In an earlier post, I discussed how anger is a spectrum of emotions. Anger can be mild like annoyance or strong like rage. We can choose to act out our anger by behaving aggressively or doing things that aren’t appropriate. Or we can express our anger in an assertive, non-aggressive way to let go of it and move forward. How we communicate our anger is on a spectrum just like anger itself is. Anger can be communicated four ways: passive, passive-aggressive, assertive or aggressive.
The Four Communication Styles
When people adopt a passive communication style, they avoid talking about their feelings. Feelings like anger can build up when a person uses a passive communication style. These people take letting go of things to an extreme. The problem is that they don’t really let go of their anger. They just don’t express it. They tend to let people walk all over them without ever speaking up for themselves. Sometimes, people who use a passive communication style, let their anger build up so much that in time, they explode. They either take their anger out on themselves or they become aggressive until the anger dissipates.
People who use a passive-aggressive communication style, seem to be passive on the surface. They don’t openly express anger but find subtly ways to express it. They have difficulty expressing their anger so they try to hide it. But it may come through in their facial expressions which don’t match what they are saying. For example, they may smile even though their tone of voice seems angry. They may use sarcasm as a way to secretly express anger. They may even try appear helpful but will disrupt things or will find a way to sabotage something without people knowing.
People who are assertive stand up for themselves without taking away the rights of others. They may let you know that you did something that they felt angry about but at the same time are respectful of the other person’s right to make their own choices. They don’t blame others for the feelings. They realize that they can disagree with someone without being disrespectful or aggressive. They defend their right to their beliefs without denying another person’s right to their beliefs. People who use this style of communication use “I statements.” An “I statement” is when you say “I feel _______ when you _______.” This form of expressing feelings makes the person less defensive because you aren’t blaming the other person for your feelings. Assertiveness is the healthiest form of communication which leads to mature communication of the person’s needs and feelings while dealing with problems as they arise.
People who use an aggressive style of communication express their feelings and opinions but do not consider the other person’s feelings. They are controlling. They try to dominate or humiliate others. They criticize others and don’t listen to the other person’s side. They are rude and tend to blame or attack others. They say things like “you made me feel angry,” or “you are the problem.” This makes the other person feel they have to defend themselves. They may act in a threatening manner. They may use a loud, overbearing tone of voice to get their point across.
Of the four communication styles, assertive communication is the healthiest and will lead to the most positive outcomes. People who assertive themselves will express their anger in a healthy way without hurting others. People who are aggressive might get their way sometimes but it is only at the expense of others and they will continue to be angry. Passive people rarely get their needs met because they fail to speak up and admit they have feelings such as anger. Passive people will continue to be angry as it builds up inside because they fail to face it head on. Passive-aggressive people may believe they are getting their way but it is also at the expense of others and they ultimately end up angrier.
- Understanding Passive Aggressive Personality Trait (christinehammondcounseling.com)
- Do You Know What You Are Feeling? (foxbusiness.com)
- Effective Email Communication (becomeskilled.wordpress.com)
- Most people don’t know what Passive Aggressive means… (madelinescribes.wordpress.com)
- Assertiveness-Stand up and be counted! (serialtrainer7.wordpress.com)
- Resource: Communication Styles (mm172001.wordpress.com)