Passive aggression comes from a space of anger, and frustration. It can be triggered when we feel as though someone has taken advantage of us, or by sadness or hurt. It is wrapped up in a lot of emotions. Many of us behave in a passive-aggressive manner because we feel (real or imagined) that we can’t be honest and say what we feel.
This belief results in us protecting ourselves by trying to express ourselves without expressing ourselves. For example, we try to show that we’re frustrated without explicitly saying we’re frustrated. It’s this delicate balance of wanting people to know we’re upset, but feeling like they can’t really know we’re upset.
We can prevent ourselves from being passive-aggressive by speaking up. Here are some tips:
Try not to use words like “always,” and “every time,” just focus on that moment. You can say, “I was trying to say something, and you cut me off. Can I finish what I need to say?” or “It sounds like you’re trying to be helpful, but you’re telling me what to do. I need to listen to myself in this situation.”
Even if you don’t know exactly how to explain what you’re feeling, you can say, “Oh, I didn’t like that.” or “Something about that made me feel off.”
Remember that when you say something you end up feeling less like you have betrayed yourself by keeping quiet.
Recognize that folks may not realize they’re offending you prior to you telling them. We all have different humor and different pain points. They may need you to say, “Jokes like that aren’t funny to me.”
Be honest about what works for you. Speak your truth even if the person receiving it may not understand it. If the person is insisting that everyone else loves their jokes but you don’t, that’s ok. Let them know that’s just not your brand of humor.
Take preventative measures where appropriate. If you know you are going to have an interaction with someone that has the potential to trigger your frustration, you can warn them beforehand. For instance, if you are going to the library with a friend who is always loud and that bothers you, you can say, “Hey, we’re about to go into the library, remember to keep your voice down.” Prevent your irritation where you can.
If you notice yourself continuously annoyed by something, it is better to say something than to bottle up your feelings and end up having a passive-aggressive episode.
How comfortable are you with telling people that their behavior is frustrating for you? If doing so makes you uncomfortable, what is the root of your discomfort?
How do you feel about being on the receiving end of passive-aggressive behavior?
3 Steps to Bring Up An Issue In Your Relationship Without Starting a Fight, by Rachel Wright, LMFT, in Mind Body Green.
We Own This City. This show comes from the creators of The Wire. It’s a cop drama about some really shady police officers. I love cop dramas and I am really enjoying this one. You can watch it on HBO.
Do you have trouble telling people when you are frustrated by their behavior? What prompts you to behave in a passive-aggressive manner? Tell me about it in the comments!