Communication Means

Our methods or means for communication vary. Oral communication may be direct, face-to-face and probably the most recognized means of communication. It can also be indirect and distant, like speaking on a telephone, listening to a webinar, or video-conferencing. 

Communication can take place in non-verbal or written form. Body language, facial expressions, posture, tone and attitude are subtle means to convey or emphasize a point. Written communication used to come in the form of “snail mail” and was typically reserved for those who were far away. With the advent of email and texting, written communication can dominate our day. The audience often dictates whether our communication should have a formal quality or if an unofficial, informal tone is suitable.

Communication Styles

Our means for communication is the delivery system. Our communication style, on the other hand, is the pitch we choose to resonate when we interact with others. There are four common communication styles or tools to choose from. We don’t typically resort to only one.  Instead, they are tools for communication in general. There are payoffs and pitfalls for each of them.

1. Passive

Passive communication is largely avoidant and indirect. When you choose this style of communication, you avoid expressing your own feelings, opinions or needs. You leave decisions up to others and allow them to speak for you. Passive communicators tend to have poor eye contact, submissive body posture and they cannot say no. It can be, in essence, a choice of non-action. 


  • You can avoid conflict
  • You avoid confrontation
  • You avoid high-risk situations
  • You avoid making mistakes
  • Other people will pick up the slack and do the work for you
  • You go with the flow
  • Others find you easy to get along with


  • You don’t get your needs or wants met
  • You end up being disappointed, anxious and resentful
  • Your self-confidence is eroded
  • Puts you in an “underdog” position causing you to feel small and unimportant
  • Others make choices for you
  • People take advantage of you
  • Leave others to guess or assume they know what you are thinking or feeling

2. Agressive

Aggressive communicators insist on getting their needs met and invade the rights, feelings and needs of others to do so. When you choose this style of communication, you are taking a dominant stance and use intimidation, criticism and threats as you tools for manipulation. Your presence is unavoidable because others experience your aggressive manner both audibly and visually. Aggressive communicator traits are characterized by loud, intrusive demands.  The eye contact is fixed and intense and their physical posture can appear large and expansive.  Those with experience and credentials to support their demand for power can be seen as leaders and are afforded respect from others. 


  • You get what you want upon demand
  • It gives you a sense of power and control over others
  • You are in the “one-up” position


  • It distances you from others
  • People don’t respect you and they may fear you 
  • Your self-esteem suffers
  • Relationships suffer
  • You have an arrogant, hostile attitude
  • You end up feeling frustrated, bitter and alone in the long run
  • People may retaliate when you “step on their toes”

3. Passive-Aggressive

Passive-aggressive communicators present a passive façade while harboring resentment, feeling powerless to attain their wants or needs. They will use covert and subtle means to get their needs met. When choosing passive-aggressive communication, you use indirect means to manipulate a situation in order to get your needs met. You know what you need to say, but you avoid the direct consequences of expressing those needs. 

We’ve all heard of giving someone the “silent treatment”. That is a passive act used to impose displeasure or punishment. Not “walking like you talk” or agreeing with something in principle while your actions trigger an opposing response is passive-aggressive. Choosing to use sarcasm or whispering under your breath in passing are passive-aggressive behaviors. Sabotaging the progress of someone through the spread of malicious gossip is another example. 


  • Short term avoidance of social discomfort
  • You express anger in a socially acceptable manner
  • You avoid being blamed
  • You avoid conflict


  • Relationships become confusing, destructive, and dysfunctional
  • You become alienated from those around you
  • You get stuck in an “underdog” position leaving you powerless
  • While resentment is discharged, real issues are not addressed

4. Assertive

Assertive communication is most desirable. It is an expression of your personal needs without compromising or subtracting from the legitimate needs or rights of others. When you choose assertive communication, you express your feelings clearly and respectfully. You speak for yourself by using “I” statements. You have good eye contact and relaxed body posture. Your speech is calm and clear. You also listen to others without interrupting and show respect for their positions. When you choose assertive communication, you will feel capable, in control and unsusceptible to manipulation or abuse.

Assertive communication is not aggressive, pushy or demanding – it is not domination. It is not indirect or avoidant – it is not submissive. Assertive communication does not have a hidden agenda – it is not manipulative. It does not allow one person to be in a “one-up” position. It is desirable in all means of communication.


  • You get to make your own choices
  • It builds your confidence and self-esteem
  • People know how you think/feel
  • You attack problems, not people
  • You establish a pattern of respect
  • You get what you want/need some of the time, but even if you don’t, you’ll feel good about how you handled yourself and the situation


  • May meet conflict
  • May lose a friend
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