8 junio, 2024

Passive communication: signs, characteristics and examples

The passive communication It is possessed by people who are usually unable to express their thoughts or points of view for fear of confrontation by others. Normally, they are not considered fit to provide judgments or opinions.

It is a very ineffective and maladaptive way of communicating, as the person fails to identify or meet their own needs. Sometimes some aggression is mixed into the passive behavior, giving rise to a passive-aggressive communication style.

Some of the signs of people who communicate passively are not communicating what you want, not defending yourself if you are insulted, not making eye contact, closed nonverbal language or indecisiveness.


Characteristics of the passive communication style

smooth communication

Individuals who have a passive way of communicating tend to speak softly, as if apologizing. Sometimes, the few times they do speak up, they say sorry in advance or try to, or say things like “This is probably silly, but…”.

They fail to stand firm in their opinions

They are unable to hold their ground or hold their own in front of another person and allow others to interfere with their rights and opinions.

They do not express their feelings

Nor do they usually express their feelings, points of view and needs spontaneously.

They do not make eye contact

These people also do not often make eye contact when talking to someone and adopt inappropriate body language and postures.

Continuous state of anxiety or depression

The passive communication style also implies a continuous state of anxiety, as these people assume that their lives are out of their control. They tend to be depressed or feel sick, because their opinions are never expressed out loud.

are indecisive

They tend to be confused if given the opportunity to choose and tend to delegate decisions to others. All this leads to these people feeling angry with themselves.

They do not show anger towards others

However, these people rarely show anger or rage towards others. On the contrary, they usually allow complaints, annoyances and aggressions from other people.

They are passive-aggressive

Sometimes these attacks pile up and lead to an outburst of rage out of proportion to the incident that occurred (passive-aggressive style). After this explosion, however, they often feel shame, guilt, and confusion, so they return to their usual passivity.

They experience resentment and confusion

This way of communicating has a high impact on the lives of these individuals. Apart from the anxiety and depressive symptoms they often feel as a result of not expressing their emotions, they tend to experience resentment and confusion due to their ignorance of their own needs.

They tend to be immature

They are also often unable to fully mature, as they never come to face real problems. A passive communicator often behaves as if they are weak and incapable of taking care of themselves.

Examples of passive communication

Some examples of situations in which a person communicates using this style are:

-A man orders a well-done steak in a restaurant and, when the waiter brings it, it is rare. When the waiter asks if everything is to his liking, the man answers in the affirmative.

-A group of friends meet to decide what to do during the weekend. One of them is sure he doesn’t feel like going to the movies, but when someone suggests it, he can’t say no, so he ends up wasting money and time on something he doesn’t really feel like doing, instead of proposing. something that could satisfy everyone.

-In high school, classmates ask the same girl for their homework every day to copy them. Instead of refusing to give them up, as she makes the effort every day to complete them, she allows her classmates to copy them.

Why is the passive style not a healthy way to communicate?

Passive communication usually makes the person keep all his opinions to himself and prevents him from letting out and expressing his emotions. This type of person, in this way, accumulates all the problems that the lack of expression of emotions entails.

This is dangerous, as it can lead to an outburst of rage, after which it returns to the original state of passivity. This outburst often carries feelings of guilt and shame.

In addition, the lack of externalization of emotions and feelings can give somatoform problems in the form of pain that has no physical causes.

How does this style of communication come to form in a person?

The passive communication style is usually the result of low self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined as the vision that an individual has of their own worth. People who exhibit passive behaviors often think that it is not worth expressing what they feel.

Normally, they think that people are not worth paying attention to or taking care of. They don’t usually react or let their emotions out. This causes emotional conflicts to be created that make their self-esteem even lower, thus becoming a vicious circle.

Passive communication is, on many occasions, the result of repressed emotions from a very early age in an environment where submission is valued positively.

Some parents reward children’s passivity from a very young age, either on purpose or unconsciously. This positive assessment of submissive behavior slowly turns into a very low self-esteem on the part of the child, which, as a consequence, translates into behavioral habits.

The habit of accepting everything that others say and trying to please them at all costs, when it is deeply ingrained, becomes a form of passive communication in which the individual always hides his opinions to please other people who are involved.

How does society view these types of people?

People who communicate passively are not very good at working in groups with other peers. It is quite common that other members of the group begin to exercise control over them and express feelings of superiority.

Then, there will begin to be feelings of frustration and guilt on the part of the affected person due to the continued suppression of their views. People will tend to take it for granted that they will always be there despite the continual trampling and will try to achieve their goals at their expense.

In work settings, these passive people are often seen as individuals who avoid responsibility and are not proactive at work.

Advantages and disadvantages of passivity when communicating

Passively communicating is clearly a dysfunctional type of communication, but it can have some advantages. Since these people adapt to the wishes of others, they tend to avoid conflict. They also have fewer responsibilities, as they delegate decisions to other people and are often not even part of group decisions.

In addition, since the people around them often feel the need to protect them, they have a sense of control over them. Ultimately, these people feel comfortable and safe by maintaining and repeating a familiar behavior pattern.

However, the disadvantages outnumber the advantages. The people around passive communicators may tend to be protective, but they often lose all respect for them.

As we have commented before, repressing and internalizing opinions and emotions is very destructive for oneself. There are many ailments caused by the repression of negative emotions, such as migraines, asthma attacks, many skin diseases, ulcers, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and hypertension.

These people also suffer from other psychological problems such as high anxiety, depression and social inhibition.

How to deal with passive people to improve your communication style

People who behave passively often have low self-esteem and little self-confidence. By behaving assertively, you can help make these people feel that their contributions are valued, thereby boosting their self-esteem and confidence. Remember that it is possible to value someone’s contributions without necessarily agreeing with them.

Apart from being assertive with these people, we should encourage them to be assertive too, so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions freely without feeling pressured to express them.

To encourage these people to be assertive, basic interpersonal skills of listening, reflection, clarification and questioning can be used. Some of these techniques are as follows:

Encourage them to make contributions

Encourage them to make the contributions they want to make by asking questions, asking for their opinion, and having them join the discussion in group situations.

Asking questions is fundamental to successful communication, and the person will feel that others are interested in him and what he thinks about the subject in question. In this way, you show empathy and respect for the other person and what they have to say and increase their appreciation for themselves.


Listen carefully to what the person has to say before continuing the conversation. If necessary, use techniques to clarify her opinion before responding.

Listening is not the same as hearing; attention to both verbal and non-verbal messages is required if we are to fully understand what the other person wants to express.

In order for the person speaking to us to know that we are actively listening, it is convenient to maintain eye contact and proper body posture. Through these forms of non-verbal language, however subtle, interest is shown in what the person has to say and encourages him to express himself.

Encourage another communicative style

Encourage the person who tends to communicate passively to be more open when it comes to expressing their feelings, desires and ideas out loud. In discussions or group work, remember not to take full responsibility for decisions that should be made together.

Try to involve all members so that they make contributions when deciding. If you know that one of the group members tends to be passive in group decisions, you can take some time beforehand to discuss her point of view. If you know how he feels, then you can help him express her views in the group.

Summary of characteristics of the passive communication style

To summarize and finish, here is a list of the main characteristics of these people:

They are not sure of their own rights.
They believe that the rights of others are above their own.
They easily give in to what others want.
Other people often take advantage of them.
They are afraid to communicate honestly.
They fail to express their feelings, needs and opinions successfully.

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