How To Handle Passive-Aggressive People
People throw around the term ‘passive-aggressive’ without really knowing what it means. So, let’s take a look. Just because your friend/husband/wife/cat doesn’t do what you want, that doesn’t make him/her/it passive aggressive.
Passive-aggressive behavior can be demonstrated in different ways but the roots are the same: the passive-aggressive person has a fear of conflict, will do a lot to avoid direct confrontation, and feels powerless. So, their behaviors are attempts to fix these dynamics – to not feel fear, to avoid direct conflict, and to feel power. The result is generally power struggles with others that will leave both parties angry and frustrated.
When you are the target (he ‘forgot’ to pick you up, he says you never told him that your mother was visiting, she ignores you, she sabotages you, and more), it will make you enraged and feeling pretty crazy. It seems like hostility, but he/she says, “Oh no, it isn’t; I just forgot.” Don’t be fooled; it is hostility, just wrapped up in a colorful package with a deceptive bow. Here are the features of passive-aggressive people taken from the DSM.
- Personality features of: negative attitudes, sullenness, complaining, argumentative, resentment.
- Behavioral features of: passive resistance to demands as shown through procrastination, stubbornness, forgetfulness, and intentional inefficiency.
Sometimes these passive-aggressive behaviors are intentional, but other times, it’s not. What can you do?
- Observe and name the behavior.
- Don’t be aggressive, but be firm.
- Set boundaries for yourself, for example, how long you will wait when you are supposed to meet for dinner.
- Keep the boundaries.
- When discussing the behavior, don’t let the conversation get vague; stick with the specific act.
- Trust yourself. Stay strong, have confidence, maintain boundaries, and you won’t need to be aggressive.