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8 Tips on Dealing With Passive-Aggressive People

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8 Tips on Dealing With Passive-Aggressive People

“A passive-aggressive person is basically angry, but he or she is expressing anger in indirect ways,” says Loriann Oberlin. Dealing with somebody who is unhappy but unwilling to talk about it directly can be confusing, even infuriating.

Ask a person who is in passive-aggressive mode to complete a task, for example, and the “positive” response you get (“Of course, I would love to make 200 copies of this memo!”) may be so full of unspoken resistance that you wonder if the job will get done at all.

A passive-aggressive co-worker’s thinly veiled resentment and hostility can sap the energy of a whole group. The net result — on morale, teamwork, communication and results — can be devastating. That’s why Oberlin suggests taking decisive steps in coping with this type of high-maintenance colleague.

Barriers To Overcome

  • Confusing communication. Passive-aggressive people might say one thing (like “Sure, sounds great!”) and mean quite another, which can be disorienting and disconcerting. You may simply have no idea how to respond.
  • Mixed messages. You may be tempted to consider a passive-aggressive individual’s apparent agreement as a commitment: She said she’d handle the project, didn’t she? And yet, on some level, you may sense there’s a very real possibility that she will not do what she “agreed” to do — or that she’ll do it but resent it, perhaps making you wish you’d never asked.
  • Fighting fire with fire. Since the passive-aggressive person is angry to begin with, he or she is likely to meet anger with even greater defiance. “You won’t get very far if you roll your eyes or get sarcastic in return,” says Oberlin. You’ll just escalate the situation.
  • Bad boundaries. “Passive-aggressive people tend to seek out people-pleasers,” says Oberlin, “because they know that they can push their buttons.” If you’re conflict-averse or have trouble setting boundaries, passive-aggressive people may tend to target you, making you the focal point of their hostilities. They may create dramas that directly affect you at work.
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By Jon Spayde, Experience Life

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Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

109 comments

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10:40AM PDT on May 27, 2014

good advice to stay calm, be clear, and let them stew

9:38PM PST on Jan 12, 2014

Really dealing with a lot of passive aggressive people lately. It's hard not to react, but it makes a huge difference to how I feel. I've realized it has nothing to do with me. It rarely does. I'm so understanding of people's faults, a people pleaser to the extent of being the martyr. This is draining, and I will no longer take responsibility for other people's stuff. They will heal and look at themselves when they are ready. Learning to be assertive but not aggressive, drawing boundaries for myself and treating myself lovingly, and I come first, before anyone else. Learning self-love. Like attracts like, right? :)


I've noticed I've been passive-aggressive in the past, through self-punishment, dependency, addictions, cutting, deliberate weakness to get attention, whether it was bad or good, I wanted attention. This has kept me in a state as a victim, and not where I want to be anymore.

Coming to some realizations, on why, I'm such a people pleaser, want everyone to be okay....but it's not my responsibility. I can't change them. I've punished myself enough. It's time to take responsibility for my life, it's not anyone else's responsibility anymore.

1:30PM PST on Jan 4, 2014

Thanks.

2:44PM PST on Dec 29, 2013

Thank you

7:04AM PST on Dec 25, 2013

I won't deal with passive aggressiveness. I ignore it... instinctively I know I'm supposed to react so I don't... silence is another way to communicate and that's my method. It leaves the passive aggressive person alone with their own words and thoughts and right where they need to be.... thinking about what they say and why.... "It's not my problem... It's YOURS."

10:04PM PST on Dec 22, 2013

Thanks for sharing

7:19AM PST on Nov 11, 2013

i was passive-aggressive, until it was pointed out to me. wow, i was a great martyr! very happy to say i've joined the ranks of assertive(r)s. come to find out the one who pointed out my p-a was just mean, controlling and was aggressively narcissistic.

4:52AM PST on Nov 8, 2013

Ways to interact with others as well

10:09AM PDT on Aug 10, 2013

I appreciate the advice and especially appreciate that people
share my frustration. I just want to choke them and scream
at them "SPIT IT OUT!!!"
I hate this behavior and people that engage in it.
I guess the advice is solid, but still.. it seems that there could
be more effective way to derail it.
It's a touchy situation.. because the nature of the behavior is
lack of ownership.. you can't confront it tangibly because of that.
And the most damage becomes that once someone does this..
just one time.. they are forever suspect for doing it whether they
really are or not.

It's a love hate thing.. Most people I don't love.. I just leave them
alone.. More often it's family and friends.. other wise you wouldn't
have to care about it.

2:49AM PDT on May 22, 2013

Thank you :)

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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