Communication: How Style Makes A Huge Difference
Communication: How Style Makes A Huge Difference

There are several different styles of communication, yet some approaches work better with our partner than others.

Which of these communication styles do you and your partner get into?

Style 1:

Partner 1: What shall we do for the holidays?

Partner 2 (PASSIVE): I don’t know, you decide.

In this scenario, partner #2’s body language may be looking down, avoiding eye contact. 

For the sake of this article, let’s assume that partner #2 is not sincere about saying “I don’t know.”  This partner is someone who does have a preference, but is afraid to assert themselves to their partner.  Perhaps they don’t want to start an argument, or create discomfort with a disagreement.                                 

The dilemma is Partner #1 never knows for sure whether Partner #2 is being honest. Because Partner #2 is afraid to be a self advocate or to assert themselves, their true feelings may be expressed in a passive-aggressive way – direct enough to make their truth known –but  indirect enough to avoid a confrontation. Their perspective is, “let’s be the same. I will cave in to match your desires.” Because this partner caves in too quickly, the couple misses out on learning and growing through the process of working through their different desires.

 Style 2:

Partner 1: What shall we do for the holidays?

Partner 2 (AGGRESSIVE): We are going to Florida this year, end of conversation!

 In this scenario, Partner #2’s body language might be having their arms crossed with a rigid stance. Partner #2 is someone who, instead of caving in like the first scenario, pushes for their way.  They are unlikely to create space for or actively seek out their partner’s point of view.  Their perspective is, “let’s be the same.  I will insist that you see things my way.”

The challenge of Partner #2 is to consider seeking to understand their partner’s point of view, even and especially when they don’t agree with it.  It’s engaging in the process of working through their different perspectives and desires that the couple grows and evolves together.

Style 3:

Partner 1: What shall we do for the holidays?

Partner 2 (PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE): We always do whatever you want, so why stop now?

 In this scenario, we can hear the sarcasm in Partner #2’s response.  Deep down, a person who communicates from a passive-aggressive standpoint has had many experiences of being disappointed in the past (way before they met their partner).  Afraid to ask for what they want and feeling like a victim to whatever their partner wants, their anger gets expressed indirectly.

Style 4:

Partner 1: What shall we do for the holidays?

Partner 2 (ASSERTIVE): I was thinking it would be nice to go to Florida this year since we didn’t go last year. What do you think?

 In this scenario, Partner #2 stated their desire, but also sought out their partner’s preferences.  It’s collaborative, clear, direct, thoughtful, and respectful.  It makes space for both partners to acknowledge their own desires without shutting down the other partner.  This style can also help show how similar or different the desires of each partner is and sets up for a productive conversation.  If the partners have the same desire they can move towards planning.  If the partners have different desires then they can start the important process of negotiation.

Though under moments of stress we can all fall into some of those other categories, but assertive communication style with our partner is our goal!

If you see yourself or your relationship in a pattern above and aren’t sure how to improve communication, reach out to us for a free 20-minute consultation. We can help!