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Tel black small Mail black small Two babies biting each other Aggressive communication - couples counselling twickenham

Are You an Aggressive Communicator?

Aggressive communication is seen as a means of expressing individual needs and desires in a coercive and demanding manner that does not take in to account the needs and rights of others. It is a way of communicating which can be arbitrary and egocentric. However, rather than characterise persons as 'aggressive communicators' it is better to observe patterns of aggressive communication and respond to them when it happens. It is easy to attach labels to others and demonise or alienate them by stereotyping their behaviours as aggressive. This type of labelling is not helpful in relationships as those people who get labelled as aggressive, may lose self-esteem and feel even more alienated. Rather, it is helpful to understand that most pof us use aggressive communication styles at some point in our lives. In fact aggressive communication is sometimes a necessary means of protecting or standing up for ourselves in genuine situations of unavoidable conflict. People who may use an aggressive communicating style are often unaware of their impact on others and get easily caught up in the moment with impulsive emotions and beahviours. This cannot excuse their behaviour, but explains why it often seems out of control.


People who are communicating in an aggressive manner are generally perceived as selfish and unwilling to compromise. They may believe their own interests and needs outweigh those of others. An aggressive communication style is usually linked to a desire to win the argument, dominate others or defend against a perceived threat. It is not an effective means of communicating because the other party is often ignored or excluded from participation in any dialogue. this leads to a breakdown in trust and mutual respect. Examples of this are that aggressive communication may be expressed as a means of attacking or controlling the other person instead of expressing a need: "You never spend any time with me" versus "I need to spend more time with you" or "You cannot possibly understand me" versus "I want to tell you how I feel". These issues can be addressed through couples counselling and anger management.


Couples who are communicating aggressively may also become abusive verbally and/or physically. Aggressive communication is often born of low self-esteem (caused by past experiences of physical and/or emotional abuse), unhealed emotional wounds or feelings of powerlessness. Often the aggressive communicator is not consciously  aware that they are violating the rights of others, but are responding to an internalised fear - such as a fantasy that their own rights are about to be violated. Or they may be based on traumatic memories of the past. These may include memories of their own helplessness in the face of abusive parents or family members, which are then projected onto new relationships, "as if" it were happening in the present moment. This creates a constant expectation of aggression from others and may involve pre-emptive strikes before others can attack them.


Aggressive communication, can therefore be a style of communicating in which individuals express their feelings and opinions, or advocate their needs in a way that violates the rights of others. Among couples this will lead to conflict and couples to express anger in destructive ways. Although not always intentional, it can sometimes be expressed in a more hostile manner and usually involves alienating or blaming messages such as ‘you-statements’ (in which the other person is blamed for being wrong or at fault). This means labelling or even demonising others. In addition, the person’s tone of voice and facial expressions may become angry or contorted. The assumption behind aggressive communication between couples is that "my needs matter more than yours". Or "I win, you lose". This can be very destructive in any relationship and may lead to violence, manipulation or partners being controlled.


Characteristics of Aggressive Communication



You stand up for your personal rights and express your thoughts, feelings and beliefs in a way that is inappropriate and often impinges upon the rights of others. People often feel devastated and overwhelmed by an encounter with an aggressive communicator. Superiority is maintained at the expense of others by dominating the conversation or putting others down. When threatened you attack, though usually from a defensive position in which the attacker perceives themselves to be under attack.


Characteristic mindsets and behaviours of aggressive communication:

  • Close minded

  • Poor listeners

  • Has difficulty seeing the other person's point of view

  • Interrupts

  • Monopolizing

  • Characteristics

  • Achieves goals, often at others' expense

  • Domineering, bullying

  • Patronizing

  • Condescending, sarcastic

  • Puts others down

  • Doesn't ever think they are wrong

  • Can be bossy and domineering

  • Moves into people's space, overpowers others

  • Pushes other people around

  • Know-it-all attitude

  • Doesn't show appreciation for others


Verbal characteristics:

  • Tone sarcastic, cold, harsh

  • Using prejudicial or abusive remarks

  • Fluent monologue with very few hesitations

  • Often hostile, abrupt or clipped tone of voice

  • Angry, sarcastic or condescending voice tone

  • Emphasising blaming words and long lists of grievances

  • Often fast paced voice, without interruption for long, articulate monologues which are full of blame

  • Agressive verbal interaction such as shouting, screaming or rising to a high-pitch at the end of sentences

  • Use of emotional or physical threats, e.g., “You’d better watch out” or “If you don’t...”

  • Verbal put downs, e.g., “You’ve got to be crazy...” “You’re being hysterical” or “Don’t be so stupid”

  • Judgemental or critical comments, emphasising black and white thinking e.g. “you should”, “bad”, “ought to”

  • Boastfulness, conceited or arrogant remarks e.g. “I haven’t got problems like yours”

  • Opinions expressed as fact without any room for questioning or evaluating another’s point of view e.g. “Everybody knows that…” or “That’s a useless way to do it”

  • Threatening or critical questions, e.g., “Haven’t you finished that yet?” or “Why on earth did you do it like that?”


Nonverbal characteristics:

  • Intruding into the other person’s space

  • Staring at the other person without blinking

  • Gestures such as pointing, fist clenching or shouting at the sky

  • Striding around impatiently as if they were trapped

  • Leaning forward or over into another’s space

  • Crossing arms (unapproachable)

  • Smile may become sneering

  • Narrowing eyes critically

  • Scowling when angry

  • Jaws set firm

  • Rigid posture



  • Anger

  • Hostility

  • Frustration

  • Impatience



  • Provokes counter-aggression and alienation from others

  • Wastes time and energy over-supervising others

  • Confrontation rather than Problem Solving

  • Must win arguments or blame others

  • Physical violence or intimidation

  • Operates from win/lose position

  • Shouting or screaming


Mottos and Beliefs:

  • "Everyone should be like me."

  • "I am never wrong."

  • "I've got rights, but I ignore yours."


Thinking style: 

  • “I’ll get you before you have a chance of getting me”

  • “I’m out for number one”

  • “The world is a battle ground and I am out to win”

  • “You must see things my way”



  • You get others to fulfil your needs without making any affort yourself

  • You enjoy the fantasy of being in control

  • Things tend to go your way

  • You feel less vulnerable

  • Release of tension

  • You feel powerful



  • Aggressive communication fosters resistance, defiance, sabotage, striking back, denial or covering up

  • If you are always trying to control others it can be difficult for you to relax (as you trigger anxiety and in  others)

  • Your relationships will tend to be based on negative emotions and may become more unstable or confrontational

  • Aggressive communication means people tend to feel inferior deep down and lack self-esteem. They try to compensate for this by putting others down

  • Your behaviour will create enemies and resentment in those around you

  • This can result in a sense of paranoia and fear for those close to you

  • Decreasing self confidence and self esteem

  • Pays high price in human relationships

  • Forces compliance with resentment

  • Feelings of guilt, paranoia and shame


You can seek help for aggressive communication at Couples Counselling In Teddington (Counselling Twickenham).

What is an Aggressive Communication Style?