Do passive aggressive behaviors drive you nuts?
You are not alone. I’d assert that passive aggressive behavior is universally detested.
If you have someone in your life who uses passive aggressive behaviors on you, the time to address it is now.
Why? Because this behavior is simply not healthy for you in any way, shape, or form. As long as you continue to deal with it, you will waste way too much of your precious time and energy.
It’s time to nail down your strategy to stop it in its tracks.
Let’s start with you.
Lots of people tell me they feel like they have a target on their back when it comes to attracting passive aggressive people. And they’re right. If you are a people-pleaser and a conflict-avoider, you are a prime target for this bad behavior.
Because the goal of this behavior is to manipulate you and control you in subtle, indirect, (cowardly) ways. It can look like guilt, criticism, and back-handed comments. This works beautifully with people who ignore, dismiss, or feel guilty about calling out bullshit. If you tend to be a people-pleaser or an avoider of conflict, then these tactics have a better chance of working. And if they do, then the passive aggressive person is well on their way on their path of power over you.
Frankly, being passive aggressive is a massive waste of time and the worst possible way to try to gain some sense of power. So I like to "help" by addressing this behavior immediately. They may not thank me, but it is truly the kindest thing I (or you) can do for people being passive aggressive.
So how do you go about doing it? Let’s break this down- here’s how to be a total badass at dealing with passive aggressive behavior in four steps.
Step 1: Believe in yourself.
Believe your instincts when they tell you someone is being passive aggressive. Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t dismiss your feeling. You do know what it feels like. Passive aggressive behavior has you feeling uncomfortable, prickly, edgy, yucky. Even when the person tries to look and talk and be nice, you still get this feeling. Trust your feeling. Trust yourself.
Step 2: Commit to addressing it.
Don’t ignore the behavior. Don’t justify it. Commit to addressing it every single time it occurs. Either you address it or you will be subjected to it. The passive aggressive behavior thrives in silence and the dark. Speak up.
Step 3: Stay as calm as humanly possible.
Passive aggressive behavior is not designed to bring out your best thinking and acting. So that’s why it’s important to take a deep breath, take your time, and collect yourself. Be as neutral as possible and speak as few words as you can. Being calm and collected is powerful.
Step 4: Shine a Light on It
Passive aggressiveness shrivels up and dies in the light. Bring the behavior into the light by calmly throwing out some truth bombs. And then, boom! It’s done.
For example, let’s take the back-handed compliment routine. It’s a classic. Your passive aggressive work colleague says something like, “I wish I had the time to have a report as perfect as yours. . . but I have important things to do.” Just take a breath and say, “I’m not sure what you mean by that. Can you explain?” Or maybe you want to respond with, “I’m not sure how to take that. It sounded like a jab disguised as a compliment.” Boom!
It really doesn’t matter how your colleague responds after that. You just silently go back to what you are doing (i.e. no more engagement!). But it is clear that the gig is up. They won’t be saying things like that to you again.
Some people are truly cunning and super subtle masters of passive aggression. If you have the misfortune to come across one of these people, then know that you’re going to have to dig up their bullshit behavior before you can shine a light on it. And it may take some doing. But remember Step 2. No matter how deep it’s buried in subtlety, no passive aggressiveness goes unaddressed.
A good technique is to highlight the discrepancy between what is being presented and what you feel. Something like, “You say that you are okay with helping out with this project, but I’m sensing something totally different from you.” And simply, “What’s that about?”
Even if someone won’t agree that your felt sense is right, just calling them on it is often enough to nip their passive aggressive behavior in the bud. Don’t expect them to level with you. Just make sure you let them know that you are picking up on their behavior and willing to address it. Don’t try to resolve it, just take a stand.
Next week I’ll be giving you my best scripts, exactly what to say, for addressing passive aggressive behavior, so please sign up for for my updates. Until then, join me in on Facebook to discuss disarming passive aggressive behavior and other ninja-like communication maneuvers.