How To Deal With Passive-Aggressive People In Your Life

Dealing with passive-aggressive people is something I struggle within my life.

I don’t usually write about difficult emotions like this but I’m realizing more and more, the importance of dealing with the people and things in your life, that drains your energy. Especially if you’re trying to change something in your life.

But it’s female passive-aggressive behaviour that is worst for me. When I have come across dominating men in my professional life, I have taken them on. They challenge me and I match them. Most of the time. And if these men have been my bosses, they have then sacked me! Because their ego was bruised.

But with dominating, passive-aggressive and bullying women, it’s a different story.

I come from a line of strong women. And I LOVE strong women. I’m equally terrified and intrigued by these women. I am myself considered being a strong woman by many.

But I am also raised in the “good girl school” and saying “NO” and setting healthy boundaries is really hard. Add to that being a sensitive soul who doesn’t like upsetting people (who does) and you can see I’m in trouble.

I have come a long way though. Goodness me! Most people I know would probably say I am very good at setting boundaries, but it doesn’t always feel like that.

What gets me, is if I’m not prepared. If someone is being passive-aggressive towards me or has a go at me and I don’t see it coming.

What is passive-aggressive behaviour?

Aggressive people are easy to spot but passive-aggressive behaviour is a more indirect expression and subtle hostility.

It can be subtle insults and comments, sullen behaviour, stubbornness.

A popular one is the silent treatment. You know when someone is ignoring you deliberately, in the hallway or at a meeting.

Sullen behaviour, moody, dark, grumpy. This is normal behaviour for teenagers but not so much for adults.

Passive aggressiveness can also show up as someone who never finishes the projects he/she starts. As a way to get attention and cause conflict.

How to deal with passive-aggressive people in your life

I believe a strategy is good to have in place. Now, I don’t have the answer here as I’m dealing with passive-aggressive people in my life now, I simply want to share with you some suggestions to what could be useful ways to deal with these people.

  1. Identify who it is you feel behaves this way and what it is exactly he or she does.

  2. Then create a strategy for how you want to react when this person behaves this way. If she gives you the silent treatment (yet again) be aware of how this affects you. How do you normally feel when she gives you the cold shoulder and how would you like feel?
    Then write it down, and if you have to bring a note with you that reminds you what to do, do that.
    It could say “when x gives me the silent treatment, I pretend I haven’t noticed and acted as I normally would around her.”

  3. In this article on Psychology Today Brit says that pulling the person up on their behaviour typically doesn’t help and can even backfire.
    The article says the best way to respond to passive-aggressive behaviour is to ignore it.

    Or if it affects you badly and if you can, keep as much distance to the person as possible.

  4. I will add that if it’s a co-worker being professional and to the point is important. But if it’s a family member who is this way towards you, it’s difficult to say what’s best. Confront, ignore or distance. I would say that depends on how you are feeling and where you are in your emotional cycle.

  5. As the last suggestion, I will suggest you look inwards.
    If you have grown up in a household where passive-aggressive behaviour was the norm, there’s a big chance you are repeating the pattern.
    This has been true for me and I think essentially this type of behaviour is a sign of not being emotional articulate, meaning not having the knowledge and language to deal with our own emotions.

passive-aggressive people in your life