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How to Spot and Deal With Passive-Aggressive People

The NYU Medical Center defines a passive-aggressive individual as someone who "may appear to comply or act appropriately, but actually behaves negatively and passively resists." Passive-aggressive actions can range from the relatively mild, such as making excuses for not getting together, to the very serious, such as sabotaging someone’s well-being and success… Read More

The problem with all this is

The problem with all this is that people label others passive aggressive just because the other person doesn't give them what they want.

I mean, who hasn't been on the receiving end of an ignored email? Or more than one? Calling that passive aggressive pretty much makes the term another buzzword like co-dependent.

Relationships don't happen in a vacuum and most of us aren't psychologists. So how do we know we're dealing with passive aggression and not just someone who doesn't want to do what you want them to do? People own their own lives. That doesn't make them passive aggressive.

Also, the p/a pattern is useful in dealing with a lot of situations where you just need to get something done, not psychoanalyze your co-workers.

I've found that a lot of people just won't take No for an answer. Just because the wife asks the husband to fix a faucet and he doesn't want to -- why does her request trump his desire to do what he wants for a while? Why does that make him p/a?

Truth is -- it doesn't. Passive aggression, when applied to everyday situations, is a red herring. You have a request from one person to another. Deciding the person asking has the high road and the person refusing is passive aggressive is just ignorant. Pop psychology of the worst sort. Repressed memories, anyone?

"I've found that a lot of

"I've found that a lot of people just won't take No for an answer. Just because the wife asks the husband to fix a faucet and he doesn't want to -- why does her request trump his desire to do what he wants for a while? Why does that make him p/a?"

Where was it implied her request trumps his desire to do what he wants for a while? I missed that, and I want to understand where that comes from.

In the scenario you described, you only expressed the people's desires. There is no passive-aggressiveness there because the behavior isn't present. She wants him to fix the faucet. He wants to do something else. That's all you covered.

If he says, "Nope, I want to do x,y,z right now." He's not being passive-aggressive because he doesn't intend to do it and clearly says no. Saying no doesn't mean you're passive-aggressive.

If the husband said, "Sure, honey!" and doesn't do it, that's passive-aggression because he appeared to comply (since he said he'd do it) but then passively resists (by not doing it). That meets the definition posed at the beginning of the article.

This is a short article with limited scope. It's directed at someone who is noticing passive-aggressive behavior and giving them advice on how to communicate with the person more effectively. That's all.

How is passive-aggressiveness useful? If the husband agrees to fix the faucet and doesn't, then the faucet doesn't get fixed. So the wife asks him again. He's probably just trying to relax and doesn't want his wife coming in and asking him repeatedly about the faucet. It doesn't seem like either of them are getting what they want out of the situation, the wife because she won't take no for an answer, and the husband because he is being passive-aggressive in response.

In the example of a wife wanting the faucet fixed and the husband agreeing but not doing it, the wife would be reading this article. She has noticed he keeps saying he'll do it, but then he doesn't, so she's reading this article to see how to approach the situation better. Meaning, she who won't take no for an answer will be changing, which would certainly be helpful to the husband. Tips 7 & 8 are interesting here.

7. Give the Passive-Aggressive a Chance to Help Solve the Problem (If Appropriate)
In the dynamic proposed, the husband agrees because he feels the wife won't take no for an answer. That means he feels he doesn't have a voice, just as the author said. The wife reads this. She tries the question the author proposes, instead of doing what she did before she asks, "The faucet is broken, how would you handle fixing it?" Maybe this compels him to be honest and say, "I'd call a plumber." Continuing with the same conversation...

8. Set Consequence to Lower Resistance and Compel Cooperation
The wife still wants the husband to do it. He said he'd rather call a plumber. She has a reason for him wanting to do it, and he has a reason for wanting to call the plumber. She tries explaining the consequences by saying,"The plumber would cost $80, and our budget is tight so it'd come out of our savings for a new TV."

Husband: "No, I don't want to take the money from our new TV savings. Does the faucet really need to be fixed? I'm tired from work and want to relax."

