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About Passive/Aggressive Behavior

No doubt you have heard about passive/aggressive behavior, but do you know what it is?  You need to know, because many narcissists behave in this way.

 

Passive/aggressive behavior is very sneaky.  It makes you wonder if the person acting that way is  mad at you or not.  The worst part may be that when you confront the passive/aggressive person, they have a plausible sounding explanation for their behavior.  This makes you doubt your perception of the situation.  Plausible deniability is always a part of passive/aggression, as is the desire to punish another person.

 

Passive/aggressive behavior is deliberately inefficient, quiet in that the person refuses to discuss their needs & avoids responsibility.  Some examples of it are….

 

Not doing things well.   A passive/aggressive spouse may put the laundry in the washer but fail to put them in the dryer for hours claiming he thought you would do that.  Or, she may leave your car with virtually no gas in it after using it after you argue.  Usually whatever is done poorly is something that has happened countless times before, & rather than argue about it, you just fix the problem quietly.

 

Running late.  Some people are always running behind due to poor time management skills, being forgetful or another reasonable excuse.  Passive/aggressive people, however, are not that way.  If they have a punctual partner, you can guarantee that they will run late periodically solely for the purpose of irritating that partner.  They may say they forgot that special event was in an hour, so they will take their time getting ready & you end up leaving two minutes before the event is due to start.

 

The silent treatment.  Passive/aggressive people love the silent treatment.  Rather than saying,, “I was upset when you did something.. can we work it out?” they simply stop talking to you.  If you try to ask what is wrong, they refuse to admit anything is wrong or get angry at you for not knowing what is wrong.  The silent treatment is designed to make you come crawling to the person & work hard to gain their forgiveness.  Don’t fall for it!

 

Backhanded complements.  We’ve all heard these at some point.  Passive/aggressive people use them often.  Comments like, “Nice hair cut.  It really helps hide all that gray hair.”  or, “I used to have an outfit just like that!  I stopped wearing it after high school though.” are just two examples of backhanded complements.  If a passive/aggressive person says such a comment to you, chances are he or she feels threatened by you in some way.  Maybe that person thinks you look more attractive than they do, you’re smarter or more talented.  Sometimes backhanded complements can be hard to spot, so just notice how you feel when someone gives you a complement.  Genuine complements leave you wanting to thank the person & feeling good.  Backhanded complements leave you feeling offended & even confused wondering what the person who said it meant by their words.

 

Fake concern.  Closely related to the backhanded complements are the fake concern comments.  When a passive/aggressive persons says, “I don’t mean to sound judgmental/insensitive, but…” you can guarantee the next words out of that person’s mouth will be judgmental &/or insensitive.  This is their way of saying nasty things to you while appearing to be helpful.  If you say anything about how judgmental or insensitive the person is at this point, you are going to look like a jerk to anyone who doesn’t realize what is happening.  That is a bonus for a passive/aggressive person- making you look bad on top of insulting you.

 

Destruction & sabotage.  Sometimes passive/aggressive people will “accidentally” destroy something important to you when they’re upset with you.  That could be something like “accidentally” spilling red wine on your favorite white shirt or a coworker “forgetting” to tell you that the project you’ve been working hard on is no longer due next week, but in two days.

 

So, how can a person deal with the obnoxious passive/aggressive behavior?  First, be aware of it.  Learn what you can about recognizing the signs.

 

Second, set & enforce good boundaries.  If your friend is always late, stop waiting on her.  Meet her at the restaurant & order without her.  Or, stop hanging out with her at all.

 

Third, never forget to stay calm at all times.  Pretend not to be flustered by their actions.  If you show that you are upset, they will do it again & again.

 

Forth, never forget to pray.  God will help you to identify & deal with this awful behavior in the most effective ways possible.  All you have to do is ask Him to.

 

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Narcissists & Conflict

Narcissists deal with  conflict in odd ways.

 

Many narcissists proudly claim they are neutral in the situation even in extreme situations.  If their adult child is going through a break up or divorce, for example, they stay on friendly terms with the ex even when there aren’t grandchildren involved or any other reason to stay in relationship with that person.  Even if he beat his wife or she cheated on him, the narcissistic parents stay friendly with the ex, not caring that this hurts their child or the child’s new spouse.  In fact, they may sing the praises of the ex to the new spouse.  Been there with my late mother in-law & sisters in-law, in fact.  The mother in-law told me not long after we got married how disappointed she was my husband married me instead of an old girlfriend.  His sisters loved to mention this lady to me frequently & kept my husband current on what happened in her life for years after we were married.  (I’m not sure if they still do that or not- after me getting mad about the last time (we’d been together for 12 years at that point, married for 10), my husband probably wouldn’t tell me if they did.).

 

If they are a witness to a conflict, many narcissists avoid getting involved.  If someone is being hurt physically or mentally, it’s not their problem as far as they are concerned.  That conflict is between those two people, period, so they ignore it.  Many won’t even simply call 911 upon witnessing a crime.  I heard a story once about a lady who was killed outside of her apartment building in the 1950s’s.  38 people claimed to have heard her screaming for help, some even saw the attack from their apartment windows, but only 2 called the police.  Every other person said they didn’t want to get involved, even though they knew this lady was in danger.

 

Other narcissists are afraid if they get involved, someone will end up angry with them, so they stay out of the conflict.  For example, my mother once told me of seeing the husband of a friend of hers & my father’s with another woman.  I asked if she told the woman, & she said “Oh no!  I couldn’t do that!  They might get mad at me.”  (Seriously?!  If that was my husband, I’d want to know & would NOT be angry with the person who told me- my anger would be reserved for my husband at that point. Pretty sure this is how almost anyone would feel in this position!)  She asked if I’d tell if I was in her position & I said absolutely I would.  It’d be hard, but this lady has a right to know so she can figure out what to do about this.  My mother looked at me like a deer in the headlights.  She clearly had no concept of what I was saying.

