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Tame Your Passive-Aggression

Four key ways to tame the passive-aggressor in you: from knowing your MO to tapping into the source of your anger.

  • Learn your Style: Soap Opera Villain or Unwitting Victim?

    If you're a passive-aggressor who knows just what you're doing, you can resolve to change your patterns. If you're unaware of your behavior, on the other hand, you'll likely resist the idea that you're harboring anger. You must practice expressing your emotions, which could be tricky if you've chosen a partner who is particularly uncomfortable with rage—someone who reinforces your deep-seated belief that anger is not acceptable.

  • Get Over the Need to Please

    Practice asserting your true wants and needs. Remember that it is okay to say no to requests, though you may vex others. "You need to stop pleasing other people," says Engel. "Act more from the point of view of what you want to do, instead of what you don't want to do." If you're passive-aggressive, you are often primarily motivated to placate others and avoid conflict, rather than going for what you want.

  • Tune Into Your Anger

    Pay close attention to situations that trigger anger, says Murphy. Acrimony could stem from loneliness, jealousy, sadness or embarrassment. "When you're upset about something, stop playing revenge scenarios in your head. Instead, imagine and then rehearse a more positive way of dealing with the situation head-on."

  • Fight Fair

    Tirades and outbursts don't squelch anger any more than ignoring it does. Resolve your discontent instead by examining the often irrational beliefs that underlie your reactions, such as an assumption that things must always go your way.

    When you're in open conflict with another person, focus on articulating your thoughts and understanding his point of view, and not exclusively on winning. Says Murphy, "That works in the Super Bowl, but not in a marriage or at work."