How to approach passive-aggressiveness

How to approach passive-aggressiveness

by Eunice Chua 19 Jun 2019

Passive-aggressiveness is something that we all have to deal with at some point in our lives. However, not every statement that sounds sarcastic is an act of passive-aggressiveness and there's a chance we could be getting upset over nothing. Here’s how to identify when someone is passive-aggressiveness so that you can deal with it the right way.


1. Consider the situation from an objective point of view

Our mental schema can cloud our judgment by controlling the way we interpret things. Everyone has a unique mental schema based on their individual life experiences and thought processes, which act as a filter of sorts. The problem with mental schemas is that they can lead us to make wrong assumptions based on the existing predispositions that we have. For example, if you have worked under a nasty boss for a long time, your schema might cause you to be wary and distrusting of new bosses or those that remind you of the offending party. To overcome your mental schema and see things objectively, always distance yourself from the situation and try to interpret the situation using facts and logic. Getting an external party’s impartial opinion can also help you determine if someone was being passive-aggressive or if you misinterpreted their intentions.


2. Be aware of what makes you insecure

We tend to get defensive when a statement targets one of our insecurities, and this defensive psychological reaction causes us to interpret that statement as an act of passive-aggressiveness. This is why it’s important to be aware of your insecurities and other triggers, as these often cause us to misinterpret a normal statement as a passive-aggressive one. Everyone has different triggers. Some of us can’t stand being told to “get over it” and others don’t like being coddled. Knowing your insecurities and triggers will help you actively control your emotional reaction and assess the situation objectively.


3. Empathise

Perhaps you’ve tried to be objective but people around you agree that someone was guilty of being passive-aggressive towards you. That’s alright: you don’t have to get mad right away. Understand that everyone has bad days when the wrong words just slip out in the heat of the moment, so don’t penalise the aggressor for their words just yet. To err is human, and can you say with absolute certainty that you've never made a mistake before?


4. Let the comments slide

It’s one thing to empathise and forgive, but it’s another thing to let someone’s nasty comments sink in and upset you. When you know that the passive-aggressive statement was indeed malicious or made in ill will, you can choose to let it slide. You don’t need that kind of negative energy in your life so take the words at face value and don’t let it affect you. Like water off a duck's back!


5. Sort out the confusion on the spot

All that second-guessing and evaluation can be mentally tiring. Sometimes, it helps to just lay the problem on the table and confront the offending person on what they truly mean – in a polite way, of course. It takes away the trouble of misinterpretation and can help you reach a peaceful resolution before tension starts to spike.


Passive-aggressiveness is usually harmless. Most of the time, you can chalk it up to people having a bad day which results in something less than polite slipping out. Or it could just be your insecurities that cause you to feel personally attacked. Whatever the case, they're just words at the end of the day. They're not worth getting your pretty little head upset over!