How to deal with the passive aggression of a loved one

How to deal with the passive aggression of a loved one
How to deal with the passive aggression of a loved one

Communication is an essential part of maintaining a certain family cohesion. Nevertheless, it doesn't always go very well and a lack of communication is often due to the clash between different personalities or just characters that are difficult to deal with. While you can be compassionate and understanding, it's just as important not to be bullied by those around you who are passive aggressive. This personality type reveals an individual who is unwilling to deal frankly with grudge, anger, or any other negative emotion. Rather, this aggressively passive relative will complain, enter into endless debates and act unpleasantly as a mode of exchange. This is obviously not a very healthy form of communication and you should find some good strategies not to be sucked into this whirlwind of passive aggression.


Part 1 of 2: Identify passive aggression

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Step 1. Observe your loved ones

See if you can identify aggressively passive behavior in them. Remember to take occasional lapses into account, from time to time we all behave aggressively passive for various reasons such as fatigue, nervousness or insecurity. This behavior becomes a problem as long as it becomes a habitual means of communication in the person and a common way of treating others. Observe the following clues.

  • What does your close relative say? Aggressively passive type behavior is usually accompanied by complaints. The person may, for example, complain that they are not properly appreciated and that their own misfortunes are treated as trivialities.
  • What does this close relative do? On the one hand, your parent seems to agree with you and on the other hand, you learn that he said or did the opposite!
  • How does your parent react to the news and life choices you or other family members have made? Aggressively passive behavior can be revealed if the loved one appears not to be interested in these events, or even completely ignores the news, unless they criticize or mock your accomplishments under loads of sarcasm or questionable jokes.. The aggressively passive person tends not to recognize the success of others and will do everything possible to minimize it or suggest that it was only the result of chance or cheating, rather than accepting that the person was able to work hard to make it happen. The whole thing can nevertheless seem quite subtle. So you shouldn't expect outright anger.
  • Does this parent tend to disagree or refuse encouragement? The inability to congratulate someone on a job well done or to recognize its value is a sign of resentment, an underlying clue of passive behavior tinged with aggression.
  • Did you notice in this relative of the sarcastic comments then a will to refute to have said such things? Or even go to the point of accusing yourself of having misinterpreted what was said?
  • Does this loved one keep disputing almost everything you say or suggest? We can find a negative motive in the fact that the person talks a lot and insists that their situation is much worse than yours, that they know everything better than you or that they have a much more accurate view of things than they do. you. When, for example, the person insists that such a situation does not concern them, that this event has never happened to them or that in their time, we were not so lucky and we had to work harder to win his life, among others.
  • Does your parent insist heavily that he has no chance and that others always have more than him? Does this person often use the dreaded “if only…” formula and then expand on everything he or she could have done if events had turned in his or her favor? Listening to this type of speech, we quickly realize that the person is unable to accept not having taken responsibility for bringing about beneficial changes in his life.
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Step 2. Look at the facts

In the end, what does this loved one do to make you feel like he or she is behaving aggressively passive towards you? Most of the time, this is quite subtle, but it becomes glaring over time as that person's behavior comes to feel completely natural to them. Find out what bothers you about this type of behavior. Is it because the person does not agree with you or is it in the way they disagree, by gritting their teeth, for example, and then saying that everything is fine when you ask them what? who does not go ?

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Step 3. Know the motive behind your parent's behavior

You may or may not know the “official version” behind his aggressively passive behavior, but you may have an idea of ​​what annoys your loved one about what they say or do. This should give you a more accurate picture of what is bothering that person. Determine what is disturbing you about this parent's view of existence and their attitude towards other family members, especially those who have achieved things that annoy this parent tremendously.

  • Why is this person doing this? Is it possible that Aunt Marguerite dreamed of being a prima ballerina in her youth, but was too destitute and married too early to achieve this ambition? To then see his little girl show a talent for ballet? Uncle Georges may have wanted to be an astronaut, but found the studies to do so too difficult, only to learn years later that one of his nephews had been accepted into NASA. These are obviously not excuses, but it is a way to understand the fabric of his behavior today.
  • Do you think there is a plausible reason behind this loved one's disagreement with something that is important to you? In some cases, an aggressively passive person tries to protect themselves from a bad experience first, but ends up trying to protect loved ones as well in the hope that they too do not have a bad experience. It can help you understand that a surly or harsh comment can possibly come from wanting to take care of yourself about a bad choice on your part that has been reassessed in the light of its own dire experience.
  • In some cases, the aggressively passive loved one seeks to control you, manage the situation and the family, among other things. This person may feel that their place in the family is threatened in some way or another and that their attitude may be a covert attempt to regain power over others. There might even be some sort of satisfaction in seeing that his words or behavior may cause further torment or questioning.
  • Another possible motive for aggressively passive behavior is simply jealousy. As with Aunt Marguerite and Uncle Georges, seeing someone else achieve what the person has not achieved can be devastating and may even confirm that the person has never been able to pursue a dream. In this case, resentment, bitterness, and resentment are likely to fuel the motive behind this aggressively passive behavior.
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Step 4. Know that the main motive is to attack you

