Susie Burrell's blog has moved to Head there now for all the latest updates, mobile friendly templates, search tools and more.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Managing the passive aggressive

If there is one type of behaviour that is more infuriating than any other, it is passive aggressive behaviour. Not returning phone calls or messages; not doing something you normally would as a way of “getting one up” on another person, purposely not inviting them to an event to try and upset them, acting toward someone in a charming way but actually being mean, nasty or disrespectful in another, giving someone a nice compliment but then giving them a back hand at the same time such as “You are an attractive girl but much bigger than I would have thought for a dietitian” – J (Yes, someone did say this to me)

The funny thing about passive aggressive behaviour is that it is generally so transparent that there is almost no point in doing it. Passive aggressive behaviour slowly builds tension and unspoken anger that can make rebuilding relationships extremely challenging. Ongoing passive aggressive outbursts gradually destroy trust between people, and the ironic thing is that the behaviours are really only an outside representation of the ego of the person eliciting the behaviour.

As recipients of passive aggressive behaviour, if we want the war to be over, the worst thing we can do is retaliate – repeat and recreate the very behaviours we have been the recipient off – of course, this is easier said than done. It may be useful to remember that the instigator of the passive aggressive behaviour is generally a person who is unable to be honest and open in a relationship, and/or clearly express their feelings and emotions. Their own internal anger battle has no where to go except to be targeted at an outside person. To fully manage these people, the best thing we can do is be really honest with them – “I have noticed that you seem to be really annoyed with me, have I done something to upset you?”

Labeling their behaviour gives it an identity. In more cases than not, they do not like behaving this way and the issue is resolved and the behaviour controlled. It may also be useful to remember that the need to be passive aggressive is also often representative of the persons need for power over another person. Since power does not really exist, it is clear to see why passive aggressive behaviour rarely yields any outcome other than more anger and resentment.

In cases in which a person shows repeated instance of passive aggressive behaviour, and the person who becomes defensive when the nature of this behaviour is brought to their attention with no intention or signs of change, the best way is to avoid these interactions as much as you can and come to accept that there are simply some people in our lives you are better off without.

Perhaps the most powerful thing to remember is that if we were all simply a little more honest, and a little less worried about what everyone else was doing and concentrating on ourselves, the need to be passive aggressive at all would be completely eliminated. And most importantly, to avoid being an active participant in passive aggressive behaviour yourself, the simply act of asking self with each intention, “Is this contributing positive or negative energy into the world?” may be all you need to keep your own behaviour towards others in check.