Jenks Hypnosis and Training Center, LLC

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Destructive Communication Styles
Part 1

Humans are such social animals. We talk - Constantly. Any given moment may find us knee deep in conversation with each other - or if you are like me - ourselves. Each of us has a particular style of communication we find most comfortable: Passive, Aggressive or Passive Aggressive. None of these styles are ALL bad or ALL good. Each can be useful at times for a variety of reasons. However, by communicating from only one style leads to frustration, hurt feelings, anger, and frequently, a very large blow to our Self Esteem.

Passive Communication

This style requires you deny your own feelings, take complete responsibility for all problems and just hope things get better (which they don't). This is the communication style of submission. Occasionally we all use this style to avoid a nasty conflict (or postpone it to a more appropriate time). But used as the primary form of communications, it means: 1) Giving in to unreasonable demands; 2) Going along with the crowd even the actions will be hurtful, detrimental or injurious; 3) Never criticizing or giving negative feedback; 4) Never doing or saying anything to attract negative comments or outright disapproval. In short - a door mat.

The problem is we become subservient. We hand over our power, our control and our lives to everyone else. Passive Communicators are busy people since they are unable to say no or stand up for themselves. They diligent do everyone else's work, solve everyone else's problems and try desperately to gain SOMEBODY'S notice and approval.

Nothing is ever all good or all bad. There are times when Passive Communication is appropriate. I certainly wouldn't want to be a novice rock climber with no guide, or worse, have the guide ask me what we should do! The difference is CHOICE. A conscious decision to pass authority and decision making power to someone more knowledgeable.

The beliefs of the Passive Communicator is: 1) Others are more important, knowledgeable, capable, interesting, etc.; 2) Others are entitled to control their lives; 3) Others are more effective and 4) My only role is to be the servant.

Aggressive Communication

Instead of submission, these folks are all about control. The most important issue in any situation is not "What is the best course of action?" But, "Can I WIN!?" Typically, this is done regardless of the cost to others. The intent is to control through intimidation. Opinions, requests, goals, boundaries of others are simply obstacles to be pushed out of the way. They are all about power. In short, these folks are the steamrollers. Get out of the way or get run over! But Aggressive Communicators don't feel all that powerful. This aggression almost always stems from feelings of feeling threatened, helpless, abused and the subject of unreasonable and excessive demands. When they feel backed into a corner, they believe aggressive anger is perfectly justified. Aggressive Communication may achieve the goals, but the cost is pricey.

As the primary form of communication it means: 1) Intimidating others into doing what you want them to. You'll get the job done but you won't win any popularity contests. 2) Being feared means fewer demands on you. And fewer invitations. You'll find yourself lonely and isolated which fuels the feelings of being threatened, helpless and abused. 3) Makes you powerful. And this feels good - for a moment. The feelings of power and justification quickly fade leaving you with nothing more than a handful of guilt. 4) Allows you to blow off steam. This doesn't really help because it exacerbates more situations than it eases. In short, you're an ogre and a lonely one at that.

Passive Aggressive Communication

A covert style of communication, it combines the fear of the Passive style and the anger of the Aggressive style to form a new, insidious style of communication. The anger makes you want to "get even" but the fear prevents you from doing it overtly. It is used to control and manipulate others without the actual need to confront them or to take responsibility for your actions. Consider this: The boss asks the over burdened employee to complete an extra report for the following morning. Rather than yelling (aggressive-not the wisest style), staying all night to finish the report (passive-allows anger and resentment to fester) or explaining the objections in a calm and rational manner (the wisest but you'll still have to do the report), the Passive Aggressive Communicator simply chooses to ignore the report or purposely leaves it unfinished. This P/A wins all the way around. The boss is frustrated (the get even) and gets the well deserved comeuppance (the anger). The P/A is completely innocent. "I was trying to get all of the work done you've given me and I just flat ran out of time."

The true P/A eventually gets the reputation of being unreliable, irresponsible, disorganized, irrational and inconsiderate. Like both the Passive and the Aggressive, the Passive/Aggressive Communicator has decreased self-esteem, increased anxiety and a feeling of a complete lack of control over their lives.

Not all Passive Aggressive communications are verbal. Routinely showing up late for an appointment you don't want to keep; 'accidentally' spilling paint on a carpet you hate or doing a something so badly you are relieved of the responsibility. Of course, not every missed appointment, accident or mistake is passive aggressive. Remember? We are Human and fallible. The question is whether or not, at some level, you WANTED or INTENDED the negative outcome. And - since you are in control of everything you do, you are the only one who will truly know.