This conversation is closed.

How do you deal with passive aggressive individuals?

We all have different personality types.
Some of us are passive, some are assertive, some aggressive, some are passive aggressive.

And at any given time, we may display one or more of these personality traits based on the situation at hand.

I am interested in experiences you might have had or are having with individuals who specifically display a passive aggressive personality.

How do you deal with them at work?
How do you handle them within the family circle?

If you yourself are a passive aggressive person, could you shed light into why you choose to act this way? And also, what kind of people are you the most comfortable around?

Any and all comments are welcomed. I am hoping to learn more about this type of personality so I can better communicate with these individuals.

Thank you.

Closing Statement from W T

Thank you to all who participated in this most wonderful conversation on passive aggressive personalities.

Hopefully all who participated walked away knowing a little bit more about themselves and others.

We cannot change others, but we can certainly change ourselves.

It is in this light, that I started this conversation. My goal was to understand why passive aggressive individuals acted the way they do, so that I can better understand how to treat them and get along with them........your answers shed alot of light into my dilemna.....I am still reading and learning.

Thank you!!!

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    Feb 2 2013: My work as a counsellor has given me a few pointers in how to deal with aggression.

    The expectation of a passive aggressive, is to try and push people back away from them, thereby creating a comforting space around them in which to 'be themselves'. But what often happens is reciprocal confrontation, especially in competitive environments.

    The reasons why people are passively aggressive are very varied, but what seems to be most common is when there are perceived threats to autonomy - actual or subliminal - perhaps as repeated behaviour as a throwback from how they were parented.

    If a person on the receiving end refuses to get pushed back and instead attempts to achieve a genuine understanding of the aggression, the passive aggressive will immediately be put on the back foot, because understanding is not what they expect. This is effective as the first stage of disarming them (or to put it in a better way, the first stage of them letting someone in to their otherwise closely-guarded space) It takes a lot of time, courage and persistence - and maybe a few mental bruises on the way (especially near the beginning). But persistence, understanding and empathy always, always pays off - every single time.
    • W T

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      Feb 4 2013: Thank you so much for your input.

      I agree with you that persistence understanding and empathy are important, and yes, they do pay off..
  • Feb 3 2013: To the date it is almost 3 years ago, that FB almost literally "saved my life" on this matter!

    A friend used the (to me unknown term) passive-aggressive in one of his posts - and revealed to me an outer galaxy of personalities I was dealing with all my life ---- and was stuck in a really unhealthy relationship at that time...wondering what was going on and what role I played in the "drama".

    To me after back then 3 days of intense research it boiled down to these insights:

    1) do not involve the "suspect" into your thoughts. U did not break it - u don't have to fix it!
    2) inhale before you react - stay level-headed ALL the time - do not use humour or sarcasm
    3) be ready to see drastic change of behaviour immediately - the ugly truth might just unfold within hours
    4) check yourself - what is your "part of the game"!

    Here are the links that helped me most understand what is going on and the manual with all your FAQs!
    These insights deeply changed my life - I realized I was completely blind and helpless and the perfect match for this kind of personalities....(now it looks all that easy! :))

    Basic understanding:

    In depth solutions and insights:

    There is a ton of stuff out there...
    ...I wish you all the best in your endeavour!
    • W T

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      Feb 4 2013: How can I thank you......let me count the ways.

      Your first link, in my opinion, could very easily be titled...."The Passive Aggressive Bible"
      What a wealth of information, written to the point and clear....I will be printing it and attempting to find
      the same material in spanish......otherwise, I will translate it myself.

      Angie, thank you so very much for sharing your personal experience and the links.
      I will be looking into the second link later on tonight.
      Thanks again,
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    Feb 2 2013: Passive Aggressive behavior is something that all people display at times and is usually bought on in situations where people feel scared to voice their true opinions. I've got a strong personality at work and with my social peers, a more passive personality when learning from a mentor and develop passive aggressive personality when I'm in a situations such as 1) Having to take orders from someone who I believe is making a mistake 2) Being in awkward social environments with people who use subtle ways to undermine me for their own gain 3) Being in the company of someone with a very aggressive personality.

    If someone's displaying passive aggressive behavior to you, it means they're scared to be honest around you. If you can earn their trust and make them believe that voicing their real opinions won't have any bad consequences for them, they might open up and naturally let go of the passive aggressive behavior. In the work place, those people aren't the ones you should trust too much. Build the bridge but don't be to quick to test them with real responsibilities until you feel they're ready. If you want to short-term communicate with someone displaying Passive aggressive, try pacifying your own personality allot, that will always disarm the passive aggressive as passive aggressive behavior relies on counter attacks. - I hope you've found this helpful. DC
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        Feb 2 2013: Exelent Response - From this perspective, I beleave that it is a matter of the correct engagent to get through to a person who is suffering from pathalogical-passive-agressive anxieties. In order to communicate to some-one like that, you have to engage them in a way that they are liberated from their anxieties. If you consciously passify yourself before engagement, you will be able to address the problem in a way that they empathies with. If they are able to see you in a voulnarable light, they in turn will expose their voulnerability. The key is to prepare for your talk mentaly and be prepared to take (what may seem unfair) chriticism against your person. - one meaningful conversation can make all the difference - I hope you find this helpful. DC
    • W T

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      Feb 2 2013: Hi Dan,

      Thank you so much for your insights into this subject.

