Passive-aggressive people are unpleasant to deal with, but deal with them we must; whether they be our friends, our family or just that annoying coworker that we kind of love to hate. Because they mask their real feelings, they can be hard to deal with. Dealing with them can be done, though, and you can even win in a battle against them with the right attitude and understanding. Use a mix of these simple techniques to master the master-manipulator in your life.
Keep your distance when you can.
The quickest and easiest solution when it comes to handling someone who likes to undermine you, is to keep your distance when you can. In many ways, passive-aggressives are harder to deal with than openly hostile people. Avoid the pitfalls by avoiding them altogether — stripping them of their manipulative powers.
Before you react: reduce the personalization and misunderstanding.
Rather than reacting to someone who is attempting to cut at your sense of self subtly, refuse to jump to conclusions and come up with different ways of looking at the situation.
Avoiding personalization allows you to keep a firm hold of your personal power and perceive the expressions of others more objectively. The reactions and behaviors of others are almost always a reflection of them not us, but we have to remind ourselves of that regularly.
Set boundaries and consequences.
Because passive-aggressive people behave covertly, they put up major resistance when they are confronted for their actions. They’ll deny, make excuses and finger point anywhere they can to escape the consequences of their actions. It’s up to you to make sure your boundaries are firm, however, and the consequences are adhered to.
No matter what the passive aggressive says or does, offer strong consequences for the negative behavior and stand by your decisions when they’re made. Defining the consequences of poor behavior starts with defining your boundaries; a necessary exercise in self-worth that every single one of us should engage in.
Get proactive and formal.
For those underminers we have to deal with on a regular basis, it’s important to put a stop to their behavior early and finitely. The behaviors that passive-aggressive people engage in usually occurs in a pattern and noticing those patterns and stopping them early on is key to protecting ourselves from the damaging effects.
Set the tone of your relationship by formalizing your communications when needed. Put things in writing and have third parties present when you let the other person know just what you will and will not tolerate any longer.
Because passive-aggressive behavior happens on the sly, it’s often necessary to confront it directly, but that has to be done in the right tone and with the right intention. Ask the passive-aggressive person probing questions to clarify their point of view and fact-check their assumptions. You can also review previous communications and substantiate your position through clear and concise examples.
Avoid making accusations or statements that begin with, “You did…” Focus instead on sentences that begin with “I…we…let’s….” and “this” followed by clear and concrete facts. For example:
- “I don’t feel comfortable with the way you are joking. It’s offensive to me and it hurts my feelings.”
- “I noticed that things haven’t gotten done.”
Establish your own credibility in the argument by providing recent examples of behaviors or comments that prove your points, without pushing it too far into “I told you so,” territory.
Don’t attempt to change the other person.
It can be tempting to attempt to change the passive-aggressive person, but this would be an exercise in futility. It is impossible to change other people — the only people that can change are those who wish to change for themselves.
Attempting to change the behaviors of someone who doesn’t know how to process their emotions is a time-consuming dialogue that undermines our sense of self.
While these efforts are admirable, they often end in frustration and disappointment. The reasons for passive-aggressive behavior are complex and deep-rooted, the people who engage in this type of behavior cannot correct their errors until they become more self-aware.
Remember: It’s not your job to change anyone. The only person who you are responsible for is yourself. Clean your own porch and let them clean their own when they’re ready.
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This article was written by E.B Johnson
Cover photo: howwebiz.ug