Do you have a passive-aggressive person in your life? If so, you deal with a lot of frustration and confusion. Let’s explore this concept together and learn how a Christian counselor can help you handle a passive-aggressive person.
Passive aggression is when someone expresses their anger or displeasure in indirect ways, rather than in open and assertive ways. A pattern of passive aggression in relationships can cause many problems.
If you have experienced any of the following situations, you may be dealing with a passive-aggressive person.
- Using a sugary-sweet tone to make a critical remark
- Saying they forgot to do something at work when you have proof that they were not working
- Making a backhanded compliment, such as, “That’s a nice engagement ring; you can always upgrade later.”
- Manipulating wishes, such as, “I wish that you would clean up the house right now, but I know you’re too busy to do it.”
- Playing the victim, such as saying, “You know you’re the only one who can do this for me.”
- Leaving laundry on the floor when you’ve had multiple discussions about putting it in the laundry basket.
- Inviting an entire friend group to a party but excluding the person who is the target.
- Brooding about a perceived infraction of the past, then giving short answers when asked if they are okay (which shows that they are not).
- Sabotaging you by gossiping, withholding important information, or putting you in a compromising position
- Being stubborn and punishing you by not participating when everyone else is supportive
- Agreeing to attend an event knowing that they will not show up
- Intentionally not calling when they are running late
- Procrastinating on agreed-upon chores
- Slowly diminishing eye contact
- Practicing the silent treatment
- Using sarcasm to ridicule someone
- Shifting responsibility when it is theirs to manage
- Pretending not to understand what’s expected of them
What Causes Passive Aggression?At the heart of every passive-aggressive person is deep hurt or insecurity. There is some deficit inside of them that causes them to act in irresponsible ways. This is important to remember so you don’t develop resentment against this person but hold onto the hope of showing them compassion for their pain.
Passive-aggressive people are not always aware of what they’re doing. Usually, their behavior has been ingrained in them for decades and it’s just second nature. But that doesn’t make it any easier for you to handle when you were hurting or confused by their behavior. Here are some of the reasons that a passive-aggressive person acts the way that they do.
If parents were unable or unwilling to take care of a child’s needs adequately, they may have taught the child to become manipulative to get their needs met. Many parents do not teach their children how to ask for things assertively, and this can lead to passive-aggressive behavior.
If a child grows up in a family where too many needs are placed on them, they can become resentful of the responsibilities they carry at too young an age. They may be afraid to openly ask for their needs to be met, so they fight back passively.
In some families, an open expression of anger was not permitted. Only passive examples of anger were acceptable, so the child maladapted to these unspoken rules.
Fear of conflict
Some people will go to such lengths to avoid conflict that they will use the unproductive technique of passive aggression to express their feelings. Though a direct approach would be more productive, they may be too fearful to take that step.
Ways to Handle a Passive-aggressive Person
Handling a passive-aggressive person requires an intentional approach. Here are some steps you can take to handle situations more effectively.
Analyze the situation
Think through the last several conversations and interactions that you’ve had with a person you suspect is passive-aggressive. Have they used any of the techniques that have been outlined above? If so, identify the patterns and analyze them so they won’t catch you off guard next time.
Don’t take it personally
Though the passive-aggressive person will try to shift everything back on you as if it’s your fault, remember that they are too afraid or unaware to express their honest feelings openly. By refusing to take their behavior personally, you can stay in control of the situation and respond rather than react with your own emotions.
If you get angry, critical, defensive, or start nagging, the situation will only escalate. You will have fallen into the trap that the passive-aggressive person has set for you. Though you may feel upset and frustrated, it’s important to stay cool so you can have a measure of control over the rest of the conversation.
Use “I” statements, telling them how their behavior makes you feel. Then ask if there is a different way you can approach the situation. For example, if someone pretends to forget to call you when running late, you can say, “I feel worried for your safety when you don’t call because you’re running late. Can we make a new plan that you will call me within a certain time window if you won’t arrive on time?”
Manipulative people often don’t respond to reasonable requests. You will need to set boundaries and deliver consequences if they aren’t willing to be reasonable. For example, if someone leaves their laundry laying all over the house when they know they are supposed to put it in the laundry basket, you can allow the natural consequences of not doing their laundry for them until all their laundry is put in the basket.
Be a student
If it’s possible to learn about the manipulative person’s past, you can start to understand why they act the way they do. Then you can avoid sensitive areas that may trigger them to act in passive-aggressive ways. An example of this is understanding your mother’s difficult childhood so you take a different approach when speaking to her about issues that trigger her sarcasm.
Stay out of the way
Some people are so manipulative and unwilling to face the truth about themselves that they become toxic to your mental, emotional, spiritual, and even physical well-being. You may need to form a different plan to interact with them less often. Don’t feel guilty about this, because you need to preserve your mental health so you can be the best person God created you to be.
Be careful of apologizing
Passive-aggressive people may want you to apologize for things that aren’t your fault in an attempt to control the situation. But unless you have done something wrong don’t apologize just to placate the person. Keep stating the facts and hold your ground.
If you can’t get out of a relationship with a passive-aggressive person, such as with a family member or a spouse, you need to form a plan of self-care to nurture yourself in a difficult relationship.
Try deep breathing within the conversation with a passive-aggressive person and pray that God will help you practice self-control. After interacting with the person, do something nice for yourself to remind yourself that you are worthy of love and respect since you are made in the image of God.
Christian Counseling for Handling a Passive-aggressive Person
Handling a passive-aggressive person requires a lot of emotional energy. You may feel unsure of yourself because the person uses such manipulative tactics you think you might be in the wrong. You can get valuable perspective by meeting with a Christian counselor, who can help you sort out the challenges of your relationship with a passive-aggressive person.
Your counselor will role-play situations with you, so you are better prepared for the next interaction. A passive-aggressive person no longer needs to hold power over you. You can be set free from their traps by getting guidance through Christian counseling and be better equipped with biblical principles and God’s strength.
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