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Communication Styles for the Masses


There are four generally accepted categories of communication styles: aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. When you understand which communication style you most commonly use, you can use that style to your benefit in some ways, while also being aware of some of the problems that can come along with that style and how you interact with the masses.

Most people can find different aspects of their communication style in more than one category, but usually there is one that stands out more. How can you tell which style is yours? Here are a few general guidelines to the different communication styles:


Aggressive
 Bold and direct. Their opinion is very clear.
 They get right to the point and generally use as few words as possible.
 They can be brutally honest. Can come across as competitive, dominant, and forceful.
 Speak loudly in an overbearing and demanding way.
 Can be manipulative in conversation - either by using guilt or intimidation

Passive
 They are inhibited and shy.
 They speak softly or apologetically and avoid eye contact.
 They avoid confrontation at all costs.
 They are great listeners and willing to help others, but can find trouble in trying to please everyone.
 Some may think they are easy to take advantage of because they appear unsure of what they want or what they think.

Passive-Aggressive
 A combination of the first two styles - they avoid confrontations (passive), but will be manipulative to get what they want (aggressive).
 They can be methodical in their approach to problems or interactions with people.
 People often don't know what to expect of someone with this style because they don't truly feel like they know the person or what they believe.
 They sometimes use facial expressions that don't match how they feel (i.e. smiling when angry).
 Often sarcastic and subtle.

Assertive
 They are self-respecting and confident.
 They are direct, but sensitive in their approach and honesty.
 Speak clearly and calmly and have a relaxed body posture
 They are not easily manipulated because they stand up for themselves, without being confrontational in a negative way.
 They are willing to make compromises.

Clearly, the assertive communication style is the desired one of the four and the other three have their shortcomings. Most people can think of different people that fit into each category. By understanding the different characteristics of each style, people, whether in business or life in general, can learn how to effectively deal with all types of styles.

While it is not always pleasant to deal with aggressive, passive, or passive-aggressive personalities and communication styles, it must be done. Below are some ways to cope with some communication differences with dealing the more difficult types:

Aggressive: Get to the point right away. Speak directly and clearly. Since aggressive types can be brutally honest and sometimes inconsiderate, it is important to take what they say with a grain of salt. Usually their criticism and confrontational matter isn't meant to be taken personally.

Passive: It can be particularly frustrating to talk to a passive communicator because they may seem to not have any opinion of their own. Though it may be frustrating, avoid being pushy or confrontational. Passive communicators just need time to feel comfortable with others.

Passive-Aggressive: Just as passive-aggressive communicators are a combination of two styles, an approach to them must be a combination as well. Recognize that talking to them might be frustrating like with the passive communicator (since they avoid conflict), but it also important to not take anything they say or do personally (like with the aggressive types), because it may conflict with what they say.

Ideally, everyone should communicate like the assertive types, but that isn't a reality. By understanding the different types, you can face a little less frustration because you recognize the style, know what to expect, and how to communicate best with them. And once you understand your own communication style pitfalls, you can correct them and communicate more effectively.


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