      I have done several "social experiments", if I may call them that, with passive aggressive people, and with assertive people, and with aggressive people.....all to learn more about me and my own personality.

      My voice is kind of soft. I am usually around very loud spanish speakers, who, when they see I speak softly, take it for "oh, she must not know what she's doing, and must be very shy, so I'll take over the conversation and dominate it" first, I used to raise my voice and try to keep up and give my two cents....I no longer do that. I just let people have their say. Then, when they allow me to speak without cutting me off, I will say a thing or two.....but it's usually just one thing, and I am interrupted in the middle of it. :)

      With passive individuals, I find the interaction a bit challenging.

      I have a friend who is passive, who only calls me when she is in trouble. She asks me to help her, and then I talk and talk.....but, I have come to learn that I need to asks alot of questions of her to really know what the "root" of her problem is. I speak using questions, and I answer to the point. Our conversations have gotten shorter, but they are more meaningful.

      With P.A. individuals, the thing is totally different. We could be having a great conversation, then all of the sudden, out of left field, comes a sly remark, or a double meaning expression meant to hurt. That is usually when I shut down and bow out.

      I purposedly limited this conversation to relationships we have at work, home, school, because I thought it would be easier to give factual info. about the individuals we deal with day in day out.

      I find your point about making ourselves passive helps the pa individual to engage better to be TRUE!
      I have realized that some are scared to show their true feelings around me. That is why I feel I need to change my way of communicating with them.

      Thank you for contribution Dan!!
  • Jan 31 2013: You let a PA control you when you care what they think. When you get small, they have you.
    they will challenge your image you have of yourself. If you think you are a nice person. The will bet on that to get you. So you have to be willing to accept the fact that somepeople will consider you a B#@CH, SELFISH,
    It seems to cut to the chase with a clear but calm and considerate "What do you want?"
    Why are you telling me this? What do you want me to do about it? not defensive but clear.

    " i am not interested right now in the opinions of other's, I am interested in what is bothering you."
    My you seem very angry.. ,, upset,

    "I understand your point, but I don't agree with you".

    About the $200 . Then you tell your sibling to step aside and leave you to handle the situation. let me make my own mistakes if necessary.
    it is insulting that they interfere with your process. If either the hotel clerk or you have a lesson to learn it is not to be resolved by you sibling. Boom.

    There are of course lots of different gradients of PA behaviour.

    PA's do not know boundaries or how to say no. NO! is already a deterent. No is already something that ruins the atmosphere. but then of course like a wave it builds up. So encouraging a PA to express what they want without reprocusion (judgment) and also knowing that they may also not get what they want, but will not be judged for it. will be very handy.
    The wave that comes after too much passivity usually is self anger that we have denied ourselves and made ourselves small by being too hard on ourselves and so therefore we lash out usually on someone we trust or feel close too enough to get angry with.... otherwise we wouldn't even dare. and over dramatize the situation.

    Now i know enough to say. I am probably being overly dramatic, but this is how I feel.
    Another sibling of mine, just avoids any deep conversation, and his partner insists there is nothing wrong, just say how you feel.
    • W T

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      Feb 1 2013: I like how you state that you let a PA control you when you care what they's in harmony with Pat Gilbert's comment below..."If you are reacting you are not facing them."

      Your remarks ...."What do you want, Why are you telling me this, and What do you want me to do about it" are spot on to diffuse PA.....but I find them strong, I would probably tweek them to suit my nature.

      I never, and I mean never, was mean as a child. I never called anybody names. Never got into any fights in school. Never spoke bad about one friend to another. Never stuck my tongue out to anyone. It's just not in me. I imagine that is probably why I am an easy target for some of my siblings. .

      The lashing out at someone you trust or feel close to I understand.
      It seems that sometimes the PA behavior is most evident within the family circle, while their is harmony and wonderful relationships outside.

      Let me tell you Suz, that my father, who is not pa, learned a long time ago to not be bothered by such individuals. He continually tells me that when I get emotional then they are controlling me. He always says to me, "Why do you get so worked up over someone who doesn't care about you?"

      Talking about our feelings may leave us vulnerable....but I must say that this whole conversation has been very therapeutic. It is too bad that just like one of your siblings, there are individuals in my life who also will not have deep conversations. So much can be dealt with if we are willing to be honest and talk.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences, they have helped.
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    Jan 30 2013: Well, one powerful strategy for dealing with anyone who is bothering you is to ask questions, learn more about them.
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      Jan 30 2013: Excellent proposal Greg! Rather than labeling and catagorizing people, we have an opportunity to learn. You know we may be labeled passive aggressive because of this strategy, don't you??? LOL:>)
    • W T

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      Jan 30 2013: Greg, I agree that asking questions is always good, if the person is an honest individual who has a desire to cooperate with us.
      But the PA individual rarely cooperates. He/she makes a show of appearing to cooperate, but is really just wanting to undermine your efforts to engage in upbuilding, constructive communication.

