Identifying and Dealing With Passive Aggressive People

by NateB11

Passive aggressive people like to get under your skin without being straight forward. Find out how to defend against them.

The passive-aggressive person is violent, cowardly and irresponsible. The whole point of them using passive-aggressive tactics is so they cannot be confronted directly for their viciousness. Along these lines, they are a bit more difficult to deal with compared to someone who is just directly aggressive. The person who is just plain aggressive is still a chore to handle, but their attacks are more easily identifiable and so easier to address.

The point is, passive-aggressive people want to degrade you without you consciously knowing it and without being held accountable for it.

Here we will discuss the effects of being attacked by such people, what they do and why, and how to handle it.

Playing Innocent

When someone attacks you passive-aggressively, typically if you call them on it, the plan is for them to act like they are innocent; you took it the wrong way, you are too sensitive, you can't take a joke. Jokes are a common tactic. A person can veil a good amount of hate in a joke. And get away with it. All you know is you feel bad and if you're not expecting the attack, you probably don't know why you feel bad. But if you go into it deep enough, and you are dealing with a passive-aggressive person, you will find they've worked on the back of your mind. They've implied things, they've nit-picked small things especially when they can't find anything overall wrong with you. Chip away at someone enough and you can eventually make them feel worthless. And that's the kind of thing a passive-aggressive person does. They make it appear like an honest criticism or just a joke, but the real intention is brutal and ill-intentioned.

When you tell them they are out of line, they will say, "Oh, no. I didn't mean it that way." Like the lawyer that knows he's said the wrong thing in court and the opposing team objects, even if the judge rules against them, they still got their dig in and the jury heard it. And then they act like they didn't mean it or it was an honest mistake.

Point is, recognize what they're doing. It's not you, it's them. Playing innocent means they are trying to shift the blame from what they are doing on to what you are doing. Don't accept it. Recognize the game and move from there.

Of course, because such people are irresponsible, it's liable to do little good to call them on their behavior. Like I said, they will deny it. If at all possible, avoid them entirely. I have literally walked away from someone when they were in mid-sentence, just because I knew what they were doing and simply wouldn't tolerate it. It's very possible as long as you have control of your own body. You can get the feet to walking.

Sometimes it's difficult to understand what's behind those veiled criticism and subtle abuse.
Sometimes it's difficult to understand what's behind those veiled criticism and subtle abuse.

They're Entertaining

It almost goes without saying that a passive-aggressive person has a massive ego. Their mode of operation is to only care about themselves and not others. Pure self-centeredness.

Big egos are also entertaining. People, unfortunately, are drawn to big egos. Hitler, after all, was popular enough to get a whole country behind his ideas and his leadership, and he was ego identification with country and ideology times ten.

And this is part of the game. You just don't like to have fun. You won't join the gang. They're just "razzing" you, get with the program.

However, it would be an error to think other people are not also on to them. If they victimize you, they've victimized others. And, of course, they somehow can't figure out why anyone would be upset with them. Of course not.

While they do play this game of being "fun-loving" and "innocent", it is also safe to say that they are only half-conscious of what they do. It's partly habit. They've handled their frustrations by subtly attacking people for so long, they probably are not always aware of their own socio-pathic behavior. Though I said previously it will do no good to call them on their behavior, and I think this is generally the case, it might get them thinking to do so; maybe their awareness will broaden. At the very least, if you've made it more difficult for them to hide, they might stop their behavior to avoid more exposure of it. This depends, of course, on your clear awareness of their behavior and your ability to spell it out for them (and maybe others) in detail.

Have You Been Bullied By a Passive Aggressive Person

Tell On Them

This won't always work. It depends on the intelligence of any authorities that might be involved and the skill the abuser has in veiling their abuse. This is something that has to do with the work environment mainly. Obviously you can't call the cops on them, in spite of the fact you are being abused by them. The law doesn't cover emotional cruelty yet. However, in some areas the law does prohibit bullying in the workplace and many managers have become savvy enough to recognize how detrimental bullying is and they deal with it accordingly. I was fortunate, for a time, to be on a job at which the boss would not tolerate bullying and she was good with words and had some rather effective talks with bullies at work that nipped that problem in the bud real quick. As far as the job goes, it depends on your employer and how they view the problem of bullying. It doesn't hurt to try. Go to the boss and see what happens. Often you find there's already a pile of complaints against the person and you have filed the straw that broke the camel's back and administrative action will be taken against the abuser.

Use Humor

It's possible, and might cause less friction, to use some humor to deal with them. A little statement like, "Oh, you've made me feel real welcome around here," sarcastically of course, could signal to them what they are doing if they are unaware or that you might turn up the heat and you're giving them fair warning. This one is hit or miss, depends on their level of cruelty. It might just invite more abuse. They think it's just more fun that way if you join in the joking. Depends on who you're dealing with. You have to be perceptive about it. Nothing beats perceptiveness.

Really Great Technique For Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Turn It Around

This is a great technique for befuddling the abuser and making them come clean. You basically point out the absurdity of their veiled criticism and make them answer for it with a closed-ended question. In the video to the right, it is explained perfectly. Seems the perfect tactic against cowardly criticisms levied by the passive-aggressive abuser.

The video almost makes it seem fun. Good stuff.

Dealing with passive aggressive people need not be troubling once you comprehend what they're doing.
Dealing with passive aggressive people need not be troubling once you comprehend what they're doing.

So, it is important to understand that someone who is passive-aggressive wants to avoid being direct and responsible and is likely to deny any wrong-doing, so straight-forward approaches to calling them out often don't work. However, you can avoid them, get authorities involved in some cases, and you can sneakily (ironically) make them answer for their abuse.

Where there's a will there's a way, and it is possible to find a way around or through an abuser. Rely on and have faith in your own perceptiveness in spite of the fact that the abuser tries to make you doubt yourself and your perceptions. Fact is, if you are faced with such a person, you will have to deal with them. As we have shown here, there are smart ways to do so.

Updated: 07/02/2020, NateB11
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