So let’s think about something that sends teams south when it comes to communication. I’ll call it the passive-aggressive continuum.

When communication gets hard or “crucial,” each of us “tends” toward either passive or aggressive styles of communication. Being passive or aggressive in communication can be a well established pattern in communication (for some–e.g. I’m usually passive or aggressive no matter the situation) or it can be situational–depending on the moment (for others–e.g. At times I’m passive and at other times I’m aggressive depending on the type of conversation or trigger in the conversation).

CONSIDER: Which way do you lean and why and when?

This of course is something that affects a team, in a big way. In crucial or difficult moments, some on your team will become more aggressive and others more passive –in order to either signal disapproval and establish their views (aggressive) or avoid conflict and signal disapproval (passive). Their are two important ways “out of” the negativity of this loop:

     1) Recognize your own tendency and avoid the negative edges of it. It’s easy to recognize each other’s tendency here, but when conflict is heating up or the conversation becomes crucial, look first at yourself and be aware of your tendency toward either pole on the continuum. Stay away from the edges. For aggressive types, this might mean watching how many words are used (overtalking) or attending to “tone” and “demeanor” so that you don’t shut down conversation through unnecessary displays of power. For passive types, this means staying present, continuing to engage in the conversation rather than just having one in your head, avoiding the temptation to think that the “aggressive types”  dysfunctions are way worse than yours–because they are more visible. Don’t excuse your behavior because you’re not making a public display.

     2) Commit together that you, as a team, will honor the good qualities in each other’s styles.

When aggressive types aren’t being aggressive they do a great job:

  • Challenging the status quo in the meeting
  • Asserting their own thoughts,
  • Becoming a catalyst to draw out others out and invite the team to change

When passive types aren’t being passive they do a great job:

  • Slowing the group down and creating needed equilibrium
  • Remaining unswayed by unhealthy angst
  • Providing perspective that can change reactionary thinking

Honor each other’s strengths and be vigilant toward your personal dysfunctions– passive or aggressive and your communication will exponentially increase in effectiveness.