Message left on your voice mail: “I’m home sick now. Well, I guess I better go. I’ll be listening for the phone in case you want to call.”
“No, I’m not upset. Why?”
“Don’t feel like you need to come to the party, but everyone will be here. You would be the only family member missing.”
As you read these sentences, notice how you feel inside? How is your body reacting? If you’re like me, you feel tense, irritated, pushed, and confused. That’s because each of the sentences above contain mixed messages. These are very common things that Passive-Aggressive people say.
Basically, the P/A has not grown up emotionally and has learned to avoid. She avoids discussing her true emotions and she avoids blame and conflict, but by doing so she avoids true connection and intimacy with people. She also avoids responsibility by being perpetually late or by “forgetting” her commitments. She avoids telling you what she wants, because she lacks the confidence. Later, she will take what she wants by sabotaging others.
When you react to the crazy-making situation, the P/A stays calm and you seem like the aggressor. Here are some final tips for dealing with P/As:
Get rid of guilt. It’s not you who is making the P/A act this way. They do it with everyone.
Don’t come across as blaming or shaming. This only makes the P/As internal shield come out. Instead, let them know how you feel. “I felt very frustrated when you said I could help. Later you asked someone else and it made me feel crazy.”
Confront the P/A on her dishonesty, but don’t get into a conflict. Say, “It makes me feel like you are controlling me by not stating simply what you want.”
Let the P/A know you are comfortable with honesty. Say, “It seems like you are angry, please tell me about it.”
Mostly it’s confusing because of the way it causes you to second-guess yourself. The P/A acts manipulative, and gives all sorts of mixed signals. Yet she keeps her game-face and you’re left wondering why you feel like ripping your hair out (or hers). This is exactly where the P/A wants you.
Remember the definition of passive-aggression is: a psychological mechanism for handling hostility or anger in an underhanded or devious way that is hard for others to prove.
1. The most important thing to realize about your interactions with a P/A is that you won’t change them. You may think you can rationalize and explain what their actions have been and how they impact you. All this will do is confirm to the P/A how cruel the world is and how everyone is against them; thereby solidifying their plight as the victim.
The best suggestion for being around a P/A is to get away. But not all of us can do that. We may work with P/As or have them as family members. We may even be one at times.
2. Stop seeking the P/As approval. Part of the reason we get caught in their web, is that we are people-pleasers. People-pleasing is really a developmental wound – it means we are trying to get our identity from others, rather than having our own sense of self. So, part of this equation means doing our own work to figure out why we haven’t developed this ego strength. You may need the help of a counselor to do this.
3. Stop trying to “connect” at any deep level with the P/A. The very fact that they are passive-aggressive tells you they are uncomfortable and/or incapable of deep emotional intimacy. Intimacy requires honesty. P/As cannot be honest about their feelings and that is the reason they have to indirectly manipulate and sabotage.
4. Always have a Plan B (escape hatch). Remember the husband who wouldn’t pick his wife up on time from her weight-loss meetings because he didn’t want her losing weight. Her Plan B could be arranging a ride home from someone else, or she could drive herself.
5. If you must confront the situation, learn how to be assertive without engaging in the power struggle. Remember the person who wanted her friend to just know she was in the hospital? And then made her feel awful for not coming by to visit? The non-P/A person could say something like, “What a shame. If you had only let me know, I would have come by.” Then she needs to drop it, change subjects, maybe even walk away.
If a coworker says, “I hate these piles in the corner, they’re disgusting,” say, “Are you asking if I’ll remove the pile in the corner?” Then let them know if she’d like something changed, she should just ask you because with comments like that you aren’t sure if they are comments or requests.
6. Never, ever let the P/A know that she “gets” to you. This is her raison d’etre; her sole reason for living. It is the only thing that gives her a reprieve from her misery.
7. Get a witness. P/As love the one-on-one because they can slide around and not be held accountable, and they will turn others against you. If you ever have to have a major discussion, make sure other family members or co-workers are present.
8. Focus on your own behavior. The P/A is trying to control you. So, rather than constantly defending yourself from the P/As attacks or clarifying your position, simply step out of the trap and move on.
9. Remember, the P/A is not a victim,she only acts like one. Because the person is rarely confrontational, people tend to see her as the “put upon” martyr. As a result, people are likely to let her have her way so as not to upset her. The dance of the P/A is that she plays the victim and you go out of your way to protect her from being victimized. This puts her in control.
10. Remember I said, “P/As are ALWAYS late.” This is how they control things. Confront, rather than excuse their lateness. Tell her you would rather she didn’t agree to something, rather than be unreliable.
More tips tomorrow. Here’s a video of a P/A telling you what it was like for her:
If you would like to read the first part of this series on Passive-Aggressive People click here.
Have you ever been around someone who routinely makes you feel frustrated? On the defensive? Angry? Do you know people who always have stormy relationships and go from one argument to the next? Passive-Aggressive people are some of the most miserable people you will encounter.
The Passive-Aggressive (P/A) person lives to provoke you. He goads; you respond.
P/As are contrary, demeaning, and insulting. Unless you agree with them, everything is an argument.
P/As are oppositional by nature. Even though they seem to want to seek out your help, to them you are an authority figure against whom they must rebel.
Everything negative a P/A says about others may be said about you. As soon as you question anything about P/As or what they are saying, you become the opposition.
The P/A sees herself as a victim in an uncaring world. You are unfair and hurtful if you think otherwise.
The P/As will attack your professionalism in some way either to bring out your guilt or anger so you will act in a punitive or harsh way towards them. Then they can confirm how cruel people are to them.
The P/As goal in life is to provoke you in order to control you, and then to deny doing it.
P/As undermine and take no responsibility. If there is blame, it is yours.
P/As obstruct any positive team effort. They demoralize rather than help.
P/As trap you into thinking your behavior is wrong, and then exploit your perception.
P/As want you to believe that you are controlling, dominating, and intrusive – not them. P/As rule with guilt.
P/As don’t change and you will always be frustrated if you think you can deal with the P/As in a fair and reasonable manner. You cannot. All you can do is learn how to stay out of their trap.
*Stay tuned for tips on what to do if you have to interact with Passive/Aggressive people…