Passive Aggressive Diaries

Understanding passive aggressive behavior in families, schools, and workplaces

4 Strategies to Effectively Confront Passive Aggressive Behavior in a Relationship

In relationships, passive aggressive behaviors are often used to avoid the direct confrontation of short-term conflict, but in the long-term, these dynamics can be even more destructive to marriage than outright aggression. Read More

Question regarding the silent

Question regarding the silent treatment, and sulking & withdrawal: how do you know when it's too much? I'm afraid I may be doing it but I don't know what else to do to protect myself. For example, there is someone I work with on a daily basis, who if I had the choice I would not see at all as they flirt inappropriately with me and treat women disrespectfully. Admittedly I got sucked in at the beginning with all the attention but recognized the player-ness before I got too far in. I do suffer from self-doubt and self-defeating thoughts when I hear about the newest "amazing" girl he's dating but outwardly so far I've been pretty strong.

I've been trying to treat him like everyone else and I even had a few conversations with him to try to let him know what I wanted him to stop doing. He will stop for a bit but then starts back up again when he stops seeing whichever girl of the month he is seeing and is needing attention again. Because of my desire for a relationship, I feel like I could get sucked in again so I try to keep my distance. If he approaches me and says hi or something I will respond with a hi and maybe another sentence but that is about it. I feel guilty not being more nice to him, mostly because everyone else loves him (even though even they say he's a player, he's charming and boy-ish) and I feel like I'm being horrible and a 5-letter b-word... Am I appropriately protecting myself or am I being passive aggressive?

well

I'm no psychologist but I think you already know the answer. You need to put yourself out there, don't ignore your own needs. To me it sounds that either you're unhappy in your current relationship or you're single.

Think about it like that(the way I'm sure he would think if in your shoes): Perhaps who knows you and him might eventually in the future have a fling or even something more, but in the meantime, you should be dating other people. Just like he is. And, completely forgetting about his very existence from time to time is ok, even healthy. Maybe it doesn't work for everybody but, I think that dating a lot is fun, and it's something everybody should do in my opinion. It gets us more realistic and less passively expecting of things that might never happen, more proactive towards what we need, more willing to change paths.

Better yet, you should break off this dynamics, being in a state of mind where you're behaving chiefly in passive reaction to his person(be that opposing or concurring) says you're emotionally attached to him somehow. It's your life, running out by the minute, later down the road you won't be able to blame anyone about succumbing to your self-doubt and self-defeating thoughts but yourself. Think about that.

As for this man, assuming your opinions aren't too much colored by your feelings, he sounds somewhat narcissistic to me. People like that take a lot and give too little, but boy, are they charming.
Of course everybody loves him(including you apparently), that doesn't necessarily make him someone who won't cause you pain.

Interesting...can you please

Interesting...can you please clarify your third paragraph? I know everyone wants me to "act like I don't care" but that feels so dishonest to me, and is really hard for me to keep up. (Is that what you mean?) Yep, I'm single. Always have been, due to past trauma I'm working through. A counselor even told me that he thinks I'm incredibly brave for trying to work through everything and that after what I've been through he's amazed I would even want a relationship...which either makes me incredibly brave or incredibly stupid, haha.

I think what you're getting at, and what I would agree with, is that if I were in another relationship or dating someone else I would not care one way or the other if this guy talked to me, and while I would still not seek out his company, I would be able to speak to him more freely. Of course that's exactly what he wants (I know because he said it). For me to forgive his not-so-thoughtful-to-me-ness and have fun again. In other words, he wants to be able to flirt with me when he wants. It's hard for me to see that as something good for me without seeing it as him trying to relieve his guilt, get what he wants, and control the situation. Every time I have tried to forgive him and do things his way, he has done something inconsiderate or inappropriate again.

This just tugs right at the part of me that says "you are not lovable and you will always be alone. You were mistreated because you deserved it." It's hard. I want a break from him/feeling like this which is why I try to distance myself as much as I can, since like I've said, it's unavoidable that I see him. I know there's a lesson I need to learn that I'm sure this situation is making me look at. I'm just trying to figure out how to not take things out on him and be fair to myself at the same time...

