“People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes.” Abigail Van Buren
The Passive – Assertive – Aggressive Continuum
People tend to relate to communication based on one of three styles.
Passive communicators tend to put the rights of others before his or her own. Passive communicators tend to be apologetic or sound tentative when they speak. They do not speak up if they feel like they are being wronged.
Assertive communicators respect their rights and the rights of others when communicating. This person tends to be direct but not insulting or offensive. The assertive communicator stands up for his or her own rights but makes sure the rights of others aren’t affected.
Aggressive communicators, on the other hand, will come across as standing up for his or her rights while possibly violating the rights of others. This person tends to communicate in a way that tells others they don’t matter or their feelings don’t matter.
|Definition||Communication style in which you put the rights of others before your own, minimizing your own self-worth||Communication style in which you stand up for your rights while maintaining respect for the rights of others||Communication style in which you stand up for your rights but you violate the rights of others|
|Implications to others||My feelings are not important
I don’t matter
I think I’m inferior
|We are both important
We both matter
I think we are equal
|Your feelings are not important
You don’t matter
I think I’m superior
Overly soft or tentative voice
|Nonverbal styles||Looking down or away
Stooped posture, excessive head nodding
Relaxed posture, smooth and relaxed movements
|Staring, narrow eyes
Tense, clenched fists, rigid posture, pointing fingers
|Potential consequences||Lowered self-esteem
Anger at self
False feelings of inferiority
Disrespect from others
Pitied by others
Respect from others
Respect of others
|Anger from others
Disrespect from others
Feared by others
Most of us tend to have a consistent way we relate to communication, and therefore conflict. The majority of people are either mostly passive (avoidant and accommodating) or mostly aggressive (competitive) with much fewer people regularly being assertive (collaborative). That being said, regardless of where you typically land on the passive – assertive – aggressive continuum, most of us have work to do when it comes to being more assertive in our lives.