6 Tips for Dealing With Passive-Aggressive People


How can you get a good handle on the situation and maintain your equanimity?

“How to Successfully Handle Passive-Aggressive People”

Notice Passive-Aggressive Behavior Early

It’s easy to overlook or dismiss signs of passive-aggression in a relatively new relationship most of us like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and prefer not to have our guard up right away.

a relatively new passive-aggressive acquaintance
  • makes a sarcastic remark,
  • breaks a personal promise,
  • puts-up excuses for not following through, gives the silent treatment, or
  • claims victimhood,

we may feel inclined to excuse the behavior as the exception rather than the norm, and hope that it will not happen again.

Pay closer attention, to check if the behavior

  • is it an isolated incident, or
  • part of an unhealthy pattern. Notice whether
  • the person instigates additional passive-aggressive behavior towards you. In addition,
  • observe whether he or she shows passive-aggressive tendencies towards others, especially with those whom this individual may have power struggles

Identifying a clear pattern

  • determine what type of relationship you want to have with this person,
  • if you desire to keep a relationship at all, and
  • make proactive choices with your relational health and well-being as priorities.

Get to Know the Passive-Aggressive’s History

Understanding a passive-aggressive’s history may provide valuable insights linking past suffering to present demeanor.

 ask open-ended, none-judgmental questions about the passive-aggressive’s background, to ascertain whether there may be hidden (repressed) sources of hostility, anger, and/or resentment.

Passive-aggressive behavior often arises when an individual feels powerless and lacks a strong voice in a challenging environment.

one’s passive-aggressive instinct may emerge repeatedly in other, approximating dynamics

 may utilize a set of survival and resistance strategies to avoid (in his or her perception) being victimized again.


the root causes of pathological passive-aggressiveness are complex and deep-seated, you may never get a full picture of why the passive-aggressive behaves as he does.

even a partial understanding can be helpful.

Avoid Being the Passive Aggressive’s Trigger

The Passive Sufferer: Indulging in passive-aggression without communicating assertively or setting firm boundaries.

Possible trigger 

  • Normalizing unacceptable demeanor.
  • Reinforcing the belief that he can take advantage of and “get away” with subversive behavior.

The Baby Sitter/Rescuer

You’ve become your partner’s caretaker,

  • constantly cleaning up after the partner’s misdeeds,
  • undoing his or her damage, or
  • rescuing your partner from victimhood and “crisis”.

Possible trigger in the passive-aggressive partner:

  • Indulging more of the same, undesirable conduct. Why should your partner change if you’re always there to cover for him? The passive-aggressive
  • may secretly enjoy being waited on, which gives him a sense of power.
  • The relationship becomes an unhealthy one of parent taking care of child, or child taking care of parent.

The Coach and Judge:

  • You’ve become your partner’s critic, regularly telling him or her to change for the better,
  • berating him for not taking responsibility, or
  • setting performance expectations to which you know he’s likely not to respond.

Possible trigger in the passive-aggressive partner:

You may be unwittingly inviting your partner to re-engage in his or her battles of the past, when he had to resist either a strong individual or domineering environment in order to survive. This has become a power struggle for Domination and control.

learn how to

shift from reactive to proactive, assertive communication techniques, seven ways to say “no” diplomatically and set boundaries, and eight essential relational strategies.

In Relatively Mild Situations, Display Superior Composure Through Appropriate Humor.

When appropriately used, humor can shine light on the truth, disarm difficult behavior, and show that you have superior composure.

Give the Passive-Aggressive a Chance to Help Solve the Problem, If Appropriate

Many passive-aggressive individuals behave as they do because they don’t believe they have a voice, or think that they’re not being listened to.

When appropriate, include the person in discussions on challenges and solutions.

Solicit their input.

Ask, for example, “Given the desired outcome, how would you handle this issue?”

See if they come up with any constructive solutions.

if what you hear are mostly complaints and criticisms, don’t agree or disagree. Simply say that you’ll keep what they said in mind, and get on with what you need to get done.

Set Consequences to Lower Resistance and Compel Cooperation

Since passive-aggressive individuals operate covertly,

they will almost always put up resistance when confronted on their behavior.

  • Denial,
  • excuse making, and
  • finger pointing are just a few of the likely retorts.

    Regardless of what they say,

  • declare what you’re willing to do going forward. Importantly,
  • Offer one or more strong consequences to compel the passive-aggressive to reconsider his or her behavior.

 The ability to identify and assert consequence is one of the most powerful skills we can use to “stand down” a passive-aggressive person.

Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the difficult individual, and compels her or him to shift from obstruction to cooperation.

strategies to minimize passive-aggressive behavior damage,

  • gain their cooperation,
  • while increasing your own confidence,
  • composure, and
  • problem-solving prowess.
  • It’s one important aspect of leadership success.

Author: charlesburchfield

I am an artist working primarily with collage.

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