Are you passive or aggressive?

What is your communication style? Is it passive, aggressive or a combination of both? Identify your approach and learn how to become more assertive.

According to communications specialist, Lizanne de Jong, people struggle to practise assertiveness.

“Assertiveness is a skill...we are not necessarily born with it”

She says women in particular have difficulty articulating their thoughts and feelings. There are many factors that influence assertiveness in women which can include things like cultural background, personality, socialisation or previous experience.

“These factors inform your opinions about how you should behave or interact.”

Women can also perpetuate these wrong ways of thinking by playing a “female role” at work. For example taking minutes at a meeting without be assigned this duty.

These ingrained ways of thinking also make it difficult for women to express themselves freely and directly.

So how do you communicate your thoughts in a constructive, honest and respectful way? An assertive approach is critical, especially in the office where the prospect of offending others or being misunderstood is so high.

De Jong says that during times of conflict people without the proper communication skills will either adopt an ‘attacking’ or ‘doormat’ approach. Both of these approaches are unhelpful in resolving problems.

There is a fine line between a passive, aggressive or assertive approach and it is important to establish your own communication style.

De Jong provides some pointers below to help people identify the different styles:

People who fall into the passive group believe that they are 'not important'. She describes them as emotionally dishonest, self-denying, blaming and indirect. Their inability to establish clear boundaries often leads to people stepping on them.

On the contrary people with an aggressive communication style are usually the ones stepping on others. They are prone to making statements like “that's just me” and expect others to bend to their expectations. They are often controlling, attacking and “self-enhancing at the expense of others”.

The passive-aggressive approach is equally damaging to relationships because of its subtle form. These communicators have difficulty bringing their thoughts across and instead choose to display their frustration in non-verbal ways. For example sabotage, stonewalling and undermining behaviour are common practices amongst passive aggressive people.

“People often mistake assertiveness for aggression” says de Jong. However assertiveness is the ideal communication style. When assertiveness is practised both parties are protected. An assertive person is honest in their communication without demanding their way. They know how to compromise without undervaluing their rights or worth.

For more insights join the Assertive Communication Skills for Women course hosted by Alusani Skills & Training Network ®. Contact us to find out when our next course is running. For more information call 011 447 7470, email or visit their website

Cindy Payle - Portal Publishing

Training Provider Page: