In the movie, “27 Dresses,” the main character Jane, is an over the top people pleaser. Jane goes to all extremes creating Kodak moments for everyone else ‘s life while ignoring the needs of her own. In one scene, her best friend says, “You aren’t Jesus you know. You can’t go around pretending you have no needs.”
Chronically ignoring her personal needs finally causes Jane to snap and abandon her passive-people-pleasing personality. During her sister’s wedding dinner, Jane aggressively goes after her sister’s reputation destroying the trust of the bridegroom resulting in the wedding cancelation. We can laugh at these antics on film but passive-people-pleasing communications patterns occur frequently in real life and are not a good mental health option.
There are four basic types of communication: passive, aggressive, passive/aggressive and assertive. Here’s a list of adjectives describing each style. See which category contains the most adjectives that consistently describe your method of interacting.
Circle those that apply:
Passive: self-pitying, victim, apologetic, self-punishing, “doormat,” injured, avoiding, giving up, giving in, withdrawn, unresponsive, sacrificing, acquiescing, inhibited, unexpressive, no eye contact, retreating, ignoring, “sweet”, crying, helpless, anxious, humiliated, insecure, timid, self-denying, martyred and EMOTIONALLY STUCK.
Aggressive: insisting, dominating, pushy, rude, overbearing, domineering, over powering, violent, loud, destructive, hostile, superior, bossy, mean, thoughtless, threatening, explosive, “right”, ridiculing, contemptuous, belittling, inconsiderate, “preachy”, harsh, punishing, invading, interrupting and EMOTIONALLY STUCK.
Passive/Aggressive: grudge carrying, resentful, spiteful, dishonest, bitter, gossipy, malicious, revengeful, unaware, manipulative, double messages, indignant, cynical, two-face, indirect, phony, confusing, confused, sarcastic, sully, uneasy, fearful, anxious, late, insulted, devious, condescending and EMOTIONALLY STUCK.
Assertive: clear, direct, aware, spontaneous, energized, powerful, moving, real, honest, responsible for self, open, choosing, appropriate, negotiating, listening, confident, centered, well-bodied, expressive, coping, flexible, vital, in control of self, considering, competent, relaxed and EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY.
PASSIVE COMMUNICATION lets another invade and control by allowing your own feelings and thoughts to be pushed aside. Passive communication is a lose/lose situation because the speaker withholds information about their wants and desires and doesn’t allow the other person the needed information to respond in a reciprocal manner.
AGGRESSIVE COMMUNICATION can be honest and direct but the aim is to promote or advance the speaker’s goals at the expense of the receiver in a win/loss situation. This is one-way communication where the speaker aims to control, dominate and take advantage of the other person.
PASSIVE/AGGRESSIVE COMMUNICATION manipulates the other allowing the speaker to gain advantage indirectly. The passive/aggressive communicator aims at covert control by hiding intentions and misleading the listener in a win/lose situation. The speaker tries to win by manipulating the listener with indirect and dishonest communication.
ASSERTIVE COMMUNICATION is a process of clear and open expression where the thoughts and wishes of yourself and others are respected. Alternatives are explored and created by all parties. Assertiveness means understanding personal rights and power and honoring how these dimensions intersect in relationships and organizations.
Assertive communicates is a win/win situation. How would you describe your communication style? If you find yourself frequently stuck in a passive, aggressive, or a passive/aggressive style considering finding a counselor to help you learn new interactive patterns.
Additional Sources: Although published in 1972, Peoplemaking by Virgina Satir is a classic. Many of the ideas from this post are from a handout I received a long time ago with no accreditation listed. Please send me source info if you know whom original material is from.
A great model for assertive communication is Nien Cheng. During the Chinese cultural revolution, Cheng served 6 years in solitary confinement and never broke despite torture. You can read her account in the book, Life and Death In Shanghai. http://www.amazon.com/Life-Death-Shanghai-Cheng-Nien/dp/0802145167/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398275952&sr=1-1&keywords=life+and+death+in+shanghai
Camille Curtis Foster LCSW
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