If you’ve participated in group discussions and brainstorming sessions, you’ve probably noticed that some people don’t contribute at all. They remain withdrawn and it looks like they’re afraid of voicing their opinions. They agree to what others have to say and usually remain buried in their notebooks or laptops, taking notes.

Such individuals are known as passive communicators. While communication styles typically change with moods and situations, some people always tend to respond passively. Read on to understand what this concept means and how to navigate this communication style.

What Are Communication Styles?

Before exploring the meaning and importance of passive communication style, let’s first understand the definition of communication styles. In a nutshell, communication style is how people tend to communicate. Everyone has a unique communication style that’s influenced by personalities, moods and environment. There are four primary types of communication styles:

  • Passive Communication

  • Aggressive Communication

  • Passive-Aggressive Communication

  • Assertive Communication

Effective communication is necessary for business settings—it helps promote an organization’s objectives as employees interact and collaborate more efficiently. When you know how to navigate and work with different types of communicators, it radically improves social skills and interpersonal relationships.

What Is Passive Communication?

As we’ve already established, passive communication is an ineffective way of getting one’s views across. Passive communicators rarely express their needs, thoughts or feelings in public. Instead, they hide their emotions and let others ‘walk over them’. While a passive communication style may seem harmless, it’s not. Because it makes people believe that such communicators are powerless, pushovers or uninterested, when that may be far from the truth.

Let’s look at a few examples of passive communication from daily life.

  • “I’m unable to stand up for what I believe in”

  • “I just want to keep the peace”

  • “I will always agree with you because you’re so much smarter than me!”

  • “You’re right, it was my fault. I’m a horrible human being”

  • “There’s nothing I can do about it”

Consequences Of Passive Communication

Communicating passively all the time can negatively impact your personal and professional life: :

  1. People may disregard your needs and opinions.

  2. You’re likely to be passed over for projects and promotions and miss out on interesting opportunities. 

  3. You become complicit in poor choices because you don’t express your discomfort.

  4. You may feel angry,  resentful or stressed by other people’s inconsideration. 

  5. You may bottle up your feelings claiming to be a peace-maker. But, in reality,  you feel powerless and hopeless.

Fortunately,  passive communication isn’t a totally lost cause. Sometimes, communicating passively can benefit you.

  1. Passive communication helps you to be the bigger person and make compromises when needed. If you’re always assertive, you may stifle a good relationship.

  2. Sometimes, others need to take the lead. For example, if you’re a manager delegating the responsibility of a new project to others, you want your team members to think for themselves and take the lead. 

  3. Passive communication helps you to avoid or postpone conflict when other people are trying to cause unnecessary tension.

Signs Of Passive Communication

We’ve all engaged in passive communication at some point in our lives. Here are some examples:

  1. We avoid coming to the point. We tend to beat around the bush and drop hints, hoping that others will understand.

  2. We speak softly and apologetically. We aren’t confident of our thoughts, opinions and actions, and don’t want to be seen as harsh or opinionated.

  3. Our body language is passive; we slouch and avoid eye-contact. Poor posture and hesitant gestures can reflect insecurity and lack of confidence.

If you encounter a passive speaker,  consider using these techniques to effectively communicate with them:

  1. Try to initiate a one-on-one interaction to build rapport. Passive speakers are more comfortable with personal interactions than group discussions. 

  2. Give them enough time to think through their response when you ask them a question.

  3. Avoid asking yes/no questions; instead, pose open-ended questions that encourage them to provide an in-depth response.


Passive communication doesn’t make you a bad person or a failure. However, it can hold you back and limit your opportunities—making it difficult for you to achieve your goals and objectives. Harappa Education’s Speaking Effectively course will teach you how to speak confidently. The PAM (Purpose, Audience and Message) Framework will help you identify and employ the different components of fruitful communication. The Non-Verbal Cues framework will teach you how to use your facial expression and body language to support your words. Be the speaker who stands out and leaves a lasting impression on people!

Explore topics such as What is Communication, Assertive Communication, Different Types of Communication Styles, How to Improve Your Communication Skills, Channels of Communication & Types of Communication from Harappa Diaries and fine-tune your communication skills.

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