InsideChats Educational Talks: Communication Skills

Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity. – Nat Turner

What is communication?

We always hear “Communication is key” or “Communication saves a relationship,” but just telling someone to communicate is not an effective way to ensure there is healthy communication. It isn’t a relational cure for all and sometimes the best form of communication will end with both parties acknowledging “We disagree,” which is more effective than saying “I’m right, and you’re wrong” due to this making us defensive. There are three types of communication; passive, aggressive and assertive. Keep in mind everyone has the capability to use each of the three styles, and everyone uses them occasionally.

Passive Communication

This is identified by a person prioritizing the feelings, wants and needs of another person at the expense of their own feelings, wants and needs. A person engaging in passive communication generally doesn’t discuss their wants, needs, or feeling due to feeling guilty or ashamed of doing so an in turn doesn’t stand up for any of them. This generally leads to a person being taken advantage of even by people who are not intentionally meaning to do so due to them not being aware of the communicator’s wants, needs and feelings. Someone who engages in passive communication will present as:

  • Soft spoken/quiet
  • Allows others to take advantage
  • Prioritizes the needs, feelings and wants of others
  • Poor/limited eye contact
  • Tends to look down or away when spoken to
  • Doesn’t express their needs or wants
  • Lacks confidence

Aggressive Communication

This is identified by a person who expresses their wants, needs, and feeling while actively ignoring or disregarding those of others. A person engaging in aggressive communication may be viewed as a bully and ignores the person they are communicating with. Someone who engages in aggressive communication will present as:

  • Easily frustrated
  • Speaks in a loud/overbearing manner
  • Unwilling to compromise
  • Will use criticism, humiliation or domination
  • Frequently interrupts
  • Ignores, disregards or actively doesn’t listen to the person who is trying to communicate with them
  • Disrespectful towards others.

Assertive Communication

This is identified by a person who emphasizes the importance of both parties’ feelings being heard and expressing their wants, needs and feelings. When communicating with someone who is engaging in assertive communication they will stand up for their needs, wants and feelings while actively listening and respecting the other person’s needs, feelings and wants. This person will also appear confident and willing to compromise. Someone who engages in assertive communication will present as:

  • Listens without interrupting
  • Clearly states their wants and needs
  • Willing to compromise
  • Stands up for themselves and their rights
  • Confident tone and body language
  • Good eye contact

Side by Side Comparison of Communication Styles

Assertiveness Tips

  • Respect yourself: This can be done by placing your wants, needs and feelings on equal footing with others and expressing yourself respectfully. It also can be done by respecting others rights and compromising.
  • Express your thoughts and feelings calmly: Things to avoid doing is giving the silent treatment, yelling, threatening, or shaming the person you are talking to. What you can do is take responsibility of your emotions and calmly express them, if you can’t then take a moment and return to the topic at a later time. Try expressing yourself using ‘I’ Statements so start your sentence with “I feel…”
  • Plan what you are going to say: Be sure of your wants and needs as well as the best way to express them before starting a conversation. A tip is to come up with specific sentences and words you can use.
  • Say “no” when you need to: Remember, you can’t make everyone happy all the time so set your boundaries and say “no” clearly with lying about the reasoning. Tip you can offer to help find another solution.

Check out our other blog post of Boundaries for more information on boundary setting –

Photo by Anthony Shkraba on

Active Listening

Another way to practice healthy, effective communication is to practice Active Listening. You do this by treating listening as an active process rather than passive; think of it like you can listen to someone express their wants, needs and feelings then respond using assertive communication with hearing is passively listening to someone without being fully invested in the conversation.

Ways to show you’re listening

  • Put away any distractions
  • Use verbal and nonverbal communication
    • Some verbal communication examples are:
      • “mm-hmm/uh-huh”
      • “that’s interesting”
      • “that makes sense”
      • “I understand”
    • Some nonverbal communication examples are:
      • Nodding in agreement
      • Reacting to emotional content (for example, smiling)
      • Eye contact
  • Encourage sharing
    • Ask open-ended questions: These questions encourage elaboration rather than a “yes” or “no” response. Avoid using “Why” since it can sound like you are judging the person. Some examples of open-ended questions are:
      • “What is it like to…”
      • “How do you…”
      • “How did you feel when…”
      • “What do you like about…”
      • “Can you tell me more about…”
      • “What are your thoughts on…”
    • Use reflections: Summarize things said to you in your own words and the most important points. Be sure to include emotional content.
  • Strive to understand
    • Be present: Pay attention to body language, tone and verbal content. Try to avoid mental distractions and allow for some quiet time for the conversation to “breathe”.
    • Listen with an open mind: Avoid forming any judgments or opinions until you fully understand the other person’s perspective.

Tips for Reflecting

  • Try using a tone of voice somewhere in between a question and a statement. Think of it as if you are restating what the other person said, but you’re seeking confirmation.
  • Don’t just reflect the words! If you pick up on emotion in the person’s voice or body language, include that in your reflection.
  • You will come across as parroting if you haven’t adequately reworded the reflection. Rewording shows that you understand what the other person meant, and you aren’t just repeating their words.
  • If you’re reflecting after the other person was speaking for a long time, don’t feel like you have to restate everything. Just reflect the main point.
  • Focus on emotions as much as possible.
  • Switch up your language, or you’ll sound like a broken record. Here are some examples:
    • “I hear you saying that…”
    • “You feel…”
    • “You’re telling me that that…”
    • “It sounds like you feel…”
Photo by Ivan Samkov on

Now you have the tools on how to practice active listening and healthy, effective communication. Try using them daily to make them part of your everyday manner of speaking.

“Nonverbal communication is an elaborate secret code that is written nowhere, known by none, and understood by all.” – Edward Sapir

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