      Did you read the definition I provided at the beginning of this conversation?

      Have you got a tale or two about an individual who has displayed this kind of behavior around you? And do you remember how you reacted?

      I don't think that it is a matter of being bothered so much, I think perhaps it is mostly a matter of the frustration due to a lack of open and honest communication.

      Thanks for your contribution Greg.
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        Jan 30 2013: Mary M,
        I have an example I would like to share. There was a Mary M on Ted (I don't know if you are the same Mary M because your profile is not available).

        Mary M expressed the idea that we were having "upbuilding constructive communication" UNTIL I said I would prefer NOT to get Johova Witness materials by e-mail, and then Mary M stopped communicating with me.

        Perhaps those who one would label passive aggressive simply do not agree with you, and if you have decided that "they" are not honest individuals, passive aggressive, or any other label you choose to use, there is no opportunity to move beyond that label.

        Honestly, I've witnessed passive aggressive traits with people on this thread who give advice on how to deal with "them". You know.....those in glass houses........

        It really is important to "KNOW" ourselves, and then it is not necessary to label and catagorize others.

        You ask...."And do you remember how you reacted?"
        Yes Mary M, I remember how I acted/reacted, and it was with continued kindness and respect. Open and honest communication is a two way street.
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        Feb 1 2013: Well, upon second thought, perhaps questions aren't the most powerful, although a questioning spirit is. The worst passive aggressive person I confronted was my neighbor. For whatever reason she took a grudge to me and her way of dealing with it was when she finished a cigarette she'd throw it over the wall onto our property. We never saw her do it, but based on the cigarettes being near where she smoked, and her being the only person who regularly smoked out there, and the person with the grudge, it seemed very likely that she was the one.

        When I talked to her, I said "I haven't seen you do this, but for these reasons it does seem likely that you are the one. If you are doing it, please stop." And she did stop. Well, it was a difference for me. When I was young, I would have charged in there and said she was definitely doing it, whereas with a little more lucidity from age I realized I really don't know for sure, it seems likely but not certain. So that kind of lucidity might be important, where you don't assume anything.
        • W T

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          Feb 4 2013: I am so glad you came back and gave me an example of your passive aggressive neighbor.

          I think we all have had them.

          Mine was a couple who always parked their car in front of our home whenever they wanted to wash it.

          They'd use our fence to rest their rags and hoses, and such.

          They'd wet the entrance of our home, etc....

          I always saw it as a blessing. I figured I didn't have to spend the money on water for keeping the front of my home clean.:)

          I really value the questioning spirit thought.

          The way you spoke to your neighbor left room for other words, you allowed her room to defend herself should she have been innocent....the fact the littering stopped most certainly helped you see that it was her. She should have been ashamed of herself.

          Good for you!
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    Jan 29 2013: Hi Mary!As a grumpy old man I don't deal with people who behave as described, I have the luxury of just walking away. I know you younger folks are sometimes bound by social, familial, school, or work obligations to endure these psychopaths. They didn't have a name back when I was in the rat race, not a clinical name which could be used in polite circles. I like folks who say yes when they mean yes, and no when they mean no. Everyone else is just playing a psycho-social chess game. Honesty, candor, decency and respect are to be expected and given. Those who consider subterfuge, duplicity and obfuscation to be the more sophisticated techniques of social interaction are [expletive deleted]! Avoid them if you can, get EVERYTHING in writing if you can't. One other thing. . . . . don't be one.
    • W T

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      Jan 30 2013: Hi Ed!

      It is interesting to note the following:

      "Passive aggressive behavior was first defined clinically by Colonel William Menninger during World War II in the context of men's reaction to military compliance.

      Menninger described soldiers who were not openly defiant but expressed their aggressiveness “by passive measures, such as pouting, stubbornness, procrastination, inefficiency, and passive obstructionism” due to what Menninger saw as an "immaturity" and a reaction to "routine military stress".

      source: Wikipedia

      In some situations one might be able to walk away from these kinds of personalities.....and actually, some psychologist highly recommend walking away and avoiding them; but sometimes you have no choice but to coexist. So I am really looking for those on here who can supply some examples of how they deal with the P.A. individuals in an everyday environment (work, school, home)

      Thanks Ed. Enjoyed reading your comment.
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    • W T

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      Feb 1 2013: Kate, I'm so glad you have been following our conversation.

      It seems that many of us have PA individuals in our lives.

      Your statement "don't underestimate the damage they can cause" is a fact.

      I think any time we are not willing to talk to those who we claim to love, we are inevitably sabotaging and undermining our relationships. For some, it is very hard to let their emotions show.

      Their are so many bridges to mend Kate.

      Being aware of the damage that passive aggressive actions may cause should keep us from displaying such behavior. And when we recognize it in others, well then, it would be great to apply all the fine counsel given here. I also liked Juliette's advice.