Wife: "Well, it's dripping all the time. I'm concerned about the water being wasted, and the sound is bothering me. Can you fix it on your next day off?"

Husband: "I want to spend my days off doing (insert activities here). I'd rather pay the plumber."

Ok... She wants him to fix it, and maybe he absolutely won't. She probably won't like hearing this, but she'll know where he stands now. Basically she can call a plumber or fix it herself. Who knows, maybe he'll tell he about his "plumbing repair" book and she'll be empowered to fix it herself. Or maybe they'll just call the plumber. Maybe when she is willing to listen to him and he is willing to be honest, the faucet would be repaired. The faucet would be fixed and maybe both of them would get to relax.

If someone who won't take no for an answer is receiving passive-aggressive behavior, utilizing the tips in this article would help them stop acting like that. Sounds like a good thing to me.

Re the pa husband & the

Re the pa husband & the faucet ...

You say if the husband says No then all is well. I completely agree.

But here's the next Q .... does the wife accept that? Does she allow her man to say No or does he have to LIE to get her off his back?

If he is not 'allowed' to say NO then he is NOT the pa one!

What's so hard to figure out? Just follow the entire interaction and look at the history of interacting.

How many husbands are just gonna say Yes when they mean No unless there's a reason for it? Are they all insane? Pathological liars? Lazy bums?

PA behavior is learned by being frustrated in one's efforts to communicate with a someone who refuses to really hear.

Other anon covered that

If this hypothetical husband said he'd fix this faucet but he knows he's not going to, that is, in fact, passive aggressive. I thought the reply did cover the situation well: if he says he doesn't want to but the wife doesn't accept that, there are better ways to deal with the situation than a back & forth in which she nags and he stalls. If she gets sick of nagging and, instead of involving him in the decision, takes it upon herself to call a plumber and spends part of their TV budget without consulting him, that would also be passive aggressive.
Maybe this pretend couple had deeper issues. Maybe she's not concerned about the faucet at all. Maybe she's resentful of his down time and is being passive aggressive herself in even asking. Maybe he doesn't want to admit that he doesn't know how to fix the faucet. Maybe she broke the faucet and he thinks she ought to suffer for it. Even if you think it's justified, it's still passive aggressive, and it's still harmful to everyone involved. No one is getting their way, and the faucet is still broken.

ok so now sometimes he's pa

ok so now sometimes he's pa and sometimes she's pa and we're all pa and woo hoo babay! Man you're flinging that pa label around as if you have a clue what you're talking about. Where did you get your armchair degree again? Psych U?

Yeah, it's almost like humans

Yeah, it's almost like humans are complex or something, huh?
And just for the record, I earned my degree sending in box tops from specially marked boxes of frosted flakes. Duh.

SPECIALLY MARKED! Can't get

SPECIALLY MARKED! Can't get those just anywhere.

sorry but I would rather be

sorry but I would rather be with a man who recognises his wifes needs over his own as she does when she is deciding whether to cook him dinner EVERY DAY than a lazy bum

She would not ask if there

She would not ask if there wouldn't be a reason! It is easyer to get done it herself than to ask someone. If she have asked than answer properly, so she knows without guessing "what now"? It is not a sollution if he says later, but than one moth goes, second month goes ... She is also tired. It has become so easy for men - they have only work, but women have to work, prepare, clean, take care of children and so on, so on. When they change situation men are those who can not stand. You are way too far from perfect, so stop teaching others. Everyone has right to live like they want

passive aggression is not

passive aggression is not when someone says no it is when they punish the person for not being what they wanted not by an adult discussion but by withdrawing and key ENJOYING watching the other person suffer when they do not know what they have done wrong. No is wrong when it is repeated because it represents a wrong attitude eg; I have been at work all day so I do not have to help in the house.As in my ex who saw a similar attitude in his father , identified it as wrong and then did it himself; the ultimate lack of self awareness.

Kinda maybe sorta...

