontation with another person instead of being respected. They have an excessive need and concern to please others and often feel misunderstood by others or manipulated.

They are usually dubious about their interventions in communicating with other people, using phrases such as “Eh … well, maybe  …” “mmm, maybe …” They are people who do not like to attract attention and do anything to avoid it. They are not involved in the issues and show conformity to the decisions of others, putting the desires and opinions of others to their own.

Although the person does not show his opinion by carrying out a conformist attitude, this is received by his interlocutor as a sign of insecurity and fear attitude in the face of the situation.

His verbal behavior is represented by an excessively low and hesitant tone of voice. The intonation is monotonous, it speaks between cuts and the speed is, or very rapid (product of the nerves) or excessively slow. The sentences are short, sometimes even using only monosyllables.

He often makes use of the conditional mode, without affirmations and frequent doubts. Your answers have as few words as possible.

His non-verbal behavior is characterized by head and / or head-down look, serious facial expression or shy smile. The posture and movements are rigid, distant and stooped and avoid being face to face with your interlocutor. Frequent statement with movements with the head. Avoid physical and ocular contact.

At the physiological level, the nervous movements of arms and legs and sweaty hands are often frequent. This style is often the cause of feelings of anxiety, irritation, resentment, disgust and frustration in the individual. In addition, as we have seen, these individuals often have a low self-esteem and maintaining this style of communication only increases this low self-esteem.

In the same situation proposed above, this style would choose to remain silent, thinking that if everyone thinks the same way I should adapt my ideas to their own so that they are the same as other people.

Both the aggressive style and the passive beyond favoring communication between people, makes it difficult. We will only succeed in generating conflicts that may lead to undesirable consequences in the short, medium and long term, or perhaps we can suffer immediately.

We are very useful to identify the style of communication of a person, since it will help us to relate more optimally with this one. Be aware that behind each style of communication there is a personality immersed.

So if we look at the issuer that we have in front we will know better and adapt better to him to be able to carry out a more successful relationship between both.

What prevents us from communicating effectively?

The barriers of communication are those factors that hinder or prevent the reception and proper interpretation of the message that we want to convey.

If the information emitted gets distorted to our interlocutor, this can take a different meaning to what we proposed, causing a bad effectiveness in the interaction. There are several barriers in communication between two or more people that hinder the effectiveness of relationships. These barriers can be divided into 3 types:

  • Psychological barriers: they are the ones of the emotions, the values, interpretations, the habits of conduct or the perceptions.
  • Behavioral barriers: those related to lack of empathy, active listening, aggressiveness, and passivity. All of them hinder the effectiveness of communication.
  • Semantic barriers: they are those related to verbal and vocal, inappropriate words, confusion in the structure, which cause them to acquire different meanings depending on the situation.
  • Environmental barriers: they refer to the physical context in which the interaction occurs. This can give an extreme temperature, external noise, or inadequate space, which will hinder smooth communication.

We do not have to forget the perception of each individual, which undoubtedly affects the meaning and interpretation of the information received.

To end this article, I would like to quote a paragraph from Herbert. G. Linger, who defines in a very complete way what is a good assertive style:

“I speak because I know my needs, I doubt because I do not know yours. My words come from my life experience. Your understanding comes from yours. Therefore, what I say, and what you hear, may not be the same. So if you listen carefully, not only with your ears, but also with your eyes and your heart, we may be able to communicate. “

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