Thanks for the response :)

Rather Late Reply

I agree very much with what Cerulean said and I think you need to read this article on narcissism.

You may feel bad about the way you treat this man, but trust me, if anything, you're being too kind to him. What I have learned and how I cope when love (or better yet being in-love) gets in your way (and by that I mean you know for sure nothing good will come of it but you just can't help it) is that when you're in-love you tend to idolize the person you're in-love with. You erase all his/hers flaws, you enhance all his/her qualities and basically in your mind you make this person perfect. What you must always remember is that there is no such thing as perfect and your mind is simply playing tricks on you because of the being in-love sensation. The one way I learned to counter it was to do the very opposite - focus on the persons flaws and make his/hers good qualities very poor at best.

It's the best way (that I know of) on how to tackle love that only gets you into a world of pain. And think about it ... every month he talks about a different girl (girl of the month as you call it) do you really see yourself having a stable, long-term relationship with him?

Read the article on narcissism which will tell you that it's not your fault and even if you were a wonder-woman, you couldn't make any difference. So really bite in and study every bit of that article to realise that the kind of person you're dealing with is a no-good-er, and sooner or later your mind should realise the same thing.

There are many usefull articles out there, I just hope my reply was helpful and that you will once find a man, that's good and honest - as oppose to charming and decietful.

What if I am the one who is passive agressive..?

I can admit that I am passive agressive towards my parents. I am 19 but my parents still feel the need to control me in every way possible down to how I am supposed to feel and when I should be hungry. I don't want to get into too many details, but the bottom line is if someone is passive agressive and they are avoiding confrontation, its probably because confrontation would not benefit them. In my case, my parents do not want me to argue or disobey them and if I do, then they do not rationally respond for longer than a minute. They simply impose their control by making threats like "Fine, you don't get this or that/ you're grounded". To avoid their total domination over me, I avoid arguing or directly counteracting their message and annoy them or act in a way that they do not like. For example, I would say I'm not hungry to ruin their dinner plans. I know thats evil but that's what they get for trying to control me. I can't help behaving this way because by abiding to their every wish, I would go mad. What can the passive agressive person do to get their message across more peacefully?

Rather Late Reply

Hey there, it's indeed a common problem you're facing. The best advice I can give to you is to seek the help of a certified adult (eg. counselor, psychotherapist, ...) because if your parents don't treat YOU seriously, then you need an adult they will take seriously to help you get out of this problem.

There should be many options to get in touch with someone like that, a help-phone or something where you ask how to get someone to help you on the matter, or a local psychiatric clinic and of course there should be a counselors office at the uni (or school or high-school).

I know your situation very well and I know just how frustrating it can be when you have to sacrifice yourself as much as you can just to avoid the no-win-situation conflict. So like I said, getting someone with merit on your side is the way to go.

I hope this helps,
bye

Follow-up question

Great post, Ms. Whitson. Thanks!

I have a question about the last step: I don't understand how the approach of leaving the passive-aggressive party's (finally) expressed anger dangling and then moving on to the next topic or activity, will improve the overall relationship dynamic.

I know the article is geared toward toward helping the 'survivor' cope, rather than fixing the 'perpetrator', but I was thinking that in the case of a committed partnership or marriage, the motivation to correct or at least improve the behavior, rather than just getting through the day, would be high.

Is there a way (or would it be productive?) to somehow 'reward' the passive-aggressive person when they express their anger overtly, so they'll learn that when they choose honest expression over unproductive p.a. acts, they receive a better response, or at least one that leads to resolution/faster resolution, and thereby better relationships? This is a person you presumably love, so don't you, too, even as the one on the receiving end of this crud, which is really frustrating position to be in, want the person to adopt a better strategy for communicating?

Your post was helpful, informative, and thought-provoking, and I'm looking forward to your thoughts on the last step. Thank you very much!

Follow-up question

Great post, Ms. Whitson. Thanks!

