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How to Communicate With a Passive Personality

by Brenda Scottsdale

Passive personalities frequently have ineffective communication styles characterized by avoidance. Because a person with this personality style tends to have low self-esteem, he will not typically express his feelings, wants, thoughts or fears. According to Success Magazine, direct and honest communication is most effective. It's therefore important to employ a direct but gentle communication style to avoid the passive person from shutting down so both people leave the conversation feeling validated.

Ask a passive person how she feels or what she thinks when communicating. Because she may not express herself openly, it’s important to draw her out by validating what she is saying to establish an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. Even if you disagree, acknowledge the aspects of what she is saying that are noteworthy and always emphasize that you appreciate hearing what she is saying. You can say something like: "What you are saying is very interesting to me. I'd like to hear more."

Listen when communicating with a passive person. Do not interrupt or belittle him, as such behaviors can discourage open communication. Paraphrase what he has said by summarizing his statements in a few words. You can say something like: "If I understand you correctly, you are saying that" and then put into your own words what he said. Paraphrasing will demonstrate to the passive person your investment in hearing his opinion.

Be aware of non-verbal signals you are sending. Crossing your arms, frowning and looking away from the person are seen as closed gestures because these are all primitive defensive actions taken by a person before an attack. Closed gestures send a non-verbal message to a person that you have shut down and are no longer receptive to what he is saying. Instead, employ open non-verbal gestures such as smiling, relaxed posture and arms by your side. Open gestures do not send a signal to the other person that you are defending yourself from a potential attack; instead, open gestures send subtle signals to the passive person that you are relaxed and open to hearing what he is saying.

Praise any effort the passive person makes to express feelings. Both of you will be happier in the long run if there is open communication with both people expressing their needs. According to the website, Davis Plus, praise has a positive effect on people with low self-esteem and will help the passive person associate good feelings with her experience of you.

Resolve conflict immediately and directly, modeling assertive behavior. Because a passive person may prefer to avoid confrontation, conflict often remains unresolved. Address issues directly but in a friendly manner, praising any efforts he has made to work cooperatively. You can say something like: "I am interested in working together with you to come up with a solution."

About the Author

Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.

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