Communication Styles

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The idea of negotiation embraced within the ENACT project, is a concept of negotiation as social – relational competence based on effective communication, that can be discovered, developed, improved trough training (and personal development paths).  Negotiating is the process of effectively communicating back and forth (constructive feedback process), in order to identify a joint view or solution about differing needs or ideas (understand, inquiry, explore, propose). Being able to negotiate an integrative and collaborative solution implies adopting an assertive style of communication.

Moreover, interestingly it has been found that self-efficacy is related to social skills (Moe & Zeiss, 1982), and assertiveness (Lee, 1983, 1984). Are there any relationships between self-efficacy and assertiveness, and related positive effect on negotiation processes? This is an additional research question that ENACT would like to answer.

Assertive, aggressive and passive behaviours

Following will be described a model of communication based on 3 different styles of communication: assertive, aggressive or passive. According to this model the communication process can be seen as occurring along a continuum from passive styles on one end to aggressive style the other, by passing through an assertive communicational attitude.

Both passive and aggression behaviors distort the possibility of creating positive and constructive relations through mutual and reciprocal processes.

With passive style, people communicate in a way that tent to continuously please others at the expense of personal interests, needs and goals. This styles mainly is expression of avoiding standing up for ourselves, our needs and rights, and give too much regard to the opinions and the preferences of others. One of the main purposes of passivity is avoiding the discomfort of conflict. As immediate results passive people experience reduction of anxiety, sense of guilt, as they feel that personal disclosure can upset, disappoint, hurt, and offend others. However the long term effect can lead to loss of confidence, frustration, resentment and aggressive reactions. At the other extreme the aggressive style represents a way to communicate mainly with hostile attitude, depreciating and bulling with the aim to protect personal interests at detrimental of others. Relationships are based on fear, resentment and intimidation.  This style fuels the unhealthy and unrealistic idea that we are superior to others, and consequently consider our rights and needs are more important than others’.

As immediate payoff people by using this style experience power and control, however the long term on themselves is detrimental as they feel to be in a continue state of alert from external attach from others.

Being assertive involves awareness our own needs, rights wants and goals and asking for them to be met while acknowledging the needs, rights, wants and goals of others. In contrast to passive and aggressive behaviours, assertiveness is a way of communicating our feelings, thoughts, and beliefs in an open, honest way without violating rights feelings, needs and opinions of others. Assertion is not about winning, as involves being able to effectively express thoughts, needs and feelings, and not at the expense of others.

Summary of the main characteristics of the three styles



  • getting our own way, no matter what
  • getting our point across at other people’s expense
  • getting people to do things they don’t want to do
  • being violent, hostile, forceful
  • interrupting others
  • winning at all costs
  • always putting our own needs first


  • do not express ourselves for fear of upsetting people
  • avoiding conflict
  • saying yes when we want to say no
  • always putting other people’s needs first
  • going along with things we don’t like or agree with
  • apologising excessively
  • inwardly burning with anger and frustration
  • being vague about our ideas and what we want
  • justifying our actions to other people
  • appearing indecisive


  • being open and honest with ourselves and other people
  • listening to other people’s points of view
  • showing understanding of other people’s situations
  • having self-respect and respect for others
  • dealing with our feelings
  • dealing with conflict
  • being equal
  • expressing ideas clearly, but not at the expense of others
  • compromising, negotiating

In summary, by communicating assertively:

  • our self-confidence increases
  • we stand a better chance of getting what we need to take care of ourselves
  • we are properly understood
  • other people know exactly what our needs are
  • we are more open to receiving feedback
  • our relationships are based on reality rather than illusion
  • we feel better for expressing our feelings
  • we have fewer situations that are unresolved
  • even if we do not resolve a situations, we feel better for having tried

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
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