Day 8 – Dealing with Passive People… Some Tips…

This series has been way more fun than I ever anticipated! There is SO much we could talk about when it comes to communication. It is a part of all of our daily lives and I wish we could spend a whole year on it. (Well, I guess we could but it wouldn’t really go with the whole 21-day series concept).

So… tomorrow will be the last day we’ll talk about the different communication styles for a while… Later this week we’ll move on to communication with specific types of people/groups. And throw some non-verbal communication in there too… Studying body language is absolutely fascinating. (I know I am a nerd but you have to admit this stuff is way cool)!

Anywho… onto passive communication.

As we already discussed in Day 3, passive people tend to feel misunderstood. They are reluctant to share their thoughts, feelings and opinions and therefore others have a hard time figuring out what they really want. Often times they feel anxious when asked to express themselves and afraid of what other people might think of them. So how do you, the loved one of this passive individual, help them come out of their shell?


1) Ask clear, direct questions. Just as we need to do with passive-aggressive peeps, we have to be clear in asking for what we want from passive communicators. They may attempt to avoid really expressing how they feel so at least we’ll know there is no confusion on our end in terms of what we need.

2) Be patient! Passive people don’t just have a hard time expressing their points-of-view, but they also have a hard time even knowing their points-of-view. Somewhere along the line, they were given a message that it’s not okay to think for themselves. So give them space and allow them some time to think before demanding a reply.

3) Let them know how much you desire to understand. Due to insecurity and probably some past experiences as well, passive individuals often believe no one truly cares to know what they think anyway. So let them know you sincerely do care.

4) Force the issue when the timing is right. Once you have developed a trusting relationship with them, “force” them to make a decision. You can do this a number of ways… a) You can ask them to decide on small things first like where to have dinner the following week. b) You can present them with a few options and have them pick their favorite one. c) You can take turns making decisions.

5) Model healthy communication and confident decision-making. It’s natural to look up to others and when your passive friend sees that healthy communication is not so bad (thanks to your example) he or she may follow suit.

Hope this helps! See you tomorrow!

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  1. Hi Angela,

    It could really be tiring when I have to relate with passive people, I used to be one but I had to come out of my shell. I also understand that patience is important. Thanks for the post.

    Have a lovely day!

    Emmanuel Olonade

  2. Ian Belanger says:

    Hi Angela,

    I think that setting a good example is the best way to help passive people to maybe get out of their comfort zone. Especially if they know that you are or were once a passive person. They might think, “Well if he/she can do it, so can I”.

    The one thing we must remember is that each person is different and we need to be able to tailor our responses based on the individual person.

    Thanks for the tips Angela and have a great day!

  3. Gail says:

    I am married to one super passive example and trust me folks, all these thoughts and ideas are great, but no amount of talk, understanding, communication, caring, or study of the type can really be effective. These folks are super manipulative and by definition, they can destroy your own personality, goals, etc. They don’t know themselves, care or intend to do anything to be more successful in life. No one I have spoken to has had any success without the individual getting tired of themselves.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your thoughts Gail. That’s a frustrating situation, especially since as a married couple you share practically everything. In working with passive people through counseling/coaching, I agree that for some people, passiveness is definitely a form of manipulation. However for some, it is a result of damage done in childhood (whether intentionally or not) and increasing the passive person’s understanding of themselves and their relationships can actually produce some growth. Although, as you mentioned, if the individual does not want to change or realize there is a problem, it is incredibly difficult. There are so many layers and dynamics in relationships… there is never going to be a one-size-fits-all approach. Thank you again for your thoughtful comments.

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