How to Handle Passive Aggressive People

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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:

 Your spouse brings home yet another gallon of ice cream after you’ve specifically

asked him or her not to do this because you are trying to lose weight.

 A friend keeps arriving an hour late for a dinner date leaving you waiting over and

over again.

 A co-worker keeps promising to help with a project but never comes through.

 

Passive aggressive behavior ranges from simply irritating to manipulative and

punishing. This is different from occasionally being absent-minded, lazy, or busy. Passive

aggression is repetitive and has a covert angry edge to it. Passive aggressive people

promise anything, then do exactly as they please. They hide anger beneath a compliant

exterior. They don’t give straight answers and have vague responses such as “I’ll get back

to you.” Then they don’t follow through so you must keep reminding them. Sometimes their

remarks can be hurtful, especially so because they come at you sideways– you don’t know

what hit you.

 

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 Power of Surrender.

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.

 

How to Spot an Energy Vampire

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqYWslvqnKU

 

Judith Orloff, MD Bio

Judith Orloff MD is author of the national bestseller The Power of Surrender: Let Go &

Energize Your Relationships, Success & Well Being, upon which this article is based.

Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, intuitive healer, and New York Times bestselling author who

synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition,

energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths (highly sensitive

people). An Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, she passionately

believes that the future of medicine involves integrating all this wisdom to achieve

emotional freedom and total wellness. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The

Today Show, CNN, Forbes, the Oprah Magazine and USA Today.

 

To learn more about being an empath visit http://www.drjudithorloff.com/empath-support- community.

About Judith Orloff MD

Judith Orloff Judith Orloff MD is author of the national bestseller The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, intuitive healer, and New York Times bestselling author who synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths (highly sensitive people). An Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, she passionately believes that the future of medicine involves integrating all this wisdom to achieve emotional freedom and total wellness. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Forbes, the Oprah Magazine and USA Today. To learn more about being an empath, visit http://www.drjudithorloff.com/empath-support-community.

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