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4 types of workplace communication styles

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There are four types of communication styles in the workplace: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. Each style has its own strengths and weaknesses, and it's important to know which style you and your coworkers are using so that you can effectively communicate. It could also help you to be more effective in working together and resolving conflicts effectively. In this guide, we will cover exactly what are the four types of communication styles, their characteristics and how to deal with them in the workplace.

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The passive communication style

Passive communicators are those who neither actively contribute to conversations nor express their opinion and feelings. Find out more about what is a passive communicator and their characteristics below.

What is a passive communicator?

A passive communicator is someone who finds it difficult to express their feelings or opinions. They may also avoid engaging in conversations and feel preoccupied with worrying that they might offend others. This means they can come across as being shy, uninterested, or even unengaged. Passive communicators often fear conflict and any form of confrontation which can make them stay clear of expressing themselves openly.

Characteristics of a passive communicator

  • Avoids confrontation
  • Does not express strong opinions
  • Has difficulties setting boundaries
  • Expresses thoughts and feelings indirectly
  • Tends to be indecisive

How to deal with a passive communicator

When dealing with a passive communicator, it is important to remain respectful and understanding. Avoid making assumptions about their feelings or opinions, and give them space to express themselves. Make sure to keep your tone positive and be patient when listening. It can help to ask open-ended questions that allow for deeper conversations so the other person feels more comfortable expressing themselves.

The aggressive communication style

Aggressive communicators are those who express their opinions and feelings in an overly forceful manner. We explore what an aggressive communicator is and their characteristics below.

What is an aggressive communicator?

An aggressive communicator is someone who speaks and acts in a hostile manner. They may use intimidating language, act aggressively towards others, or come off as rude and confrontational. Aggressive communicators often come across as domineering, overbearing, and insensitive when trying to get their point across.

Characteristics of an aggressive communicator

  • Uses intimidating language
  • Makes assumptions without facts
  • Interrupts and speaks over others
  • Has difficulty listening to and understanding opposing views
  • Demands immediate compliance from those around them

Read: 5 bad habits to avoid so you impress in that internship or first job.

How to deal with an aggressive communicator

When dealing with an aggressive communicator, it is important to remain calm and professional. Avoid arguing back or retaliating as this will only further escalate the situation. Maintain your composure by taking a few deep breaths and focusing on what is being said rather than how it is being said. Acknowledge the person’s feelings, but do not be afraid to stand your ground. Make sure to offer solutions instead of pointing out the problem, and keep the communication as constructive as possible.

The passive-aggressive communication style

Passive-aggressive communicators are those who indirectly express their feelings in a negative manner. Here, we explore what a passive-aggressive communicator is and how to deal with them.

What is a passive-aggressive communicator?

A passive-aggressive communicator is someone who tends to express their disagreement or displeasure in indirect, non-confrontational ways. They may use sarcasm, silence, and passive comments to communicate their feelings of anger or frustration, rather than openly expressing them. Passive-aggressive communicators often struggle with assertive communication due to underlying feelings of insecurity.

Characteristics of a passive-aggressive communicator

  • Uses subtle comments or hints to express anger/frustration
  • Avoids open and honest communication
  • Expresses disagreement in an indirect manner
  • Appears agreeable on the surface but express disagreement through their behaviour
  • May use sarcasm to convey disapproval or criticism

How to deal with a passive-aggressive communicator

When dealing with a passive-aggressive communicator, it is important to remain assertive and direct. Make sure to address the underlying issue in a calm and respectful manner rather than getting drawn into an argument or confrontation. Acknowledge their feelings and offer constructive solutions that can help them express themselves more openly. Encourage open dialogue by asking questions that allow for honest and meaningful conversations. Avoid getting defensive or attacking them as this will only make the situation worse. Finally, be patient as it can take time to break down the barriers of a passive-aggressive communicator.

Need more workplace advice? Read our bright advice on entering the world of work.

The assertive communication style

Assertive communicators are those who express their opinions and feelings in a direct yet respectful manner. We explore what an assertive communicator is and how to develop this communication style below.

What is an assertive communicator?

An assertive communicator is someone who speaks in a calm and confident manner, without dominating or intimidating others. They are able to express their needs and opinions without being overly aggressive or passive-aggressive. Assertive communicators can effectively listen to different points of view and make decisions that take into account the feelings of everyone involved. This makes this style of communication ideal for healthy, productive dialogue in the workplace.

Characteristics of an assertive communicator

  • Uses courteous and respectful language
  • Clearly communicates their needs and opinions
  • Listens to different points of view without getting defensive
  • Does not dominate or intimidate others
  • Opens up dialogue for open discussion and problem-solving

How to deal with an assertive communicator

Assertive communicators are fairly easy to deal with as they are usually open and honest. When engaging in conversations with them, focus on listening and understanding their point of view rather than trying to impose your own. Take time to think about what has been said before responding and offer solutions that both parties can agree on. Encourage dialogue without getting defensive or aggressive. Finally, be patient and understanding as assertive communicators may need time to process their thoughts before responding.

How to improve your assertive communication style

Here are some tips to help you improve your assertive communication skills:

  • Be mindful of your body language and facial expressions, as they can significantly influence how your message is received. Avoid crossing your arms or making direct eye contact, as this may be perceived as aggressive.
  • Speak in a clear and confident manner without dominating or intimidating the other person. Make sure to maintain a respectful tone and use appropriate language.
  • Listen to the other person and understand their point of view before responding. Take time to reflect on what has been said before offering a response and avoid jumping to conclusions.
  • Be open and honest with your thoughts, feelings and opinions without being overly aggressive or passive-aggressive. Respectfully express your needs in an assertive way.
  • Try to find solutions that both parties can agree on and avoid getting defensive or attacking the other person. Encourage open dialogue with constructive questions.
  • Finally, be patient and understanding as communication is a two-way process which requires time and effort from both people involved.
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Being able to communicate effectively in the workplace is a key quality top employers look for. In this free e-learning module, learn how to adapt your communication style so that you can get the best results when dealing with others.


In today’s modern world, communication skills are essential for getting ahead in life. Whether it be in the workplace or in relationships, communicating effectively is key to success and a happy life.