If you ever find yourself on the receiving end of a passive-aggressive attack, it may leave you scratching your head wondering if the attack was intentional, or a reasonable mistake.
Maybe they just haven’t gotten around to responding to your email? Or they forgot? Or their comment to you wasn’t meant to be cutting and critical, it was just a poor choice of words where you misperceived what they said.
What one sign will point you to the fact that you are dealing with a passive-aggressive person? They repeat this type of behavior.
We all step in do-do on occasion. We have all been known to say dumb-shit stuff we regret later. But, the passive-aggressive isn’t making mindless mistakes; their actions are calculated and intentional.
The hallmark of a passive-aggressive attack is that it is intentionally indirect and intentionally covertly delivered. It is the cowardly, lily-livered and chicken-hearted way of addressing an issue. This is the attack that sneaks up on you from behind. Yes, it can be shrouded in fancy words or slight-of-hand actions, but it will still hit you hard like a gut punch.
But here’s where it gets tricky, because the mask of passive-aggressive has many shapes and colors. Get ready for this parade of go-to-favorites most commonly used by this personality type: procrastination, forgetfulness, rumor mongering, indirect criticism, outright sabotage, silent treatment, intentional obstruction and inefficiency, stubbornness, neglect, victimhood, argumentative, general negativity.
Have you heard enough or do you want a scholarly opinion? Author Dr. Sam Vaknin writes that “passive-aggressiveness has a lot in common with pathological narcissism: the destructive envy, the recurrent attempts to buttress grandiose fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience, the lack of impulse control, the deficient ability to empathize, and the sense of entitlement, often incommensurate with its real-life achievements.”
So what do you do when you are levied with this form of an indirect attack? Early on, as soon as you identify it, confidently assert yourself. Call it out. If you don’t set the tone early on in the relationship the negative behavior will continue and it will intensify. Who needs that?
Don’t let yourself get caught out in the dark with this personality type. Bring things out in the open. Take your conversations and interactions to a formal level where you have third party witnesses and documentation. Hold on to that email or text thread. Put as many things in writing as you can and you will clearly be able to identify the patterns of covert aggression. Document your conversations, interactions, issues and agreements. That way if things take a cowardly turn and you are made out to be the bad guy you have the information in black and white to fact-check. Who’s the bad guy now?
Of course, they will always try to make you out to be the bad guy. When called out, they will usually deny their aggression, or make excuses, or point the finger at you. Expect those responses. Yet, when pressed, I have known passive-aggressives to admit that their sneaky-snake tactics were thought out and intentional. It’s their way of levying anger and aggression at you hoping that you won’t catch on. I don’t know about you, but I know that I’d rather catch a direct hit to my face where I can see it coming and defend myself, rather than get sucker-punched from behind.
Yep, I’m sure there’s some deep-seated emotional trauma that has led them to act like this. But, I’m no shrink and it’s not my job to fix them. It’s my job to keep my life peaceful and fulfilling and these people are just plain toxic!
My final thoughts on dealing with a passive-aggressive personality type? Keep your distance. You can’t change them. Their aggression hurts. They will disrupt your personal peace.
Click HERE to anonymously send Joan your question!