How to Respond to Passive Aggressiveness

I recently received an email request for advice on how to respond to passive aggressiveness. So without further delay I will go into it.

People who practice passive aggressiveness do so from a place of power and control. They don’t want to lose the relationship,  but at the same time they want to find creative and passive ways to hurt the feelings of the person who has annoyed them.

The best way to respond to passive aggressiveness is to be straight forward. However, in order for your straight forward-ness to be effective, you have to regard the person with whom you are addressing with dignity and respect.

Take for example, once there was a situation that occurred between myself and a company commander during my time in the military. The commander of my company in the presence of some platoon sergeants hoped out loud that the new soldier coming into the company was a logistics specialist, he further added,
“I hope he has a brain too.”

You see, my military occupation was in the field of logistics, I was in charge of maintaining a balanced property book of the company supplies and equipment which were worth in the millions of dollars. Essentially my job was to maintain a factual balance between what was documented on the property books and what was actually stored on the company premises.

It was no secret that the company commander at the time had a strong disliking towards me. Upon the commander’s passive aggressive remarks, following the laughter of the platoon sergeants, I was left feeling angry and embarrassed. Essentially the company commander, was declaring me to be incompetent at my job. I would later vent to my immediate supervisor, who gave me a suggestion that changed my attitude towards dealing with passive aggressiveness.

I wrote a letter to my commander, in which I copied to my supervisor. In the letter, I confronted my commander about his statement the day before, and my interpretation of his statement. I then went on to detail my accomplishments since arriving in the unit, specifically having to do with how consistently I had maintained accountability of the company property. In the letter I requested that the commander address issues he had with my performance and suggestions for improvement.

The commander would immediately approach me in the presence of the company First sergeant and my supervisor and inform me that his words where taken out of context. Further, he claimed he found me to be a great logistics specialist.

While I am certain, that the commander never stopped disliking me, it appeared that he had developed a new found respect for me after my response to his remarks. He would never again make passive and aggressive double sided comments to me again for the remainder of the time we worked together.

In summary, passive aggressiveness directed towards you, is an invitation to play a deceitful game of cat and mouse. If you find yourself on the receiving end of such an invitation, taking a straight forward approach voids the invitation.

So what are your thoughts and feelings about this post? All agreements and disagreements are most welcome.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC, a professional counseling private practice. Ugo also maintains a blog with Psychology Today.

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4 thoughts on “How to Respond to Passive Aggressiveness

  1. This is a different perspective, but it sounds like using your technique is going to take a lot of practice.

  2. I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head.

  3. This is a different approach you are suggesting. A lot better than pretending that you are not being treated badly.

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