What is the difference between assertive, aggressive, passive, and passive aggressive communication?
Assertive communication is letting someone know what you think, feel, want, or need without crossing your own boundaries or crossing someone else’s boundaries. It is a healthy way to get your needs met or to at least honoring your needs.
Aggressive communication is letting people know what you think, feel, want, or need by crossing other people’s boundaries. It is an unhealthy way to get your needs met. You get your needs met by using force, fear, coercion, anger, or aggression.
Passive communication is crossing your own boundaries by not letting people know what you think, feel, want, or need. This is unhealthy and you don’t get your needs met. After anger and resentments build up, due to not getting your needs met, it can lead to aggressive communication.
Passive-aggressive communication is crossing your own boundaries and other people’s boundaries by not being clear about what you think, feel, want, or need. It is unhealthy and you may or may not get your needs met. You may confuse people by using sarcasm or by not asking directly for what you want.
What is assertive communication and how do you use it?
First you need to figure out how you feel and what you want. You can’t ask for what you want or need if you don’t know what you think, feel, want, or need and it isn’t fair to expect someone to know if you don’t even know. The goal is to tune in, pay attention, and honor what you think, feel, want or need, despite the outcome. When you know and then let others know, it takes the confusion and guesswork out of communication. It limits miscommunication and misunderstandings because people don’t have to read your mind or guess what you think, feel, want, or need.
Then you need let the person know what you think, want, or need. This can be done with I-Statements.
What is an I-Statement and how do you create an I-Statement?
An I-Statement lets a person know what you need/want without crossing your boundaries or someone else’s boundaries.
Here are the components of an I-Statement:
- First, you identify the feeling or emotion. (ex. I feel… hurt, embarrassed, angry, scared, powerless)
- Next, you identify the behavior that you don’t want to continue. (ex. When you… don’t listen to me, yell at me, take my things without asking)
- Finally, you identify the specific behavior that you do want. (ex. I want… you to listen to me, talk to me calmly, ask before taking my things)
Example: I feel hurt and scared when you yell at me. I want you to talk to me without yelling.
I feel_______________ when you________________________________. (Feeling/Emotion) (Specific of behavior)
I want _____________________________________________________. (Specific change wanted)
What assertive communication is not?
Assertive communication is not manipulative and is not a guarantee that you will get your needs met or people will honor how you feel. Some people are not safe to share your feelings with, but it is still important to figure out and honor what you think, feel, want, and need. What is most important is that you figure out what your needs are, honor them, and share them with someone who is safe.
Julia Manfre is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a National Certified Counselor. She has a Master’s of Education degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Florida Atlantic University. Julia is a psychotherapist, the owner of Self-Care Solutions, a private practice that specializes in empowering women, a podcaster, she hosts the Self-Care Solutions Podcast, a blogger, and a Keynote Speaker. She has years of experience working in substance abuse treatment, crisis, trauma, and women’s issues.
Julia’s mission in life is to empower women and girls. She was a product of divorced parents and was raised by a single mom. She grew up in the DC area or the DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia) as it is affectionately known, in a small town in Maryland. She was brought up a die-hard Redskins fan. She loves beading, sewing, ballroom dancing, and Wonder Woman. She is passionate about women’s right and women’s empowerment. Julia is married, has a 6-year-old daughter, Lily, and three guinea pigs named Wuzzy, Lovey, and Yum Yum.