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Author: Peyton DeMaio

The Art of Effective Communication: Passive, Aggressive, and Assertive Strategies Demystified

Illustrations by Lee Aulder

The Art of Effective Communication: Passive, Aggressive, and Assertive Strategies Demystified

By Peyton DeMaio

Ever wondered about the nuances between passive, aggressive, and assertive behaviors?  Strikingly, attempts to assert oneself are sometimes misconstrued as aggression, a perception that may differ from how assertive behavior in men is perceived—often seen as strength and decisiveness. Additionally, there’s the risk of internalizing emotions for too long (passive) and then unintentionally projecting them as aggression when finally expressed.

Let’s delve into a comprehensive understanding of passive, aggressive, and assertive behaviors.


Passive individuals tend to evade conflict, nodding in agreement even when their true feelings differ. They might withdraw from groups, exhibit a reserved demeanor, avoid eye contact, and speak softly with limited inflection. Often, they fear voicing their thoughts, and excessively apologizing, even for matters not within their control. This behavior may stem from suppressed anger or simply a challenging day.


Aggressive behavior involves dominating groups, utilizing humiliation or attacks to establish control, and criticizing others. Individuals displaying aggression may use both body language and a forceful voice to intimidate. Loud speaking, interrupting others, insulting opposing opinions, and avoiding appropriate eye contact are common traits. Blaming others for mistakes is also prevalent in aggressive behavior.


Assertive behavior strikes a balance between respect and clarity when disagreeing with others. Assertive individuals are honest, fair, and direct, aligning their body language with their message. They maintain good eye contact, encourage open participation in groups, and express opinions in a conversational tone without talking over others. While setting boundaries effectively, assertive people also respect those around them.

Understanding these behavioral dynamics is essential, particularly in navigating the complex interplay of communication and perception. Striving for assertiveness is the key, to fostering a communication style that is both effective and respectful.


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