How to Deal with Passive Aggressive Behavior

People who exhibit passive-aggressive behavior are everywhere: work, school, church, home. Their initial willingness to cooperate and then subsequent failure to follow through often leaves friends, family and co-workers confused, annoyed, offended and frustrated. Passive-aggressives are pros at channeling their own anger, disappointment and resentment into nonconfrontational and passive behavior, thus the label "passive aggressive." They do this to feel more in control -- a defense mechanism -- and rarely know they are actually doing it. There are many different types of passive-aggressive behavior. Some examples include repeated forgetfulness, procrastination, inability to make decisions, inability to accept responsibility, and constant excuse-making. To effectively deal with passive-aggressive people, you need to first identify which behaviors they are exhibiting and deconstruct each behavior accordingly.

Dealing with repeated forgetfulness: Encourage the person to become more organized. Give a personal planner as a gift for his next birthday. Offer to help him set up a reminder book or to-do list for the tasks he needs to accomplish. Writing tasks down makes them real and helps the person acknowledge his awareness of the tasks. It's difficult for him to claim he forgot when he has a written reminder right in front of him.

Dealing with procrastination: Set firm deadlines for tasks that need to be accomplished. Encourage him to plan ahead by using a calendar to keep track of upcoming deadlines and required completion dates. Break large tasks into smaller ones and require that he complete each small task within a certain time frame. This creates an artificial schedule for him and prompts him to start work sooner rather than later.

Dealing with the inability to make decisions: Give him a choice. If possible, offer several options when asking him to make a decision. The ability to make his own choice will empower him and make decision-making easier and more fulfilling. This method works especially well with children.

Dealing with the inability to accept responsibility: Hold him accountable. Don't accept excuses. Don't let things slide just because it's easier that way. That's exactly what the passive-aggressive person is hoping you will do. He thinks that if he does a bad job, no one will ask him to do anything important again. Make him meet his obligations without any room for compromise. Withhold rewards when goals aren't met. Express sincere disappointment when he fails to show responsibility for his inabilities. This will either make him aware that he has a problem and needs to step it up or insult him so much that he just might move on and become someone else's problem.

Dealing with constant excuses: Everyone makes excuses from time to time. It's natural to rationalize and blame other people or factors for failure. The problem is that passive-aggressive people use excuses to explain everything. They don't make occasional excuses for poor performance or mistakes, they are always blaming others or situations for their failures or shortcomings. It's just never their fault. Put a stop to the constant excuse-making with a simple statement: "I'm not interested in excuses; I'm interested in results." Once the passive-aggressive person learns that excuses don't fly with you, you'll see one of two things: His performance will improve, or he'll just try to avoid you completely.


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