There are three primary communication styles – passive, aggressive, and assertive.
Passive- Common names for these individuals are “doormats,” “people pleasers,” “teacher’s pet,” “the nice guy,” “the quiet type,” or “doormat.” A popular example of a passive person might be “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski , “Andy” from The 40-Year-Old Virgin, or “Dave Buznik” from Anger Management. They avoid conflict like the plague. They cave in quickly to any opposition and usually do what is asked of them. Another way of putting it is “going with the flow.” Passive people rarely stand up for themselves or express their thoughts/feelings. They instead hold them in. It is like a tea kettle. Eventually, those thoughts and feelings hit a boiling point though and that tea kettle blows its top. Passive people tends to have worst tempers than the other two communication styles because there is so much built up emotion.
Aggressive- These individuals are the other extreme. Titles for these people are “bullies,” “hotheaded,” “quick temper,” or “aggressor.” Envision any character Samuel L. Jackson has portrayed. They become defensive quickly. Aggressive people will put others down and rely heavily on sarcasm. They beat others up mentally, emotionally, and physically in some cases. They show their feelings through yelling, cursing, hitting, throwing objects, etc. Emotion regulation is not a strength.
Assertive- Those who utilize assertive communication are perceived as respectful, fair, strong-willed, confident, and leaders. Think of Morgan Freeman’s presence as a prime example. This is the happy medium, or some call it the “golden mean” between passive and aggressive communication. Assertive individuals know what they want and stand up for what they believe in. They do not argue though, but rather discuss with the other parties. They will ensure that they are heard and that the other side is heard as well. These individuals are great listeners, utilize and read appropriate body language, and possess strong conflict resolution skills. They know when to say “no” to others, but take responsibility for their own actions. They set limits with others, and understand their own boundaries.
Assertive communication is the hardest to learn of the three primary communication styles and require extensive practice. Passive and aggressive communication are easier because they are natural reactions to conflict and feelings. To learn more about assertive communication, I recommend an article from “The Art of Manliness” that breaks it down beautifully. It also explains the benefits. There is some NSFW material in the article by the way, so do not say I did not warn you. Check it out at: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/02/12/how-to-be-assertive/
So what does communication have to do with self-care? The benefits of appropriate communication and conflict resolution with others is well-known. You will experience reduced stress levels and improved social well-being. Your overall quality of relationships will improve. Your social wellness will be intact and satisfied.
Let us turn the insight inward though. How can we use this in how we communicate with ourselves?
We are constantly conversing with ourselves throughout the day through our thoughts, inner voice, and self-talk. We engage in the three communication styles in this daily exchange.
Passive- I lost count a long time ago on how many times I told myself, “Everything is fine.” It was an attempt to avoid negative thoughts and feelings (a.k.a. an internal conflict). We lie to ourselves and do not put our foot down. We go into “auto pilot” mode and attempt to go with the flow. We stuff our feelings until eventually we have a nervous breakdown.
Aggressive- Aggressive self-communication comes in the form of self-defeating thoughts or self-destructive behavior. We beat ourselves up and put ourselves down. We do not feel worthy of the good life has to offer. We will self-sabotage if we do not feel like we deserve it. In extreme forms, this can include self-injurious behavior.
Assertive- Being assertive with ourselves means turning this behavior, mindset, and definition of this communication style inward. We acknowledge our warning signs and listen to all aspects of our wellness. We understand our limits. We have enough self-respect to be honest with ourselves. We take responsibility for our actions and forgive. We are willing to confront the situation and discuss our way through it. We look at it rationally and with a level head to develop the best possible resolution.
-The Caring Counselor