Some people find it very hard to express their concerns directly.
Here are some of the ways that passive-aggressive people attempt to communicate their irritation:
- Deliberately being inefficient.
- Trying to blame others.
- Doing something just too late to be useful.
- Doing something badly so it is not useful.
- Saying ‘I forgot’, when they didn’t.
- Acting sullen.
Of course all of these could just as easily not have a passive-aggressive intent — that is the advantage of this style of behaviour.
People learn to behave passive-aggressively partly because it is not socially acceptable to show anger.
It is also often easier to be passive-aggressive than to address an issue head-on.
Being passive-aggressive can sometimes be effective in that it can be extremely irritating to others.
Unfortunately it can also be difficult to resolve problems when they are continually being obscured by passive-aggressive behaviour.
How to deal with passive-aggressive behaviour
Here are 8 steps to deal with passive-aggressive behaviour:
- Spot the passive-aggressive behaviour in the first place — this can be difficult.
- Then, avoid getting involved in the passive-aggressive game. Do not bother trying to decode behaviour.
- Do not retaliate with your own passive-aggressive tactics, this is unlikely to work.
- Better to be direct and ask the other person as tactfully and positively as you can if there is an issue.
- Mention that you think the other person may possibly have some ulterior motive for their behaviour.
- Stay calm at all times. Keep the emotions in check while listening to the problem.
- Do not expect to be able to transform how a passive-aggressive person behaves.
- Do expect to show the other person that the best way to communicate with you is directly, NOT by using passive-aggressive methods.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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