When on the receiving end of passive aggression, you can feel confused, upset, offended, guilty and frustrated. You may think you’ve done something wrong, but have no clear idea what it was.
Passive aggressive behavior by someone can cause the following:
- This behavior avoids communication in a very negative way
- It is a form of conflict where either both or one party cannot engage sensibly in the issues
- It avoids the real issues
- Passive aggressive behavior creates insecurity in all parties
- It is draining mentally and emotionally
- It creates a bad atmosphere between people
- Finally, it creates negative feelings and resentments in an unassertive way
As stated in the previous post Passive Aggressive Behavior – Part I, passive aggressive behavior describes behavior or personality traits that are indirectly aggressive rather than using direct aggression. It is characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation. It is also a form of emotional abuse.
Also, it was mentioned that everyone displays passive aggressive behaviors sometimes but when this behavior becomes persistent and repeats itself frequently, then it can be said that such an individual is passive aggressive.
Overcoming Passive Aggressive Behavior
If you are passive aggressive, there are ways of overcoming it. It’s good that you can tell that you are passive aggressive, that’s the first step to overcoming it. Below are steps/ways to manage this behavior you have come to see in yourself.
- Accept that you are passive aggressive – it is important that you recognize and accept that you could be passive aggressive. This way, you become willing to find ways to help it. Like solving a problem, the first step is to accept that there is a problem
- Identify possible reasons for your behavior – what could have made you passive aggressive? Could it be as a result of your childhood? harsh parents, insecurities? You need to know, it’s a step in helping you manage it better
- Become aware of the impacts of your behavior and how your desire to defeat others, get back at them or annoy them creates yet further uncomfortable feelings for yourself
- Take responsibility for your actions and reactions
- Calm yourself down before reacting to situations that make you upset – Try to not feel attacked when faced with a problem but instead take an overall objective view of the situation
- Learn to be assertive in expressing yourself – you have a right to your thoughts and feelings so communicate them with honesty and truth
- Stay optimistic
Dealing with someone with Passive Aggressive Behavior
You might know someone who is passive aggressive. It might be your friend, your roommate, your colleague or even your partner. Below are ways you can deal with them.
- Know how to recognize passive aggression and try to be understanding towards the person who is passive aggressive
- Be assertive when communicating – Explain to them how their behavior towards you affects you. Communicate calmly without blaming them; be straight, but kind, honest but gentle, don’t sugarcoat anything too. To do this, avoid statements that start with “you”. For example, say “I feel upset with the way you spoke to me” rather than “you are very rude”. The latter makes the person feel threatened and blamed and you know how human beings feel about that. Also stick to the present situation when talking to them about their behavior. Don’t bring up former issues; it will only compound the problem and the person is less likely to listen to you. For instance, when talking to a passive aggressive person about giving you the silent treatment, talk about the present situation in which he/she is displaying such attitude. Don’t bring up how the person also gave you the silent treatment last week or last month and so on or saying “you always do that”. Focus on that specific moment and tell them how their words make you feel.
- When and if possible, try to get the person to acknowledge that he or she is upset – this is usually not easy because someone who is passive-aggressive will hardly admit that they are upset. However, if you could get them to admit it, it will help them to speak out more. Also encourage them to express their feelings. It doesn’t come easy for them but you could ask them. For example, you could say “are you upset that I didn’t invite you for dinner last night?” it gives them a chance to come out plain by admitting or denying it, either ways, you made an effort.
- Do not indulge them – don’t fall into that trap by getting upset or worked up about it. It’s important you remain calm at all times. Losing it only encourages them and you don’t want that. Don’t do it, don’t take the bait.
- Don’t try to change them – dealing with passive aggressive people can be draining, I mean, literally. Sometimes you wish they would just change. You try talking to them but most times, they don’t. Realize that you can’t really change them except they make conscious effort to deal with their behavior. You also have to understand that having this behavior is as a result of some events in their lives and they being passive-aggressive is some way to protect themselves. They might not even know they are passive aggressive.
“You can’t change anyone except they decide to change”
- Set clear boundaries – if the passive aggressive behavior of others continues to affect you in a negative way, set clear boundaries around yourself, set rules for what you will and won’t accept. Keep your distance whenever possible and give the person little information that they can use against you. This means you don’t have to tell them personal things about you because they could use it against you. Passive aggressive behavior is a form of abuse and it’s important you protect yourself.
- Keep a positive attitude at all times – staying positive means you don’t sink to their attitude. Stay strong and focused and get on with your life. Do not allow their negative attitude get to you.
“the ability to identify and assert consequences is one of the most powerful skills we can use to “stand down” a passive-aggressive person. Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the difficult individual, and compels her or him to shift from obstruction to cooperation”
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