3 Toxic Communication Styles Killing Your Relationships

plus the ONE healthy alternative you need to use more

Nick Wignall
7 min readNov 28, 2022


Photo by Milan Popovic

Good communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship. From spouses and romantic partners to supervisors and co-workers, the ability to communicate well is essential for a happy and effective relationship.

But poor communication can absolutely destroy a relationship. In particular, there are 3 types of toxic communication styles we can easily fall into — and if we’re not careful, they can poison even the healthiest of relationships.

In this article I’ll walk you through the three types of unhealthy communication — passive, aggressive, and passive-aggressive communication — so you can learn to identify them in your own relationships and eliminate them before they do too much damage.

Then we’ll end on a high note by discussing assertiveness — the one communication style that is always healthy and productive no matter what the situation or relationship.

Passive Communication

As the middle child in a large and chaotic family, Jessica learned from an early age that playing nice and letting people have what they wanted kept her out of the limelight, and as a result, made her life less stressful and overwhelming. Unfortunately, while this strategy worked as a child, it was wreaking havoc on her relationships as an adult, especially with her new husband.

Jessica came to see me in therapy because she was feeling surges of anger and resentment toward her partner and didn’t know what to do. He was a nice guy and good to her, so she was alarmed and confused that she seemed to harbor increasingly strong feelings of anger toward him and then guilt toward herself.

When I asked Jessica to describe her relationship with her husband, it quickly became clear that she was a classic passive communicator — always deferring what she wanted and preferred in order to “be nice” and keep things running smoothly.

From what to watch on Netflix to where they went on vacation, Jessica almost always said she didn’t have a preference and went along with whatever her husband suggested.

Chronically ignoring your own…



Nick Wignall

Psychologist and writer sharing practical advice for emotional health and well-being: https://thefriendlymind.com