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How to Stop Passive Aggressive People from Sucking out Your Energy

How to Stop Passive Aggressive People from Sucking out Your Energy

People who tend to continually avoid conflicts are more likely to be passive aggressive. It is a way of them masking their hostility and anger. It is still anger projecting though and the unwanted and seemingly unwarranted behavior can be confusing to the recipient. On the surface the person may seem nice enough, but their intentions, attitude or behavior is being fueled by hostility.

Most of us encounter passive aggressive people on a weekly, if not, daily basis. It can make you feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster when dealing with a passive aggressive person. They don’t overtly act angry or upset with you, but their passive ways project that anger to you whether it is through their eye rolls, not returning your calls, walking out of the room when you enter, or another form of covert hostility. If you are the recipient of passive aggressive behaviors, you know all too well how frustrating, energy sucking, and angering it can be to deal with such a person and their behaviors.

The passive aggressive person can continually get other people to do things for them by manipulative behaviors. Their passive aggressive behaviors are just that, emotional manipulation to get their way without having to own up to their true feelings or intentions.

An article on “Barking up the Wrong Tree” explains the manipulative ways of a passive aggressive person:[1]

They never ask for what they want. They whine or charm or sulk… until you offer. But they didn’t ask, so they don’t owe you anything. Hey, you offered. And they claim to be the kindest person in the world. Would never hurt a fly. But they attack others — always with plausible deniability.

It’s never their fault. They’re not a bad person. In fact, at least according to them, they’re always the victim.

Passive aggressive behaviors also come when a person is not able to say “no”. They want to please others, they may have a fear of rejection, or they simply don’t want to be a disappointment so they continually say yes when they are internally saying no. Their behavior then reflects their hostility toward the situation by negative and unwanted behaviors.

Spotting out a Passive Aggressive Person

Whatever the reason behind passive aggressive behaviors there are ways to deal with them once you understand this is what is happening. Passive aggressive behaviors come in many forms including the following:

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  • Sarcasm
  • Procrastination
  • Subtle sabatoge
  • Pretending not to understand
  • Avoidance
  • Lateness
  • Flakiness
  • Purposefully not including others
  • Backhanded compliments
  • Not being a team player
  • Lack of cooperation
  • Eye rolling
  • Sulking or withdrawing

The Energy Vampire

The problem with being the recipient of passive aggressive behaviors is that it is confusing and draining emotionally. The words that the person is saying contradict their behavior in one way or another. Their unwillingness to address the underlying problem is why they are using passive aggressive behaviors.

That co-worker who says they will help you with your important project that is due to the boss in two days yet they are avoiding your phone calls and texts may be passive aggressive. They said they would help you, yet you can’t reach them and you are coming down to the deadline and were counting on their help. They said yes, so it is frustrating and confusing that they are not reachable. They may have said yes because they didn’t want to disappoint you. They didn’t want to “not be a play player”. Their words said yes to help, yet their behavior is telling you the real truth. They had no intention of helping, or they thought that they may be able to help, but deep down they really did not want to help you, but it was easier to say yes in that moment.

Your energy is getting sucked by trying to reach out to this person. At the same time you are analyzing why they are not answering your calls. For example, you may be wondering if they have a family emergency, or an issue with you personally, or if they forgot about the project. You waste all sorts of mental energy and time trying to figure out what is really going on with this person and why they are not contacting you. They then come back with a flaky response to not returning your calls and you realize they were avoiding you because they really didn’t want to help you. They said yes when they really meant no.

It can be extremely frustrating, time consuming, and angering when dealing with passive aggressive people. In the end you feel like the energy is being sucked out of you because of this person. However, there are ways to deal with this type of person in your life.

Protect Yourself from Energy Vampires

There isn’t a one size fits all solution for dealing with a passive aggressive person. It depends on many things including whether you have to actually deal with the person on a regular basis (such as a work environment) or whether you can or want to limit your time around this individual.

Below are some ways to deal with a passive aggressive person.

1. Recognize the Behavior and Discuss the Real Problem

Passive aggressive people are acting this way because there is an underlying issue. They have underlying hostility and anger that they are projecting through passive aggressive behaviors.

That co-worker who always says “yes” but really means “no” is perhaps afraid of losing their job, so they say “yes” even when they have a full plate and more than they can already handle. They may be feeling anger toward themselves for saying yes, anger at their co-workers for not realizing they are already overworked, or anger toward their boss for not appreciating how much they already do on the job. This anger then causes them to flake on co-workers when doing a team project, they may show up late for meetings, or they may fail to follow through on projects that they are supposed to complete by specific deadlines.

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If a passive aggressive person is continually acting this way and you can’t avoid them because you either work with them or they live with you, then you need to address the problem.

When approaching the individual, there are several keys to making the conversation productive and not make it backfire on you by making the person even more angry. Here are some tips:

Stay calm and collected during the conversation.

Approach the conversation trying to put yourself in their shoes and let them know you are there to understand them and help them.

Be kind.

If the person thinks you are “out to get them” or are blaming them, they will not participate openly and honestly in the conversation.