      Thanks for your contribution!!
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        • W T

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          Feb 1 2013: You know Kate, I was really surprised to read also that bottled up anger is at the root of pa behavior. It is the frustration at not being able to show their feelings of anger that gets them to be pa...but of course I also agree with what you state. I have seen the jealousy and envy also as a reason to display pa behavior.

          And wouldn't it be great if someone commented about a pa developing insights and working on healthier outcomes. Let's hope someone does.

          Did you read Suz first entry below? She gives some very good information.
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          Feb 1 2013: I agree Kate.....I don't perceive anger as much as insecurity with passive aggressive behaviors. In fact, it seems like taking on a victimization response is one of the most common traits? Which supports your perception that jealousy and hatred seem overwhelming. I wouldn't put "envy" in there however, because it appears that envy of another person, may be part of the sense of feeling insecure or a "victim"?

          I agree with you Kate, that it is important to set boundaries around passive aggressive behaviors. It is also important to recognize that those with passive aggressive behaviors cannot make us "feel" a certain way, nor can they "push our buttons" unless we allow that to happen. No one can "make" us act or react in a certain way....that is a choice we make for ourselves. If we are clear with our own boundaries, and our own actions/reactions, we choose how we feel, act and react at any given time.

          I agree with what Mary writes in her introduction....
          "And at any given time, we may display one or more of these personality traits based on the situation at hand."

          Based on that, which I wholeheartedly embrace, I don't like to label people "passive agressive". While I'm sure there are clinically diagnosed "passive aggressive" people out there somewhere, I think "passive aggressive" is a catch phrase that some folks use to label those who do not agree with them.

          A couple people on this thread, including you Kate, Greg, and Juliette have offered the best advice, in my aware of open to learning about the issues of other people with respect and kindness.
  • Jan 30 2013: Hi,
    My entire family is passive aggressive and I'm the last of eleven kids and currently 49 years of age. I have lived through some very awful and difficult family and work situations and it seems like it always as to do with passive aggressive people, regardless of the situation itself. I'm curious to know why? Is it possible to be wise enough to counteract the effect of passive aggressive behavior in your immediate surroundings and life in general. I have come to my wits end trying to find a way to deal without cause and effect.
    What do you want to know first? If I go chronologically it may take a while cause it starts before the age of 5 yrs old as I was sexually abuse by one of my brother (mid family one) and it ended when I was 5. I recall many things and images but I cannot specifically time any of them. When over with came the taboos. Could not talk about it ever otherwise it would end up in a total family dispute and nobody won. Of course booze being part of the equation never made it any easier. I was left to myself to deal with something I certainly did not understand and to top it all no one allowed me to talk either. Until I found myself with the same problems as my dear family always had, drinking had finally had the better of me...I pursued something that I had no idea about and was not armed with the proper defense tools to deal with the consequences of lots of my actions and decisions. I was living promiscuously but I did not like it. I was ashamed of what I had become....what I was forced too become. During that time I met now my ex partner and father of my 2 kids, now 24 and 26 years old. They are my life. Except for them, that relationship was doomed from the start and it took me years to find the nerve to walk out, but it costs me dearly. Many years in court battles regarding custody issues and I lost. Moves across Canada and finally the kids decides to come live with me. And the challenge continues...
    • W T

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      Jan 30 2013: Hi Sylvie,

      Thank you so much for wanting to be part of our discussion.

      In the definition I gave at the bottom of this conversation, there are some general ways that PA individuals act.

      You may wish to contribute some specific ways in which you have dealt with particular issues.
      It is not necessary to be very specific. You may wish to speak in general terms if you'd like.

      I am so sorry for all that you have gone through. I am sure your children love you very much. And it is wonderful that you have trusting friends to rely on.

      We are a work in progress......I look forward to reading whatever other information you wish to contribute.
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    Jan 30 2013: Mary, This first thing in dealing with then is ... what is your position ... and what authority do you have .... we had a superintendent who allowed things to set on his desk and the time limit expired. His actions cost the district and students much. After repeated warnings he was fired and he sued us. The result was that he was paid four years salary and was to be given a favorable recommendation during his job search. This happens to often.

    It is difficult to win in these situations. I would suggest there are ways to insolate their input and influence at the lower level. The work and research is all upon the supervisor / administrator to act to release these types. The most important is documentation. The theory I use is give them enough rope to hang themselves. Give them specific tasks that are commonly assigned and completed by all other staff members. Put them in charge of projects and allow them the opportunity to succeed or fail. Many say walk away .. I say highlight them. It clearly identifies them and makes them chose the path they wish to follow ... it also allows others to see them as they chose to be seen.

    I don't know who said it : When you argue with a fool .. after while it had hard to tell which is which.

    The point being that you should be careful that you do not become the victim here. They set clever traps and you may get caught in one. To them ... this is a game ... to you ... it could be your career.

    I wish you well. Bob.
    • W T

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      Jan 30 2013: Bob, seems your superintendent of schools was the same one we had six years ago......Our county has never been the same since.

      Your strategies in dealing with these individuals at work are phenomenal.

      In my reading I have discovered that young children also display this PA behavior when wanting to get out of something.

