Have you ever been a victim of passive-aggressive behavior? Yours or someone else’s? It can be hard to see in others and harder to admit to ourselves when WE do it. The way to end the passive-aggressive cycle? Be completely honest and truthful in any situation you find yourself faced with.
Repressing your anger and acting out in subtle (or not-so-subtle) ways to get your way or get your point across makes you someone that engages in passive-aggressive behavior. It’s recognized as a psychological disorder, but that doesn’t mean you’re crazy – far from it. Passive-aggressive (PA) behavior is a technique that many people use to cope with confrontations.
Not every personality is comfortable with confrontation – in fact, most of us, if we were being perfectly honest and realistic, HATE confrontations. We either feel badly that we are being confrontational, or we are shying away from the passion and anger expresed by the confrontational individual. PA behavior gives the appearance of being peaceful, but it’s really an attempt to express oneself without taking complete responsibility for doing so.
For example, someone who doesn’t want to attend an event with a partner might delay getting ready, stall until the last minute by endlessly changing clothes, or even start a fight – causing them to be late or even miss the event entirely without admitting that the y didn’t want to go (or felt uncomfortable going) in the first place. Procrastination, inefficiency, stubbornness, and sullenness are some of the many ways that anger or resistance can be expressed indirectly.
Its important not to judge yourself too harshly when you recognize that you are engaging in passive-aggressive behavior. Take some time and consider why you are not willing to own up to and express your true feelings – instead resorting to PA behavior to express yourself. Don’t suppress your feelings and needs on the basis of thinking that they are wrong – don’t pre-judge yourself. That can be very hard on your self-esteem and self-confidence.
Try for just a moment to disregard how others might judge you for your feelings – anger and other strong emotions are not necessarily bad, but if you don’t express them in healthy and proactive ways, they can become toxic. By not owning your feelings – not expressing them directly – you are building a pattern of self-imposed pressure that may one day explode over the littlest thing. It’s far more productive to express yourself directly and be HEARD – really understood – by the person who may have triggered the emotion.
You may find that when you are truly heard, when you feel free enough and strong enough to express your emotions clearly and in a timely manner, it becomes easier to ask for and get what you want. Being honest about your feelings and expressing ourselves to others can help to prevent misunderstandings, hurt feelings, resentment and PA behavior from others in our work and personal relationships. Learning to communicate with others in honest, straightforward and productive ways helps YOU to feel understood and important. Your self-esteem and self-confidence will increase as a result of you feeling good about standing up for yourself and expressing what’s important to you in a way that helps you to be heard, not resented or dismissed.
If you’ve used passive-aggressive behavior in the past to get what you want, it’s time for a change. It’s never too late to start working on ourselves and our behaviors, just take it one day at a time. Remember – baby steps forward, whether they are emotional or physical – are still steps forward. Put enough of them together, and you’ll find your goals coming ever closer.