Dealing with passive-aggression

When I’m angry or upset about something, you know about it. I may not always express it well, but there isn’t generally much doubt about the fact that I’m upset and why. Once expressed, it usually doesn’t hang around very long, though it may flare up repeatedly about the same situations or issues if those issues aren’t resolved.

Everyone is probably guilty of being passive-aggressive at one point or another and to some degree. But people who are close to me who live every day passive-aggressively really know how to push my buttons, which means I play right into their little manipulative dramas.

I have a friend. Or rather, I should say I have a former friend who is a ball of sullen passive-aggression. I never really noticed when we were friends. I only saw it once the friendship ended, when I (as the relationship ender) became the focus of much of her passive-aggression. Dr. Robert offers an interesting list of traits, many of which this former friend consistently exhibits:

  • Sulking, pouting
  • Frequent complaining
  • Trying to control situations through emotional blackmail
  • Feeling victimized
  • Sending mixed messages so that one is never sure exactly what was said or what to expect
  • Blaming others
  • Resentment
  • Sullenness
  • Fear of authority
  • Resistance to suggestions from others
  • Unexpressed anger or hostility
  • Making unfair demands on friends and associates

We unfortunately share an interest in an online community and I can’t do anything there without tripping over her. I don’t know how to handle it. I can’t seem to just avoid her because she’s everywhere — to avoid her, I’d have to stop participating in the community. I don’t want to have to leave the community but I can’t seem to not rise to her passive aggressive baiting. It might take awhile but eventually the sniping wears me down.

An article on the Free Republic offers the following suggestions for dealing with passive-aggressive people:

To manage garden variety passive-aggressive behavior, psychiatrists often advise a kind of protective engagement: don’t attack the person; that only reinforces your position as an authority making demands. Take into account the probable cause of the person’s unexpressed anger and acknowledge it, if possible, when being stonewalled during a discussion.

Acknowledging the cause of her unexpressed anger hasn’t proven helpful in the past so clearly I really just need to learn to ignore her. The question is “How?”

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