Try to get them to acknowledge a deeper problem is the cause of these passive aggressive behaviors.

Do it in a manner that you create a bridge of understanding and care so they feel comfortable looking at their behaviors introspectively. This is the time to get to the core of the issue, as it is the only way to uncover what is driving their passive aggressive behaviors. You can’t eliminate their behaviors, without eliminating the problem, or helping them work toward a solution.

Be compassionate.

Be understanding. Recognize that passive aggressive behaviors are this person’s coping skills for a real problem that they didn’t want to address, which is why the behaviors arise in the first place. Know that you are being the bigger person by helping them through this, but it is for the betterment of your relationship.

Avoid a judgmental tone.

If you act judgmental, this will make the person become defensive and possibly become even more angry at you.

Let them voice their issues and listen.

Many times a person is passive aggressive because they don’t think anyone will listen to their problem, or they believe that they aren’t being understood. Be an attentive listener and reflect back what they are saying so they know you are listening and comprehending what they are voicing.

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2. Set Boundaries and Be Specific

Once you have uncovered the real problem, through discussing it with the individual, you can set up boundaries. Setting boundaries is your way of communicating what you will or will not tolerate in the relationship moving forward.

For example, if it is a co-worker and they have been feeling over-worked, which is why they have been angry and thus acting passive aggressively, then set boundaries. Let them know the lateness is not acceptable, nor flaking on group projects. They have to follow through or not say “yes” to everything. They may need to reassess their workload priorities. Whatever they need to readjust in their life to make things better for them at work is up to them.

It is up to you to set the boundaries. Communicate specifically what you will no longer tolerate in the relationship. In the workplace example, it can be expressed that you will no longer accept the lateness, not following through with group work, or not responding to your messages.

3. Refuse to Play the Tit or Tat Game

Don’t get into tit for tat because you will eventually become the loser too. Playing this game only builds more hostility and anger on both sides. Be the bigger person or find ways to simply not engage in this behavior.

You have two options. The first is to discuss the root problem (go back to #1). The second option is that if this person is not essential in your life and their behavior outweighs the benefits of spending time with this person, you may want to consider limiting your time around this person (see #5).

Whatever you do, resist getting into a playing the passive aggressive game with this person. For some relationships and especially families, it happens for years on end. The tensions will only continue to rise as the behaviors continue. The only solution is to work at healing the relationship, then setting boundaries around the passive aggressive behavior, or simply not be around the person.

4. Recognize That It Is Not You, It’s Them

There are different kinds of people in this world. Aggressive people will do what they want at all costs to get what they want. Assertive people will work to get what they need and want, but they also know when to say no and when to ask for help. Passive aggressive people are another category of people who manipulate other people emotionally. They mask their true feelings by covertly projecting their anger, hostility, or other negative emotion through other behaviors, such as those mentioned earlier in the article (i.e. withdrawing, flaking, eye rolling, sarcasm, subtle sabotage).

It is not your fault they are unable to verbalize their real problems and issues. In order for them to stop their passive aggressive ways, they will need to find a way to express their emotions and issues verbally rather than through negative behaviors. Some people never figure this out and others choose not to ever even try to change.

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It leaves you in the position of deciding whether you want to continue a relationship with this person. Eventually, you will see you have no other options except distance, if they elect to not change and you have discussed this subject with them.

5. Distance Yourself

This is exactly what you think it means. Limit your time and interation with a passive aggressive person if you don’t want to deal with their personality and manipulative ways.

If their passive aggressive ways are beyond the worth of that person in your life, you may want to consider moving on with life and no longer interacting with this person. Sometimes this is easy if it is simply an acquaintance. If it is a close friend or family member, you better be prepared to explain why you want some distance. If its a co-worker and you feel you don’t have another option, then refer back to tips #1 and #2.

Recognize that you do have choices and options. Perhaps it is a boss and you don’t see any possibility of this person changing, then for your own emotional and mental health, you may want to consider different employment in the future.

A passive aggressive person does not easily change, so keep this in mind when you realize you are dealing with a passive aggressive personality.

Decide to Do Something—Anything Is Better Than Nothing

However you decide to best deal with the passive aggressive person in your life, any decision is better than just letting things exist the way that they currently exist.

A passive aggressive person will not magically decide to change their ways. More often than not, their behaviors make relationships have great turmoil over time. It is best to deal with the issue of their behavior head on or simply decide to no longer have a relationship with that person. Either way is better than letting things fester, as time will only prove things to get worse.

Psychology Today stated the following about this topic:[2]

In the long run, passive-aggressive behavior can be even more destructive to relationships than aggression. Over time, relationships with a person who is passive-aggressive will become confusing, discouraging, and dysfunctional.

Don’t let a passive aggressive person take you on an emotional roller coaster in life. Deal with the problem, which is them, or they will continue to take you on this ride until you confront their behavior head on.

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Last Updated on February 28, 2019

The Desire to Be Liked Will End You up Feeling More Rejected

The Desire to Be Liked Will End You up Feeling More Rejected

Admit it, you feel good when other people think you’re nice. Maybe you were complimented by a stranger saying that you had a nice outfit. You felt good about yourself and you were happy for the rest of the day.

