Pressmaster/Shutterstock
Source: Pressmaster/Shutterstock

How passive you are depends on your personality, your perceptions of the world and your place in it, your feelings of empowerment and entitlement, and of course, the specifics of a given situation. Passivity can be a useful strategy and a healthy coping mechanism in some situations. But it can also become habitual. When passivity begins to dominate our responses and interactions and determine our general approach to life, it can end up doing more harm than good.

The problem is we often do not realize how passive we've become and we often significantly underestimate how apparent our passivity is to others.

The following list should help you evaluate if you have passive tendencies and habits and whether you should try to change them.

How Passive People See the World

1. They leave their future to "the fates."

Relationships shouldn’t require so much effort; if we’re supposed to be together, things will work out.” Sometimes things do work out but it's much more likely to happen when both members of a couple take an active role in building a solid relationship.

2. They believe "things just happen."

Why do bad things always happen to me?” The reality is that both bad and good things happen to everyone. You can wait around for a good thing to happen to you, or be proactive and make one happen.

3. They confuse failure with destiny.

I guess I’m just not meant to (fill in the blank).” Failure is part of everyone's journey, not the last stop. Avoid this thinking by holding to the three Ps: Patience, perseverance, and persistence.

4. They believe ‘luck’ is an important ingredient for success.

Luck just wasn’t on my side.” (Or, “Other people get all the breaks!”) Luck, however you define it, is not in your control but preparation, planning, effort, and timing, are. Focus on those variables instead.

How Passive People Communicate

5. Their language is hesitant and tentative.

OK, um, it’s possible it could be kind of like that." Pay attention to your qualifiers and hesitations and practice speaking more directly. Speech patterns are sheer habit, and they can be changed.

6. They’re big on approval-seeking.

I hope you don’t mind me saying…” (Or, “If it’s okay with you, I’d like to suggest…”) If everyone else at a meeting is throwing out suggestions and opinions, then asking permission to offer yours makes you look "less than."

7. They belittle their own views.

I could be wrong—I’m no expert—but maybe…” Starting a statement by suggesting you could be wrong will make people less likely to conclude that you’re right. You literally make it harder for them to accept what you have to say.

8. They have trouble committing to a position.

Hmm. Both options have merit…” You might be trying to minimize potential conflict by not endorsing any of the options in front of you, but this makes you come across as indecisive, hesitant, or even fearful. If you have an opinion, voice it.

How Passive People Defer to Others

9. They put the other person’s needs first.

I could have dessert but if you’d rather just get the check, that’s fine.” With this pattern, you communicate that the other person’s needs are more important than yours, which is probably not the kind of general dynamic you want to set up. If you want dessert, say that you want dessert.

10. They say “yes” when they would prefer to say “no.”

I need to get an early start tomorrow but, sure, I can drive you home.” You're worried the other person will feel offended or upset if you say not, but that all depends with how you say no. You can be sincere and apologetic but still emphasize your needs and their primacy.

Copyright 2015 Guy Winch

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