Passive Aggressive Behavior: How to recognize it and how to deal with it.
"I love how you've decorated your house. It's incredible what you can do on such a small salary."
"I love how that dress looks on you. It really hides your extra weight."
Have you ever received these kind of backhanded compliments? I'm sure most of us have. These comments usually have the sole intention of making us feel bad, while allowing the other person to walk away unscathed. Ugh! The unfairness of it all! But what kind of twisted, remorseless person could do this? The answer is simple: a passive-aggressive person.
What is passive aggressive behavior?
There are two types of aggression: Active and Passive. Active aggression is the one where you use threats or violence. Passive is when you use more indirect methods, such as sabotage, criticism or inhibition. The passive aggressive person, instead of letting out anger or resentment, keeps it in and attacks at a more opportune time.
What characterizes passive aggressive behavior?
There are several characteristics that identify passive aggressive behavior:
- Rejection of established norms
- Poor organization skills
- Blaming others for their own shortcomings
- Arrogant, threatening or defiant behaviors
- Low self-esteem
- High need for praise
- Very little will or discipline
- Not a team player
- Always finds something wrong with the ideas of others
- Never satisfied
- Complains about everything
- Constantly making backhanded comments
- "Forgets" to do things that he was supposed to do
- Poor sense of duty
- Uses jokes or sarcasm to hurt others
Best ways to deal with passive aggressive behavior
- Recognize the behavior
- Don't give in
- Don't allow yourself to be manipulated
- Talk assertively to the passive aggressive person
Profile of a passive aggressive person
A passive aggressive person is often immature and does not know how to handle strong negative emotions such as anger or rejection. This person is always avoiding confrontations and does not know how to assertively express his needs or desires. It is this lack of assertion that causes the person to "attack" in an undercover manner, or without the other person noticing. Backhanded compliments are one of the main tools in the belt of a passive aggressive person.
Are there a lot of passive-aggressive people?
Do you know anyone who is passive-aggressive?
The Passive aggressive person as a victim
The passive aggressive person will constantly feel like they are the victims of any given situation. Instead of saying: "No, I don't want to help you...", they will accept, only to bring it up every time they feel like you've wronged them.
They will say things like:
"I can't believe I spent the whole afternoon helping you. I gave up my cycling class to help you and this is how you pay me? This is the reason I can never do anything for myself, because there is always someone like you who requires help, and you know I can never say no..."
and so on and so forth...
The passive aggressive person has a poor sense of duty, as well as a rejection for authority. This attitude constantly interferes with work or family duties. He doesn't know how to say "no" with words, but will scream it with actions. The passive aggressive person will gladly accept any duties given to him without any complaints, but will sabotage its completion either by "forgetting", delaying the task or doing a mediocre job to discourage the imposition of any future assignments.
Assertiveness is the ability to appropriately express what you feel and need without harming others and without being aggressive or violent. Passive aggressive people lack assertiveness, which is why they resort to more covert tactics such as the ones mentioned in this article.
Manipulation and passive aggressive behavior
If you've dealt with a passive aggressive person, you know the different ways they have of manipulating you. One of their most successful tactics goes like this:
You: "are you mad?"
P.A. person: "No, I'm okay..." (With a clearly mad, annoyed or depressed facial expression.)
You: "Are you sure you want to go the party?"
P.A. person: "Yes, I guess we will go..."
The passive aggressive person will spend the whole time being sad or mad. Even though they agreed to accompany you, you will wish they weren't there. You will keep asking what's wrong, and they will keep denying anything. Next time you will prefer to stay home rather than taking them anywhere they don't want to go. This is a type of manipulation, and it works perfectly for them.
In a sort of way, the passive aggressive person manages to make you feel guilty for something that really is their own problem. And that's another one of their strategies. The passive aggressive person will always blame someone else for their own shortcomings, even if it's clearly their fault.
- "I couldn't finish the project because you didn't give me enough time."
- "Your mother made me talk to her that way."
- "If you weren't so annoying I'd have more respect for you."
Jokes and the passive aggressive person
The passive aggressive person will do anything to avoid confrontation. They will never come up to you and directly tell you that you did something they didn't like. Instead, they will take vengeance by heavily and cruelly joking with you.
P.A. person: "Come here so I can use your widening bald spot as a mirror."
P.A. person: "Aw c'mon. Don't get mad. You know I'm just kidding!"
How to deal with passive aggressive behavior
Your first line of defense against this kind of behavior is learning how to recognize it. Now you know that the passive aggressive person will avoid confrontation and will try to manipulate you by making you feel bad about yourself or making you feel guilty. Here are a few things to remember:
The passive aggressive person has a great deal of power over you but only if you allow it.
You have seen how easy it could be for a passive aggressive person to manipulate you, but now also know how they're manipulating you. Don't give in. Most of the time we find ourselves trying to please this person because we feel guilty, or we feel like they're victims of some kind, so we may even go out of our way to find ways that keeps them happy. Don't! That's exactly what they're expecting of you. Instead, talk to them assertively. Tell them how you feel and why you think their behavior is unacceptable. They may hate you for it, but don't give in. If you assertively explain yourself every time they try to play the victim or every time they try to make you feel guilty, they will know that their tricks don't work with you and eventually give up.
Don't reward their behavior
Every time someone gives in to their tactics, their behavior is reinforced. The passive aggressive person will continue to use these tricks because they keep working.
Don't respond to indirect requests
The passive aggressive person lacks assertiveness and doesn't know how to communicate his needs and desires. When your passive aggressive friend says something like:
"Oh how I wish I could go to the party, but I don't have a ride..."
"Oh, I could give you a ride."
Simply ignore the request and only offer to help if he asks you directly.
Don't feel bad about ignoring the indirect request. If the passive aggressive behavior isn't fixed, it could end up hurting his career and even his family life. Help him learn that they are different ways of expressing what they need.
Life is difficult enough without having to deal with this kind of behavior. Don't reward people for their bad behavior. Instead, help them outgrow this immature behavior so that they can live richer, fuller lives.