Passive aggression involves various forms of behavior designed to mess with people so that they don’t even realize you’re angry at them. It often comes in the form of a backhanded compliment with a dollop of sarcasm on top. Such people believe that it will only get worse if others find out about their anger issues.
Dealing with passive-aggressive behavior is not the easiest thing in the world, but there are a few tips that may apply to your specific situation.
1. Keep your distance when possible.
Yes, the number one rule is to stay away from the passive-aggressive jerks. In a sense, it is harder to deal with passive aggression than open hostility because it makes dealing with such a person a real pain. The passive aggressor almost always denies responsibility and has plans A, B, and C for whatever argument you may hit them with. For these reasons, you need to take either a 100% diplomatic approach or just walk away before it’s too late.
2. Don’t try to change them.
Let’s get this out of the way: trying to convince someone to stop being passive-aggressive is admirable, but often ends in disappointment. The only way a passive-aggressive person changes their outlook is when they grow up and become more self-conscious. One of the best ways to deal with them is not to focus on changing their attitude and behavior, but to take responsibility for their actions.
3. Avoid “eye for an eye” situations.
You will most likely get upset when dealing with passive-aggressive behavior. You may even get the urge to fire off a snarky, passive-aggressive retort yourselves. Believe me, that’s not going to help, as a passive aggressor is more likely to respond to your open accusations with denial and see themself as a victim, becoming even more hostile. And since you’d have already lost your composure, it’s going to be a moral defeat for you.
4. Joke your way out of it.
Humor is a powerful communication tool. It can shed light on the truth, disarm highly-volatile situations, and show that you have higher self-control. Honestly, this should be your go-to method if you have a quick wit.
5. Allow them to help you.
Many passive-aggressive people behave this way because they do not believe they have a voice or think they are not being heard. It’s often therapeutic for them to get involved in discussing problems and figuring out solutions. Ask them how they would deal with a certain situation to get the desired result. On the other hand, if you hear mostly complaints and criticism, do not counter them. Instead, just say that you will consider what they said and do what you need to do.
6. Hit them with the consequences.
Since passive-aggressive individuals like playing coy, they almost always get defensive when confronted about their behavior. Denial, justification, and pointing fingers are just some of the plausible cues. No matter what they are trying to pull off, you need to clearly state your intentions. It is important to suggest one or more consequences that will force the passive-aggressive person to reconsider their behavior. This may not always work, but at the very least, you need to follow through on the said consequences; otherwise, it’s a losing battle.