Passive-aggressive persons use manipulative tactics to get what they need or want. They often try to control and impose guilt or punish other people indirectly. Those who suffer from Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder are often irritable, resentful, blame others for their problems, feel that too much is required of them and lack self-esteem. Some people use passive-aggressive tactics without realising it. Help control passive-aggressive behaviour in your friends and family members to ensure a calmer, happier life.
Identify passive-aggressive behaviour and its triggers. Passive-aggressive behaviour is usually the result of frustration. A student's trigger may be a difficult math assignment, followed by tearing up his paper in frustration, which is indicative of passive-aggressive behaviour; your spouse's trigger could be unfinished chores, causing banging sounds from pots and pans or broken dishes.
Stop passive-aggressive behaviour before it starts, whenever possible. Do something to decrease the frustration level, such as assisting with the difficult or unfinished work.
Remain calm. The person's behaviour is not personal or a measure of your worth; it is a manipulative technique that enables him to get what he wants.
Ask your passive-aggressive friend to join you in a private place for a conversation.
Protect yourself from being manipulated. Inform your friend that you want to talk about your feelings and invite him to do the same. If he begins harassing you, walk away and try again later. You do not have to defend your right to an adult conversation.
Directly confront the negative behaviour. For instance, you can say: "I can hear you banging the dishes around. Are you all right? Are you angry that the dishes aren't done?" This may incite an assertive, positive response and decrease the tension.
Use assertive communication techniques. State how the person's behaviour makes you feel and suggest a solution to the problem. For example, a husband might not like his wife to spend time with friends, so he comes home late. In this case, a wife could say: "When you aren't home on time to watch the children so I can attend my book club, I feel hurt and disappointed. Will you please call me if you are going to be late?" Be sure to focus on feelings, not on negative behaviour.
Attack one problem at a time, not everything at once. Begin with the biggest problems first.
Develop a contingency plan for a person who uses passive-aggressive behaviour to procrastinate or not complete undesirable tasks. Find a babysitter for your children, if your husband is always late. Allow a co-worker or a child to suffer the consequences of unfinished work.
Encourage people who recognise their passive-aggressive behaviour to seek professional counselling, if possible.
- Virginia Commonwealth University: Assertive Behavior
- University of Minnesota: "Passive Aggressive Behavior... Preventing and Dealing With Challenging Behavior"; Karen Smith
- The Anger Coach: Three Ways to Deal With a Passive-Aggressive Person
- The Anger Coach: Control Family Anger with Assertive Communication
- New Living Magazine: "Dealing With the Passive-Aggressive Personality"; Dr. Les Carter