      So, needles to say, I have been on the lookout for it, because, having two school aged kids who are always wanting to get out of something, I need the upper hand...LOL

      I have learned, through my reading that you have to be very specific, and provide details to prevent misunderstandings that can later be used as an excuse to get out of a task.

      And yes, while walking away is a strategy to use......sometimes you need to highlight these individuals. You need to call them out for their behavior. This is what the literature suggests as well.

      The fine line is knowing WHEN to highlight.......

      Extreme PA individuals who have never been helped to see their toxic actions are very clever indeed, and they can easily make you act like a victim..........this is very dangerous , and can destroy you emotionally....not to mention ruining your careet as well.

      Great points Bob. Thank you so much for all the insights and strategies.

      Be Well,
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        Jan 30 2013: Mary, One last note on the Super .. He went to Nevada got another Super job and did basically the same thing. They saw the trend immediately and moved his desk into the hall ... his duties were performed by another person ... he was told not to interact with the kids .... he had to report in to the secretary and report out ... any time spent away from his desk was logged ... the board changed his job description to reflect all of this. Of course he sued. This time his past kept up with him and he lost and his certificate was pulled. Some times you win one.

        I read a book that refered to a method the Japanese use that is called "a window seat". It is basically the same. Your duties are zilch and you are requitred to just set there everyday with no interaction. This is your job and you may quit if you wish ... in shame.

        Perhaps there should be a web site that shows how long a super was there and the reason he left. If the reason is sealed then under reason type "sealed" and the red flag goes up without devulging as required by law. To many bad eggs are out there. This occurs way to often.

        Thanks for the reply. Bob.
      • Jan 30 2013: Mary, I like your comment; The fine line is knowing when to highlight...
        We should exchange ideas because I am baffled by this question. It costs me 3 jobs in the last decade and after therapy and anti-depressants, which I'm not convince help that much, I'm moving back to BC to find peace on my own. I have made a couple a dear friends there a few years back and they are, except for my 2 kids and with certain limits, the only other people on this planet that I can trust.
        • W T

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          Jan 30 2013: Sylvie, were the jobs you lost due to passive aggressive types affecting your work environment?

          I know you mentioned your entire family is passive aggressive. What about you?

          I hope you read through the entire thread, and really think about what you are reading.

          I suggest also the phychology today site. You can type in "passive aggressive" in the search box and read up on what type of behavior it is, and how to keep the peace with such individuals.

          I started this conversation because I myself have been affected by such personality types. Although all of us at one time or another may act out in such a manner.....there are those that have perfected the fine art of PA behavior, and these individuals can be very toxic, especially in the work field.

          Looking forward to your reply.
          Thanks for your contribution.
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    Jan 30 2013: Well I usually deal with them with a great deal of humor. I do not know why but I find passive aggressive people funny and predictable. I even think about how they will react to a new initiative or rule and when they behave the way I predicted i find joy in that. (I know kinda weird). It throws them for a loop when they try and push my buttons and I bust out laughing.

    At work if I have a change or something to initiate, I always let my report tos know to help prevent the whole "reporting to authority" route.

    They are a little difficult to manage as an employee. They like to be in their box dusting and rearranging furniture. I try and remember that some stuff is scary for them. Then I try and make sure I praise them a lot especially in front of other people. It's tough to talk behind someones back who just complimented you in front of everybody.

    And who doesn't have one or two of these in their family? They are important to the very fabric of the family. They keep us knit together and completely whacko. Who would we fight with if they were not there?

    But there are some passive aggressive people who are toxic. Who will stop at nothing in retaliation or sabotage. They are usually really really good at it, better than I can predict sometimes. Those people I escort out of my life as quickly as possible to minimize damage.
    • W T

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      Jan 30 2013: Hi Linda.

      I think that your style of handling these individuals at your work site shows you have been around them a while, and know full well how to deal with them.

      Your point about talking positive about them before walking out the door is a good suggestion in my view.
      I have been in situations where a passive aggressive has sent someone else to bait some kind of sly remark about themselves from a coworker. Like you said, once you are used to these kind of people, and recognize how they act, they are predictable.

      I think that those of us who discern personality types and are still in the process of learning how to deal with them, go through all kinds of strategies. The end goal for me is to live in some kind of harmony with coexist with respect, but also knowing full well what they are capable of, if given the opportunity.

      It is still a challenge though....especially in the family.

      I find that, just like psychology today brings out, PA individuals have a calmness about them. They pinch you and sit back, letting you scream and holler while they remain calm. And then, to the passersby YOU look like the attacker.

      I will have to disagree with you on the PA's keeping the family knit together.......but I will agree that they keep the family whacko.....LOL

      And yes, some are toxic. The best thing to do, if you can, is to walk away!
      Have you been able to make friends with a passive aggressive individual?
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        Jan 30 2013: Interesting question. I had to think about it. I have tried to make friends with some passive aggressive people. They tend to be a little needy and I tend to gravitate towards that. However, I tend to be upfront and somewhat blatant (in case you haven't noticed). True PA persons cannot tolerate the feedback and they tend to shy away from any outreach of friendship. I mean I say stuff like, "You know, your passive aggressiveness drives me nuts sometimes!" They don't like that. It does not reinforce their view of the world.

