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  • Writer's pictureDeniss Pleiner, M.A.

The Four Types of Communication & How they Can Help (or Hurt) Your Relationships

By Deniss Pleiner, M.A.


When we communicate assertively– that is, honestly, openly, and respectfully, we set the stage for honest, open, and respectful relationships. Otherwise we risk people not listening to us or our needs or resenting us, feeling defensive, or feeling dismissed.

Your experience is important so let’s make sure it's being heard. Today we’ll talk about the four types of communication styles and how they can help or hurt a relationship.

1. Passive Communication: Dishonest, disrespectful.

It is dishonest because when we engage in passive communication, we agree with what others want and not speak up about what we honestly feel, need, or want. It is also disrespectful to ourselves because we are telling ourself (and our inner child) that are needs are not important.

When we communicate passively, we also risk build resentment towards others because our needs are going unmet. We resent others for not prioritizing or meeting our needs even though we never told them what they were.

2. Aggressive Communication: Can be perceived as honest but oftentimes is not and is also disrespectful.

It is dishonest because while aggressive communication claims to be "bold" and "straight-to-the-point" it never actually says what our needs actually are. When we engage in aggressive communication, we are either making assumptions, raising our voice, or being outright disrespectful. We don't just engage in disrespect towards others when we are communicating aggressively but we also are being disrespectful towards ourselves. We are not giving ourselves the space to express how we actually feel or what are needs/fears are and instead bulldoze over other's in an effort to control-- to feel safer.

It is probably much easier here to see how this does not help our relationships. Others wont appreciate that we dismiss or ignore their needs and again, we also go without feeling calm and well when we act from a place of fear or anxiety.

3. Passive Aggressive Communication: Dishonest, disrespectful

Passive aggressive communication is at it's heart, dishonest. It requires that we use assumptions, guilt, and manipulation to help us get what we want. It usually comes from a place of fear: we are afraid of being vulnerable. That if we are honest about what we want, others can say no and/or reject us. So instead we try to have our needs met in a way that ultimately results in dishonestly and disrespect.

Once again, we are disrespectful towards ourselves we deny our own truths-- when we dismiss or reject our inner child's voice. It is also disrespectful towards others when we dismiss or ignore their needs while trying desperately to meet our own. This wont help us gain the trust of others or build healthy relationships.

4. Assertive Communication: Open, Honest, respectful.

While this tends to be the scariest form of communication for BIPOC, it is also the most helpful and healing type of communication. Assertive communication ensures everyone's needs are being heard and met. As BIPOC-- and particularly BIWOC we are sent messages that we cannot have needs-- that, in fact, our job is to be nurturing and to meet the needs of others. Anything that challenges that is seen as rude, cold, or mean.

When we engage in assertive communication, we are honest with ourselves and others about what are needs are and we also leave room for the needs of others. This helps everyone feel seen and heard and sets up a structure for compromise and conversation. When we advocate for ourselves, we model and normalize it for others as well.

Assertive communication is key to setting healthy boundaries and building healthy relationships at home and at work. If you need some extra help setting culturally sound boundaries, schedule a free consultation to work with one of our therapists by clicking down below:


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