How To Deal With Passive-Aggressive People

Most people would agree that passive-aggressive people are one of the most difficult types of individuals to work, live and play with.

Yet it can be hard to identify the behaviors that are considered passive-aggressive. We tend to say “we know one when we see one”.

While this list won’t be all-exhaustive, it will highlight enough of the characteristics of a passive-aggressive person to potentially exhaust you just by reading them.

  • They dish out “back-handed” compliments.

You just get engaged. You eagerly rush to tell your friend and she responds with a shrug and “Wow. I’m really happy for you. I just expected him to buy you a bigger ring.” Felt that, didn’t you?

  • They respond to your inquiries about their behavior with questions that make you feel like something must be terribly wrong with you or your judgment. In short, they make you feel like you’re crazy.

In response to you trying to address what you see as frustration, anger, or some other negative reaction in them, they reply with “I have no idea what you’re talking about. What on earth would make you think that?” Feeling crazy yet?

  • They procrastinate on things you need them to do.

One of the best ways to control other people is to make them wait. So another indicator is people who are chronically late. (Now, don’t freak out. Some people are habitually late with no reason other than they simply “run late”. But it can be a sign of unspoken hostility.)

  • They do a lot of wishful thinking…out loud.

You are going on a vacation and you excitedly tell your cubicle buddy. Instead of saying something supportive, encouraging or otherwise kind in the least, he instead says, “Must be nice…all my extra money goes to pay bills.” Don’t buy it. That comment has no other intent but to make you feel bad about your vacation. And I say you should never apologize for a vacation. C’mon.

That’s a short list but every single one of these things can be an indicator of a person with passive-aggressive tendencies.

But how on earth do we deal with people like that?

Start here.

1. Be direct.

Don’t let the “crazy-making” behavior force you into submission or make you cower from conflict. Choosing to address the behavior head-on will keep you from becoming their emotional hostage or worse yet, a doormat on which they can wipe their hostile-on-the-inside feet.

2. Be specific.

While many a passive-aggressive person knows exactly what they’re doing when they engage in these behaviors, many don’t. Clearly point out your personal observations that seem counterproductive, angry or hostile in your mind and state them as factually as possible. What did they do or say and how did they respond that makes you question their thoughts/feelings?

3. Be careful.

People with this tendency are master manipulators. They will take your words and use them against you. (Probably with any combination of the responses above.) Try not get emotional and don’t take the bait.

4. Be clear.

This is your chance to set boundaries. You can tell the other person specifically what you commit to doing and what you expect from them going forward. It could be as simple as telling them you’re open to hearing other viewpoints and you expect them to openly share their frustrations/concerns with you.

5. Be firm.

Yep. Follow through. In #4, you are establishing your expectations and in this step, you do what you say you’re going to do. Just so you’re prepared, this might take more than one pass to see a difference.

6. Be selective.

If all else fails, choose to spend as little time with the individual as possible. Passive-aggressive behavior is particularly damaging because despite your best efforts, the other person insists that everything is fine. Again, I say it. Everything is not fine. And you are not crazy.

Do what you can to remove yourself from the situation.

Arming yourself with tactics/strategies is the way to stay focused on the only thing you can control when dealing with people. (And no, I’m sorry to say that’s it not the other person. It’s never the other person.)

You are the only one you can control, so take back the power and do what you can.

I’d love to hear from you! What other strategies/tactics have you used to deflect passive-aggressive behavior? Have you had a person that you simply couldn’t get to come around? Share in the comments or over on the Facebook discussion!

I need these strategies because for real, I hardly need another reason to feel crazy…I’ve got that covered on my own.

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