Dealing with passive aggressive people can be fraught with difficulties and if you get it badly wrong, you could end up confused and frustrated, which is why you need to understand how passive aggressive people operate. You will meet this personality type in many different situations, from the workplace to relationships, but in all cases, they are the person who tiptoes around an issue and refuses to deal with problems directly.
How can you spot a passive aggressive person?
Passive aggressive people tend to be very manipulative in their dealings with others. They sulk, give you the silent treatment, do not do as instructed at work if they don’t like the task on offer, complain about you behind your back whilst smiling to your face, use sarcasm to deflect confrontation, and generally be extremely annoying.
Dealing with passive aggressive people
Firstly, you need to be able to recognise the behavior of a passive aggressive person for what it is—an avoidance of confrontation and intimacy. If you try and deal with them in their terms, you will get into a power struggle that you cannot possibly win.
Secondly, try not to give in to your feelings of frustration and irritation—this will only play into the hands of the passive aggressive person. Instead, point out to the person how they are behaving. They almost certainly won’t want to hear such home truths, but it will probably make them back down.
It can be helpful to try and see things from their point of view. If there are inconsistencies in their argument or behaviour, point them out and ask for advice on how to solve the problem. Stay calm and do not lose your temper, no matter how crazy the person makes you feel.
Pay close attention to the body language of a passive aggressive person as their actions often speak much louder than their words. If you notice that they are not doing something, despite being asked, point this out to them and voice your feelings about how their actions are making you feel. It is always better to trust what a passive aggressive person does rather than listen to what they are saying—most passive aggressive people rarely say what they are thinking.
Encourage communication and reassure the passive aggressive person that you are open to negative feedback. Tell them they can share their thoughts and you are willing to compromise about the issue.
Dealing with passive aggressive people in a relationship
If the passive aggressive person is your partner in a relationship, reassure the person that you care about them and are not looking for a fight. Try and resist the urge to have an all-out screaming match as this will do nothing to encourage communication within the relationship. Explain to them that talking is the best way to solve problems and that you want them to share their feelings of upset and displeasure with you.
Dealing with passive aggressive people in the workplace
Passive aggressive people can be immensely disruptive in the workplace, and if the problem is not dealt with, it can seriously affect morale. Communication is the key—do not let such behaviour go on without bringing it out into the open. Tell the person nicely that you can see they are unhappy with a situation and ask what you can do to resolve their problem—very often, this is enough to reduce conflict.