Want to reduce drama on your team? Understand these communication styles.

Feb 17, 2020

Do you know how to ask for what you need?

As a society, we are terrible at this. We are usually afraid to state directly what we want:

  • “I would rather not go to that party.”
  • ‘No, I don’t want to go out with you.”
  • “I need some time alone.”
  • “No, I don’t want to volunteer for that.”

We are so afraid to ask for what we want we usually give in and agree to do things we don’t want to do.

And, in fact, we go through all kinds of mental and interpersonal gyrations to try and get what we want without actually having to ask for it.

This lack of ability to ask directly for what we need, and take responsibility for our wants can cause tons of drama in the workplace—regardless of whether you find this in a leader or in a team member.

AGGRESSIVE people feel like they need to fight for what they get. They bully people, yell at people and punish others who stand in the way of what they want. They come across as pushy, selfish and rude. They insist on getting their way, leaving hurt people in their wake. They put their wants and needs above everyone else’s.


PASSIVE people usually don’t get what they want. In fact, they may not even KNOW what they want. People like this give in to any idea, activity, or pressure by someone else. Passive people typically don’t even know they have the right to ask for what they want. They live their lives in a reactive mode, allowing others to control them. These people put everyone else’s wants and needs above their own.

PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE people know what they want, they just don’t want to be responsible for asking for it directly. So, they hint and manipulate and try to get others to do what they want, and then when they don’t get it, they get angry and punish the people around them. They allow themselves to feel like a victim—it becomes someone else’s fault that their life isn’t going the way they want it to.

ASSERTIVENESS is knowing the outcome that you want, and asking for it directly. It requires you to be direct about your wants and needs while still considering the rights, needs and wants of others. When being assertive, you are confident in getting your point across without acting like a bully or seeming pushy. It requires compromise and collaboration to find solutions that work for everyone.

It takes courage to be assertive and show the world our likes, dislikes, thoughts and feelings. It requires us to be vulnerable and actually open up about who we are.

Good leaders are self-aware enough to recognize what their typical pattern is for getting what they want. We can recognize if our usual behavior is less than optimal and make needed adjustments.

Good leaders also encourage each person on the team to be assertive. You can do this by asking people directly what they want/how they want to do a task/what their preference is in any given situation. And then listen. And allow that to happen or explain why it can’t.

People are much more likely to be assertive when trust exists in your relationship, so this means they need to be able to trust that you will not get angry or punish them for being direct. Remember—assertiveness requires vulnerability.

When people feel safe within the team to simply be direct and say what they want or need, you are creating the kind of culture that feels good to the people who work there.