FIRST: Something to Help Us Laugh at Ourselves a Little Bit and at the
Passive Aggressive Relationship Patterns We Put Up with (“Awaken with JP!”)
WHAT IF SOMEONE IS BEING PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE
IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU?
What exactly does passive-aggressive behavior look like? How do we steer clear of that relational quicksand that can trap us when hanging around a passive aggressive individual? A recent PsyBlog summary of the main ways to spot and handle passive aggressive behavior, pointed out a few helpful strategies that really deserve a closer look and more explanation. Here are some of the high points of the article:
HOW TO SPOT IT….AND SPOTTING IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT AND MOST DIFFICULT PART!
“Some people find it very hard to express their concerns directly.
Here are some of the ways that passive-aggressive people attempt to communicate their irritation:
Deliberately being inefficient.
Trying to blame others.
Doing something just too late to be useful.
Doing something badly so it is not useful.
Saying ‘I forgot’, when they didn’t.
DO YOU RECOGNIZE PASSIVE BEHAVIOR
WHEN YOU SEE IT?
If you’ve got a “PA” (“Passive Aggressive”) in your life, you could probably add a few more versions of this kind of communication you have come to recognize as aggressive; especially when coming from these conflict-avoidant friends and family members. Their inability to express their more aggressive feelings directly can create a crazy-making vortex, pulling on our own aggressive feelings. All of a sudden we find ourselves having reactions to these subtle, or not-so-subtle, messages of non-confrontational confrontation! But trying to stay clear and address what is going on the room with this average to unhealthy expression of personality can feel a little bit like punching at pudding.
WHAT TO DO:
Here are some expanded thoughts on the tips from the article, that can help:
SPOT IT! Seeing the passive-aggressive behavior in the first place — this is the most important thing to remembering to steer clear of the crazy-making vortex! As the PsyBlog article points out, however, it is also the most difficult thing to do at times. Here’s where our own “feel-feet-on-the-floor” presence, our grounding in reality instead of all the distracting behavior and comments coming from the passive aggressive individual, can give us better contact with our “gut” instincts for handling the situation well. Ask yourself, “What is my gut telling me?”
DON’T PLAY THE GAME! Avoid getting involved in the “C’mon,-decode-my-behavior!” passive-aggressive game. Honestly, their behavior invites us into interpreting and reacting to the aggression “between the lines.” But if we let our personality’s autopilot RSVP, it’s a no-win for everyone in the room. The key? We notice how we are really feeling emotionally; this will be a quicker and more productive path out of the craziness. What is our heart decoding?
DON’T RETALIATE! Our favorite “tactics,” passive-aggressive or otherwise, are just strategies our personality is coming up with in the moment to protect us from some perceived ego threat. Tactics don’t invite others into presence, they just lower the level of health for all involved. Instead, we can take a breath, take a moment, and choose to get in touch with our real hopes for this person and the relationship. This is not a strategy of the personality; it is a moment of real contact with reality that can move us beyond tactics into insights.
BE DIRECT & TACTFUL! We can ask the person, as positively as possible, if there is an issue. Here, we might even express our curiosity about any possible underlying motives for their behavior. And then we let go of the outcome; that’s important. It’s just an invitation to presence; they are free to say “no.” But our side of the relational “street” is clean!
STAY CALM! Yes, the experts agree, we need to calm to come up with our best ideas and think clearly. The most powerful shifts come when we can stay relaxed and calm at all times with our PA! We all need to learn how to self-regulate our physiological and emotional reactivity in relationships, in order to really listen and brainstorm effective solutions with others. Breathing slowly and sensing the body can really tell our nervous system that it’s okay to let go of the tension. Slow eye blinking, tapping, and other “Emotional Freedom” techniques can also be a big help here.
AND THE BIGGIE….DON’T EXPECT HIM/HER TO CHANGE: Do not expect transformation. There are deep and painful reasons that this behavior is so embedded for our friend or loved one. Only our ego is under the impression that we can actually control the change process in another human being. That is not reality. And it’s a fantasy that sets us up for more quicksand moments with our PA!
FINALLY, SHOW THEM! Demonstrate that the best way to communicate is directly, NOT passive-aggressively. We need to REWARD that direct behavior from our PA, whenever we see it. This means actively NOT punishing them when they finally tell us what’s really been bugging them all these years! It was a hard step for them, and a healthy shift of direction for their personality pattern. And, essentially, it’s an act of love. As we really take that act of love in, really see it for what it is, we become an invitation to the other to drop their passive-aggressive routines!
God bless you on the relational adventure ahead!