For many people, the prospect of a confrontation is simply terrifying. Perhaps because they are afraid of becoming the target of anger, or because they feel uncomfortable with the idea that they can damage the relationship. Passive-aggressive people know this and use it to their advantage. In fact, they often choose their "victims" because they know that they would not dare to expose the anger behind their words and attitudes.
The bad news for those who avoid confrontation is that, if passive-aggressive behavior is not addressed, it will eventually create a web around itself. The good news is that a positive confrontation can break that vicious cycle of manipulation. It's about deciding not to silently accept another person's passive-aggressive behavior.
Why is passive-aggressive behavior not a strategy?
A passive-aggressive behavior is that which hides anger, resentment, anger and even hatred at the base, in order to be "politically correct". However, his goal is not to be assertive, but to cause harm to the other by avoiding a direct confrontation. In reality, it is a form of abuse in which the person purposely behaves in an elusive, ambiguous and evasive way.
At first glance it may seem that this behavior is more functional than the aggressive coping style, but the truth is that it does as much harm as pure and simple aggression. In fact, not only does it affect interpersonal relationships since the person generates malaise on his path, but it also increases the risk of suffering from all stress-related diseases. Several studies have linked passive-aggressive coping style with an increased propensity to suffer from personality disorders, heart attacks and strokes.
In many cases, the person develops a passive-aggressive attitude because he does not know how to relate in any other way. He understands that aggression is not well regarded on a social level, but he doesn't know how to assertively and maturely channel negative emotions. That's why it hides them.
But it must be clear that passive-aggressive behavior does not solve any problems but only creates new conflicts, it is not even useful for the person to channel emotions and feelings since, to achieve his goal, he must keep them under strict control.
7 strategies used by passive-aggressive people
1. The silent attitude. It consists of completely ignoring the other person, refusing to talk to him or treating him extremely coldly. In the most extreme cases, even its presence is ignored, trying to make it seem accidental, even if in reality it is deliberate behavior.
2. The subtle insults. We all recognize a direct insult, but the insults of passive-aggressive people are difficult to identify. Often these camouflage the insult with a compliment, but when you stop to think about it, you realize it's a disguised insult to hurt your weaknesses. In fact, one of the favorite tools of passive-aggressive people is sarcasm, so you are left with the question of whether they have really insulted you or not.
3. Lunatic behavior. It is annoying to be around people who are always in a bad mood or complain constantly. Passive-aggressive people do not respond directly, but they get angry and do not say it, so they saturate the environment with enormous tension, making everyone around them feel uncomfortable, without them understanding exactly what happened.
4. Stubbornness. Being stubborn can be a personality trait and can even be helpful in some situations, but sometimes it becomes a way to punish others. In this case, you will notice that the person clings to his position, even if he realizes that he has no arguments in his favor, he is doing it only to annoy you.
5. Sabotage. Since passive-aggressive people do not solve problems in a mature way, they often resort to indirect tactics to do harm. These people will never directly say that they don't want to do something, but they will resort to sabotage to not get involved or make the project fail. They may also resort to blackmail, albeit subtly, to limit your freedom of action and decision.
6. Victimization. The passive-aggressive person does not seek a direct confrontation, so often plays the role of the victim to generate the sense of guilt in others and be able to manipulate them.
7. The ignorant resistance. When you try to expose a passive-aggressive person, they will never take responsibility for their words or attitudes. He will deny having said what he is accused of and will say that you made it up. This is a particularly frustrating attitude.
How to deal with a person who has passive-aggressive behavior?
1. Identify the behavior. The first step is to identify passive-aggressive behavior and understand that it is disguised hostility. We should not be fooled by the apparent harmlessness because it hides a disguised aggression.
2. Ask for clarification. Passive-aggressive people often abandon their manipulation tactics when they realize they have been caught. There is no need to get angry or raise your tone, but when these people resort to sarcasm or subtle insults, you can simply ask them, "What did you mean?" Asking them to be more specific puts them on the ropes, so that's usually enough to stop them.
3. Unmask the emotion. In every relationship there are two parts, which means that to continue the passive-aggressive behavior the person must count on your "complicity". So, don't follow his game and, instead, unmask the emotion that underlies his words or attitudes. You can tell him: "I feel that you are annoyed and angry".
4. Manage rejection. When you expose passive-aggressive behavior, the person's first reaction is to deny their intentions. That's normal since he doesn't want a direct confrontation. At this point it is important not to feel frustrated and to resort to an assertive communication style. It is not about being right but about resolving a conflict in which both must win. Therefore, when faced with denial, you can tell him: "from your words I deduced that you were angry, because if I were in your place I would be angry too", in this way you show empathy and make the person let his guard down.
5. Set limits. There are times when there is no alternative but to resort to a direct confrontation style. If so, you need to make it clear, without getting angry, that you will not tolerate any kind of emotional blackmail, victimization, or sarcasm. When you do, it's important that you put yourself in the place of that person, who probably doesn't know how to relate any other way. Highlight his strengths and emphasize your willingness to dialogue, but with respect, avoiding manipulation.