Welcome to the last DBT module Interpersonal Effectiveness. Healthy and stable relationships are a great source of support, positive emotions and connection. But, it can be difficult to navigate relationships. In this module we are going to look at different DBT skills and techniques that are going to help you be more effective at communicating, listening and being assertive and in your day to day relationships.

First, we will work on identifying your predominant communication style. This will help you become more mindful of how you usually communicate with the people around you.

DBT Interpersonal Effectiveness: Communication Styles
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Identify Your Communication Style

We are going to start with a quiz. Below are several statements divided in four groups. Look at the statements and think about which one of them applies the most to you. Check the ones that are the most characteristic for you. This will help you recognize your main communication style.

Communication styles quiz (adapted from "DBT Made Simple" by Sheri Van Dijk)
Assertive Style
I feel that I am allowed to express my thoughts and emotions to other people.
I pay attention to both my own needs and those of other people, and I am good at making compromises.
I always try to listen carefully to what other people are trying to tell me, and I make sure they know that.
If I have an argument with somebody, I can express myself (my thoughts and emotions) in a clear and honest way.
I treat myself and other people with respect while I'm communicating with them.

Passive Style
If I express my feelings, other people will get mad at me or they will reject me.
I am usually quiet because I don't want to upset people.
I try to ignore my feelings instead of communicating them to other people.
I don't state clearly when something matters to me or when I care about an issue.
I try to avoid having the spotlight on me by stating an opinion that's different.

Aggressive Style
Some of my friends are intimidated by me.
I always put my own needs and goals first, regardless of the others around me.
My way is always the right way.
I often swear, yell and I am verbally aggressive with people.
I don't care if the needs of the people around me are met.

Passive-Aggressive Style
When I am angry with somebody I ignore them and I am silent with them.
Even if I want something else, I agree to do the things that people around me want to do.
When I am angry I tend to mock people in some way.
I don't express my emotions clearly, but I show people that I am angry in other ways.
I try to express my anger in a more toned down way because I don't want to feel rejected.

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Communication Styles

Now that we introduced the four types of communication styles through the quiz you completed, here are some more information about them:

Assertive Style: people with this style are able to express their thoughts, emotions and needs clearly and honestly. They are aware of their own needs but also of the needs of other people and they try to compromise respectively. They treat both themselves and other people with respect when they communicate.

Passive Style: people with passive style avoid expressing their emotions and they often try to block their thoughts, emotions and wishes. They are doubtful that when doing so they will somehow trigger conflict or bad feelings between them and the people around them.

Aggressive Style: people with aggressive style tend to care about meeting their own needs and goals first, regardless of the needs of other people. They can be verbally aggressive when communicating with other people and they try to control the others. This leaves other people feeling intimidated, hurt or bitter.

Passive-Aggressive Style: people with passive-aggressive style tend to express their emotions, thoughts and needs in an indirect way, and they do not express their anger in a clear way. They can use sarcasm or the silent treatment. This can leave other people confused or feeling like they've been manipulated.

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Think About Your Communication Style

Now that you know more about the four communication styles, think about the results that you got from the quiz. How does your communication style affect your relationship? Take your time and think about it. With whom do you tend to use it more often? Do you feel like there is room for improvement in your communication techniques? Finally, think about whether the way you generally communicate with other people is effective.

1. Predominant communication style: passive-aggressive
2. With whom do you generally use it?I am usually passive-aggressive with my husband and my mother. This is most true when I feel angry about something and when there is an underlying conflict. I know that if I state clearly that I am angry or hurt about something, they will also get mad at me.

Use the worksheet to help you understand your communication style and evaluate how effective it is in meeting your needs.

3. Level of effectiveness and how it affects me: I feel like I am not tending to my needs, and I feel like I put myself last. This makes me feel bitter over time and I tend to feel more distant and angry with the ones around me. I don't think that this way of communication is the most effective one for me and the people I care about.

Use the worksheet to write the answers to the steps above.

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I feel like sometimes I use one style and other times another. So which one would describe me better?

It is normal that we all behave differently in different situations. Depending on the people and environment we may communicate in a different way then in other situations. This can be particularly true if it is expected of us to fulfill a certain role (like in the work space or when we are at parent-teacher conference). However, think about which one of them applies the most to you. What best describes the way you communicate with people? The style that seems like most honestly describes you is the one that is probably predominant for you.

I feel a little confused whether I am the best judge about how I communicate with others.

In this case you can benefit from working on the Mindfulness module. By now, if you did the exercises and modules in the order they are presented, you should be familiar with how you usually experience emotions and with your mindfulness muscle. The information you get from the quiz is for you only, so try not to be inhibited when answering the questions. There is no right or wrong answer, this is simply a checking tool so that you will be more aware on what to work more next.

I want to change my communication style but I don't think that the people around me would accept that. What should I do ?

In the exercises that follow, we will work on the situation when we meet resistance from the people we communicate with. For now, know that you have the right to express your emotions, thoughts and needs clearly and honestly and to be treated with respect. You also should feel like you are able to disagree with something and to set healthy boundaries between yourself and the others.

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If you have any behavioral health questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare or mental health care provider. This article is supported by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from behavioral health societies and governmental agencies. However, it is not a substitute for professional behavioral health advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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Comments About Communication Styles

  1. I feel like for me it is way more helpful to not “label” myself with one communicaion-style, cause I use every style, depending on the situation, there is no predominant one. It helps me to say “The communication-Style I´m thinking about/choosing right now is (…)” instead of “My predominant

  2. communication style is (…).” And then do it for every one in general. Otherwise I think it can be really difficult not to judge oneself.

  3. I feel like I might be passive-aggressive and sometimes even dissociate when I am acting that way. I want to change it, but every time I’m in that headspace I absolutely don’t believe I’m wrong.

  4. I def think I am more passive aggressive all in all but I checked off on most options except for the assertive style section. Something I definitely have to work on. Really insightful on how we communicate as human beings.

  5. When i assess myself I find a predominant style which is “Assertive ” also I can use all other styles depending on the situation.

  6. I totally agree with you sally, i feel like i’m a little bit of everything! i’m just so different! Thanks for sharing your comment with us❤️

  7. very insightful and helpful, looking forward to reading up on the mindfulness. It can be hard to be completely honest with oneself but this is a safe way to do it. Thank you


  9. I choose to use situational communication rather than being Predominant style. But as always be mindful of self-feelings and egos.

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