We use all three types of communication; aggression, assertiveness and non-assertiveness, especially in times of conflict. From a young age, we were taught when they help us to get what we want and when they can be dangerous. If you were raised in a violent household, you probably learnt early on that being aggressive will lead to more violence. You could have even learnt that by not asserting your needs and desires, you live a more peaceful life. These teachings ultimately condition how we deal with conflict.
Conflict styles depend on context. Aggression may be necessary to protect somebody or to warn somebody of imminent danger. You would probably need to use physical force to stop a fight with the intention of protecting somebody from getting seriously hurt but the same approach would not be appropriate if a toddler was refusing to go to bed (at least, I would hope not!). In other words, each of these styles have their benefits and drawbacks.
A person expressing themselves in this way subordinates and sacrifices their needs and desires so that somebody else’s can be satisfied. They silence themselves for the benefit of other people and they might display the following characteristics:
- Silence – a fear of expressing their own views, opinions or disagreement, even if they feel somebody is taking advantage of them or using them;
- Accepts disrespectful or inconsiderate behaviour and doesn’t complain;
- Often compromises or agrees with views that contravene their interests, needs or wishes;
- Is secretive or guarded about their own personal feelings and opinions;
- Will do anything not to inconvenience other people;
- Has difficulty making eye contact, has a hunched posture and their facial expression appears afraid, uninterested or complacent;
- Speaks quietly, hesitantly, nods a lot in agreement or seems restless.
This type of communication can lead to feelings of frustration and low self-esteem and the sense that because people take advantage of you, they see you as worthless. That is often because it stems from a place of insecurity. It’s the attitude that you don’t really deserve a promotion or some other benefit and the idea that your needs are inferior to somebody else’s because of their status or gender. The non-assertive approach may also have been adopted to avoid conflict with your narcissist partner, parent or sibling.
Benefits and Disadvantages
Conflict avoidance can be beneficial in some situations. However, the non-assertive communication style does not intend that as a strategy. The disadvantage is that it is unlikely to be engaging or even clear in expressing what it is you want. Unclear communication is not effective in achieving a result. All it does is communciate a lack of interest in the other person. It can make you appear indifferent, uncaring or uninterested in a subject, even if that is not the case at all.
If you want to stop being ignored, you can learn assertiveness which speaks from a place of self-worth and ensures that when you feel used or ignored, you can voice your feelings and concerns with respect and calmness. Assertiveness will encourage win/win solutions and it’s a good way to manage and de-escalate conflict.
Let me know what you think about this!