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  • Writer's pictureKeiana Winters

Connecting Communication and Conflict: Correcting Incongruent Communication That Cause Conflict

As humans we have several different ways we communicate our thoughts and feelings to one another. For diversity and Inclusion purposes, Communication can be the difference between being racially or culturally insensitive and creating rapport. We can communicate through our word choices, tone of voice, volume of our voices, or non- verbal communication using our bodies and faces. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone where these aspects of communication were not in alignment? Think about it? Asking someone “Are you okay?”. Their words are saying they are fine, but their faces, body language, Or tone of voice indicate they are not fine. This is called incongruence. When we communicate in a way that is incongruent, conflict can arise or be made worse. There can also be incongruence with your words and your intentions.

Many who attend my courses say “I didn’t mean to sound like I’m prejudice. Now I’m afraid of saying anything because it may be wrong.” What these individuals fail to see is that all aspects of communication matter, and words may matter the most. It’s not just what you say, but also how you say it. It is not the responsibility of the message receiver to know your intention. It is essential for the active communicator to understand the power of communication. For this I use the example of microaggressions. Specifically, backhanded compliments. Though these types of statements may have positive intention, they also have a huge potential for harm. For example, “You are so articulate” or “ You don’t even act Black” or “Are you the first in your family to go to college?” and finally, Your hair is so big, can I touch it?” There are negative implications with each of these statements, which have been personally aimed at me in casual conversation.

There are five main types of communication styles utilized to convey feeling, emotion, and thought. The five main types of communication are Assertive, Aggressive, Passive, Passive-aggressive, and Manipulative. These communication styles are utilized throughout our daily interactions with other people. We use these styles with our friends, family, in romantic relationships, and at work and other professional settings. Communication can improve your chances of success or distort you’re your real intentions and lower your chances of a successful outcome. Think about the styles you use in different settings and the outcomes you achieve by using these styles. Think about the styles you use when you are angry, trying to impress someone, the one you use in normal conversation or when you meet a new person. Are these choices on communication increase or decrease success? Do they resolve or create conflict? Remember, no one style of communication is always better than another.


Assertive communication can be the most effective communication style. A person using this style is usually confident about how they feel and what they want and does not makes others feel bad during their conversation. Assertive communication does not use any manipulative tactics because they use compromise and listening skills. Assertive communicators say talk about their wants or needs and consider the needs and wants of others. Assertive communication can lead to high self-esteem, calmness, and positivity.


With an aggressive communication style hostility, threats, and wanting to win at all costs are major. A person who communicates aggressively can come across as though their point of view is the most important. This is because their intentions and message are lost because their actions and communication is distracting. This communication style can make people feeling unheard, and intimidated and can cause other to respond with aggressive communication as well. It not because the message is wrong but because people want to instinctively defend themselves with more aggression. There are some instances where aggressive communication is needed but there are more negatives than positives.


Passive communication style is when someone consistently makes decisions to please other people. This person avoid conflict and it typically easy going. Passive communication can cause people to be resentful because they are unable to clearly communicate their opinions, needs, and wants. Passive communicators let other people lead the way and can lead to their good ideas never being heard, or for miscommunications to come up. Passive communication is not very effective in business or in relationships where there needs to be equity.


This style of communication passive and aggressive communication styles. On the outside this person seems sweet and easy-going, but they are secretly acting from a place of anger and resentment. This can bubble up and their actions become sarcastic, they start rumors, or participate in gossiping. The frustration comes out in these indirect ways, but they won’t honestly say how they feel or what they think. Even though this communication style is common, there are situations where this style of communication is appropriate.


Manipulative communicators use lies and influence to control the outcome of the conversation, and the actions of the people around them. They are rarely honest and hide their real goals under layers of confusion to get their way without the other person even realizing it. There are some professions like police officers who actively use manipulation to get people to confess to crimes, but usually this style of communication is not appropriate for professionals or in relationships. Though manipulative communicators get what they want it can cause conflict when other people discover they have been lied to and deceived.

Cultural and racially insensitive communication can fall under aggressive, passive-aggressive, or manipulative communication. Discriminatory systemic practices, and policy can inadvertently make this type of communication acceptable and perpetuate negativity. Remember your communication is not just in what you say, but how you say it. There are two key ideas to keep in mind before you decide on how you will communicate in any given situation.

The first key is to know your goal. Is it your goal to make the other person angry, to manipulate them into doing something, or have them understand what your intentions? Your end goal will help you choose the appropriate communication style. For example, If my goal is to keep my job, even if I get mad, I must choose the correct communication style, verbal and non-verbal that will accomplish my goal of keeping my job, at least until I find a better one. The second key idea is to make sure that your verbal and nonverbal communication is congruent. This takes honesty, humility, and open-mindedness. If something is bothering you or you are questioning an interaction, try not to allow your emotions to dictate your behavior. Remember, words matter! We all get angry, disappointed, or sad. Telling someone how you feel with appropriate words, tone, volume, body language, and facial expression will get your goal accomplished and your message properly delivered.

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