Communication Styles Explained (5 Most Common Types)

April 20, 2023

10 min read

communication styles

It doesn’t matter if you’re at school, work, or grocery shopping — knowing how to successfully communicate with other people is essential to daily life.

In our comprehensive guide, we break down the most common communication styles — assertive, passive, passive aggressive, and aggressive — including examples and typical phrases associated with each style. We’ll also provide some tips for practicing your own style. Read on to learn more. 

What Is a Communication Style?

A communication style refers to the way we talk and interact with each other, be it passive aggressive or assertive, or otherwise Anyone who exchanges information or messages with someone else has a communication style. 

These communication styles aren’t just verbal, either. A person’s communication style also includes nonverbal and written communication, too. 

Knowing someone’s communication style can totally change the game when you interact with them. You’ll know how they usually think, what tends to upset or irritate them, and how to navigate situations where you have to work with someone with a different style than you use.

5 Types of Communication Styles

The number of communication styles vary, depending on who you ask. However, all things considered, most people agree on these five most basic types of communication styles: assertive, passive, passive-aggressive, aggressive, and manipulative. Let’s take a closer look at each.


Many people think the assertive communication style is the one that works the best. That’s because it’s not an oppressive sort of style but rather a confident, decisive air. If you’re an assertive communicator, you absolutely consider your own feelings, wants, and needs. However, it’s not an overbearing style of communication, so others’ wants and needs are also considered. 

If this describes you, you’re probably the type of person who focuses on both sides reaching a compromise — win-win situations — as opposed to narrowing in on your own needs first. 

The majority of assertive communicators make use of specific first-person statements — AKA “I” statements — in order to take responsibility for their own personal feelings without placing that burden on others. 

So for example, instead of saying, “You hurt my feelings when you broke my favorite pen,” an assertive communicator might say, “I felt hurt when I saw my pen broken.”

Unfortunately, for people who use an assertive communication style, there’s a chance that they’ll be labeled as “aggressive,” especially for women and people of color.

Assertive communication doesn’t help with people who are aggressive, dangerous, or a threat to your wellbeing.


Passive communicators are starkly different from more assertive people. With the passive communication style, usually the person defaults to the other person’s wants, ideas, feelings, or desires (often at their own expense). That makes passive communicators very easy to communicate with if you’re on the other side of it. 

If you’re more of the passive communicator, you might seem disinterested. That’s because expressing your wants or needs is more difficult. As a result, the other person expresses their feelings or needs and the passive communicator yields.

However, that doesn’t mean passive communicators don’t have wants or needs. In fact, when you have trouble communicating and tend to yield to others’ desires, it’s common to feel resentment or animosity brewing. 

Another common trait of passive speakers is avoiding confrontation at all costs. These types of communicators would rather side with the other person than actually confront them about something bothersome.

Signs of a passive communicator include things like:

  • Having trouble saying “no” 
  • Not making proper eye contact
  • Having negative body posture or body language

Passive Aggressive

Passive aggressive communicators are similar to passive communicators in that they seem pretty indifferent. In fact, they might seem supportive of what the other person is saying. However, like passive communicators, it’s only natural to harbor some resentment when you feel you can’t express yourself. 

That’s where the “aggression” part comes in. Because of this pent-up anger or bitterness, passive aggressive communicators will often express this anger indirectly or in subtle ways

For example, if you’re a passive aggressive communicator, you might rather roll your eyes when the other person isn’t looking instead of directly communicating your wants or needs.

Signs of a passive aggressive communicator include habits like: 

  • Masking their true feelings with facial expressions and other inconsistent body language 
  • Not coming to terms with their anger
  • Insisting there’s no issue

Someone who’s a passive aggressive communicator leans toward more indirect ways of expressing their annoyance or anger, using methods like the “silent treatment.” They might even sabotage someone else’s work. 

The key component of a passive aggressive communicator is being aware of your wants and needs, but not being able to openly express them.


Arguably the most obvious communication style is aggressive. It’s not easy to hide an aggressive communication style. Those who use the aggressive style usually talk loudly and have an intense, commanding tone. 

If you’re an aggressive communicator, you might also: 

  • Not break eye contact
  • Aim to overpower others
  • Have a tendency to threaten, manipulate, or intimidate others
  • Have a hard time listening to others
  • Give commands
  • Ask questions in a rude or impolite manner

Still, aggressive communicators are pretty common and can make good leaders, as they naturally expect and demand respect.


The manipulative communication style is meant to influence and control people. Not only do these types of communicators steer the conversation, but also the people in their life.

It can be tricky to effectively communicate with a manipulative communicator because they tend to hide their intentions as opposed to speaking truthfully. It’s difficult for the other person to get through those layers of and understand the speaker’s true meaning.

If you’re a manipulative communicator, it’s likely that you come off as patronizing or disingenuous. Whoever you’re talking to won’t appreciate it when the façade wears off.

Communication Style Examples

So, we know the five basic types of communication styles: assertive, passive, passive aggressive, and aggressive. Now, let’s take a deeper dive into how these styles can manifest.

