Dealing with that Passive Aggressive Ish
Most people will probably do what Stan would have done… yell, scream, fight, argue. But see, that’s the thing. With passive aggression… there is the element of plausible deniability. Where is the proof of wrong doing?
With passive aggressors, there always will be a reason why the situation is not as it seems. There is always an explanation, a way out. And most times, when done well, leaves the ‘victim’ feeling helplessly frustrated.
Returning the favor does nothing to solve the initial problem. It just embolden the passive aggressor to do more of what they do. Half the time, the person doing the passive-aggression has no conscious idea that they’re being… a royal pain.
To them, they’re just trying to be the nice good guy in the situation by avoiding conflict.
“I don’t want to be judgmental… but…” is one of the many ways they try to soften the blow of what they’re doing without owning up to what they’re doing. They most likely didn’t really mean to be late to the dinner date, again, but you just have to understand that… fill in the blank.
It’s easy to spot aggression and deal with it. But when it’s passive, it’s slippery, it’s like wrestling with water vapor. Everyone gets wet, but nothing gets pinned down.
One way… plain and simple…
The best way to hold one’s sanity when dealing with passive aggression is to be very plain, very simple, very concrete, very direct, very clear. No beating around the topic. No need to be blunt and painful though.
Stan should just address the matter at hand directly. In the example of his laundry being dropped on the floor, instead of being baffled, he can simply call his lady to come over and observe the content on the floor. Stan would then explain the facts, stick to the facts. After drying the clothing, he piled them neatly. The plan was to return to put them away. Now, her clothing gone, his is on the floor.
Once the facts are presented, listen. If the passive aggressor finds a nice escape clause that doesn’t match up the facts, without getting upset, state how one feels. (before giving an example, Stan needs to be sure that he has proof her clothing is actually put away by her).
“I am saddened that this mistake has taken place. For future reference, should you accidentally drop my washed clothing on the floor, do kindly pick them back up or let me know if you can’t. Thank you”
No extra drama. No extended discussion. Just the setting of a solid limit. Of course, be prepared to uphold the limit if it’s tested again.
Why the simplicity and plainness? Some of the actions of the passive-aggressor is not done in direct malicious fashion. They’re probably upset about something else and this is their way of drawing attention to the problem without feeling “on the hook” for bringing up the issue. The simple and plain approach takes away one of their tools to deflect from the real problem… causing them to have to think about another tool.
In a round about way, by setting clear boundaries of what is not acceptable, you’re taking away the very exit strategies they want… to avoid facing the issue at hand. Once enough limits are set, one or both parties will be able to see the root cause of the problem and a more direct frank conversation will be available.
By keeping calm and addressing things in a cool fashion, the “victim” is setting the tone for future negotiations. Stan would be signaling to his wife that he’s open for dialogue in a cool adult fashion while making it clear that game-playing is not acceptable.
If Stan fires off into anger, it only empowers his lady to manipulate other situations in her favor. Think of how bullies thrive on the reactions of their victims. By staying cool, calm, and collected, there is no ‘reward’ for passive aggressiveness.
this is not all the science behind this data… just some musings based on the topic at hand…
Once the limits are in place, a cool and calm direct conversation has to take place to uncover the root problem.