Passive: That task was done yesterday [by me].
Active: I completed that task yesterday.
Passive: All of the bugs will be fixed by tomorrow.
Active: Abey, Maria and Elizabeth will fix the 10 bugs by tomorrow at 5pm EST.
Passive: The computer has not been purchased.
Active: Mary was out yesterday, so the computer hasn’t been purchased yet.
Question: Would you be able to start work on this project?
Passive: Yes, yes. (Classic answer, without any content.)
Partially Active: Yes, we will have an update for you by 5pm. Is that ok?
Fully Active (same as above): Yes, we will look at the work flow and I will discuss a proposed project timeline with you tomorrow at 5pm EST. Is this suitable?
Active, but a partial no response: Yes, George, Reny and Simi will be working on this. As Simi is out until next Friday, Reny and George will get back to you tomorrow by 5pm. Can Simi’s inputs be added after her return?
While on one hand, the active voice will build trust, with Americans, it should not be over used. When trying to ease the blow of harsh feedback or delicate information, the passive voice can be used. The key is never to over use any communication technique, but have a balance. Feel free to share in the comments times when using active voice or passive voice has helped you to more clearly get your message across to Americans.
Author Jennifer Kumar is a corporate coach, helping Indian executives communicate with more cultural relevance and understanding with Americans onsite in the US or on virtual teams. Contact her for more information today.