Assertive Communication Examples

People who are assertive communicators share a group of qualities. Although each assertive communicator might have different characteristics, it’s very common for people with this type of style to: 

  • Make direct eye contact
  • Use a strong, confident tone when speaking
  • Tend not to criticize others when interacting
  • Express honest, straightforward communication, especially with emotions
  • Have assertive, confident posture
  • Respect others while holding strong to their own opinion
  • Use calming facial expressions
  • Show relaxed body language (such as hand gestures)
  • Express positivity when problem-solving

Phrases that an assertive communicator might use include sayings like: 

  • “Everyone has a right to their own opinion”
  • “I feel like you might not be listening to me”
  • “Let me hear your thoughts about this”

Passive Communication Examples

If you use the passive communication style, you have trouble speaking up for yourself lots of times. Characteristics of passive communication include habits such as:

  • Letting other people “walk all over” them
  • Not standing up straight 
  • Speaking in a softer, more meek tone
  • Not standing up for their beliefs
  • Having trouble expressing their wants or needs
  • Not making direct eye contact

Examples of phrases that those who use a passive communication style would say or may believe include:

  • “It’s fine — It doesn’t matter”
  • “I’m good with whatever you think”
  • “Don’t worry about it”

Passive Aggressive Communication Examples

On the other hand, passive aggressive communicators will often have characteristics like: 

  • Having trouble expressing their annoyances or anger
  • Using irony like sarcasm
  • Seeming cooperative when in reality, they don’t agree at all
  • Avoiding confrontation
  • Using hypocritical body language (for example, smiling when they’re upset)
  • Insisting there’s no issue
  • Indirectly or subtly sabotaging others

A passive aggressive communicator might uses phrases like:

  • “Whatever, I don’t care”
  • “I mean, if you think so”
  • “And you really think that’s the best option?”

Aggressive Communication Examples

Aggressive communication might be the easiest style to spot, thanks to the direct mode of interaction. For example, these types of communicators share qualities like:

  • Wanting to control or dominate other people
  • Blaming or criticizing others
  • Expressing themselves no matter what, even at the expense of another
  • Becoming frustrated easily
  • Using rude or impolite tones
  • Often interrupting other people
  • Trying to embarrass others
  • Ignoring others
  • Speaking loudly
  • Having a hard time listening to others

People who use the aggressive communication style might use phrases like:

  • “You’re wrong and I’m right”
  • “This is completely your fault”
  • “You totally owe me”

Manipulative Communication Examples

On the other hand, manipulative communication might be the most difficult style to spot. These types of communicators use a plethora of methods to influence and control people, such as:

  • Gaslighting
  • Weaponizing guilt
  • Lying
  • Playing on insecurities
  • Using the silent treatment
  • Constantly blaming and pointing fingers
  • Critiquing and criticizing
  • Making threats
  • Constantly changing the rules

A manipulative communicator might say things like:

  • “You know you’re wrong.”
  • “You’re too sensitive.”
  • “You forced me to do that.”
  • “You’re overreacting!”
  • “That isn’t what I said.”
  • “If you really loved me, you’d do it.”
  • “You’re being crazy.”

How to Get More Out of Your Communication Style

Once you’ve identified your communication style, you can consider next steps. For example, if you’ve discovered you’re a passive communicator, maybe you want to work on being more assertive. Or, if you’re more of an aggressive communicator, you might want to explore ways to be more empathetic. Whatever your communication goals are, you can get the most out of it with a speech coach app like Yoodli

Yoodli is the best place to explore communication styles and how they manifest.
Yoodli is the best place to explore communication styles and how they manifest.

Yoodli is a great tool to practice your communication skills. Here’s how you can use it and your communication style to your advantage. 

First, start by uploading (or recording) a video of yourself speaking. It could be a Google Meet recording from a presentation you gave at work or a video of yourself working on how to memorize a speech

Then, Yoodli will analyze your communication style using AI technology. You’ll instantly be provided with personalized insights about your speech, including insights about things like your pace, your filler word usage, your body language, and your word choice. 

As a speech coach, Yoodli also provides individualized, informative coaching comments and recommendations to improve the content and presentation of your speech.

You can then leverage those comments, recommendations, and metrics to improve your speech. For example, if you’re a passive communicator trying to become more assertive, you might notice Yoodli flagged your eye contact as a potential area of improvement. Once you know that, you can work on improving your eye contact with your audience. 

Yoodli lets you skip the guesswork and informs you of exactly what you need to work on, no matter what communication style fits you. 

Why Does Your Communication Style Matter?

You can find out a lot about a person based on their communication style. Because there are multiple styles, it’s essential to learn about each to elevate your communication abilities. 

For example, if you know that someone is a passive communicator, you might know to directly ask them about their needs instead of expecting them to outright let you know. Understanding multiple communication styles and why they’re used can completely change the way you interact with those around you, whether it’s at school, work, or in your personal life. 

Which Communication Style Is Best?

Although people use all sorts of communication styles, there’s one communication style that stands out as ideal, and that’s assertive.

With this type of communication, people have a higher chance of having longterm, successful relationships. In general, it’s a good idea for everyone to try to achieve assertive communication.

In general, assertive communication is most likely to lead to respectful and longer-term relationships, so that’s the style to strive for in most situations.

That’s not to mean it’s superior in every instant. As mentioned above, if you come into contact with someone who’s aggressive or violent, assertive communication probably isn’t the way to go.

In that case, you may want to lean toward aggressive or passive communication styles. For example, when you encounter someone aggressive, you can try passive communication to calm the person or ease the situation.

Passive aggressive communication isn’t particularly helpful as it can ruin both short-term and long-term relationships.

On that note, so can the manipulative communication style. Once people realize they’re being manipulated, it’ll be hard to effectively communicate with them going forward.

Instead, aim for a more assertive communication style and be more direct with your intention.

The Key Takeaway

Communication styles can vary person to person, and they’re all unique. It’s important to understand these modes of communication to interact with others more successfully, no matter where you are.

Luckily, you can also practice your communication skills through Yoodli to take them to the next level. Up your communication game today for free through this AI speech coach.


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