Skip to main content

Communication Skills

Two men walking while in conversation

While your experience with sickle cell disease may be largely internal, you continue to live and work in a world where you have relationships with other people.

Relationships and support are central to living well with sickle cell disease. Those around you can impact your symptoms, mood, and sense of well-being. The goal of this module is to share ideas for how to have the best communication possible with people in your life.

Being able to communicate about our physical health is important for our wellbeing. Communication about health and wellbeing is also very challenging. We hope that the information provided in this module gives you some ideas about how you can improve your communication and talk about your experience with sickle cell disease with others.

Take a Quiz to Assess Your Communication Style

Back to top

To improve as a communicator, it helps to understand the style of communication you tend to use. Take this quiz to determine your communication style:

How would your close friends describe you?
When you spend time with friends how do you communicate your needs/feelings/desires to them?
What is something you try to avoid doing in your interactions with others?
What do you do when a close friend has a personal achievement?
What is your primary goal when someone is sharing an idea that you disagree with?
How are you most likely to respond to a friend that let you down?
Which of the following can you see yourself doing when someone is too loud and behaving rudely in a social situation?
How do you act physically when speaking to others?
What do you do when you disagree with a friend?

Based on your responses, your primary communication style is {primary_style}. However, communication styles can change when you're in different social settings. For example, how you communicate with others may depend on whether you are speaking to your family vs. people you work with.

Learn about the Three Communication Styles

Back to top

Communication style is on a spectrum, and your communication style may depend on how you are feeling or who you are speaking with. For this reason, you may find it helpful to learn about all communication styles.

There are three common communication styles:

  1. Aggressive communicators stand up for their rights at the expense of others. Such people often speak loudly, act superior, and may bully others. Their goal is to control, to win, and to force others to lose or back down.
  2. Passive communicators find it hard to express their honest thoughts and feelings. They often put the feelings of others before their own. They tend to feel victimized, may be secretly angry and stressed.
  3. Assertive communicators are effective because they share their own needs. They show respect for themselves and others and make good use of compromise. They speak directly, act confidently, and maintain good eye contact while communicating. Assertive communication gives you the best chance of delivering your message successfully.

Traits of the Three Communication Styles


  • Feel open to share feelings, opinions, and needs with others
  • Control anger
  • Willing to compromise
  • High self-esteem
  • Respect the opinions of others and disagree respectfully
  • Good listener
  • Can say no without feeling guilty


  • Apologetic and self-deprecating
  • Indecisive
  • Low self-esteem
  • Slumped posture and downcast eyes
  • Quiet or muffled speech
  • Don’t like to disagree with others
  • Feel no one cares about personal opinions, wants, or needs


  • Feel superior to others
  • Poor listening skills
  • Unwilling to compromise
  • Do not respect the opinions of others
  • Close-minded
  • Interrupt others often
  • Speak loudly

Tips for Each Communication Style

Back to top

Tips for Aggressive Communicators:

  • Listen to what the other person is saying, avoid planning what to say next as the other person is talking.
  • Avoid talking over the other person. Think of it like a tennis match: conversation goes back and forth, instead of just one person talking
  • Find ways to compromise, instead of trying to ‘win’ in a conversation.
  • Evaluate how your conversation went. Take time to think about how your conversation went so you know what to work on for next time.
  • Acknowledge other people’s feelings, which lets them know they have been heard and may help them to be more understanding of your concerns.
  • Be specific. Try to focus on what someone actually says or does in a certain instance, rather than making vague or broad accusations.

Tips for Passive Communicators:

  • Prepare ahead of time what you want to say.
  • Share your emotions. Share how you feel about someone's behavior.
  • Clearly tell people what you want them to do next time. Try to be specific and realistic.
  • Evaluate how your conversation went. Take time to think about how your conversation went so you know what to work on for next time.
  • Be direct and concise while sharing your needs and concerns.

Assertive communication will help your family members, friends, and doctors have a better idea of what you are going through related to sickle cell disease and how they can help.

Communication with Family, Friends, and Caregivers

Back to top

If you help your family and other caregivers understand your experience, they may be better able to support you. Some things you can do include:

  • Help friends and family learn more about sickle cell disease – its diagnosis, symptoms, and effects on you. Encourage them to meet with your healthcare provider to get their questions answered.
  • Working with family to keep your home life as positive as possible.
  • Letting family/caregivers know that when you feel well, you will do whatever you can to help but that you must also pace yourself, so your symptoms don't get worse.
  • Talking with family/caregivers about things other than your own health. Show an interest in what is going on in their lives as well.

More Self Care Modules

Back to top