I have a question about the last step: I don't understand how the approach of leaving the passive-aggressive party's (finally) expressed anger dangling and then moving on to the next topic or activity, will improve the overall relationship dynamic.

I know the article is geared toward toward helping the 'survivor' cope, rather than fixing the 'perpetrator', but I was thinking that in the case of a committed partnership or marriage, the motivation to correct or at least improve the behavior, rather than just getting through the day, would be high.

Is there a way (or would it be productive?) to somehow 'reward' the passive-aggressive person when they express their anger overtly, so they'll learn that when they choose honest expression over unproductive p.a. acts, they receive a better response, or at least one that leads to resolution/faster resolution, and thereby better relationships? This is a person you presumably love, so don't you, too, even as the one on the receiving end of this crud, which is really frustrating position to be in, want the person to adopt a better strategy for communicating?

Your post was helpful, informative, and thought-provoking, and I'm looking forward to your thoughts on the last step. Thank you very much!

Rather Late Reply

Hi there camille.

I myself have witnessed the power that comes out of the 3rd step. In my case I was many time poorly treated and all I hod to thos to stop it is say "What have I ever done to you?" - I was astonished by the success of that simple question. In your case, however, it seems it's your partner you want to set straight.

The fourth step basically says you uncover the anger and then (if or when) the p.a. denies any anger, you let it be - you withdraw for the time being without pouring oil onto the fire with questions like "What do you mean you're not angry?" and the likes.

You leave your partner to think about his own anger and decide what to do with it (here I suggest that after some time - when you feel that your message got through (a day or two, maybe more) - you let him know that you're ready to talk about any unresolved issues and will accept whatever problems the partnership might be facing). You make it clear that you want to make the relationship last and that you're willing to listen and work out whatever problems threaten the bond ...

So in short it means to let your partner know you're there and that "you know" (sounds kinda' spooky but that's how it is I guess).

Now I'm no expert or anything, but this is what I made of it and what I suggest.

I hope this helps,
regards

My untreated ADHD has earned

My untreated ADHD has earned me this label... and I have to say I don't like it very much. In fact, it hurts a lot.

Please consider addressing exactly how attention problems and sensory integration issues can mimic passive aggressive behavior.

This is an old post but needs

This is an old post but needs to be said. Blaming ADHD makes this person sound like a whiny child whose mommy always got them out of trouble because they are a "special snowflake".

It's pathetic, especially when people like this get into the workforce and can't perform because of "sensory issues" and expect special treatment because mommy taught them to blame their poor performance on a label.

Kids who are raised this way are intolerable as adults because their mantra is: "I'm not responsible for my behavior, because I'm special and different and you should pity me instead of asking me to act like an adult and own up to my bad behavior."

People like this need to grow up and realize that whatever "issues" they have are THEIR responsibility to deal with, and stop expecting others to treat them with kid gloves because of a label like ADHD. Whining that people shouldn't call you p/a because you "don't like it" is 100% immature and seriously entitled.

This person will have an ugly wake-up call someday when their boss sends them packing because they don't have time to coddle their "sensory issues" or deal with passive-aggressive behavior.

Do your research

Your comment demonstrates a lack of understanding of the disease ADHD. It appears to be more of an emotional response.

Unless you've done more stringent research than investigators who have conducted painstaking research into the root causes of ADHD--research that is recognized as valid by the CDC, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the World Health Organization, and the American Medical Association, you would benefit by looking into it further.

"...ADHD affects work performance even more than depression does..."It's more persistent and severe than many mental disorders, and it results in more sick days, more accidents, and more problems interacting with colleagues..."*
--Ron Kessler, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the WHO's World Mental Health Survey Consortium

CDC: Facts about ADHD (scroll halfway down for 'Causes' section)
http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html

National Institute of Mental Health/National Institutes of Health
(scroll down a bit for 'Causes')
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-di...