The person wants to put you down, sarcasm or point the finger at you without retaliation from you. This is why the person often uses sarcasm, bad jokes, a know-it-all attitude, and shoddy wisdom to make you understand that it was said "no meanness", even if the he real intention was to cause pain.

Part 2 of 2: Building a communication strategy

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Step 1. Don't get caught up in the scenario

The most important thing when it comes to dealing with an aggressively passive loved one is learning not to show annoyance, family ties make the situation even more sensitive. Mentally rehearse effective thought patterns before coming into contact with that loved one again, a little mental role play can help you not to panic and give in to this subtle blackmail.

  • Tell yourself that your grandmother is in aggressively passive mode again and that you are not going to get into her little game of killing again. She's bitter about your relationship with Machin and won't stop you from doing what you've planned. Or, you think Uncle John is unfair and is trying to undermine your morale by saying certain things to you. You know he's aggressively passive and will get what he wants if you get angry. Worrying about him or getting angry won't change the situation. Rather, you should ignore his remarks and defend your position.
  • More than anything, you need to stay calm. It's easy to get carried away or panic, but your reaction is likely to be more emotional than thoughtful. You will defuse the person's aggressively passive attitude by remaining calm.
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Step 2. Face this loved one openly and politely

React immediately, once you know that your parent's aggressive behavior is their usual way of communicating with you and that you are bothered by it. Wait until that parent says or does something aggressively passive. Then calmly and gently ask him or her why he or she said or did this. If the person claims to have done or said nothing like this, repeat what the person just said. Ask him why he doesn't like your idea or comment.

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Step 3. Share your own impression

Stay calm if your parent denies being annoyed by anything. Say that you feel rejected or stupid and that it hurt you. It's a peaceful way to stay open to discussion and to show the person that their aggressively passive attitude is not trivial. Your parent will then have to explain his actions.

  • This is often enough to encourage an open explanation or an apology, even if it is done in a gruff tone, like, "I didn't want to hurt you, but I was worried about your finances and your future" or: "You know I care about you, I'm not going to repeat it all the time!" "
  • Continue by saying that you are glad he or she told you this or something similar. This is a very tense situation for the person, so you should appreciate the effort he or she has deigned to make.
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Step 4. Don't be rebuffed by your parent

Camp firmly on your positions if your loved one retorts that you are too sensitive, this kind of remark is contemptuous and does not correspond to reality. Tell your parent that you are truly interested in their opinion, even if they disagree with you and that you would like them to freely share their thoughts with you. This may surprise your parent. Many people act in an aggressively passive mode because they lack the confidence to speak up and deal with possible disagreement. If you tell your loved one that their opinion matters to you, they might let go of their defensive attitude and gradually end up talking to you on an equal footing.

  • Always stick to the facts. Keep notes in a notepad, if necessary, along with dates and background to the situation.
  • Be a good parrot. Just repeat what really happened and suggest another behavior if your loved one tries to misrepresent the facts, denies saying or doing something, or accuses another person.
  • Learn to be more assertive if necessary. You can find help in one of our wikiHow articles related to insurance.
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Step 5. Stop expecting this parent to do everything for you

Treat what they say like lip service if you find yourself waiting for this parent to keep any promise they made. Don't just wait for a miracle. Do what you set out to do, and find more reliable people if you need help.


  • If another parent is sometimes able to contain this aggressive loved one, it may be helpful to see them and talk to them about your concerns. Sometimes this can be enough for the aggressively passive parent to stop playing cat and mouse with you.
  • Lead by example. You take risks and accept to face rejection by expressing yourself openly and sharing your feelings. This tells that parent that you trust them enough to have this type of discussion with them, which can encourage them to do the same with you.

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