Passive aggressive personalities tend to look like they’re responding appropriately to work and social demands but actually passively resist – as in the spouse who promises to clean the garage every weekend but you’re still parking in the driveway. These are 10 tips for dealing with these issues:
1. Diagnosis: Don’t diagnose them. You’re probably not a psychiatrist and it’s not even an official diagnosis anymore. Calling someone passive aggressive makes you look silly and will probably get you off to a very bad start.
2. Compassion: Their conduct is probably causing even more hardship for them than it is for you. And they may not be fully conscious or in control of their actions. Worse, it can sometimes be linked to a childhood where it was dangerous to show anger or any emotion openly.
3. Set a Good Example: Passive aggressive behavior is often linked to difficulties with trust. So you can help mitigate conflicts by being genuinely trustworthy, helpful and open to feedback.
4. Praise: Passive aggressive behavior is also sometimes linked to an increased responsiveness to praise. So be generous in offering honest praise whenever appropriate.
5. Examine Your Own Anger: Inappropriately expressed anger is probably the most unpleasant aspect of passive aggressive behavior. Evaluate your own anger to be sure you’re not expressing it in harmful ways yourself that could trigger more hostility and defensiveness.
6. Focus on Problem Solving: Dealing constructively with conflict is difficult for most people so the usual guidelines apply in dealing with passive aggressive behavior. They just become even more important. Stay focused on problem solving, and avoid nagging or rehashing old grievances. Don’t make assumptions about the other person’s motives and don’t say destructive things in anger.
7. Know Your Own Limits and Communicate Them: Being in a relationship with a passive aggressive personality may subject you to sarcasm, irritability, irresponsibility and the dreaded silent treatment. With tact and candor, let them know how their conduct affects you. Hopefully it will encourage them to change or you need to develop your own methods to cope with these issues.
8. Minimize Complaining: Passive aggressive personalities usually have a pessimistic outlook. Rather than complaining about people and situations, seek direct and constructive solutions.
9. Don’t Set Yourself Up For Disappointment: If someone often promises to do things but does not follow through, make a back-up plan for yourself. Better yet, start off with more realistic expectations. If it appears unlikely that the whole garage will get cleaned in your lifetime, negotiate to start off with removing some boxes or clearing some shelves.
10. Assess the Relationship As a Whole and Act Accordingly: Honestly assess the positives and negatives of the relationship where you perceive passive aggressive behavior. If you cannot interact with somebody without getting excessively disturbed, you may need to limit your interactions.