National Research Center on ADHD (see 'Neurochemistry' section)
http://www.help4adhd.org/en/about/causes/pathophysiology

*http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/articles/2008/05/27/adults-with-adhd-lose-3-weeks-worth-of-work

Glad my sensory issues have a

Glad my sensory issues have a legal and workable solution in the workplace, as they comprise a genuine disability. How do you manage your Raging A-hole Syndrome?

Thanks!

Nice to see this subject get a bit of exposure., especially since it's so much less apparent than the typical "hi-drama" types of aggression. I find perhaps the most insidious part of passive-aggression is this very "invisibility", where you may be totally unaware you're encountering it, while still trying your best... until "duh", it suddenly dawns on you that some of the difficulties in a relationship or situation may actually be "intentional"!

One of the most common passive-aggressive techniques I encounter working in the field of social services, where "responsibility" and "boundaries" issues are paramount, is the classic "stonewalling" and "I still don't understand" (even though you've left dozens of messages or explained something "8 ways to Sunday")!

Crossing this bridge

It has taken some time but I now know that my hubsand is PA. I plan to utilize these steps today and in the near future. I now hear my husband and what I now hear crushes me.

Stop! That's Crazy-Making!

Thank you so much for those wonderful advises but I think this book by Dr. Rhoberta Shaler will help the reader to identify passive aggressive behaviour in relationships and offers strategies on coping with those behaviours.

which you can find in PDF format at http://www.forrelationshiphelp.com/products-page/ebooks and in Kindle/Nook format at http://smashwords.com/books/view/173723

Is it the Silent Treatment (PA), or Emotional Survival?

Good article. I would like to add something to the discussion and consideration, however. A classic form of passive aggression is what is called the "silent treatment." A friend of mine, divorced after a long-term relationship in which there were elements of verbal and emotional abuse, shared reasons why she became more silent, as it were, over time. For her, it was emotional survival, not passive aggression. I think what she has to say is very important and is not heard often. I share it here: http://pnissila.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/is-it-the-silent-treatment-or-e...

Couple thoughts on this topic

I'm married to a PA woman and I have battled long (15 yrs) and hard to understand and manage her PA behaviors. The most effective tool I have used is to reverse the situation. When she comes home and immediately acts frustrated, picks fights, and tells me that I "never" do anything around the house (trigger: dishes in the sink), I say, "I agree, I failed to do the dishes. Now tell me what I did do? You need to focus on praising my accomplishments, not point out my failures" Reversing the direction of the conversation to force her to think about the positives. This also works well whe she hides her agenda and expects me to guess the right answer. Her: "Where do you want to go for dinner? Me: how about Mexican. Her: no, I'm not in the mood for Mexican. Me: Chinese? Her: no. And on"... And when this happens, after my second suggestion, or third, I say, "we'll those are my choices. You can either pick one or come up with your own. Usually she will make a choice. And usually she will follow that with, "or, we could go to..." Which puts the act of making the choice back in my court. I usually ask which she prefers? Usually she sticks with the first choice. Note this typically happens while we are driving.

I have all the symptoms, but I'm not angry, just really stressed

I have read this passive-aggressive article and find all signs fitting me, except the aggressive part. I'm not aggressive, do not have any anger or recentment. None, nada! I'm stressed from a lot of work, so I just don't get things done at home. I don't have the time. I forget things, procrastinate. Even now, make up excuses... But honestly, I think the PA-label could pretty easily be put on anyone working a lot (excuse?).
The last three months I've worked more than 100 hours a week, me procrastinating, when I think about it, is a mere question of survival. Yes, I promised to not sleep in in the mornings, I had to work until 3 am and get up at 7 am all week and the baby woke my up at 5 for 30 minutes. It's not excuses, it's a matter of physiology. I'm not trying to passively hurt anyone. I just needed to sleep (Excuse?)

