Broadly speaking, there are four different types of communication:1) passive communication, 2) assertive communication, 3) aggressive communication, and 4) passive-aggressive communication:


1. Passive Communication- when someone communicates in a passive way they are prioritizing the other person's feelings, needs, and wants at the expense of their own. They are not standing up for themselves, which can lead to feelings of resentment.


2. Assertive Communication- when someone communicates in an assertive way, they are standing up for themselves while also taking the other person's feelings, needs, and wants into account. Communicating in an assertive way is the most likely way to get a positive outcome and maintain relationships.


3. Aggressive Communication- when someone communicates in an aggressive way they are only considering their own feelings, needs, and wants without any regard for the other person. While you may get what you want by communicating in an aggressive way, it can be very damaging to relationships. It is a good way to get people to dislike you and lose respect for you!


4. Passive-aggressive Communication- when someone communicates in a passive-aggressive way, they aren't communicating their feelings, needs, or wants outright, but act angry in an indirect way; for example, avoiding a person as a way of communicating their dislike of something the person has done.


Assertive communication is the ideal; it isn't always easy, but like any skill, it can be learned and honed through practice. I would encourage you to practice by using the following steps:


1. "X happened."


Describe what happened and stick with the facts! Don't make any assumptions or interpretations especially in regard to a person's intentions (e.g., "You forgot about an important event).


2. "It made me feel Y."


Express how you feel (e.g., "It was extremely hurtful).


3. "I want Z."


Assert your needs or wants (e.g., "I need you to acknowledge my feelings and apologize in order to repair and maintain the relationship).


There will be times that even when using assertive communication, you do not get what you want or need and relationships will end. This is when it becomes important to practice acceptance and self-compassion.


You can learn more about assertive communication in my book.



If you are interested in learning more or in working with me please go to my homepage to contact me or schedule your free 15-minute phone call.

Please note that the information in this blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for psychological or medical care. If you are looking for professional help, visit my resources page for guidance on how to find a therapist. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest ER.

Dr. Carissa Gustafson, Clinical Psychologist Los Angeles
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