Our relationships with others can be supportive and rewarding. But some can be the opposite. Counsellor Laura Sollis explains how to recognise passive aggressive behaviour and how we should deal with it.
Relationships with friends, partners or work colleagues can be great. They can be supportive, a welcome break from the daily drudgery, an understanding ear when you need to vent and a place where we can have fun and be silly.
But some relationships can be the opposite and these types of relationships don't feel so forgiving or supportive. In fact they can leave us feeling confused, lost and continually questioning our judgement.
Have you ever been in a situation where it feels like someone just keeps having a dig, but you say to yourself ‘Nah. I'm just being paranoid. They didn't mean it that way, it is just me being silly!’
Chances are you aren't being paranoid and in fact what you may be experiencing is passive-aggressive behavior.
Coping with a passive-aggressive person can feel very confusing. You may start to question what you could have done to upset them, you may even try being extra nice or going the extra mile just to make up for what you ‘may’ have done.
- Someone sounding more aggressive in their tone of voice or snappy at times.
- Someone being unduly critical of something you've said or done, or referring to something else being better in some way.
- Feeling like the butt of someone’s jokes.
- Jokes being made about you that feel very personal and inappropriate.
- Someone being over-friendly with others, leaving you feeling like an outcast or that it must be you to blame.
So how can you protect yourself from this?
The first and most important thing to remember is - this is not about you.
If a person doesn't communicate their needs how do you know what they expect? Offer them the space and opportunity to discuss what the problem may be. But be warned, sometimes people won't admit to passive aggression and they may have no idea they are doing it.
Try not to judge them or berate them. This could lead to a game of verbal tennis, which will make it more difficult to find common ground.
Explain how you are experiencing them in the situation. They may not realize the full extent of what is happening themselves. Encourage open communication in the future to avoid this sort of situation recurring.
If you have reached the point where this person’s behaviour feels too much to put up with, don't be afraid to walk away. Trying to continue a relationship with someone who is constantly doing this type of thing can take its toll.
Relationships of any kind have their ups and downs and sometimes we get into situations where we can feel swallowed up by the negatives. Suddenly we can't see the wood for the trees.
If your relationships are feeling like hard work then talking to a counsellor may help. Learning new ways to talk to each other can help both of you feel valued and heard within a relationship.