        The other thing I forgot to say about work. You can leverage their talents to float ideas and to start the process of initiating change sometimes. Remember, their MO is to undermine everything. So when you have to initiate a change, they can plow the field for you and make the change a little easier. You just have to "take them into your confidence" and let them do their thing. But you have to be smart about it or it can backfire.

        I like what you said earlier about how children manifest this behavior. That is how they contribute to the family. You just have to remember it is childish behavior and for whatever reason, they are stuck. If you can help the family see that, everyone can understand their behavior a little better and it looses its power.

        Power is key. PA gives the powerless a sense of power.
        • W T

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          Jan 30 2013: Interesting that you find PA people needy........I have seen them act like the victim, all shy and helpless...but I have also seen them confident, and appearing to be in the know.

          I think that all too often, if the PA person does not know anything about personality types, they display their behavior without knowing the NAME of it, so it's hard to call them on it.

          One particular PA person I deal with daily, grew up in a very large household of many many many siblings. It was like Darwin's survival of the fittest....or Survivor's "outwit, outplay, outlast"........And even though they are no longer in that environment....they can't stop playing the game. It has taken me YEARS to realize that they were displaying PA behavior.

          I tried all kinds of strategies to deal with them.....I would mirror them, retaliate, ignore, etc....... Now, with reading and listening to talks on the topic, I am learning to get a grasp on how to best deal w/ such individuals.

          Linda, the effects of being around these individuals can be very harmful to one's emotions if one is not educated on the matter.

          I find your contribution very helpful, especially what you state in the second paragraph about using them at work.

          "Childish behavior" is right.........I feel like PA personalities often times are programmed to act this way due to their nurturing......then as adults, it is hard for them to kick the habit.

          Interesting enough, some of the online articles I have read say that you have to make the PA individuals feel like their opinion counts, and you have to listen attentively to what they say and let them know you really and truly want to take into account their feelings. This positive reinforcement can help them to slowly trust you enough and will help them express their feelings of anger in a more constructive way.

          A couple of articles also brought out that the PA individual oftentimes have very low self-esteem....which kind of harmonizes with what you mention at the end.

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        Jan 30 2013: "I tried all kinds of strategies to deal with them.....I would mirror them, retaliate, ignore, etc......." See that's just it. I do not try and change the behavior. Low self esteem is just the tip of the iceberg. Most people display this behavior when they are insecure. I mean really insecure. So trust is key. i agree they need to be heard. But let me give you an example I see in my office a lot.

        PA "So-and-so did such-and-such to this-and-that" or "I know you told me to do that but i had this-and-that I had to finish."

        Me: "Oh my. That is very serious. So what are you going to do about it?"

        This works very very well. But you have to coach your report tos because this will come back to bite you during your evals. Because the PA will say you can never be approached with any problems because you never do anything about them.

        I am not kidding about the powerlessness. It is so bad that when I ask them what they are going to do about it they are completely at a loss and will try and run away from personal responsibility. It took me two years to get one person to accept responsibility and I was so happy when they came to me an said, "This happened and it was my fault." I was estatic. But anytime the stress in the office is intensified, they fall back on their default behavior. I understand that. I am NOT their psychologist.

        Remember the behavior you see, the calmness, the victim stuff. It is all an act. All that acting is because of their insecurity. The powerlessness they feel. They are very difficult to empower because they do not know how to deal with the power. So it is slow going. I don't try to "fix" them but I do see them as valuable and a part of my team. They bring something to the team that gives it better dimension.

        See the chaos they try and create gives them a false sense of control. Even when they start that whole 'rescuing' stupidity. You know, where they make it so bad and then try to waltz in with the solution.
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          Jan 31 2013: "the PA will say you can never be approached with any problems because you never do anything about them."

          It seems that many a times it is always someone else's fault things are not working out. Placing blame is very typical...or at least that is what I have observed.

          I remember a friend telling me a story of how he trained someone to do the mailings that needed to be done on a particular day. After step by step instructions, do you know what the individual did?
          He filled the envelopes with the inserts you could not see the address through the window. Also, the stamps were all placed upside down......and on top of that, whenever any cooperation was required to complete any kind of job, the work was done wrong.......I am talking about money going doing the drain on materials that were used improperly, and had to be redone correctly by someone else. I thought that the person must have been really really stupid.....but now I know otherwise. He used classic passive aggressive behavior to get out of the work.....and when forced to do it, he did it wrong.

          Unbelieveably, the guy is still at the same job!

          I have never seen any one of them come back to try and be the knight in shiny armor with the solution....they are usually walking the other way.
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        Jan 31 2013: LOL I was married to that guy:)
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          Jan 31 2013: Linda, aren't we all???LOL (you in the past, me in the present)

          I think that pa behavior is very prevalent in some men.....they don't want to come out and say no to us, but they are masters at procrastination and mishandling assignements/chores........I used to confront and raise my voice. I no longer do that. I have learned to give very clear directions, where there is no doubt as to what needs to be done.

          Were you aware of how to handle that personality type when you were married?

