How to Deal with Passive-Aggressive People
By Sandy Schroeder
At some point, everyone runs into a person who seems positive, but really is not. They may say “yes,” but really mean “no.” Wherever they show up, it’s best to spot them quickly and deal with them in a positive manner. These people may be passive-aggressive.
These characteristics can be tipoffs.
- Veiled sarcasm
- Comical facial responses
If you have run into this, you know it can be exhausting. You never know where you stand with the person, and you have to constantly watch your back. They may promise to help you at work, and then disappear. Or they may seem pleasant, and suddenly become hostile. Later they may turn up with some lame excuse.
How to Respond
If you can, you might distance yourself from this person, simply ruling them out, but if you have to deal with them you need to establish some ground rules.
Spot them and speak up – Calling out a person who behaves this way may establish a better relationship. The person knows you are no longer fooled by their behavior, and they may try to be more positive. Finding out why they are angry may help to alleviate the problem. Talking it through might help you come to a better understanding.
Reach out – Remain calm as you try to understand why they are so on and off in their reactions to you. If they feel you are trying to understand, they might see you in a different light.
Practice kindness – Responding with anger will only fuel rage, justifying their actions, but being positive and helpful might help you understand what can be done.
Build a bridge – If you are working with them, try to gradually establish new connections as you continue to talk about the problem. They may be using passive-aggressive behavior with lots of people, and understanding and removing it could help them improve their relationships.
Avoid judging – Finding out what is behind the behavior could help this person turn the corner in many relationships. For whatever reason, they are afraid to stand up for themselves and speak up. Darting in and out with sabotage is the only way they feel they can cope. Helping them look at the behavior and consider other ways of defending themselves could be a breakthrough.
Set boundaries – However your discussion works out, draw lines making it clear what you will accept, and what you will not. This may ease the tension, and help to establish a better relationship.
However it works out, being able to spot passive-aggressive behavior is an important skill to have, and one that you should use whenever you need it.
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