Communication Styles - Passive - Aggressive - Assertive
Behaviors determine direction...
" All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
-Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Humans have basic rights, though not everyone has the opportunity to enjoy those freedoms. Yet many people do not extend these basic rights to themselves, and still others refuse to extend them to anyone beyond themselves.
It is both a global problem, and an individual problem. It affects relationships, families, and whole communities. It passes from one generation to the next. When one person is unable to deal with life in an assertive manner, it affects every life that person touches.
When you win, I lose
When I win, you lose
Either way nobody really wins
The easy way to understand passive or aggressive versus assertive relationship styles is:
Someone whose rights are consistently violated is passive.
Someone who consistently violates the rights of others is aggressive.
To be assertive is to maintain the rights of both parties whenever possible.
* Don't express needs, opinions, or feelings.
* Apologize for things that aren't their fault
* Do not respect their own rights
* Feel they don't have a right to ask for things they want
* Avoid conflict, even at their own discomfort
Let's say you buy a piece of property that does not have a fence. Your neighbor slowly begins taking over control of the land closer and closer to your house. First they plant flowers, then they plant trees, and soon they are chaining their dog up on your property.
Instead of saying anything you just watch them take it over, until one day you wake up to find they have placed a fence right up against your house. You go out to look at it, and they call the police on you for trespassing.
This is passive behavior. At first it doesn't seem like a big deal, so you don't want to make a fuss. People take and take, and you keep giving. By the time you have had enough, it is often too late. You have allowed others to control your life, so your life feels out of control.
Even more, you take responsibility for the actions of others. You convince yourself that it was probably your fault to begin with, and the cycle continues.
Just like property needs boundaries, so do people. You need to be aware of where your rights begin and another person's end. You need to be aware of your feelings on an issue, and not push them aside.
So often, a passive person doesn't really feel they have the right to speak up as another person violates more and more of their rights. They value the other person over themselves, and in effect become a doormat.
* Don't respect needs, opinions, or feelings other than their own.
* Do not apologize for things, even when they are at fault
* Do not respect the rights of others
* Feel others do not have a right to ask for things they want
* Avoid discomfort, even at the risk of conflict
Now imagine you are the neighbor. That property next door was vacant for years, and you were the only one who took care of it. You are entitled to compensation for your work. Besides, they weren't really using it anyhow.
Aggressive people have an inflated sense of entitlement. They may feel that the world owes them, and so they take what they want. They control the lives of others in order to feel in control of their own life.
Aggressive people don't take responsibility for their own actions, let alone the actions of others. It was their fault to begin with, so let them deal with the consequences.
Once again people need boundaries, and none of us have the right to violate the boundaries of another. You need to be aware of where your rights end and another's begin.
While being the aggressor might not seem like such a bad thing, it once again places the control of your life in the hands of another. You cannot control that which you do not take responsibility for.
While you may maintain an illusion of control over your life, you are really just as helpless as the passive person; your life is at the mercy of another. When they finally get sick of it and stand up to you, your life spins out of control.
While it may feel better to be the one wiping your feet at the door than being the doormat, neither of you are really in control.
* Tries to deal with needs, opinions, and feelings by NOT dealing with them.
* May apologize, but secretly resents it. Often uses sarcasm
* Respects the rights of others but resents it, often secretly sabotaging progress
* Often functions as a victim in learned helplessness
* Avoids conflict in an indirect way (muttering under their breath, dirty looks, slamming doors, etc.)
With passive-aggressive behavior, everything is controlled in a very indirect manner. There are no boundaries either way. It is like inviting the neighbor to take over your land and then resenting the neighbor for using it.
While the passive-aggressive person doesn't show their sense of entitlement outwardly, on the inside they are upset that other people don't recognize their rights. They control by subtle manipulation, but once again their lives lack any real control.
Also known as "martyr complex."
While a passive-aggressive person has little trouble taking responsibility for something, they truly feel that someone else should be responsible. They deal with the consequences, but they do it in such a way that others have to pay for it.
For the passive-aggressive person there are two sets of boundaries and neither is accurate. Constantly fluctuating, there is no way for anyone else to know exactly where their boundaries are because they don't even know themselves.
There isn't even an illusion of control with passive-aggression, their lives are chaotic and disorganized.
While they may be a doormat, they can't seem to stop complaining about it.
* Respects needs, opinions, and feelings, both their own and other people's.
* When they are at fault they apologize, but allow others to take responsibility for their own actions as well
* Respect their own rights and the rights of others
* Feel comfortable asking for things they need or want
* Deal with conflict in healthy ways
As you have noticed in all of the previous behaviors mentioned, control is a key factor. An underlying attempt to control their life in one way or another. The only person an assertive person feels the need to control is themselves.
They are free from taking responsibility for the actions of others, but mature enough to take responsibility for themselves. When presented with conflict they come from a position of respect, and try to seek out a win/win situation for all involved.
In order to be assertive you have to have a solid set of boundaries yourself and and communicate them clearly. You must also respect the boundaries of others.
You must be honest with yourself and others, be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and accept both. There is no need to manipulate or conceal because you are in control of your life.
A lot of the things we do in life come down to simple power and control. We can waste our time trying to control others, or we can accept responsibility for our own actions and finally set ourselves free!
Codependents tend towards passive or even aggressive ways to get their needs met rather than healthy and assertive means. Instead of saying "I want," they either say "It would be nice." or "Give me now dammit."
One interesting thing I noticed is that I spent so long in passive mode, but as I began to change at first I became very aggressive. (Just ask my dear hubby.) Another person I have been working closely with says the same thing.
It's as if I was afraid to have my new found freedoms taken away, so I held on to them even more tightly. It wasn't pretty, but it did pass. So if you notice an extreme fluctuation in your own behaviors, don't worry. This seems normal, and natural but certainly isn't somewhere you want to stay for long.
If you would like to know more about codependency please visit Codependency - The People Addiction
The Boundaries Series
If it really was as simple as a property dispute, a little research or a call to a surveyor would take care of it, but personal boundaries are a little more difficult to determine. How exactly do you know where your boundaries belong?
The "Boundaries" series can help you with that. They have many different books for your particular situation. Aside from the basic "Boundaries," they also have books for marriage, parenting, and many other specific situations.
I loved these books and the accompanying workbooks. I hope you do too!