Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Passive-Aggressive Behavior is the worst

Advice of the Day: Don't engage in passive-aggressive behavior. 
<full stop>
Just, don't. It's an easy trap to fall into and we often reflexively do it, but it does nothing positive for our relationships and in fact is one of the very worst ways to communicate. I personally have to make a conscious effort to not be this way, and it does take a lot of mindfulness to keep from defaulting to it. But because I spend so much energy defying my instinct, I have *very little* tolerance/patience for other people behaving passive-aggressively towards me. If you recognize yourself as someone who is frequently passive-aggressive, it would behoove you to get started on your recovery, because I *promise* nobody likes it when you do that. If you have something to say, just say it. Don't make people dig it out of you or do a bunch of extra work to clarify how you're feeling and why. It is much easier to avoid or resolve conflict when we are being direct. 
First things first, though, while everyone has heard of passive-aggressiveness, I think we are not all clear on what that actually is. People ask me about this a lot, especially in couples counseling, so here's a basic definition: 
**pas·sive-ag·gres·sive (adjective): of or denoting a type of behavior or personality characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation.**
In other words, it is a way of avoiding using our words to express what/how we actually feel and instead going about it indirectly to get the same point across. Often we do this because it gives us an "out" if it's ineffective to later claim that the other person misunderstood or misread. It tends to happen when we don't feel entitled to or capable of more directly expressing ourselves. 
Examples: 
- saying "It's fine" or "I'm fine" or "I'm not mad/upset" when CLEARLY it is not fine, you are not fine, and/or you are mad/upset.
- intentionally waiting (or failing) to respond to something you know someone is waiting for you to reply to.
- taking your time on something in order to communicate that it is not important to you.
- comments like "Oh I see how it is!" and "Sure, you could do it for HER" or "Don't go to any trouble".
- intentionally messing something up to avoid having to do it instead of just saying "no".
- backhanded compliments 
In all of these cases, you are communicating by not communicating or by intentionally mis-communicating or misleading. You are not actually saying what you mean, which is confusing. How is anyone supposed to connect authentically with us if they don't know how to take what we say/do? Do you know how much work it is to undo conditioning that has taught people not to trust the word of other people because they're so used to passive-aggressive behavior? 
So, if you are upset, and the person you're upset with says, "Hey, are you okay?" - what is the point in claiming "Yes, I'm fine" if you're clearly not? Anyone who is either a) very literal or b) has grown impatient with your passive-aggressive behavior will shrug and be like, "Okay, good." And move on as though you are fine. Because you said you're fine. 
You don't then get to be mad that the person didn't know you were upset. YOU SAID YOU WERE FINE. 
But that's the thing, though, right? You WANT the person to know they've harmed you and made you upset. They can SEE AND FEEL that you are upset, which is why they asked in the first place. Skip all the extra steps and just say, "Yes. I am upset. It is not fine. It hurt my feelings when you did x thing." And move directly into resolving the issue. 
STOP BEING PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE. 
Here are some specific tips: Don't withhold communication. Don't be intentionally hurtful just to "get back" at somebody for hurting you. Don't not respond to something you know a person is waiting for you to respond to just to make a point or to leverage power. Don't pay backhanded compliments. Don't say things like "I see how you are" or "I see how it is" if what you're really saying is "I'm seeing you do something for someone else that I want you to do for me" and don't say "Don't go to any trouble" if what you mean is "Would you please go to this trouble for me?" Don't expect people to read your mind. ETC ETC. 
Communicate clearly, directly, effectively. Even if it's awkward and you feel vulnerable doing it. It's WAY BETTER than working so hard to get your point across through all the back channels. I love and appreciate the people in my life who are direct and honest with me. I value the people who say when they're not fine, and who if I ask "do you need anything?" and they say "no" aren't secretly mad at me for not doing something I didn't know they wanted or needed done. I love knowing that I have at least a handful of people I can count on to not be passive-aggressive, and when I accidentally default to passive-aggressive they can call me out, or I can call myself out and apologize. Your relationships will benefit from working on this. (I promise).

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