4 Styles of Communication: Identify Your Teen's Style

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Today’s digital age, means teens communicate differently than generations in the past. Instead of having a private conversation with someone, they’re often making public announcements via social media. As a result, many teens need some coaching to help them develop healthy communication skills.

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There are four main styles of communication – passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive and assertive.

Your teen may use more than one method depending on the situation. For example, your teen may behave passively toward her peers while occasionally becoming aggressive at home. It’s helpful to identify your teen’s communication style so you can help her learn how to communicate in a direct and productive manner.

1. Passive Communication

Passive teens don’t speak up for themselves. They may allow others to treat them poorly because they find it difficult to stand up for themselves. They may apologize frequently and be hesitant to share their opinion, even when asked.

Teens who behave passively are more likely to experience mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, because they often feel like life is out of control. They may become angry and resentful toward others that they feel take advantage of them. They fail to address issues when they arise and as a result, problems often mount.

Examples of passive behavior include:

  • A teen doesn’t understand her teacher’s explanation of the lesson but she doesn’t ask a question.
  • Friends invite a boy to the movies and although he doesn’t want to go, he doesn’t dare tell them.
  • A girl is teased by older teens on the bus and she puts her head down and doesn’t say anything.

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    2. Aggressive Communication

    When people behave in an aggressive manner, they’re communicating that they don’t care about the other person’s rights. Instead, they only want to get their own needs met, even if others get hurt in the process. Aggressive communication may be verbal or physical.

    Teens who behave aggressively may yell, swear, make threats or exhibit teenage-sized temper tantrums when they don’t get their way. They may blame others for “making them mad” and don’t tend to take responsibility for their behaviors or feelings. Sometimes aggressive behavior works in the short-term because others give in to them, but in the long-term, they’re often not well-liked.

    Examples of aggressive communication include:

    • When told to do the dishes, a teen responds by yelling, “You always make me do everything around here because you’re too lazy to do it yourself!”
    • A teen gets bumped into by a peer in the hallway. He reacts by yelling, “If you ever do that again, I’ll punch you in face!”
    • A girl posts malicious comments about a peer over social media.

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    3. Passive-Aggressive Communication

    Passive-aggressive communication is a bit more complicated.

    Teens who behave in a passive-aggressive manner outwardly appear as though they agree with something. However, they then use indirect methods to sabotage the plan.

    Passive-aggressive communicators often feel angry but don’t dare express their feelings. Instead, they work hard to appear pleasant and agreeable while often, they’re plotting revenge and growing resentful. Teens who behave in a passive-aggressive manner may struggle to develop healthy relationships because they don’t address problems in a healthy manner.

    Examples of passive-aggressive communication include:

    • A teen agrees to go to the mall with friends because she doesn’t dare tell them that she doesn’t want to go. Just before they are scheduled to pick her up, she tells them she needs to cancel because she doesn’t feel well.
    • A girl feels upset by a friend’s behavior at school. Instead of talking to the girl directly, she calls several friends to complain about her.
    • A teen thinks a friend is trying to steal his girlfriend. Rather than address the issue directly, he hacks into the other boy’s social media account and makes malicious and embarrassing posts.

    4. Assertive Communication

    Teens who behave assertively can ask for what they need and express how they feel in a respectful manner. They are conscious of not violating anyone else’s rights and they strive to protect their own rights as well. They have healthy boundaries and can set limits when necessary.

    Teach your teen to state her thoughts and feelings in a productive manner. Help her advocate for herself and stand up for herself when necessary. Assertive communication has many benefits for teens and it is a useful skill that will help your teen throughout her life.

    Examples of assertive communication:

    • A teen is confused about an assignment given to her by her teacher so she raises her hand to ask for clarification.
    • A teen sticks up for herself when peers try making fun of the way she walks.
    • A boy refuses to smoke marijuana when peers try to pressure him into joining them.

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