How to Stop Being Passive-Aggressive
I recently wrote a post entitled, ‘Are You Passive-Aggressive?’ A comment was left on my Facebook page http://tinyurl.com/3o53ke8, asking me how to stop being passive-aggressive. Here’s my answer.
1. Get conscious. Pay attention to all the things you don’t say, all the times you make snide comments and all the times you feel annoyed. If you don’t know when you feel annoyed, pay attention to your eye rolling, sighs and glares.
2. Speak up, don’t shut up. Often people who struggle with being passive-aggressive are also afraid of conflict. In an effort to avoid a fight or disagreement, they stay silent rather than honestly speak about their upset. Because they keep things in, they end up getting resentful. Ultimately, their anger then gets leaked out rather than worked out.
3. Start small. Speaking up takes practice after years of not being direct, so you need to start to speak up on smaller issues with “safe” people in your life. For example, begin to be more honest with your closest and healthiest friends before moving to a more difficult partner or co-worker. The more practice you get, the more courageous you will feel with others.
4. Have integrity with your word. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. If you say you will do something—do it. If you do something, do it on time and to the best of your ability rather than doing a poor to mediocre job. Avoid saying you will do something just to get someone off your back—it will only keep the person on your back longer.
5. Take sarcastic comments off the table. Sarcasm is a good sign that you’re annoyed about something that you’re not speaking about. Tune in to the annoyance and put words to it in a relational way, not a sarcastic way. If you don’t have the courage to speak it, your annoyance is your own fault.
6. Be honest. Stop telling others what they want to hear and instead tell them what’s truly going on for you. If they ask whether you’re mad, don’t say no if you really are mad. Lying gets crazy-making, especially when everyone around you can sense your anger.
7. Be direct. Don’t insinuate, manipulate or placate. Say it straight and don’t leave your words or actions up for interpretation. You should not be the only one who understands what you mean. Make your message clear and say it directly and relationally.
8. Remind yourself that conflicts are okay. Remember you are not a little kid anymore who can’t stand up for yourself. Although conflicts can be hard, they are a normal part of life. Healthy adults learn to manage them, not duck them.
In summary, in order to work on my own propensity to be passive-aggressive, I had to grow up. I had to stop thinking that all conflict was bad and instead had to learn how to stand up for myself from a position of strength rather than fear. Dealing with conflict and upset head-on has been life-changing for me…and so much easier and more fulfilling than ducking or sideswiping. It feels empowering, strong and healthy. Who knew? :-) I encourage everyone to try it.
Challenge: Read the list above and clean up any behaviors you engage in that are not helpful. Notice how this change feels and pay attention to how it shifts your relationships. Good-luck!