How changing your communication style could save your sanity at work


If your parents didn’t give you the tools to communicate effectively, or worse, if your boss didn’t learn how to communicate well, you (and/or your boss) may use one of three communication styles:

  • Passive. You don’t advocate for yourself.
  • Aggressive. You put your needs above others.
  • Passive-aggressive. You play nice but sabotage behind others’ backs.

However, with assertive communication, you can be clear, direct, and respectful. “Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.”

Serenity Online Therapy describes the four communication styles:


You avoid expressing your opinions or feelings and don’t get your needs met. “Passive communication is usually born of low self-esteem. These individuals believe: ‘I’m not worth taking care of,’” explains the website. You let annoyances build up until you can’t take it anymore, when you might have an outburst, followed by shame and guilt. The cycle continues. You often:

  • Don’t assert yourself.
  • Get walked on.
  • Don’t express your needs, feelings, and opinions.
  • Speak softly and with apology.
  • Use poor eye contact.

You feel anxious, depressed, and resentful.


You express your feelings and opinions but without respect for others. You come across as abusive. Also associated with low self-esteem from past abuse, you have unhealed emotional wounds and feel helpless. You often:

  • Dominate others.
  • Humiliate and control others.
  • Criticize, blame, and attack others.
  • Act impulsively.
  • Get frustrated easily.
  • Get loud and overbearing.
  • Threaten and act rudely.
  • Interrupt and don’t listen.
  • Use “you” statements.
  • Have overbearing eye contact.

You alienate others and become alienated from them. You instill fear and hate in others. You blame others instead of owning your own issues.


You seem passive and cooperative, but you act out anger subtly and indirectly. You feel powerless and resentful. You often:

  • Mutter to yourself instead of confronting the person or problem.
  • Don’t acknowledge your anger.
  • Have facial expressions that don’t match your emotions.
  • Use sarcasm.
  • Say there is no problem.
  • Use sabotage to retaliate.

You alienate yourself from others. You feel stuck and don’t address issues.


You clearly state your opinions and feelings and advocate for your needs respectfully. You have high self-esteem. You value yourself and your time. You often:

  • State your needs and feelings clearly and respectfully.
  • Use “I” statements.
  • Communicate respect for others.
  • Listen well without interrupting.
  • Feel in control of yourself.
  • Maintain good eye contact.
  • Speak calmly and clearly.
  • Feel connected to others.
  • Feel competent.
  • Don’t allow others to abuse or manipulate you.
  • Stand up for your rights.

You feel connected to others, feel in control of your life, and create a respectful environment for others to grow.

Where do you fit? Could practicing being assertive help you in your workplace situation or help you leave it?



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