So far Psychobabble4u has covered anger in many forms: Anger gets a Bad Rap, The Verbally Aggressive Person, The Bully in Your Head. Now to the hardest angry person to spot in the bunch, the passive aggressive(PA). This is the person who delivers their anger with a smile. Their compliments and questions sting with the hidden insult. And they leave in their wake a high level of discomfort and a great deal of uncertainty as to what has just occurred. To be passive aggressive means to act your anger out in an indirect way. In my opinion, this is the hardest type of angry person to deal with. Ill take a jerk or a b____ any day over the sneaky, sliveryness of the passive aggressive snake.
“Your hair is so red.” “Your shoes are so high.” “Your bag is so big.” ” Ooh I can never wear my pants tucked into to my boots because they always get so scrunched up at the top of the boot.” Your colleague says to you in the bathroom gesturing at your boots. You nod and look down at the bunches of pants at the top of your boots. Your guest, eying the blanket you just passed her, murmurs,” you will have to take me to all of those cheap stores you have out here.”
- The PA: How does this happen?
- Parental Behavior: Many PA’s have watched their parent (s) deal with anger in this indirect way so they model what they have learned.
- The Rule of Thumb: This trait is more closely associated with women for a reason. The ‘rule of thumb’ has been said to derive from 18th Century English law which allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick so long as it is was no thicker than his thumb. This kind of environment would not allow women to express any kind of anger directly. PA allowed women to express anger and exert power without challenging a man directly.
- Many PA’s have accumulated a great deal of anger over years of not expressing their anger directly. (making nasty comments does not get rid of the feeling of anger).
- Impulse Control: There is a lack of impulse control. We do not need to say every nasty thought that comes into our head.
- Often PA’s are uncomfortable with themselves and therefor feel more comfortable when we are uncomfortable as well.
- Sometimes the indirectness comes from not wanting confrontation, to disappoint other people or hurt them in anyway. Which is so ironic because this indirectness often creates all of these things.
- We all have a little PA in us: The truth is we are human, and we all have slightly wicked, unnecessary thoughts in our head and sometimes they are going to slip out. The difference is with a true PA they have been doing this for so long it is almost a career path. Often they are unaware of doing it and of the effect that it has.
- Dealing with the PA:
- Emotionally Direct: “What you just said sounds like a compliment but it stings like an insult.”
- Direct (slightly confrontational):
- “Thank you, my hair is Red, you are very observant.”
- “Are you saying you do not like the color of my hair?”
- Perplexed (this is a beauty): “I’m sorry I don’t know what you mean when you say my shoes are so high?” ( let them explain their PA comment to you.)
- Positive: “ I’m glad you like this blanket I just bought you one.”
- When in doubt ignore! “How about those Phillies?!”
There is hope for you if you are one of these people. You may not even have recognized this trait in yourself until you read this article. No worries. Start to change this by paying attention to how you deal with your anger when you feel angry. Read Anger gets a Bad Rap (love these self-congratulatory self-references:))
Ultimately, many people who use this as their main form of communication become isolated. Other people do not know how to handle them so they ween them out of their lives. When you are direct with a PA, your directness draws attention to their indirectness. Sometimes for the first time ever. You are offering them an opportunity to change and you are not walking away feeling as if you just got smacked in the face. You are helping the snake to shed some of its protective skin and become a more open version of itself. Maybe a Gardner snake. Anyway, at the very least, you now have a better chance of spotting this snake in the grass and dealing with it.
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Psychobabble4u signing off:)
(c) Cori Grachek,: May, 2009
If you have any questions about therapy, are interested in therapy or just have a more private thought or question that you would like to share with me I can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
**This is not and can never be a replacement for therapy