Understanding passive-aggressive behavior | VailDaily.com

Understanding passive-aggressive behavior

Neil Rosenthal

Imagine counting on your spouse to help you snag that dream job and top salary that you desire. Since you have to get your daughter ready for daycare, you ask your husband to drop your resume in the morning mail. You are never called for an interview because your husband, who is frustrated and stymied in his own career, forgot to mail the resume in time, and you later learned that the company received it postmarked three weeks beyond the application deadline. Your boss, whom you’ve been told is jealous of your popularity around the office, makes impossible demands on you, piling on the work, deadlines and business travel, but never the right resources. You’re required to be visible at meetings and to serve on various workplace committees, and you do so at great personal sacrifice. But the guy in the next cubicle, who is considerably less effective and has put in far less effort, gets the coveted promotion.You have a friend who says she wants to be closer to you, but her actions seem to indicate otherwise because she has no time for you. When the two of you are together, she is cutting and sarcastic and takes verbal jabs at you.These are three examples of people with hidden anger, all of which are exhibiting passive-aggressive behavior. Passive-aggressive behavior is expressed through indirect, subtle, manipulative actions – or inactivity – where someone’s words don’t match their behavior. It is slyly vindictive, in that such a person may play the game of retaliatory get-back through obstruction, resistance or sabotage. Passive-aggressive people possess some keen skills, with manipulation, underhanded tactics and oppositional behavior at the top of the list. Such behavior is toxic to relationships, especially over time. Often, people who use passive-aggressive behavior have a strong need to control, manipulate and have the upper hand. They need to win, and sometimes to extract revenge or hurt other people because they fear failing, being dependent and having to deal with other people’s expectations, needs or concerns. Frequently they have trouble with people in positions of authority. They will do anything to avoid being blamed, faulted or criticized,including but (not limited to) blaming, criticizing and finding fault with others. A passive-aggressive person is often anxious, and fears not measuring up or being good enough. Unwilling to make decisions, s/he is unlikely to take any personal responsibility or accountability for a problem, or its solution, because s/he is afraid of being judged as inadequate, of losing approval, status or power, or of his/her true motives being found out and exposed.What can you do if you are in a relationship with a passive-aggressive person? Or you work with one? You are going to have to set clear boundaries and limits, and you’re going to have to confront passive-aggressive behavior each time it occurs, holding the perpetrator fully responsible for his/her actions. More on this in another column. Source: “Overcoming Passive-Aggression,” by Tim Murphy and Loriann Oberlin (Marlowe and Co.)Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Boulder. He can be reached at (303) 758-8777 or e-mail at his Web site http://www.heartrelationships.comVail, Colorado

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