Three Basic Types of Communication
One of the joys of living in the world is the satisfaction you can receive by getting some of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs met. Your ability to assertively communicate your needs requires healthy thinking and communication skills. Let’s begin by looking at three types of communication.
Assertive communication involves clearly stating your needs how you feel and what you need without violating the rights of others. The underlying assumption in an assertive communication is: “You and I have differences, and we are mutually responsible for expressing ourselves respectfully to each other.” The significant hallmarks of assertive communication include getting some of what you need without alienating others, active participation in making important decisions, the emotional and spiritual satisfaction of respectfully exchanging thoughts, feelings, and healthy self-esteem.
People who communicate assertively speak in a relaxed, clear tone of voice. They make good eye contact and have an unanxious presence. Here is an example of an assertive exchange between a couple:
Partner A: I wonder if we might discuss our holiday plans – (waits a moment for a positive response). I’d like to take a break from traveling to your parents this year. I’ve felt tired lately and I could use a breather this holiday. We could stay home and just take it easy.
Partner B: Well, I would really like to visit my parents this year.
Partner A: We did go there last year and we’ve visited with them a couple of times already this year.
Partner B: I realize that, but it’s not really the holiday to me unless I’m with my parents.
Partner A: How important is it for you to visit them this year?
Partner B: On a 10-point scale, it’s a 10 for me. How important is it for you to stay home?
Partner A: Well, I guess about 7 or 8. OK. What about going for just a few days and make plans to come home early in order to rest a bit?
Partner B: All right, that sounds reasonable!
Aggressive communication an aggressive communication, needs, feelings, and wants are honestly stated, but at the other person’s expense. Aggressive communicators are usually loud and direct. They tend to use sarcasm, rhetorical questions, threats, negative labels, profanity, you-messages and absolutes (“You never clean up the living room”), glaring, and literal finger pointing as communication weapons. Here is an example of an aggressive person speaking:
Aggressive Person: You’re such a slob, your workspace looks like a garbage dump! I don’t care if it takes you all day to clean it up. If it’s not spotless by the end of the day, I’m reporting you.
The underlying message in aggressive communication is: “I’m superior and right and your inferior and wrong.” The advantage of aggressive communication is that people often give aggressors what they want just to get rid of the conflict. The major disadvantage is that the aggressiveness can trigger people to get even in some way. Aggressive communication tends to create resentment.
In passive communication, needs, feelings, and wants are withheld altogether or expressed only partially or indirectly. The passive communicator tends to speak softly. Eye contact and posture are often poor, conveying a message of submission. Here’s an example of a passive person’s response:
Passive Person: (under her breathe) I don’t get enough out of this relationship to take this kind of abuse! (Then out loud, after a big sigh, with faint sarcasm) I’ll get on it right away.
The Principles of Assertive Communication
Assertive communication is based on the assumption that people are the best judge of their own thoughts, feelings, needs, and behavior. You are better informed than anyone else about your family background and current circumstances that shape you into a unique person. You are best qualified to express your position on important issues. Since everyone is unique, there are many times when people will disagree. Rather than submit to or overpower the other, you have the right to express your position and to negotiate any differences that arise.