You have this a little wrong. There are two types of people; think of the flight or fight response. Those that fight are the ones that will be direct, yell to get their point of across, get heated in an argument, etc. Those that would have fled in response to a threat 200,000 years ago deal with things, well, passive aggressively. That fact that you wrote this tells me you're a fighter. You'd be the one your partner tells to calm down in an argument. Your partner would tell you you're being unreasonable while maintaining their composure in an argument. Except they're not maintaining their composure, they've fled. Leaving you to argue with someone that's shut down which only makes you angrier. There's a list of things that happen over and over consistently and predictibly depending on whether on you're a fighter or a flighter. It's not righ or wrong, good or bad, just that way two different types of people respond to their environment based on their perspective instinct to conflict.

Kinda maybe sorta...

You have this a little wrong. There are two types of people; think of the flight or fight response. Those that fight are the ones that will be direct, yell to get their point of across, get heated in an argument, etc. Those that would have fled in response to a threat 200,000 years ago deal with things, well, passive aggressively. That fact that you wrote this tells me you're a fighter. You'd be the one your partner tells to calm down in an argument. Your partner would tell you you're being unreasonable while maintaining their composure in an argument. Except they're not maintaining their composure, they've fled. Leaving you to argue with someone that's shut down which only makes you angrier. There's a list of things that happen over and over consistently and predictably depending on whether on you're a fighter or a "flighter." It's not right or wrong, good or bad, just that way two different types of people respond to their environment based on their respective instinct to conflict.

I think that's a bit of an

I think that's a bit of an over- simplification. We all have both flight AND fight instincts. Our individual life experiences have much to do with how those urges manifest in our day-to-day. We also have the ability to change the way we react to things.

I think Anonymous02 got it right

Anonymous02 gave a good example of passive-aggressive behavior, and some good examples of how to handle p-a behavior.

Passive-aggressive behavior is a way to express hostility indirectly or covertly. Its sneaky hostility; its plausibly-deniable hostility. It involves deception: that whole description of "the knife behind the smile" really nails the concept.

Another example would be a passive-aggressive supervisor who on the surface seems to think well of Joe, an accountant in his department: "Great job, Joe; the boss will be pleased with this financial analysis of yours." But then the supervisor re-writes parts of the report to make it subtly inaccurate before giving it to the boss, so that Joe will appear incompetent or lazy. The supervisor actually dislikes Joe and would like to fire him, but can't find any legitimate reason to justify firing Joe. So the supervisor passive-aggressively, or covertly begins to undermine Joe's reputation as a good accountant and analyst, making it easier to fire Joe sooner or later, while still appearing to like Joe to his face.

Its not easy to handle such a situation, when a supervisor is willing to risk his own reputation in order to seriously harm yours, but, I think if Joe asks the big boss if he can turn in his next report to him directly, it might be worth the risk.

That may be the scariest form

That may be the scariest form of passive aggression, conscious and deliberate and meant primarily to cause harm.

I think one big piece missing

I think one big piece missing here is in defining the power structure. Those in a one-down position often have to resort to P/A type behavior. It's beta behavior vs alpha behavior.

I also think casually applying the P/A label by non-professionals is doing a big dis-service to people. The P/A model seems to need hostility to actually be P/A.

A man wanting to lie on the couch and having to lie to his wife to do is just pathetic. That guy isn't P/A he's just been neutered by wifey.

Discerning our own motives would be a refreshing change for most people as well. When you aren't getting what you want from someone ask yourself if you should. Are you respecting their boundaries? I see very often someone getting the pandering P/A label or narcissist (that's another trendy one to slap on people) when what's really going on is aggressiveness from the one doing the labeling. There's a label for that too. Projection.

There are different forms of

There are different forms of passive aggression. Not all have to involve direct hostility to fit the description. Also, "neutered by wifey?" Come on, man.

Actually, from what I read,

Actually, from what I read, it does indeed have to involve hostility or there is no 'aggressive' in the passive.

Joey, you sound neutered man.

Joey, you sound neutered man. They grow back but you gotta try. SAtop taking the estrogen dude

Not to nitpick, but I think

Not to nitpick, but I think the propert term would be "spayed." Thank you for the encouragement, though. I appreciate the sentiment.