          Because in the psych today site they have some great counsel for those married couples where one is pa. They make it seem like the whole thing is reversible, and that you can get the pa person to stop being pa.

          I myself find it a little hard to believe.
          But regardless, I am going to give it my all in trying to change the way I deal with these individuals, for the benefit of all involved.
  • Feb 4 2013: Hi Mary,

    you are very welcome :)
    The second link is an in depth hands on guide thru all the questions you might ask yourself while taking a new approach.

    In German there is nothing.
    I do not know about Spanish - but the content is worth to be understood by whoever faces these challenges.

    Warning: you will never be the same after fully understanding what the real PA is all about.

    I feel blessed that I took that class!!
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      Feb 4 2013: I went to the second link....but after 10 or so seconds it took me to another won't let me stay on the link....any idea why?
  • Jan 31 2013: Hi Mary,
    1. my mother is passive aggressive and personally I think, Manic Depressive. ( her parents too PA)
    and so I think my siblings also
    2. I also show smaller signs of Passive behaviour and have worked very hard to get that under my umbrella of responsibilities..
    3. I live now in a community that is full of PA types. and some of my friends are at the brink of being ruined by PA types.

    Regarding my family. I was labelled and very good at diffusing arguments. Hate arguments. Hate all the violent outbursts and anger. The result of peace making and praise for my peacemaking abilities is that I never accepted the other side. Which has become a dark side. All the bad things I did, I kept undercover. Which probably aren't so bad. I essentially didn't allow myself to be myself. As an adult it has come out. I have had very strong opinions about things I don't like and I do what I always do "Tolerate the behaviour" Tolerate the discomfort.
    passive... let it slide..
    aggressive...... how dare you get the upperhand while I am denied the chance.

    Where strict rules are present there is PA behaviour. "hey wait a minute! you are not obeying the rules! that's not allowed." I am going to tell on you. Report you. but I don't want to be the whistle blower, cause secretly I want to be free from these rules too. I want the freedom you so blatantly feel belongs to you and you alone.!!! %$&^%$ So I will disguise my anger as "concern" and make you feel bad that you are so thoughtless. I will not come right out and tell you because that would mean a confrontation and then you will start yelling at me! no no. I will even initiate a curiosity 'would like to understand you' conversation. just so I can prick you with the message, "Listen you are not aware that others are very inconvenienced by your unconscious behaviour".
    Mother's personal favorite. get you vulnerable and then kill
    A PA disguises a judgment as an opinion and then say, "but whatever, that's just me" ..
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      Jan 31 2013: Hi Suz,

      Your contribution is so enlightning. You have validated alot of frustrations I have felt in dealing with my siblings. I have always been made to feel like my opinions on a matter are over the wall...out there....and that I, to quote one of my siblings: "overanalyze things" other words, I should just let things slide, don't waste time thinking about it.

      I cannot tell you the times we have been confronted with injustices, and I step up to defend our rights as citizens, or consumers, or patients, and I am met with criticism from siblings.

      I remember one time being charged almost $200 by a hotel because of their mistake. I disputed the charge and it was credited to me but my sibling thought it wasn't worth the hazzle and paid it on their card. They made me feel that I was too nitpicky, and that I should do like them and let things go....I was so dumbfounded by their attitude. At the time I did not have the knowledge I have today.

      My various thoughts in the past...."they're so can they not see what I inconsiderate.....oblivious to what is around them.....laid back......incompetent.......procrastinator....why don't they speak up...etc...."

      It has been a roller coaster ride all these years.......and still our relationships are so fragile.
      Sadly, their children also display pa behavior.
      One child in particular has been a bully at school since kindergarten....always with pa behavior (it's a girl).
      When I saw how abusive the speech was towards my own children, I immediately cut the time we spent together as a family.
      I love my siblings, but I dislike how they wear us down emotionally.

      Thank you so very much for sharing your priceless thoughts, not only with me, but with the entire TED community.

      May I ask how you have handled pa behavior in someone that is close to you?
      For example, do you always call them on it, or do you ignore, or is there a tactic you use to ease over the pa's attitude and keep the peace?

      Thanks, Mary
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    Jan 30 2013: Help the person learn better skills. People behave in a certain way because they don't know the better way. What is great about people labeled "passive aggressive" (by labelers) is that they tend to be gentle, patient and most often kind. So they are the best learners. And remember they learn through the gentle, patient and kind approach!!
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      Jan 30 2013: You've got something there Juliette. I have to agree with everything you state.

      In the literature I have read, the same thing comes up over and over. It seems that the behavior which psychologists label passive aggressive behavior, is oftentimes connected to individuals who just need to be handled in a specific way due to their lack of being able to express their angry feelings (more often than not it is because they were discouraged from doing so when they were younger).

      I read that many times these individuals have very low self-esteem.

      I can tell you that it has been my experience that dealing with them in a soft, kind manner, or walking away when they insist on exhibiting passive aggressive behavior to be the most effective. But, I also agree with the professional opinion that some times you have to call them out when they are taking the easy way out, and instead of talking, they resort to actions which are less than the example of the dishes I mentioned earlier.

