In Part 1 of this series on passive aggression, my guest contributor, Glenna Anderson, breaks down these behaviors and some of the root causes. Glenna, a licensed clinical social worker, has experience in working with children and families in a therapeutic setting. She understands the barriers this behavior places on communication and building trusting relationships.
Although I don’t directly work with children and families, I understand the impact that parenting can have on developing passive aggressive behavior. Many times my adult clients can pinpoint a family history of non-confrontational styles. You may consider my final interview question to be harsh but I think it’s important for parents to hear about messages or behaviors they may be passing onto their kids. No one wants to admit they’re wrong. But there’s no shame in making changes in yourself for the best interest of your children!
Can kids be passive aggressive?
Yes, kids can be passive aggressive but it’s a little different. Kids are developing their emotions and their communication skills, so depending on where they are age wise and developmentally, that will be the type of expectation that we have.
How to deal with people; You either stand up to them or let them be. You call out the inconsistencies and you give them the opportunity to say how they really feel.
Now the key to doing this is that you have to be very kind about it. You have to offer them a safe space so that they feel comfortable saying how they feel. Healthy communication is a skill just like driving a car or cooking food. The more you practice it the better you get.
So by being kind in your approach, you are giving people a safe place to practice this and it will help them get better. The worst thing that you can do is to fuss or be aggressive about it. All you’re doing is confirming that it is not safe for them to be upfront about how they feel. Fussing with them reinforces the belief that they have to be roundabout in their approach in order to get their point across.
For example, a person that a person grew up in a house where there was a lot of yelling and screaming may have learned that the best way to handle things is to not be confrontational because that will create a hostile situation. So if you are the least bit aggressive or mean in your approach, this may send them back into their shell. And just for clarity, that doesn’t mean that all people or passive aggressive grew up in emotionally abusive homes…I’m just using that as an example.
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If you are a person that is passive aggressive, I always say the very first step to change is acknowledging the fact that something doesn’t feel right. It’s hindering your friendships, dating relationships or you’re just plain noticing a pattern in yourself that you don’t really like.
If you want to start this at home by yourself, I recommend you get some sort of tool that helps you to track your behavior. In my book,“Ms. Glenna’s Little Black Book: The Secret to Starting and Finishing”, I have what’s called a “Self-Care Square”. It is a place where you can write down things that you’re trying to do differently. It allows you to make a check mark every time you are successful in that behavior. For example, every day that you go without being passive aggressive or every instance that you spoke up for yourself and were assertive, you check the box. Here, you can monitor your progress.
If you know this is something you cannot tackle on your own, then you should contact a person like me, a mental health therapist. I can help you process your emotions and dig deep to figure out what’s the root cause while coming up with healthy solutions for how to move forward.
Thank you Glenna for your insight about a topic that most of us are too shy to dig into. If you recognize this behavior in yourself, start writing down appropriate or respectful ways to get your point across. Although you may not get the response you want, you can have a clear conscience in knowing you advocated for yourself.