Living and interacting with a passive aggressive person can be frustrating and exhausting. Such people communicate their feelings in a roundabout way and hide their anger and resentment through evasiveness and sarcasm.
Passive aggressive people are sensitive to criticism and rejection and respond to conflicts in interpersonal relationship by acting cold, sullen and withdrawing affection. They "take revenge" by giving the silent treatment. They do not like, or are uncomfortable with confrontations and will mask their true feelings by being sarcastic and glib.
You will have a feeling that you are "walking on eggshells" all the time. If you have to live or work with such a person, it can be quite draining and stressful.
Traits of a Passive Aggressive Person
Passive aggressive people often feel that they are oppressed by others. They think of themselves as being misunderstood and under-appreciated.
Passive aggressive partners aim to control their relationship by agreeing to cooperate in certain issues but they will not follow through the agreement.
Such people are often sullen and argumentative. They will often make excuses for not completing any task with their forgetfulness.
Causes for Passive Aggressive Behavior
According to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, passive aggressive behavior is not considered as a personality disorder. However, it makes life very difficult for people who have to live with them. There can be a number of causes behind the development of passive aggressive traits in individuals.
The most probable one is growing up in a family or social atmosphere, where not much importance is given to an individual's needs and wants; where expressing personal desires is not accepted and is taken as being selfish.
Sometimes children resent their parents expectations and demands, but are too timid to openly defy their wishes. In such a situation, they express their anger and resentment by displaying passive aggressive behavior. In such situations, children contrive to protect the relationship with their family members and friends which they cannot afford to jeopardize.
How to Deal with a Passive Aggressive Person
If you find passive aggressive traits in your partner, spouse, coworker or children, there are a few things that you can do to deal with them.
- Try to nip such behavior in the bud. If a passive aggressive person insults you with a smile or try to pass off an insult as a joke, just tell him that it is not okay to do so. Let the person know that he has crossed the line and you won't accept such type of behavior.
This is very important, especially if you are living with a passive aggressive spouse or partner. Veiled insults are a form of mental abuse and if you don't let the other person know that such behavior is unacceptable, it will never stop.
- While discussing an issue or conflict with a such a person, make sure that you explain the ground rules. This means that none of you are going to use abusive language, rake up the past or go off track from your current discussion.
- One of the biggest mistake that most people make while dealing with such people is that they never confront them. It is very important to confront their behavior and express how you feel.
- If such a person intentionally forgets task assigned to him, then don't do it yourself. Make sure that the person knows that he cannot escape doing it by pretending forgetfulness.
A passive aggressive person will always try to deny that he/she was being hostile and will say that you misunderstood him/her. This type of behavior often stems from deep-rooted insecurities and fear, so you need to have patience while dealing with such people.