But then again, was surfing a lot to find out if something was wrong with me/her this after a big argument, I found my wife had symptoms fitting an emotional abusive person. That follows the circle: Abuse->guilt->excuse->Normal behavior->Fantasy->Set-up->Abuse....
I don't see the anger from my wife comming ("normal behavior" ->-> "setup"), strikes out of the blue (abuse), it's massive, dragging past errors, present faults and the things I've forgot to do...a monologue, I can't say anything, it feels bad in my stomach, if I say anything, explain myself, I get the "Excuses, excuses!"-reply. If something is out of my hands, third person did something that corrupted my work, how is that an excuse? Excuse, is to my something I personally is to blame for. Sure, I take the responsibillity when I mess up, that's when I can excuse. The other thing is an explanation! Out of my hands!

Right now I've even got an e-mail with an excuse: Sorry, yelled, but something needs to be done with your getting up in the morning". Again typically abusive, "it was your fault I yelled..."

I guess my point is, I don't believe that my behavioral pattern cannot just be symptoms of stress. And the same goes for my wifes behavior.

My husband of 9 years is

My husband of 9 years is really rude to my family. They have just been to stay and he completely ignored my brother in law and niece and only spoke when spoken to by my sister. He spent most of the weekend in our bedroom and did not greet them when they arrived. He refused to allow them to have his favourite ice cream and ate it all in front of them! He displays this behaviour every time family comes over. He was repulsive to me on the days leading up to their visit, shoving past me pretending it was an accident and being very rude with name calling. He was embarrassing me in public by making our dog run ahead while I was walking him so it looked like I had no control of him. This is all the most recent behaviour amongst other games. He has never told me I look nice or that i'm beautiful even on our wedding day. He doesn't like my friends coming round and he doesn't like me going out. He is a very hard worker and is doing really well in his job, at home he is withdrawn and unhelpful with the home, our dog and 2 small children. I am on antidepressants and I know that I would be better off without him but I am trapped as I am financially reliant on him. I love him and feel sorry for him but I am buckling under the weight of his control. Any advice would be appreciated.

I feel your pain, and I can help you, I think.

The only way to deal with him is to go rabid chimpanzee on him and verbally rip his face off. Do it without mercy because he has none for you. If he has a kernel of love for you inside, he will slowly begin to come around but only after you stomp a figurative "mud hole" into him. In your case, he sounds like he has the potential for physical abuse, so I would stomp the mud hole over the phone. Make sure he can't get to you or the kids, and GET A GUN. After re reading your message, I would leave his shitty ass only after carefully arranging all the details. You are dependent on him? Clean out that bank account BEFORE he knows you're gone. I know many women who have marriages like you describe. Their husbands have crushed them so thoroughly, they can't think anymore. Let me tell you a secret: he's the weak one. If he was strong, he wouldn't be a pissy little coward when it comes to your family, and he wouldn't derive such pleasure grinding his wife into a sad little heap. Is he very vain and secretive? He might have a girlfriend. Most men like this do. Did he take out a big life insurance policy on you? Find out. I've seen that scenario many times. You've got a lot to think about. Be absolutely cold and logical about this. What he does to you, your children will see. He might start on them. They might see what he does to you and treat you the same way. Go to church. Ask God to guide you through this. He will. Don't let anyone tell you that a Christian woman should put up with this rather than divorce him. That is a lie. If you don't want to officially divorce. File for an official separation. It will give you time to sort things out, and leave you the ability to reconcile, should he turn his life around. Remember: your children come first. Do everything you can to set them up to be safe and financially secure. Get a merciless lawyer that will get you enough alimony. This probably wasn't what you wanted to hear, but I've heard your story countless times. If you follow my advice, you'll do alright. P.S. If you have even the slightest idea that he would harm you. Get a restraining order or a non contact order, and let him know that if you see him, you will shoot to kill first and call the cops later. God bless.

Hmmmmm

I found it a bit odd that one of the advises when dealing with the passive aggressive perpetrator was to avoid yelling or sarcasm. Sarcasm is itself an obvious passive aggressive behaviour because the anger is disguised as humour.

Often it takes two to tango!

I note also that on the internet there is a clear tendency to paint the man as the perpetrator. In an earlier age the suffering in silence hen pecked husband was perhaps better known? Is the same man now the passive aggressive bad guy??

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Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker and co-author of The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed.

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