Communicate - Communicate - Communicate


Communication over time in relationships often moves from highly verbal, direct, and active states to highly non-verbal, indirect, and passive states (unconscious projections: what we push on to others, introjects: what we take on from others, and body language: non verbal communication).  When passive states are at play relationships are at risk for developing patterns of interactions that are more a kin to orbiting each other, feeling disconnected and dysphoric, rather than direct and engaged interactions that create feelings of connectedness and empathic understanding (knowing what your partner needs, when they need it, and why they need it).

I break communication into 4 categories: Passive, Passive-Aggressive, Aggressive, and Assertive. Two are examples of indirect communication (Passive & Passive-Aggressive), two are examples of direct communication (Aggressive & Assertive), but only one is an example of effective communication (Assertive).

When we engage in passive communication we are engaged in a process that hopes for change and does nothing.  Often this can take the form of unreasonable expectations ( i.e. I expect you to know what I need but never tell you what I need, why I need it, or when I need it). For this reason it is considered indirect communication.

When we engage in passive-aggressive communication we are engaged in a process that pacifies others by either telling them what they want to hear or keeping them out of the loop all together.  Once this is accomplished we do whatever it is we need to do to express our self, make our point, or gratify our need.  It can take the form of gossip, putdowns or “Digs” played off as a joke, giving someone the silent treatment, or setting someone up to fail or look stupid.  It is considered  indirect communication because the way you are getting your point across or expressing yourself does not include the true intent of what it is your are communicating. As a result the intended target or person is either unaware of your needs and is mislead by your statements and actions.  For this reason it is considered indirect communication.

When we engage in aggressive communication we are engaged in a process that is hostile, intimidating, or threatening.  When this is the case we get our needs met by bulling others into agreement or submission through shame or fear.  Often times this form of communication can be abusive because it includes name calling, putdowns “You’re such a looser”, questions the security of the attachment “I don’t know why I married you? You’re worthless!”, and incorporates fear “I’ll beat your a** if you don’t do what I say!”.  It is considered direct communication because you are making your thoughts and needs known and your intended audience is aware. 

When we engage in assertive communication we are engaged in a process that is respectful, honest, thoughtful, and engaged. When we are assertive we are able let others know what we need, when we need it, and why.  We understand that just because we have made a request it may not be granted and understand that we may be asked to give something of ourselves in return.  We can accept the rights of others to disagree without feeling hurt or angry because we can accommodate differing ideas, feelings, and perspectives.  Thus, we can agree to disagree when we encounter and impasse and move on without becoming dismissive, degrading, or disrespectful.  It is considered direct communication because you are letting others know what your thoughts and feelings are and how they can assist you.

Photo by Matthew Zito  ©

Communication