 

Sometimes narcissists will get involved, trying to rescue the victim, in a limited capacity, if they think it will make them look good.  In junior high school, a girl threatened to beat me up.  I’m not sure why.  I was afraid, but after growing up with my mother, had learned that if you don’t stand up to a bully, they’ll run right over you.   Backing down wasn’t an option in my mind.  I told my mother about this girl.  The next day, my mother went to the principle.  During class, the girl yelled at me for telling on her, but at least she left me alone.  (A good thing- she was a lot bigger than me!)  To this day, my mother tells how she saved me from getting beaten up.  According to her, I wanted to stay home to avoid that girl, but she wouldn’t let me.  She made me face my fears & she talked to the principle, & if it wasn’t for her, I would’ve been beaten up.  As usual, her version was very different than reality.

 

People who don’t have Narcissistic Personality Disorder but have some narcissistic tendencies also may behave this way.  Perhaps they grew up with at least one narcissistic parent, so they learned that this is how you are supposed to act. My husband told me years ago that his mother & I not getting along was not his problem, it was all mine. I needed to deal with it & leave him out of it.  Interestingly, his father’s mother never liked his wife, & his father never did anything about that.  My husband learned by example of his narcissistic parents.

 

In any case, the narcissist responds in the passive/aggressive the way they do for one reason only- themselves.  As with everything else, the situation comes back to them.  They’re all that matters to themselves, period.  Will they look good if they rescue someone?  Can they get involved & people will still like them?  Or, will they look better not getting involved?  After all, what if someone got mad at them?  GASP!!  The horrors!!

 

Being aware of this behavior in narcissists will help you not to expect help from them in the way a normal, healthy person would give it.  Also you’ll know they may completely ignore your crisis entirely.  When that happens, you can chalk it up to typical narcissistic behavior.

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Passive/Aggressive Behavior

Do you know someone who is passive/aggressive?  Passive/aggressive behavior is when someone is upset with you, but rather than try to work it out, they deny being upset.  Instead, they do things to hurt or anger you.

 

Over a year ago when my parents came to my home, my mother wanted me to do something for her.  As usual, she ordered me to do it, rather than asked.  For the first time in my life, it ticked me off.  I’m her daughter, not the hired help & I don’t like being treated as such.  So, I responded with “since you asked me so nicely, of course I’ll do it.”  She didn’t say anything, but apparently it sank in.
A few days later, my mother called me, wanting me to look something up on my computer for her.  Rather than her usual demand, she asked me nicely, so I looked it up.  Small victory for me!  I quickly realized though that she wasn’t happy about asking rather than demanding, because she became passive/aggressive.  Her hearing isn’t the best, but she also uses that when it benefits her to do so.  While I was on the phone with her yesterday, about every other sentence at first was “What did you say?  I can’t hear you Honey!”  (Interestingly she only calls me Honey when she is playing deaf, which is how I know beyond a shadow of a doubt what she is up to.)  I was practically screaming into the phone before she suddenly heard me.  However, as the conversation went on, her hearing suddenly became better.  I could speak fairly quietly & she heard me.  Why?  I think partly because I let her ramble on- she gained her narcissistic supply, which pleased her- & partly because she felt that she had satisfactorily let me know she wasn’t pleased with being forced to ask me to do something rather than demand it.

 

During the conversation, my mother also slipped in snide comments about how much she hates scary movies/books.  She doesn’t understand how anyone can like such awful things!  Why was this mentioned out of the blue?  No doubt because she knows I love scary movies & stories.  This is a way to scold me for my “poor choices” without directly doing so.  A way to say I’m wrong without using those exact words.

 

There are other ways a person can exhibit passive/aggressive behavior, such as:

 

  • being sarcastic.
  • withholding praise, affection or intimacy.
  • giving the silent treatment.
  • running late.
  • either not getting around to doing something asked of him/her, or doing it very poorly so you are forced to do it yourself if you want it done right.

 

Does any of this behavior sound familiar to you?

 

A lot of people are passive/aggressive.  It’s a very common phenomenon with narcissists, but I think with non-narcissistic people as well.  It’s a very immature type of behavior, & since there are a great deal of immature people in the world, it’s no wonder it’s quite common.

 

So how do you deal with a person who behaves this way?

 

First, you need to be able to recognize it.  If you don’t recognize passive/aggressive behavior, you’ll end up enabling it.  You’ll ask the person what is wrong, try to make them happy, do what they seem unable or unwilling to do.

 

Next, refuse to play along.  If the person wants to behave badly, that is his/her choice.  If someone is constantly late when you are supposed to get together, tell the person that the next time they are late, you will do whatever you are supposed to do together without that person.  Then follow through on it.  Or, if the person is obviously upset, ask what is wrong.  If she says nothing is wrong, let it go.  Don’t try to pry it out of her- she is an adult & can behave as such if she wants to resolve the issue.

 

Be happy.  Pretend not to notice the other person sulking.  Go on with your day in peace.  It will annoy the other person that her behavior isn’t working as she wanted it to, so she may give up on it.

 

Passive/aggressive behavior is very common on social media.  Vague posts about how “some people” behave or think just after you had a disagreement on that topic, or posting things showing a person is for something you aren’t or vice versa are all too common.  Social media is great, but it can be a useful tool for narcissists & passive/aggressives.  When these things happen, ignore them.  Obviously the person posting what they have wants to make a point without discussing it with you in an adult manner.  Opting to try to discuss it with them would most likely only frustrate you.  Just ignore them.  Unfollow or unfriend them.

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