It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. For passive communicators, that may mean saying nothing at all. A passive communication style is a verbal and non-verbal method of speaking in which a communicator avoids directly saying what they think or want. 

Passive communicators often feel as though their needs aren’t as important as the needs of others, so they avoid speaking about them. A passive communicator may also fear that voicing their concerns will cause conflict, so they shy away from participating in a tense or difficult conversation.

What Does a Passive Communication Style Mean?

We all have our way of getting thoughts and opinions across, but generally, our methods of communicating boil down to four main communication styles:

  1. Passive

  2. Aggressive

  3. Passive-aggressive

  4. Assertive

When placed in hurtful or anger-inducing situations, passive communicators will often conceal their true feelings. They may never share their actual thoughts and ideas, which can limit the information between partners, friends, and colleagues, and frustrate the communicator. 

How to Tell if Your Communicator is Passive

The message you want to deliver and how you deliver it is equally important. There are nonverbal cues that help identify a passive communication style:

  • Poor eye contact

  • Slumped body posture

  • Shrugging when asked for input

  • Speaking softly or apologetically

How to Approach Tough Conversations with a Passive Communicator

A pattern of passive communication can have a direct impact on self-perception. It’s crucial to remind a passive communicator that their needs – no matter how big or small – are important.

Create a safe environment and minimize the perceived risk. Make it clear that their needs and ideas are just as important as everyone else’s.

For passive communicators, allowing them to voice their own needs is the first step in a more open, accepting journey.