3 Savage-But-Effective Ways To Deal With Passive-Aggressive Personality Types

Photo: Unsplash: Allef Vinicius
How To Deal With Passive Aggressive Behavior & Personality Traits In Relationships

By Signe Whitson

Dating and falling in love with a passive-aggressive people is not for the faint of heart.

When someone asks to better understand the meaning of passive-aggressive personality traits and behaviors, rather than offer them a textbook definition, I prefer sharing my favorite story about passive-aggression as it looks in romantic relationships and marriages.

The story goes like this:

"Cash, check or charge?" I asked, after folding the items the woman wished to purchase.

As she fumbled for her wallet, I noticed a remote control for a television set in her purse.

"So, do you always carry your TV remote?" I asked.

"No," she replied, "but my husband refused to go shopping with me and I figured this was the most evil thing I could do to him legally."

RELATED: 6 Signs You're Dealing With A (Nightmare!) Passive-Aggressive Person

For those of you who would still like to read a dictionary definition, the meaning of passive-aggressive "denotes a type of behavior or personality characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation."

When passive-aggressive behavior rears it's ugly head between two people who are supposed to be in love, they are often being used by one partner in order to avoid a direct confrontation about a short-term matter of conflict. In the the long-term, however, that dynamic can be just as destructive to a long-term relationship or marriage as outright aggression can be.

To keep positive communication flowing in your relationship, here are three tips on how to deal with someone who displays passive-aggressive personality traits and behaviors.

1. Recognize the warning signs

Passive aggression is a deliberate, masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger. This "sugarcoated hostility" involves a variety of behaviors designed to get back at another person without their recognizing the underlying anger at play.

Being able to quickly identify hallmark examples of passive-aggressive behaviors for what they are — hidden expressions of anger — is the first critical step required in order to disengage from this destructive dynamic.

Some of the most common passive aggressive behaviors to be aware of include:

  • Procrastination
  • Behaving beneath customary standards
  • Pretending not to see, hear, remember, or understand requests
  • The silent treatment
  • Sulking
  • Withdrawal
  • Gossiping
  • Refusing to Engage

Recognizing these behaviors at face value allows you to be forewarned and make the proactive choice not to become entangled in a no-win power struggle.

When you sense these destructive dynamics coming in to play, manage your own emotions through self-talk statements such as:

  • "They're being passive aggressive and I will not participate in this routine."
  • "I will not yell or become sarcastic, because that will only escalate the conflict."

RELATED: 3 Ways To Shut Down A Passive-Aggressive Person For Good

2. Point out the elephant in the room

Passive-aggressive people spend their lives avoiding direct emotional expression and guarding against open acknowledgement of their anger. One of the most powerful ways to confront passive-aggressive dynamics and change the behavior for the long-term, then, is to call out their anger directly when it shows itself.

Affirm their anger in a factual, non-judgmental way, such as, "It seems to me that you're feeling angry with me for making this request."

The impact of this seemingly simple exposure can be quite profound.

3. Expect — and accept — denial

Your goal is to make overt the anger that has been covert, stuffed inside, and kept secret for so long. Expect that once this has been done, the passive-aggressive person will deny the existence of anger.

When that happens does, you should verbally accept their defense for the time being, offering a casual response such as, "Okay! It was just a thought I wanted to share with you."

Don't argue or correct the person's denial at this time, but rather quietly back away from further discussion, leaving your partner with the knowledge that you are, indeed, aware that feelings of anger do exist behind their behavior.

The advantage of this approach is the comfort of not having to justify or defend your acknowledgement of your partner's anger.

By simply sharing your awareness of their covert anger, you send a bold and powerful message that their passive-aggressive behavior will not be ignored and allowed to continue any further.

RELATED: 7 Ways To Keep Your Passive-Aggressive Partner From Driving You Nuts

This article was originally published at Galtime. Reprinted with permission from the author.