You reacted to this very

You reacted to this very well, joey. Only, 'anonymous' was being OVERTLY hostile and aggressive. You chose to disengage. Engaging overtly hostile individuals is not constructive, because their intentions and actions are evident and not deceptive, like passive-aggressives tend to be, so no real intervention is needed if their actions and ill intent is put on plain display for all to see.

And you used humour to disarm and disempower the sting of his attack ('neutered' vs 'spayed').

And may I add: what a cheap trick to seek to emasculate a man that is civilized and mindful of decent interpersonal or intimate relationships with females. Really tired.

A point of agreement.

"I also think casually applying the P/A label by non-professionals is doing a big dis-service to people. The P/A model seems to need hostility to actually be P/A."

Your assessment of the setting for this behavior coincides with my understanding of human behavior. Before I was hospitalized and syndicated, facing the normative injustices of modern life, I was quite identifiably hostile; still am to a severely diminished degree. Going to college (with the goal of doing well), and interacting in groups with a identifiable power structure, gave me the 'tact' to know when to back down; even if I didn't agree.

Speaking of aggressive: I noticed that you use causality thinking to justify the actions of people. Then you fall back on the trite pants/skirt misconception of marriage. What everyone seems to have failed to realize in this is that marriage is one of two things.

1.) You love someone so much that you will spend the rest of your life with them.
2.) You love someone enough that you won't kill them when they viciously go after everything you own.

He's not subjugated by 'wifey', he's indoctrinated by a tradition that is, at best, outdated. I would go as far as to consider it a joke, a bad one, and the couple unspokenly realized it's just more convenient to deal with the person down the path of least resistance, than to legally claw away at each other's possessions. Everyone should have a prenup, and be allowed to cosign on different ventures that come along in a relationship.

Like, if they fix the sink *gasp* together. They can assume joint ownership of the facut. This still ignores any sanctity of marriage, but maybe if it were examined from a rational perspective it would gain more favorability, at least, in my eyes.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers ^_^,,

A point of agreement.

"I also think casually applying the P/A label by non-professionals is doing a big dis-service to people. The P/A model seems to need hostility to actually be P/A."

Your assessment of the setting for this behavior coincides with my understanding of human behavior. Before I was hospitalized and syndicated, facing the normative injustices of modern life, I was quite identifiably hostile; still am to a severely diminished degree. Going to college (with the goal of doing well), and interacting in groups with a identifiable power structure, gave me the 'tact' to know when to back down; even if I didn't agree.

Speaking of aggressive: I noticed that you use causality thinking to justify the actions of people. Then you fall back on the trite pants/skirt misconception of marriage. What everyone seems to have failed to realize in this is that marriage is one of two things.

1.) You love someone so much that you will spend the rest of your life with them.
2.) You love someone enough that you won't kill them when they viciously go after everything you own.

He's not subjugated by 'wifey', he's indoctrinated by a tradition that is, at best, outdated. I would go as far as to consider it a joke, a bad one, and the couple unspokenly realized it's just more convenient to deal with the person down the path of least resistance, than to legally claw away at each other's possessions. Everyone should have a prenup, and be allowed to cosign on different ventures that come along in a relationship.

Like, if they fix the sink *gasp* together. They can assume joint ownership of the facut. This still ignores any sanctity of marriage, but maybe if it were examined from a rational perspective it would gain more favorability, at least, in my eyes.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers ^_^,,

when your other half is using passive aggressive games, what to do?

What is best: to confront, or to ignore passive aggressive behavior?

Here is really the obnoxious situation that spouses complain about: the moment when you realize that your partner is avoiding going along with you using some passive aggressive response. And you need to stop yourself reacting with anger and frustration, to be able to think…and do what is best for your peace of mind.

If you suffer passive aggressive behavior, remember the basic ideas:

In a marriage, you need to be able to accept the aggravation of doing honest emotional confrontation. When people are unhappy with some aspect of the shared household chores, it behooves to each one to confront the other about the difference and negotiate a better result.

