Dealing with everyday frustration is normal for anyone. What becomes a challenge is dealing with various styles of communication. I find that there are only two major types of communicators, those that are direct and those that are passive aggressive. In my opinion, one of the most frustrating types of communication styles is passive aggressiveness. Passive aggressive communicators are non-confrontational individuals, they might come across as pleasant even, but they can often be deadly. If actions could kill, passive-aggressive people are like lethal silent bullets, you don’t even know they are upset or seeking revenge until it’s too late.
Who wouldn’t want to talk to someone openly? Who wouldn’t want to just have direct communication in an adult manner without experiencing a yelling match or having someone “stonewall” or give you the silent treatment? If you are dealing with a passive aggressive person, you need to know one very important thing. It is not about you, it’s about their inability to be honest about their feelings and address a situation like a civil adult. Instead, a passive aggressive person might dislike something you did, rather than confronting you about it, they may do something vengeful and take some sort of action that would indirectly upset or even hurt you. They might say a snarky comment in a kind way, though it’s laced with condescension and your gut can feel it.
I am a straight shooter, so for me dealing with passive aggressive people is extremely frustrating. They can be friends, loved ones, family members, or maybe that nightmare of a past relationship with a passive aggressive person. I know I had my share of passive aggressive men and I am glad that I am no longer in a relationship with one. Like most personality types, there are varying degrees of people who are passive aggressive. Let me give you an example of a passive aggressive person. On an extreme level, an acquaintance of mine acted like she had the best relationship with her husband, then suddenly when he came home from work one day she had packed her bags and said “you can keep the dogs.” She handed him divorce papers and was gone, just like that and they were High School sweethearts. They were together for 20 plus years or longer. She moved to Texas, erased all contacts with any and all individuals who was associated with her husband, including lifelong friends. Her husband of course was shocked, never saw it coming and didn’t even have time to discuss anything. Now, we don’t know the full story or the details, but knowing them both he was a “straight shooter” and she was passive aggressive.
Unfortunately, just because someone doesn’t yell or “get in your face” or just “tell you like it is”- it doesn’t mean that this “quiet” and “pleasant” person is less lethal. In fact, be aware of the quiet, logistical plotters who silently find kind ways to make a “below the belt” comment or on extreme levels, passive aggressive individuals can make major life changing decisions that would ultimately devastate the “straight shooter” type. Once fear mutes someone who is passive aggressive, they wind up seething angrily and letting it build up. This build up inside can lead to resentment and when resentment forms they wind up retaliating in extreme ways such as the gal that moved to Texas and divorced her husband, yet couldn’t communicate to him what was upsetting her. Yelling is not healthy, being a confrontational person can borderline into an abusive type of personality. No one deserves to be yelled at, screamed at, or treated like a punching bag. At the same time, it is extremely unhealthy to allow fear or the lack of communication skills to immobilize a passive aggressive person. They can’t confront a problem directly, so they find ways to hurt you indirectly. Confrontation is uncomfortable for anyone, no one likes to have to sit down and have a serious talk or address an issue or a problem. Sometimes emotions can get the better of us and lead us to raise our voices or totally shut down.
If we were all great communicators there would be less wars, more harmony, less break ups, divorces, and violence. But, a utopian world just doesn’t exist. So, we are faced to have to deal with our own flaws and the flaws of others. We can choose to run away from a situation or face them head on.
According to Psychology Today, passive aggressive people spend most of their lives avoiding direct emotional expression. This can be exceptionally challenging when you deal with passive aggressive siblings, because if you try confronting them they completely deny they’ve done anything wrong. In a Wall Street Journal article Sibling Rivalry Grows Up, experts note that sibling rivalry is not only passive aggressive competing, but very harmful and one of the serious family issue that is least often addressed. The article goes on to report that sisters tend to be more passive-aggressive and retaliate through competing with each other rather than be direct. Trust me, having 4 sisters I know this to be true. Relationships are tough, juggling communication styles in everyday life can be a challenge. But it becomes not only uncomfortable, but painful if a passive aggressive person is a family member. Especially if there is sibling rivalry that involves constant toxic competitiveness that goes into adulthood.
According to Manhattan Psychologist Jeanne Safer, adult siblings can become passive-aggressive and the competitiveness begins from who was mom’s favorite as a child. This type of rivalry continues, graduating into adulthood and that ends up being about who is the better mother/father or the more successful. Regardless, if you are dealing with passive aggressive loved ones whether they are: a family member, friend, partner, spouse- there is no magic solution. You can read books, articles, see a shrink, but if another individual is not willing to communicate with you or see how their actions hurt you, you can’t force them to change. Sometimes behaviors are so naturally ingrained in someone on a subconscious level that change may never happen.
I believe that people can change, but only if they really want to. Unfortunately, if someone is hurting you and their friendship is toxic. You might need to separate yourself from them, even family members. If someone is not willing to change, admit to their behavior, you can’t put a gun to their head. The only thing you can do is know that you tried. You can walk away knowing that it’s time for you to stop giving away your precious energy on negative people and focus that passion and time in to your own life.