Passive Communication Left My Relationships Unfulfilled

August 10, 2023 Hayes Mitchell

Passive communication has been the silent killer of all of my friendships. While I've been developing my communication skills to create better long-lasting platonic and romantic relationships, I've learned how my communication style has been one of my greatest flaws. For me, passive communication is a style in which a person avoids expressing their thoughts, feelings, and needs. Passive communicators are unlikely to assert themselves and stand up for their rights. My friendships have come and gone, ending both ambiguously and anticlimactically, because I allowed them to pass by. By letting my fear of rejection and need to please others control me, I've done a great disservice to myself. Time and time again, I have held myself back from expressing my feelings and needs only to create great internal conflict, emotional distress, loneliness, and feeling unfulfilled in my relationships. That's the crux of passive communication.

Changing My Passive Communication Style

Here are two concepts that have helped me rework my passive communication mindset:

  1. People can't read your mind
  2. You can't control other people, but you can control how you respond to them. 

The first concept helps me pick away at my passive communication. Passive communication leads to a lack of communication. I withhold saying what I want and expressing how I feel. Instead, I hold out, hoping the other person will start the conversation I want to have or read my mind. When they inevitably don't read my mind, I become angry, and resentment builds. 

I struggle with the second concept the most. I fear the unknown, especially when it comes to social interactions. As a neurodivergent person, my communication can be different from neurotypical people and interpreted the wrong way. I often hold myself back from saying what I want to say to avoid conflict, which can include expressing my feelings and needs. I either say nothing at all or change what I want to say to please the other person, leaving me feeling unhappy and inauthentic. By living my life addressing the needs of others before my own and trying to fulfill unrealistic expectations, I have come to a point in my life where I don't know how to identify my own feelings, needs, and wants. 

Communication can be easier and less stressful with the right people. For example, a neurodivergent person's brain functions differently from a neurotypical person's brain, such as in the case of a person with autism. Neurotypical is considered the standard and most accepted by society, such as in the case of a person without a mental illness.

I'm neurodivergent, and communicating with other neurodivergent--and queer--people is a lot easier for me than communicating with neurotypical people. Neurodivergent people are likely to communicate differently than neurotypical people. Keeping an open mind and trying to understand the other person's perspective is essential to good communication. When people understand me and where I'm coming from, there's less chance of miscommunication and conflict.

It's important to remember that communication is a two-way street. Having the courage to speak your mind is just as essential to good communication as listening to the other party. I want to go into a conversation knowing that the other person has the intention of listening empathetically, keeping an open mind, and respecting my thoughts and feelings, and I will do the same. 

Stop Passive Communication and Take Action

Sometimes you need to be the conversation starter and not rely on passive communication. Don't wait around hoping for change to happen because you will be sorely disappointed. I used to put all my hope into my future self. Years later, I realized that the fate of future-me was, and had always been, completely in the hands of present-me. I am always my past, present, and future self--all the time, all at once. Every action I take, in every passing second, becomes my past and propels my future. 

I'm tired of the things that go unsaid because I'm trying to please other people and avoid conflict, all at my own expense. My mind used to be steeped in paranoia and bottled emotions. I played a passive role in all the lives that slipped by me. I was left wanting but never trying. I was left with regrets. 

Now I'm taking chances. My fear of rejection is strong, but my fear of regrets is stronger. I want to talk even if I'm so afraid of starting the conversation that my heart threatens to beat out of my chest. I told someone I liked them for the first time. I've started conversations I was terrified to have. I've been saying what I want and how I want because that is how I live for myself and not others. That is how I can live authentically. 

This is your reminder to have those difficult conversations you've been putting off. By bottling up thoughts and feelings, you might be the cause of your own suffering. Say what you want to say. Say what feels right to you. Be direct, honest, and unashamed to be yourself. 

APA Reference
Mitchell, H. (2023, August 10). Passive Communication Left My Relationships Unfulfilled, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Hayes Mitchell

Hayes can be found on Facebook, LinkedIn, and his personal site.

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