Healthy Communication

By Letoo James, Feb 11, 2021

Do you find it difficult to say no when you should?

If the answer is yes, you are not alone. Many people struggle to say no when they should give a different response. To them it is not simply an issue of saying yes or no. Much agonizing takes place between a request and what response to give. Consider a friend asking you to wait for them. You may give four likely responses. You can say no or yes without an explanation and not feel bad about it. You may also choose to say no or yes but feel bad for saying it afterwards.  A yes or no response is not the problem, the problem is whether one is at peace with their choices. The desire is to be happy with what we express to others whatever the responses may be. To better understand the dynamics of communication, the answer lies in understanding the style of communication people use. There are three main styles of communication assertive, passive and aggressive.

In passive communication, one avoids expressing their feelings, opinions and needs openly and directly.  People using this style have their rights denied or disrespected because they have not enforced their boundaries. They let their frustration and anger build, then explode when they cannot take in any more. Such people would complain and say they are weak, dislike conflict, are not taken seriously or are unable to defend what is rightfully theirs. They are likely to say yes instead of no and regret later. The effect of this style of communication is that one puts others needs and welfare before their own. One is constantly under tension, worry and frustration. Whenever they explode, they feel guilty afterwards and the cycle continues.

Aggressive communication is the opposite of passive communication. A person with this style satisfies his or her needs at the expense of others. They lack empathy and respect for others’ rights. They actually violate others through verbal or physical abuse. They do not listen, openly criticize, shame, humiliate, dominate and intimidate others into their way. The effect of this is that they alienate others, become alienated themselves from others, constant conflicts, endless blaming and lack of growth. People with this style have a sense of entitlement, have superiority complex and believe they are always right. This style encourages an environment of fear rather than respect, alienation rather than cooperation.

Assertiveness is the ideal style of communication for healthy relationships to endure. It involves expressing ones feelings both positive and negative with firmness but with due regard to others. It is characterized by clarity, authenticity, honesty, and openness. It strikes a healthy balance between personal needs and others rights. Disagreements are acknowledged and differences of opinion respected. Weaknesses are admitted with confidence and help is freely asked for. The impact of this style is clear decision-making, predictability, sense of peace with oneself, maturity, and healthy relationships. Assertiveness is also linked to positive mental health.



Which of the three styles of communication do you mostly use? My prediction is that your style says a lot about the quality of relationship you have with others. We all can benefit from some improvement and awareness of our communication is a good place to start. The styles are not static but depending with situation one can employ different styles to advance their interests. However, if in most cases the default style is passive or aggressive then one should consider seeking help to change. We are less effective as leaders, friends, partners, colleagues and even parties in a conflict when we use passive and aggressive communication styles. Learning and practicing assertive communication helps us to advance our needs, establish healthy boundaries, reach our goals and enjoy quality relationships. As a tool for adapting to our environment, healthy communication also contributes to our overall positive mental health.

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