      Thank you so much Juliette....I really appreciate your fine contribution.
  • Jan 30 2013: The book - coping with difficult people - has as many good ideas of dealing with people at work as I have seen.
    It's a shame people are like this, but they won't change.
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      Jan 30 2013: Thank you so much for the book title.

      I just looked it library has a copy of the book, and I ordered it.

      And although some people won't change, I am hoping that I myself will change as a result of this conversation, and will be better able to interact with those that are different from me.

      That is my goal anyway. It has taken me a while to realize that I can do something about my predicament.
      Thank you for your wonderful contribution George.
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      Feb 12 2013: Just wanted you to know that I am half way through the book you recommended.
      As soon as it came in to the library (I had to order it from another branch), I could tell it was a practical, useful book............someone had underlined, circled, highlighted, and made arrows pointing to the most important facts. I wonder if the library gave them a fine for doing that? LOL

      Wonderful book George! Thanks again.
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    Jan 30 2013: Keep your own council, an idiom that means keep your opinion to yourself.

    Realize that your opinion of yourself is not decided by ANYONE but you.

    Raise your ability to face these type people. And more importantly face the ones who are not as easy to read and who stab you in the back. Remember their game is to intimidate, my advise would be decide not to be intimidated, decide that you control your emotions and NO ONE else.
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      Jan 30 2013: Pat, I find your counsel to face these types of people in harmony with what I have read.

      However, you have to know when to face them. Sometimes you have to walk away, and not react when they attack in their subtle way.

      The trick is knowing when you should not let them get away with the family circle, this is a big, big challenge, to say the requires alot of tact.

      I wholeheartedly agree with you that we control our emotions, and No One else should..........but this again is a challenge for some.. It seems some of us have buttons well within the reach of others, and they can be pushed at any given time.

      Thanks for the contribution.
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        Jan 30 2013: If you are reacting you are not facing them.

        Everyone has a different level of ability on this.
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          Jan 30 2013: I believe you are correct.

          Everyone has a different level of ability on this.
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    Jan 30 2013: Like Edward below, I am extremely grateful that my life and work allow me to avoid mean and angry people. I have always avoided people with temper, whether flaring or smoldering.
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      Jan 30 2013: That is just swell!! I too try to avoid them if possible.......and if I have to be around them I measure my words. But I am sure that there are those who have no choice but to interact with such individuals.

      Let's see what else gets contributed.

      Passive Aggressive behavior is also the culprit in alot of girl an educator I have seen it over and over.

      Thanks for your contribution.
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        Jan 30 2013: Mary, I was not putting forward the idea of avoidance of hostile people as a good strategy but saying only that I seldom have the stomach for that whole scene, for reasons firmly rooted in my past. I do, however, come to the defense of those being attacked when I witness it. It can be very much like bullying behavior.

        Robert often has great wisdom in these matters.
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          Jan 30 2013: Oh, I understood you Fritzie.....when I said Swell....I meant it wonderful that you are able to avoid mean and angry people in your life and was a compliment...

          The thing with PA individuals is that they are masters at conceiling their anger (hence "passive",,,,you don't see the anger, they hide it). Their actions, or many times their LACK of action is what sounds the alarm for the alert individual. They have a way of pretending to be kind, but really, their words stab to the bone...and leave you hurt, and you are left thinking......."did she just compliment me, or was that an insult".

          PA individuals also like to punish others by dragging their feet when they are stuck doing if to say, if I wait long enough, she will do it for me. OR, even worse yet, they will do the job, but do it wrong, forcing the other person to clean up their mess.

          In the home environment for example....a wife might ask her husband to do the dishes, and he might say "ok hon".......then proceed to bang the dishes around and chip them, to vent his anger. Instead of being honest with her and saying he is really too tired, he agrees and then takes his revenge.......Passive/Aggressive......

          So you see, it is all mind games, and CONCEALED destroys unity in the work place, and tears apart families.

          When exhibited daily, extreme PA personalities are very TOXIC.......

          And yes, Robert's comment was really insightful.

          Do you remember ever being around these type of individuals?
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        Jan 30 2013: Absolutely, both in family and in workplace. I agree that it is entirely destructive and that those who retreat rather than confront can become victims of it. One cannot necessarily escape its effect.
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    Jan 29 2013: Shall we start with the definition of passive aggressive behavior?

    From the Psychology Today Website:

    Passive aggression, as defined in The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd edition, is a deliberate and masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger.

    Couched in backhanded compliments, insulting gifts, hostile sticky notes, and behind angry smiles, passive aggression involves a variety of behaviors (hence, the overuse of the term) designed to get back at another person without the passive aggressor having to own up to or articulate their true feelings. Passive aggression is motivated by a person's fear of expressing anger directly.

    Passive aggressive people take genuine pleasure in frustrating others. They are masters at getting others to act out their angry feelings--to explode and appear crazy--while the passive aggressive person sits back and watches the emotional outburst with satisfaction, total control, and always with their own poise intact.

    Once they have the proper definition, it seems that most people have a tale or two to tell about a passive aggressive relative, friend, co-worker, spouse--or all of the above!