Are You a Passive Communicator and Why that Matters

This article is a continuation from “Improve Decision Making by Using the Right Communication Style” where I identified that there are 4 ways to communicate when the discussions get difficult or uncomfortable. This article will help you identify whether you are passive communicator and help you understand why that matters!

Why It Matters?

If you see that your meetings are ineffective; that few decisions are being made; that there is no follow-through on decisions that are made; that there are problems holding people accountable; that people are kept on your team long after it has been determined they should be let go, you have issues that require a change in communication style!

Who Is the Passive Communicator?

Passive communicators are perceived to be more concerned about others than themselves. Passive leaders choose not to share their wants, needs, desires, or opinions readily. They stay quiet when issues are being discussed.

They offer many excuses for this behavior. They may blame the people with aggressive behavior for taking over the meeting. They may believe that everyone else is more important than they are. In truth, they are doing their best to avoid conflict for fear of hurtful or anger-inducing situations.

This kind of behavior allows grievances and annoyances to mount, but the passive leader is usually unaware of the buildup. Once these passive leaders have reached their high tolerance threshold for unacceptable behavior, they are prone to explosive outbursts, which are usually out of proportion to the triggering incident. After the outburst, however, they feel shame, guilt, and confusion, so they return to being passive.

How Do Passive Leaders Handle Performance Problems?

When they have a direct report that is not performing, their initial response is to try to coach the subordinate to improve performance without ever telling that person that they are not meeting requirements. These leaders are known for spending way too much time trying to turn around people that are not capable. They send the person to training, or get other people to try to help the underperformer. In their minds the fact that an inordinate amount of time is spent addressing someone’s performance issue is the equivalent of telling that person they are not performing. After all, that person was hired to do their job, can’t do it, and now needs all this special attention. They are dumbfounded when they learn that the subordinate has no realization that they are not performing.

How this Performance Is Viewed

Why would a business accept a passive leader? Well, they have positive traits. First and foremost, they never say no. They are considered great team leaders, good listeners, respectful to others, concerned about others, unselfish, and thoughtful. Typically, these perceived positive traits of the submissive style are overshadowed by the more negative traits listed earlier. For these reasons, submissive leaders are tolerated, but usually not admired, respected or promoted.

If you are interested in learning about the other three communication styles please visit:

  1. Are You An Aggressive Communicator and Why that Matters
  2. Are You a Passive-Aggressive Communicator and Why that Matters
  3. Are You an Assertive Communicator and Why that Matters

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