" I asked, after folding the items the woman wished to purchase. "No," she replied, "but my husband refused to go shopping with me and I figured this was the most evil thing I could do to him legally."In relationships, passive aggressive behaviors are often used to avoid the direct confrontation of short-term conflict, but in the long-term, these dynamics can be even more destructive to marriage than outright aggression.As she fumbled for her wallet, I noticed a remote control for a television set in her purse. To keep assertive communication flowing in your relationship, here are four strategies to effectively confront passive aggressive behavior: Recognize the Warning Signs of Passive Aggressive Behavior Passive aggression is a deliberate and masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger.By simply sharing your awareness of his covert anger, you have sent a bold and powerful message that the passive aggressive behavior cannot continue and the relationship needs to change.When you sense these destructive dynamics coming in to play, manage your own emotions through self-talk statements such as: Point Out the Elephant in the Room Passive aggressive people spend their lives avoiding direct emotional expression and guarding against open acknowledgement of their anger.One of the most powerful ways to confront passive aggressive dynamics and change the behavior in the long-term, then, is to be willing to point out anger directly when it is present in a situation.It was just a thought I wanted to share with you.” Don’t argue or correct the person’s denial at this time, but rather quietly back away from further discussion, leaving your spouse with the thought that you are aware there are some feelings of anger behind his behavior.The advantage of this approach is the comfort of not having to justify or defend your acknowledgement of the anger.Some of the most common passive aggressive behaviors to be aware of include: Passive aggressive adults are experts at getting others to act out their hidden anger.
Expect that once this has been done, the passive aggressive person will deny the existence of anger.When he does, you should verbally accept the defenses for the time being, with a response such as, “Okay!Anger should be affirmed in a factual, non-judgmental way, such as, “It seems to me that you are angry at me for making this request.” The impact of this seemingly simple exposure can be quite profound.Expect & Accept Denial Your goal is to make overt the anger that has been covert, stuffed inside, and kept secret for so long.
This “sugar coated hostility” involves a variety of behaviors designed to get back at another person without the other recognizing the underlying anger.
When a person is able to quickly identify hallmark passive aggressive behaviors for what they are—hidden expressions of anger—they take the first critical step in disengaging from the destructive dynamic.