Stop me if you’ve heard this before: “In a healthy relationship, it’s all about communication, communication, communication!” I really should add a fourth one in there because there are Four Basic Types of Communication: Passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive.
One of the least understood is passive communication and as such, it can be a sneaky little bastard . . .
Passive Communication is a style of discourse in which individuals avoid expressing their opinions or feelings, protecting their rights, or identifying their needs/wants for fear of rejection by leveraging plausible deniability.
I generally fancy myself an assertive communicator, so imagine my surprise when a partner of mine suggested an issue I was having in another relationship was the direct result of passive communication. On my part! THE HORROR! I abhor passive-aggressive behavior so surely I wouldn’t do anything passive. And yet? There it was. Clear. As. Day.
So how did I, someone who prides themselves on being assertive, become someone who employed passive communication?
In my case, I wanted something and was uncomfortable receiving a ‘no’ (read more on that here). Instead of doing the work to be okay with a ‘no’, I opted to passively communicate what I wanted to avoid feeling rejected. Why? Because it was easier to blame the other person for not giving me what I felt I was so clearly asking for.
For example: Let’s say I want to snuggle with a partner while we watch a movie.
Passive communication: ”Do you want to snuggle during this movie?”
Assertive communication: “I’d like to snuggle with you during this movie.”
The difference may seem subtle, but its impact is significant; learning this has been a game changer.
When I communicate assertively, I am clearly and respectfully stating my desire and giving the other person an opportunity to answer authentically. The key component missing in the passive example was an expressed desire; it felt implied, but it wasn’t actually stated. Worse yet, it set us both up for failure. My partners aren’t mind readers and I bet yours aren’t either . . .
Assertive communication is the goal, but there can be a learning curve as you get used to it.
- Use “I” statements to advocate for yourself and express desires
- Avoid asking leading questions with an outcome in mind
- Accept “no” for an answer, and work on not taking it personally
- Demonstrate your ability to take “no” for an answer by allowing it to be the end of the conversation, not a platform for coercive follow ups like “why not?”
Employing these techniques allows for a greater level of control in your life by directly addressing issues, concerns, wants, and needs in a non-violent manner, respecting the autonomy of whomever you’re speaking to by giving them pertinent information as well as a true choice in the matter.
After all, each of us is 100% responsible for our own happiness. Continue reading “Guest Blog: Pitfalls of Passive Communication”