My previous blogs on assertiveness seem to have struck a chord with many people! In this one, I am going to talk about a negative behaviour that most of us have demonstrated at some time. Being passive aggressive! So what do we mean when we use this term.

Let’s start by using a potential real-life example. In a recent series of The Apprentice, Jessica, who describes herself as a female Jim Carrey, says I am really chilled then I flip, like an elastic band all of a sudden! We have also seen her break down in tears and have to go outside when as Project Manager things were not going so well for her. Both of these can be classic passive-aggressive behaviour.  Whilst the show is a bit of a pressure cooker environment, it probably drives individuals to behave in extreme ways, and, of course, it is edited to show us the most entertaining snippets, however, Jessica is not alone in behaving this way, both at work and in personal relationships. The difficulty is that if we don’t feel heard or taken seriously and we don’t find an outlet for our feelings of frustration then like a geyser they continue to intermittently boil up until they burst out with great force!

So let’s dig a little deeper into what is passive aggressive behaviour.

How do I know if I am passive aggressive? 

You might be being passive aggressive if you:

  • Don’t communicate clearly when there is a problem. So instead of being assertive and stating clearly your thoughts or feelings, you say something like ‘Fine’ or ‘whatever’ to close the subject down and go off fuming.
  • Make wistful statements rather than direct requests. So you have always wanted to be invited to the companies Awards night. Your boss tells you that Grant has been invited to attend as a representative from your team and in response, you say ‘That’s great, I have always wanted to go to that, I’m sure he will have a great time.’
  • Sulk or go silent when things don’t go your way. The other person may be aware of how you feel or they may be in the dark! However, it is often like they need to be able to read your mind to know what it is you want as you are not going to tell them.
  • Obstruct others by deliberately stalling or preventing something from happening. This could include things like, not inviting certain people to a meeting or not getting them a coffee and then stating something like “I thought you already knew about it’ or ‘I thought you already had one’ when you knew this wasn’t the case.
  • Using jokes and sarcasm to have a dig at someone and then when the other person doesn’t like it saying “I was only joking’ or ‘can’t you take a joke?’.

Of course, this behaviour can also happen online now and the distance and anonymity can allow people the opportunity to be even crueller.

What can I do about it if I am passive aggressive? 

So if this is you, then you can learn to behave in a different more effective way.

  1. The first thing you need to do is become aware of the underlying feelings that are causing your behaviour.
  2. Then beware of the impact of your behaviour on others. How does this make you feel?
  3. Start to take responsibility for your actions and your feelings. Stop blaming others for the way you feel.
  4. Learn to be assertive. Being assertive will help you state in a clear and honest way what you want to happen, whilst recognising that the other person has the right to say No.

How should I handle a passive aggressive person?

If you work with or are in a relationship with someone who is passive aggressive then here’s a couple of things you can do to help you cope:

  • Start to become more aware of the exact behaviour and what triggers it. This will be useful information when you decide that you need to discuss the behaviour with the person as the use of specific examples will be very helpful.
  • Try to be understanding and recognise that they probably don’t feel good about the way they behave.
  • When you decide the time is right to talk with the individual, then use the examples you have experienced. You need to make them aware of the how their behaviour affects you and what you would like them to do instead.
  • Finally, you need to make sure that you don’t play a part in causing their behaviour. Be honest! Do you ever deliberately say or do something knowing the impact it will have on them.

If you need help being more assertive then get in touch

I would love to know about your experiences, please leave your comments below.