According to the dictionary, passive-aggressive behavior is a category of interpersonal interactions characterized by an obstructionist or hostile manner that indicates aggression. In more general terms, people that exhibit passive-aggressiveness express this in non-assertive, subtle ways.
I hit the gym especially early this week since I was very busy with appointments. I was happy to see an old friend I hadn’t connected with for some time. I took my spot on the elliptical machine and was glad to see that she was close enough to have a conversation with. The time began to fly by as we caught up on various current events. Suddenly, I noticed a man on the other side of my friend. As we continued to talk, I saw that he was imitating us. He was moving his mouth in a silent mimic of the two of us talking. Out of the corner of my eye, I continued to monitor his actions. Off and on, he would make hand signals of people yapping and silently imitate talking.
Apparently, our conversation was bothering him. He continued to grimace, roll his eyes and make faces of unhappiness. At one point, he tried to get the attention of one of the workers and mouth to him how we were annoying him. He was aware I was watching him, which did nothing to squelch his quest for more. At one point, he talked out loud to himself but I couldn’t quite make out the words. However, it didn’t really matter because the facial non-verbals told the whole story.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. Twenty minutes of this type of passive-aggressive behavior is enough for anyone to endure. Firmly but without emotion, I said, “ You know Joe, you could put on some headphones if our talking is bothering you”. He pretended like he didn’t hear me and got very quiet.
And that’s the end of the story.
I am pretty sure that at some point in your life, you have experienced this type of behavior. Maybe you have experienced it in your own family or perhaps you’ve seen this play out at work. Whenever this occurs, there are a couple things you need to keep in mind about the person indulging in the act:
1. Individuals that tend to have passive-aggressive behavior have learned to utilize this pattern to get what they want in life. They have an inability to handle situations in a more direct manner. Therefore, they often use smirks, off-handed comments and sarcasm to get their point across if they’re irritated. You know when you’ve hit on one of these characters when they zing something at you and you have to actually think about whether it was an insult or not. Deep down, they feel that this method is actually preferable to being direct and hurtful.
2. If you want this behavior to stop, you need to handle it when it occurs. The passive-aggressive individual doesn’t want to be “called out” in front of others since they aren’t comfortable dealing with situations directly. Leave the emotion at home, and firmly question the behavior. Over time, this behavior will only escalate if not dealt with appropriately. If any of you are dealing with this in your own life, you know exactly what I mean.
Dealing with an individual that is passive-aggressive can be draining and frustrating. If you find yourself putting up with this behavior, nip it in the bud now before it grows to gargantuan proportions. I’m thinking it just might be a little too late for my friend at the gym.