Mindfulness Mondays: The passive aggressive in your bed
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Most of us have at least one passive-aggressive person in our lives. Maybe it’s a relative
who nitpicks and criticizes everything we do, or a friend who uses sarcasm to cut us down, or a micromanaging boss who drops hints, but never tells us directly that we’re not doing a good job, or a partner whose actions are isolative only to you yet is fine with everyone else; Just being around a passive-aggressive person can harm one’s mental health.
How can you deal with a passive-aggressive person?
There are a few things you should know about passive aggression: First, it is a form of anger. Your passive-aggressive partner, co-worker, and/or boss are deeply angry people. They’re just as angry as a person who screams or throws things, but they have a different way of showing it. Passive-aggressive people are often void of confrontation, so they couch their anger with smiles or just be non-responsive. Some may not be self-aware enough to realize they’re angry, but their anger, bitterness, or frustration lies just under the surface.
I work with many people with passive-aggressive issues. I sometimes see their partners as well. It’s those individuals, who have to deal with a passive-aggressive person, day after day, who often need the most help, one, because the passive-aggressiveness is hurting them, and, two, because they’re likely enabling the behavior.
It takes two people to support a passive-aggressive relationship. To re-write the script, try these five steps:
1. Hold them accountable.
When you fail to hold a passive-aggressive person accountable for their actions, you unintentionally perpetuate their behavior. If you’re a people-pleaser, this is especially devastating: You want to make everyone happy, and you don’t like confrontation or conflict (I got to be honest, I sometimes fall in that category), so you absorb all kinds of subtle emotional abuse. Stop blaming yourself or making excuses for others; you are not responsible for the damaging way a passive-aggressive person shows their anger.
2. Stop apologizing.
Unless you did something wrong, don’t apologize. Especially don’t apologize if they refuse to be direct and tell you what they feel you’ve done wrong. If your partner keeps throwing an issue with you that was previously talked about, you apologized for it and tried to come from a space of understanding, don’t apologize or make an excuse. At some point he/she wants you to feel guilty because that makes the individual feel more in control.
3. Put your needs first.
Forcing other people to put their needs first is a skill many passive-aggressive people have. Don’t give in to their demands: That may sound harsh, but the passive-aggressive behavior is often more about asserting control than about a genuine preference. You need to stand your ground or risk getting walked over.
4. Don’t play the game.
While terrified of their own anger, passive-aggressive people are often OK triggering someone else’s. The wrong way to handle this is to blow up at them or to respond with passive aggression of your own. If you do, they win. Still, it can be hard to manage your emotions when dealing with someone who upsets you so much. As much as you can, limit the amount of time you spend around the person. When you’re together, if you feel yourself getting angry, take slow, deep breaths to calm down and momentarily remove yourself from the situation.
5. Confront the issue.
Eventually, you may have to confront the passive-aggressive person about their behavior. This conversation will take preparation. Don’t jump right into it the next time you’re angry; your health and happiness are the goals, not scoring points. That’s why you shouldn’t start by accusing them of being passive-aggressive. They are, but they’re not going to respond well to hearing it from you. Instead, be specific about what it is they say or do that upsets you. Tell them how it makes you feel, and be clear about the consequences if they don't stop. If you tell them what bothers you, they keep doing it, and you let them, their behavior will get worse and then you have a decision to make
The best thing you can do when dealing with passive-aggressiveness is not to let it get under your skin.
Every time someone uses passive aggression to try to upset you, remind yourself that under their anger lies deep unhappiness. The happier you are with your life, the easier it will be to see them for what they are: sad...life is way too unpredictable to accommodate behavior that in turn makes you miserable.
We are all beings of self-autonomy