5 Tips for Dealing with Passive Aggressive Behavior

Passive aggressive behavior doesn't have a passive impact on communications. It's non-verbal aggression that manifests in negative behavior. Common methods of passive aggression are: sarcasm, the silent treatment, withholding of praise, being critical, running late, delays in responding to communication or completing work.

5. It's Not You, It's Me.

You know the old saying, "It's not you, it's me." It sounds trite, but sometimes it's true. When we argue about subjects important to us, we can lose focus and forget proper listening skills, even civility. So the first question is..."Is the passive aggressive behavior just how they are? Or is it their way to creating space in a conversation where we're being overbearing, interrupting, dismissive, etc.?" So, check in with yourself first to see whether your passion/opinions have led you to some less than ideal behavior.  

4. Listening Skills 101

Some folks do not feel heard, even if you insist you are "listening." And when people don't feel heard, they can get frustrated and throw up barriers in the conversation, including being passive aggressive. Basic listening skills include open body language, a non-judgmental facial expression, and open ended questions such as "Tell me more about that." or "What would you like to happen?" The trick is that you have to actually listen to them and try to incorporate their language into your clarifying questions. "It sounds like you're frustrated that the bridal shower is upstate, where it is difficult for you to get to. Would it help if we coordinated travel arrangements?"

3. Take a Moment, or a Break

Conflict ignites our emotions and can trigger certain reactions. We all have different ways of dealing with those emotions, given the situation. A brief time out or moment of silence can help you regroup. It also gives the other person the space to think things through and the time to make a more active statement. Depending on the urgency of the conversation, you may even suggest a longer break, like a day or week.

2. Set Clear Boundaries

Set boundaries around which behaviors you won't tolerate. And stick with them. Let's say you and your friends are planning a trip to Las Vegas, but one friend REALLY wants to go to Miami. She's "fine" with the group decision, but it takes her days to respond to group emails and she finds a way to pick a fight on the conference calls. Don't let her derail the trip and degrade the planning process. Let her know what schedule the group will use to book travel arrangements and stick with it.

1. Futurecasting

The quickest, best tool! Ask him/her/them to articulate what they want to happen. For example, "It feels like we are going around in circles, could you tell me what you'd like to happen?" or "Let's pause here; If you could waive a magic wand, what would you want right now?" By putting it on the other person to articulate their needs, you no longer have the pressure to figure it out. Once they voice their best scenario, you two can then discuss possibilities to get there.

Need more help? Mediation or conflict coaching may be a good fit for your needs. Call today!