Passive aggression is one of those behaviors that seems to hit me out of nowhere when it happens to me.
I’m a direct, to-the-point person and I try to be as honest and validating of my feelings as I can, so when people aren’t, I’m kind of flummoxed. Fortunately, I’m not the only one.
Here are some useful tricks to deal with passive aggressive behavior when it confronts you:
1. Identify passive-aggressive behavior when it happens.
People looking to avoid an argument, fight or conflict at all costs, being put into a “never win” scenario, people who constantly need to be pleased by being told what they want to hear, people who complain constantly about being misunderstood or mischaracterized by others, are all excellent examples of passive-aggressive behavior
2. Look at your own behavior.
Have you contributed to the conflict of the situation or its successful de-escalation? Make sure you only account for your contributions, not the contributions of the passive-aggressive person.
3. Disarm them with honesty and continue to focus the conversation on the real issue.
The little sideshows they create and hidden dramas that they seem to invite out of nowhere aren’t useful to dealing with them, so reiterate the point of the conversation, maintain focus, and treat them with honesty and respect.
4. Don’t respond in your own passive-aggressive manner.
Anyone can go there, but it’s essentially useless. Now instead of trying to make some kind of headway along the lines of the discussion you’re having or situation you’re in, you’re trying to out-passive-aggressive them. This is totally useless, but it is also easy to slip into, so be mindful that you’re not doing so.
5. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated.
People who regularly use passive-aggressive behavior see people who do not as easy targets for manipulation. Don’t let them do it to you.
6. Stay emotionally calm.
No matter what happens, retain your sense of inner calm and peace. You don’t need to get emotionally invested in this, and you know what happens when you do: you end up eventually getting hurt. Steer clear of the drama and focus on what you’re there to do.
7. Realize that you can’t change who they are.
Once you stop trying to change them and their ways of handling situations, however seemingly ineffective, you are working in the right direction. What you can do, however, is set the parameters for your interactions with them. Be kind but firm and keep up on the positive reinforcement. They may never change who they are, but they may change the way they’re going to treat you.