    We all like to feel liked, whether by a stranger or a loved one. It makes you feel valued and that feeling can be addictive. But when the high wears off and you no longer have validation that someone thinks you’re a good, sweet person, you may feel insecure and lacking. While wanting others to like you isn’t in itself a bad thing, it can be like a disease when you feel that you constantly need to be liked by others.

    Humans are wired to want to be liked.

    It’s human nature to seek approval from others. In ancient times, we needed acceptance to survive. Humans are social animals and we need to bond with others and form a community to survive. If we are not liked by others, we will be left out.

    Babies are born to be cute and be liked by adults.

      The large rounded head, big forehead, large eyes, chubby cheeks, and a rounded body. Babies can’t survive without an adult taking care of them. It’s vital for adults to find babies lovely to pay attention to them and divert energy towards them.[1]

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      Recognitions have always been given by others.

        From the time you were a child, whether at school or at home, you have been receiving recognition from external parties. For instance, you received grades from teachers, and if you wanted something, you needed approval from your parents. We’ve learned to get what we want by catering to other people’s expectations. Maybe you wanted to get a higher grade in art so you’d be more attentive in art classes than others to impress your teacher. Your teacher would have a generally good impression on you and would likely to give you a higher grade.

        When you grow up, it’s no different. Perhaps you are desperate to get your work done so you do things that your manager would approve. Or maybe you try to impress your date by doing things they like but you don’t really like.

        Facebook and Instagram have only made things worse. People posting their photos and sharing about their life on Instagram just to feels so good to get more likes and attention.

        Being liked becomes essential to reaching desires.

          We start to get hyper focused on how others see us, and it’s easy to imagine having the spotlight on you at all time. People see you and they take an interest in you. This feels good. In turn, you start doing more things that bring you more attention. It’s all positive until you do something they don’t like and you receive criticism. When this happens, you spiral because you’ve lost the feeling of acceptance.

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          But the reality is this is all just perception. Humans, as a species, are selfish. We are all just looking at ourselves; we only perceive others are giving us their focus. Even for those who please others are actually focusing on making themselves feel good. It’s like an optical illusion for your ego.

            The desire to be liked is an endless chase.

              Aiming to please others in order to feel better will exhaust you because you can never catch up with others’ expectation.

              The ideal image will always change.

              It used to be ideal to have a fair weight, a little bit fat was totally acceptable. Then it’s ideal to be very slim. Recently we’ve seen “dad-bods” getting some positive attention. But this is already quickly changing. In fact, a recent article from Men’s Health asked 100 women if they would date a guy who had a dad-bod, about 50% of women claimed to not care either way, only 15% exclusively date men with a “dad bod”.[2]

              People’s expectations on you can be wrong.

              Most people put their expectations on others based on what’s right in the social norms, yet the social norms are created by humans in which 80% of them are just ordinary people according to the 80/20 rules.[3]

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              Think about it, every day, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep, you filter what you believe to be truth. If someone compliments you, you take it and add it to an idea of what the best version of yourself is. When someone criticizes you, even in a destructive way, you might accept it altogether, or add it to a list of things you’re insecure about. When you absorb the wrong opinion from others, you will either sabotage your self-esteem or overestimate yourself by accepting all the good compliments and stop growing; or accepting all the destructive criticisms and sabotage your own self-esteem and happiness.

              Others’ desires are not the same as yours.

                If you live your life as one long effort of trying to please other people, you will never be happy. You’re always going to rely on others to make you feel worth living. This leads to total confusion when it comes to your personal goals; when there’s no external recognition, you don’t know what to live for.

                The only person to please is yourself.

                  Think of others’ approval as fuel and think of yourself as a car. When that fuel runs out, you can’t function. This is not a healthy mindset.

                  In reality, we’re human and we can create our own fuel. You can feel good based on how much you like yourself. When you do things to make you like yourself more, you can start to see a big change in your opinion. For example, if being complimented by others made you feel good and accepted, look in the mirror and compliment yourself. Say what you wish others would say about you.

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                  Internal approval takes practice, but it’s worth the effort. You have to re-train your own mind. Think of the dog who knows there is food when the bell rings, the reflex is hard wired into the dog.[4] We need our own triggers to reinforce the habit of internal approval too. Recognize yourself every day instead of waiting for people to do it for you, check out in this article the steps to take to recognize your own achievements and gain empowerment: Don’t Wait for People to Praise You. Do It Yourself Every Single Day

                  Notice that when you start to focus on yourself and what to do to make yourself happy, others may criticize you. Since you’ve stopped trying to please others to meet their expectations, they may judge you for what you do. Be critical about what they say about you. They aren’t always right but so are you. Everyone has blind spots. Let go of biased and subjective comments but be humble and open to useful advice that will improve you.

                  Remember that you are worth it, every day. It will take time to stop relying on others to make you feel important and worth something, but the sooner you start trying, the happier and healthier you will be.

                  Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

                  Reference

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