Passive Communication: 10 Signals, Features and Examples

The passive communication possesses people who are often unable to express their thoughts or views for fear of confrontation by others. Usually, they are not considered fit to provide judgments or opinions.

It is a very inefficient and maladaptive way of communicating, since the person fails to identify or satisfy their own needs. Sometimes, some aggression is mixed in passive behavior, resulting in a passive-aggressive style of communication.

Passive Communication

Passive Communication

Characteristics of the passive communication style

1- Soft communication

Individuals who have a passive form of communication tend to speak softly, as if they are apologizing. Sometimes, the few times they express their opinion, ask forgiveness beforehand or try to do it, or say things like “This is surely silly, but …”.

2- They cannot stand firm in their opinions

They fail to stand up or hold what they think of another person and allow others to interfere with their rights and opinions.

3- Do not express your feelings

Neither do they often express their feelings, points of view and needs spontaneously.

4- Do not establish eye contact

These people also often make eye contact when they talk to someone and adopt inappropriate body language and posture.

5- Continuous state of anxiety or depression

The passive communication style also implies a continuous state of anxiety, as these people assume that their lives are out of their control. They are often depressed or sick, because their opinions are never expressed aloud.

6- They are undecided

They are often confused if given the opportunity to choose and tend to delegate decisions to others. All this leads to these people feeling angry with themselves.

7- Do not show anger toward others

However, these people rarely show anger or anger towards others. On the contrary, they usually allow complaints, discomfort and aggression from other people.

8- They are passive-aggressive

In some cases, these assaults pile up and give rise to an outburst of rage disproportionate to the incident (passive-aggressive style). After this explosion, however, they often feel shame, guilt and confusion, so that they return to habitual passivity.

9-They experience resentment and confusion

This way of communicating has a high impact on the lives of these individuals. Aside from the anxiety and depressive symptoms they often feel as a result of not expressing their emotions, they tend to experience resentment and confusion by ignoring their own needs.

10-Tend to be immature

They are also often unable to mature at all because they never get to face real problems. A passive communicator often acts as if he is weak and unable to take care of himself.

Examples of situations in which a person communicates passively

  • A man asks in a restaurant for a fillet very made and, when the waiter brings it, it is little made. When the waiter asks if everything is to his liking, the man responds affirmatively.
  • A group of friends is left to decide what to do during the weekend. One of them is sure that he does not feel like going to the movies, but when someone suggests it, he cannot say no, so he ends up spending money and time on something that he really does not feel like doing, instead of proposing something that could satisfy everyone.
  • In high school, classmates ask the same girl every day to copy them. Instead of refusing to leave them, since she makes the effort every day to complete them, she allows her colleagues to copy them.

Why is passive style not a healthy way of communicating?

Passive communication often causes the person to keep all his opinions to himself and prevents him from letting go and expressing his emotions. This type of people, in this way, accumulates all the problems that entail the lack of expression of emotions.

This is dangerous, as it can lead to a burst of rage, after which it returns to the original state of passivity. This outburst often carries feelings of guilt and shame. In addition, the lack of externalization of emotions and feelings can give somatomorphic problems in the form of pains that have no physical causes.

How does this style of communication become in a person?

Passive communication style is usually the result of low self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined as the view that an individual has of their own value. People who exhibit passive behaviors often think it is not worth expressing what they feel.

Usually, they think it’s not worth it that people pay attention or care for them. They do not usually react or let their emotions out. This causes you to create emotional conflicts that make your self-esteem even lower, thus becoming a vicious circle.

Passive communication is often the result of repressed emotions from a very early age in an environment where submission is valued positively.

Some parents reward the passivity of children since they are very small, either on purpose or unconsciously. This positive assessment of submissive behaviors slowly becomes a very low self-esteem on the part of the child which, as a consequence, translates into behavioral habits.


The habit of accepting everything others say and trying to please them at all costs, when deeply ingrained, becomes a form of passive communication in which the individual always hides his opinions to please others who are involved.

How does society view this type of people?

People who communicate passively are not good at working in groups with other partners. It is quite common for other members of the group to begin to exercise control over them and to express feelings of superiority.

Then, there will be feelings of frustration and guilt on the part of the affected person due to the continued suppression of their views. People will tend to assume that they will always be there despite the constant trampling and will try to achieve their goals at their expense.

In work environments, these passive people are often regarded as individuals who shirk responsibilities and who are not proactive at work.

Advantages and disadvantages of passivity when communicating

Communicating passively is clearly a dysfunctional type of communication, but it can have some advantages. As these people adapt to the desires of others, they often avoid conflicts. They also have fewer responsibilities, as they delegate decisions to others and are not usually part of group decisions.

Also, as the people around them often feel the need to protect them, they have a sense of control over them. Finally, these people feel comfort and safety by maintaining and repeating a family behavioral pattern.

However, the disadvantages outnumber the advantages. People around passive communicators may tend to protect them, but they tend to lose all respect for them.

As we have said before, repressing and internalizing opinions and emotions is very destructive for oneself. There are many ailments caused by repression of negative emotions, such as migraines, asthma attacks, many skin diseases, ulcers, arthritis, chronic fatigue and hypertension.

These people also suffer from other psychological problems such as high anxiety, depression and social inhibition.

How to deal with passive people to improve their communication style

People who behave passively tend to have low self-esteem and tend to have little self-confidence. By behaving assertively, you can help make these people feel that their contributions are valued and, in this way, improve their self-esteem and confidence. Remember that it is possible to value someone’s contributions without necessarily agreeing with them.

Also Read: Alternative and Increasing Communication Systems (SAAC)

Aside from being assertive with these people, we should encourage them to be assertive too, so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions freely without feeling pressure when expressing them.

To encourage these people to be assertive, you can use basic interpersonal listening skills, reflection, clarification, and questions. Some of these techniques are as follows:

  • Encourage them to make the contributions they want to make through questions, being interested in their opinion and having them joins the discussion in group situations. Asking questions is critical to successful communication, and you will feel that others are interested in it and what you think about the issue at hand. In this way, you show empathy and respect for the other person and what you have to say and increase the appreciation you feel for yourself.
  • Listen carefully to what the person has to say before continuing the conversation. If necessary, use techniques to clarify your opinion before responding. Listening is not the same as hearing; requires attention to both verbal and non-verbal messages if we want to come to fully understand what the other person wants to express. In order for the person who speaks to us to know that we are actively listening, it is desirable to maintain eye contact and proper body posture. Through these forms of non-verbal language, although subtle, he shows interest in what the person has to say and encourages him to express himself.
  • It encourages the person who tends to communicate passively to be more open when expressing their feelings, wishes and ideas aloud. In discussions or group work, remember not to take all the responsibility when making decisions that should be made jointly. Try to involve all members to make contributions when deciding. If you know that one of the group members tends to behave passively in group decisions, you can take time to discuss their point of view. If you know how he feels, then you can help him express his opinions in the group.

Summary of passive communication style characteristics

To summarize and finish, here’s a list of the main characteristics of these people:

  • They are not sure of their own rights.
  • They believe that the rights of others are above theirs.
  • Easily give away what others want.
  • Other people often take advantage of them.
  • They are afraid to communicate honestly.
  • They fail to express their feelings, needs and opinions successfully.
  • They do not usually maintain eye contact and usually show a stooped or shrunken body posture.
  • They often feel confused because they ignore their own feelings.
  • They feel anxiety because their lives seem to be out of their control.
  • They often avoid direct communication with other people with whom there may be a possible confrontation.
  • They remain silent when something bothers them.
  • His voice is usually monotonous.
  • They apologize a lot and in advance.

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