Addiction is a family disease that requires a family approach. Recovery is made possible by open and honest communication, the expression of needs and emotions, and the ability for everyone to be on the same page. Understanding the differing communication styles that occur within a family can guide individuals in the right direction for a family member’s recovery. Family-Centered Services specializes in family recovery and can help families work on the communication barriers holding them back from lasting healing.

The Main Types of Communication Styles

Each person communicates in their own way, and individual differences can make it hard to put anyone in a box. With that said, there are a few patterns that people generally fall into. Princeton University identifies four main communication styles: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive.

A Passive Communication Style

When someone utilizes a passive communication style, they have a hard time making their needs known. They tend not to put themselves first and have trouble making their own decisions. A person who communicates passively will not always express their emotions and may not stand up for themselves. This behavior can arise out of a need to mitigate or avoid conflict. Moreover, a passive communicator often fails to make eye contact.

An Aggressive Communication Style

A person who utilizes an aggressive communication style is very much the opposite of a passive communicator. This communication style is associated with someone who may not hold the needs and emotions of others in high regard. In the pursuit of making their own needs known, an aggressive communicator may not consider the other people in the conversation and may push them out of the conversation or hurt their feelings. In certain circumstances, this type of communicator may demonstrate hostility. Body language that indicated defensiveness or dismissiveness, such as rolling one’s eyes or crossing one’s arms, is common with aggressive communication.

A Passive-Aggressive Communication Style

A third type of communication style is passive-aggressive communication. Just as the name suggests, this style blends elements of the previous two styles. Someone who communicates in a passive-aggressive manner may demonstrate passivity in an outward manner while actually approaching the conversation from an aggressive angle. These communicators are typically expressing anger indirectly. Similar to the aggressive communication style, a passive-aggressive communicator tends not to put much emphasis on the needs of others. Sarcasm and avoidance are common traits of a conversation with someone who is passive-aggressive, as are rumors and the “silent treatment.”

An Assertive Communication Style

The last type of communication style is assertive. This form of communication can sometimes be mistakenly identified as being aggressive, but this is not the case. It is simply a direct method of communicating. When someone communicates assertively, they prioritize honesty while still maintaining respect for the needs and emotions of the other people in the conversation. They are able to balance having their own needs met while not neglecting those of the people around them. This type of communication is often accompanied by eye contact and good posture. 

Conflicts That Arise Between Communication Styles

There are natural conflicts that arise when certain communicators interact with one another. For example, an aggressive communicator may easily disregard anything a passive communicator says. The person with the passive communication style will let this happen without intervening just so the conflict can be over. 

Additionally, passive communication can lead to issues never being addressed, keeping everyone stuck in the same situation. Passive-aggressive and aggressive communicators will have difficulty keeping the trust of those around them because of their potentially volatile reactions. Even when an assertive communicator communicates directly and honestly, others may perceive them as being rude or bossy, leading to more conflict.

The Importance of Communication in Family Recovery

Effective communication is a crucial skill in any situation. However, this is especially true when it comes to addiction recovery. Substance abuse is generally rooted in unhealthy family dynamics and can be the product of dysfunction that has persisted for generations. Without appropriate communication, these cycles will continue creating issues for the family for years to come. 

The truth is, recovery is a family issue. The family member recovering from substance abuse needs family support to succeed and sustain the path they are on. Additionally, there are many consequences that result from addiction that should be addressed rather than being swept under the rug. For these reasons, it is essential for family members to understand how to best communicate with one another.

Learning to Work With Different Communication Styles

Even when presented with the same subject, everyone in the situation can take a vastly different approach. This is natural, and it does not even have to be a negative thing. Having multiple perspectives promotes critical thinking and can help each individual to develop a more nuanced perception of the issue. When an individual understands the communication styles in their family, they will have a better chance of making everyone’s voice heard and elevating each perspective.

The first step to take is recognizing and identifying what communication style each member tends to utilize. Once an individual can see patterns in another person’s behavior, they can start to understand their approach. This can also help them to anticipate certain conflicts that might arise and prepare to act accordingly. Another part of this process is to acknowledge the drawbacks of an individual’s personal communication style. Just as an individual is working to navigate the complex communication needs of those around them, others are also striving to understand them just the same.

Encouraging oneself and their family to adopt more of an assertive communication style can set them up for success. When everyone is able to clearly articulate their needs and emotions without resorting to anger, backhanded comments, or just shutting down, more progress can be made. Likewise, Family-Centered Services can help families become more effective communicators on their path to recovery.

Addiction causes tremendous strain on a family. There are many complicated emotions that can be incredibly difficult to express, such as anger, guilt, and fear. Many things can be left unsaid, while other things may be said rashly. This ineffective communication has consequences for everyone involved. In this way, addressing communication styles can help your family to get on the same page. Family-Centered Services is dedicated to supporting families no matter which stage of the recovery journey they are in. With comprehensive services like individual and family therapy, sober monitoring, and case management, we are well-equipped to meet the needs of each member of the family unit. Call us at (509) 991-5822 to get started today.