How to Deal with Passive Aggressive People
by Judith Orloff
Passive aggression is a form of anger, except the anger is expressed with a smile instead of the typical expressions. Passive aggressive people are experts at sugar coating hostility. They often use procrastination, bumbling inefficiency, and the exasperating excuse of “I forgot” to avoid commitments or let you down. They appear eager to please, but know exactly how to make you mad. They can be infuriating because of their seductive or innocent veneers.
Here are some examples:
Why do people become passive aggressive?
They’re typically raised in families where it’s not safe to express anger--they’re never taught to communicate it in a healthy manner. They adapt by channeling these feelings into other less obvious behaviors; this gives them a sense of power and control. They’re masters at shirking responsibility by hurting you in ways that appear unintentional or unavoidable. Passive aggressive people operate by stuffing anger, being accommodating, and then indirectly sticking it to you. When confronted, they’ll drive you crazy with a variety of “the dog ate my homework” excuses, blaming others, or yessing you to death without changing. Since many are unaware of their anger, they feel misunderstood or that you’re holding them to unfair standards.
Here are tips on how to communicate with passive aggressive people from my book The Ecstasy of Surrender. To learn about other types of draining people read my article The Emotional Vampire Survival Guide
Learning to Communicate With Passive Aggressive People
1.Trust Your Gut Reactions
With these types you may question yourself since their anger is so masked. It’s important to recognize the pattern. Their mixed messages will test your patience. So when you doubt yourself, take a breath and try to let the doubt go. Tell yourself, “I deserve to be treated more lovingly. I will trust my gut reaction when I feel jabbed.” This affirmation helps you release doubt so you’d don’t convince yourself you’re imagining things. Then move forward to improve communication. You must surrender the idea that these people will change without you speaking up. They aren’t motivated to change unless someone calls them on their behavior. When it’s not appropriate to be direct, such as with a boss who might retaliate or fire you, keep letting the zingers go by accepting your powerlessness to change him.
2. Address the behavior
Focus on one issue at a time so people don’t feel attacked or overwhelmed. Let’s say a friend is always late. In a calm, firm tone say to her, “I would greatly appreciate it if you can be on time when we go out to dinner. I feel uncomfortable waiting in a restaurant alone.” Then notice her reaction. She might say, “You’re right. I’m always running behind. I’ll try to be more organized.” Then see if the lateness improves. If she is evasive or makes excuses, request clarification about how to solve the problem. If you can’t get a straight answer, confront that too. Being specific pins down passive aggressive people. If nothing changes, keep setting limits or stop making dinner plans. With a close friend who continues to be late, it’s always an option to accept and acclimate to his or her shortcoming when the pros of the relationship outweigh the cons.
As a psychiatrist I teach my patients to address passive aggressive behavior directly as the person may not be aware of the impact on you since they are short on empathy. Hopefully you won’t have many passive aggressive people in your life, but if you do, clear communication is a form of empowerment.
(Excerpt from Dr. Judith Orloff's national bestseller The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life)
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About the Author
Judith Orloff, MD is author of the New York Times bestseller, Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life, upon which this article is based. In the book she educates readers about empaths, highly sensitive people, and offers strategies for anyone who wants to avoid narcissists and transform difficult emotions to positive ones. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist and an empath who combines the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths (highly sensitive people). Connect with Judith on Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about empaths and the power of intuition, as well as Dr. Orloff's books and workshop schedule, visit her website. Republished with explicit written permission from the author. Join her empath Facebook community for sensitive souls here.