Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dealing mindfully with passive-aggressive behavior

Have you ever had a friend who could never manage to meet you on time for coffee or lunch? And would sometimes casually cancel your planned get together to substitute another engagement that came up later? Worse, when you tried to discuss the issue with said friend, he or she somehow managed to blame you for being too sensitive or whatever.

If you valued the friendship, you may have tolerated the above passive-aggressive behavior way too long before finally taking a stand.

It’s time to be mindful of not only your friend’s hostile behavior, but your role in enabling it. In her recent blog post, Amanda Chan clearly defines passive-aggressive behavior and offers constructive advice - including mindfulness - in dealing with it:

(In reading Amanda's post, I became mindful of my own occasional passive-aggressive behavior.)

Ah, passive-aggression. The best way to handle conflict.


There's a reason why passive-aggressive behavior gets such a bad rap. Not only is it supremely frustrating for both parties involved, but it's also incredibly unproductive to the passive-aggressive person -- because his or her needs aren't actually ever acknowledged or addressed.

And for the target of the passive-aggression, experiencing this kind of behavior can "make you feel like a crazy person," explains Scott Wetzler, Ph.D., vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Montefiore Medical Center and author of Living With the Passive-Aggressive Man. "You're being told what's happening isn't happening, and there's something very withholding about the interaction. You know something is going on, and he's denying it."

At its heart, the behavior "really is a sugar-coated hostility," Wetzler tells HuffPost. "So instead of someone who’s actually going to assertively reject something you ask them for, these folks ... indirectly don't do what's expected of them."

Passive-aggressive behavior, while expressed in many different ways, has the same roots: There is an underlying fear and avoidance of direct conflict, yet a feeling of powerlessness and helplessness. The result? An unspoken power struggle, that can appear in several different ways. Some potential manifestations:
  • Sarcasm
  • The silent treatment
  • Withholding of intimacy
  • Withholding of praise
  • Being critical
  • Sabotage
  • Running late
  • Not doing something that's asked of him/her

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