A person in this situation needs to invest some emotional capital, time, patience and other resources to be able to negotiate and get to a shared decision…Implicit here is that you acknowledge that having consensus with your partner is important for your individual satisfaction.

Well, scratch all that. We are back into childhood territory, where using the passive aggressive shortcut allows him to express some negative feelings doing smart obstruction of your planning. Throw into the pot the satisfaction that revenge provides, and you can see why passive aggression is the winning choice!

Here we can answer with the first choice: ignore as many of the passive aggressive games as you can. Don’t even mention that you discover his game, to start with. As soon as you call him “you are acting in a passive aggressive way,” they will begin harassing you with this term, challenging you to prove it, and making fun of you.

Remind yourself that your passive aggressive partner is doing this for a lot of personal reasons: attention, keeping a sense of being your victim, revenge (from a real or imagined hurt from you) or just to show that they don’t have to do what you are asking them to do, as to keep alive the little rebel against the world they have inside.

If you don’t react, they don’t get the reward they were seeking and eventually, they will stop the behavior. Remember one of the principles of Whale Done: reward good behavior, ignore bad behavior. So many times is easier to slam the door, go to the movies by yourself, go shopping, visit a friend, and leave the battle ground instead of engaging in a lost battle. Besides, you have the opportunity to remember how much fun you can get from normal activities otherwise forgotten in your daily life!

What if the situation is such that you need to confront? If so, you need to control yourself: avoid raising your voice, yelling or crying..Strong emotions are something they can’t manage and in the best case scenario, they will quit the room or worst, they will confront you.

And say little, but whatever you say, it has to be something you can follow through later. Don’t bluff: if you say I will not cook, don’t enter the kitchen! I have too many calls of women in their 50s, telling all the complains about him, but they accept that they continue doing their part of household chores as if they were satisfied with their marriages.

State how the behavior is causing harm, declare that you can’t tolerate the offending behavior and say the consequences that will follow if they don’t quit.

What the message is to remind you that you have choices, that some choices are better than others, and that using your choices you can recover your personal power.

How to Spot a Passive Aggressive Partner, at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006ACB5XS/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

It seems passive-aggressive

It seems passive-aggressive is being used to label people who don't 'go along' when they 'should.' Do any of you people slapping that label on others even actually know what it means?

To the above poster, has it occurred to you that you're in a simple power struggle? You want what you want and if you don't get it then the other person must have a problem. That's what I get from your post. The battle lines are drawn and you're even trying to poison other women against their husbands and marriages by telling them not to cook!

You say that if you accuse him of being passive aggressive he just tells you to prove it. Well duh! Are you a licensed psychologist? And if you are, what the hell are you doing using that to lord it over your husband at home?

What if he accused you of having a personality disorder? I'm quite sure he could cobble some psycho-babble together and make a convincing argument. How would you like them apples?

Example of my partner was he

Example of my partner was he did not want to get a HPI check on a car/forgot before buying and instead of taking responsibility for this he made it my fault, when later questioning its roadworthiness, for only giving him a limited budget for a car rather than the fact he forgot to do the HPI check. The aggressiveness came when he charmed my dad into this also and got him to be aggressive with his own daughter. We have wised up to him now and they have helped me get him out of my life.

Agree with Neil Warner

"If you don’t react, they don’t get the reward they were seeking and eventually, they will stop the behavior. Remember one of the principles of Whale Done: reward good behavior, ignore bad behavior."

I have found this to be true. Even if it does not eliminate the behavior, it takes away much of the incentive to keep it up at the same level or to escalate. Not participating when it is reasonable to do so--for example, helping around the house--sets up an awful dynamic that only the non-PA partner can break up.

Behaviour shown mainly in marriage, less to other people?

Is it possible that someone shows P-A behaviour mainly in contact with partner/marriage, less to other people? Can it be under influence of the depth of the relationship?

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Preston Ni is a professor, presenter, private coach, and author of Communication Success with Four Personality Types and How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People. more...

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