The difference between passive, aggressive and assertive behaviour

The difference between passive, aggressive and assertive behaviour

passive aggressive assertive

The difference between passive, aggressive and assertive behaviour

Communication Styles


















GeneralCompliant, submissive, talks little, vague non-committal communication, puts self down, praises others


“I don’t mind…that’s fine….yes alright”

Actions and expressions fit with words spoken, firm but polite and clear messages, respectful of self and others


“That’s a good idea, and how about if we did this too…” or “I can see that, but I’d really like…”


Sarcastic, harsh, always right, superior, know it all, interrupts, talks over others, critical, put-downs, patronising, disrespectful of others


“This is what we’re doing, if you don’t like it, tough”

BeliefsYou’re okay, I’m not

Has no opinion other than that the other person/s are always more important, so it doesn’t matter what they think anyway

I’m okay, you’re okay

Believes or acts as if all the individuals involved are equal, each deserving of respect, and no more entitled than the other to have things done their way


I’m okay, you’re not

Believe they are entitled to have things done their way, the way they want it to be done, because they are right, and others (and their needs) are less important


EyesAvoids eye contact, looks down, teary, pleadingWarm, welcoming, friendly, comfortable eye contact


Narrow, emotion-less, staring, expressionless
PostureMakes body smaller – stooped, leaning, hunched shoulders



Relaxed, open, welcomingMakes body bigger – upright, head high, shoulders out, hands on hips, feet apart
HandsTogether, fidgety, clammy


Open, friendly and appropriate gesturesPointing fingers, making fists, clenched, hands on hips


ConsequencesGive in to others, don’t get what we want or need, self-critical thoughts, miserable


Good relationships with others, happy with outcome and to compromiseMake enemies, upset others and self, feel angry and resentful