Manage passive-aggressive behavior

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Louise Hay
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Manage passive-aggressive behavior

Learning to manage passive-aggressive behavior is the key to avoiding unnecessary conflicts.

Last update: April 02, 2022

Managing passive-aggressive behavior, one of the most problematic, is not always easy. Whether it concerns us or a loved one, it undoubtedly represents a serious obstacle to relationships.

It is therefore essential to learn how to manage passive-aggressive behavior. Let's see, first of all, how to recognize it and then the strategies that we can implement. So, when you are faced with a passive-aggressive person, you will understand what is happening and you can act accordingly.



What is passive-aggressive behavior?

We know how to recognize an aggressive person. In general it is such who often uses the attack as a tool or means. Aggression can be physical or verbal, direct or disguised. On the other hand, there can be different reasons behind this behavior such as anger, stress or anxiety.

Once this is established, we can say that a passive-aggressive person she may not be able to deal directly with what is bothering her. At the same time, however, he is unable to contain his discomfort. She tends, therefore, to alternate moments of self-control with loss of control, ending up destabilizing those around her. If he feels anger, he may manifest it through inconsistent and aggressive behaviors that betray all his discomfort.

This course of action does not help solve problems. Learning to manage passive-aggressive behavior is the key to avoiding unnecessary conflicts.

For example, a passive-aggressive person would never say they are angry. Instead, use indirect messages to show your anger, such as stopping talking or making a sarcastic comment every now and then. If his intention is to resolve the conflict, he will never succeed. However, solving the problem is often not her goal, but it is to let us know that she is unhappy.



How to manage passive-aggressive behavior

We propose two strategies for dealing with this type of attitude. If you learn to master them, you will find that passive-aggressive people will cease to have power over you.

1. Ignore their attempt to get attention

The most direct way to manage passive-aggressive behavior is to ignore its manifestations or at least not to reinforce them. Those who act in this way seek, in essence, to attract attention. If he sees that his course of action is not getting the desired result, it is possible that he will start talking to you more explicitly.

In psychological terms we would say that our goal is the extinction of behavior. Returning to the example above, the sarcastic comments or the attempt to make "emptiness around us" follows our reinforcement.

We know that sulking or being unpleasant is not helpful in resolving the conflict. It may seem so, however, if the person does not have another way to attract attention in their behavioral repertoire. This is why in these cases it is important to "educate".

2. Use assertiveness

The word assertiveness has become fashionable in recent years. It is certainly very useful for solving any type of problem or conflict situation. In the management of passive-aggressive behavior it can be one of the best allies.


The next time you deal with someone with this attitude, ask them openly what is going on. For this strategy to work, you must remain calm in the likely discussion that follows. When a passive-aggressive person is questioned in this way, she tends to attack when she expresses what is bothering her.

With the cards on the table it will be easier to resolve a conflict that would otherwise remain latent. It's like having a pebble in your shoe that makes us suffer without understanding why. By provoking discussion, you will gain valuable information in resolving the conflict, as well as accomplishing important pedagogical work. Through your help, the other will understand that there is another way to manage anger, sadness or stress.


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