Identifying the Types of Communication

So what does assertiveness look like? Here are some common scenarios, with examples of each style of behaviour.


Scenario A: Someone cuts in front of you at the supermarket.

  • Aggressive Response: You assume they did it on purpose and you angrily say, “Hey, buddy, no cuts!”
  • Passive Response: You don’t say anything and let the person stay in front of you.
  • Passive-Aggressive Response: You allow the person to cut in front of you, but make sure they see you sigh and roll your eyes.
  • Assertive Response: You assume that they did not see you in line, and politely say, “Excuse me, but I was in line.”


Scenario B: Your friend, who talks a lot, calls to vent about her bad day. Unfortunately, you have a lot of work to do and don’t have time to talk.

  • Aggressive Response: You become angry that she obviously doesn’t respect your time, cut her off, and sarcastically say, “Oh, get over it! I have my own problems!”
  • Passive Response: You let her talk for as long as she needs, and figure that your deadline can suffer; she needs your help.
  • Passive-Aggressive Response: You let your friend talk for a while, but when she finishes you say “I had a deadline this afternoon so I guess I’ll be turning this project in late…”
  • Assertive Response: You listen for a minute or two, then compassionately say, “Wow, it sounds like you’re having a tough day! I’d love to talk to you about it, but unfortunately I don’t have the time right now. Can we talk later tonight?”

Get the idea? Now it is your turn!

Read the scenarios below and determine what aggressive, passive, and assertive responses would be. Write your answers down in your notebook.


Scenario 1: Your boss has asked you to mop the floors. You start mopping, and 10 minutes later he comes to you and says (rather rudely) that he would like you to shovel the front walkway.


Scenario 2: You bring your car to a garage for service. You ask the mechanic to call and let you know how much it will cost before doing the work. When he doesn’t call, you phone him and he tells you he has already done the work and your bill is $450.


Scenario 3: You go to a party with a group of friends, but the person who is driving has too much to drink and refuses to let anyone else drive.


Scenario 4: Your co-worker always asks to borrow a few dollars at lunch each week. You’ve been giving it to him, but he rarely pays you back. You’re beginning to resent him for it.



Celebrated therapist Unju Chung-Canine, of The Counselling Group PL, humorously demonstrates the communication styles of Passive, Assertive, and Aggressive, then explains how they make a difference in your well-being.