Are you being passive aggressive?

In my last post “How to deal with passive aggressive team members” I talked about one approach to dealing with passive aggressive team members.

In this post I want to talk about some of the signs that you are being passive aggressive.

How to identify you are being passive aggressive.

I loved the way that Muriel Wilkins talks about it:

When was the last time you did any of the following at work?

  • You didn’t share your honest view on a topic, even when asked.
  • You got upset with someone, but didn’t let them know why.
  • You procrastinated on completing a deliverable primarily because you just didn’t see the value in it.
  • You praised someone in public, but criticized them in private. 
  • You responded to an exchange with, “Whatever you want is fine.  Just tell me what you want me to do,” when in actuality, it wasn’t fine with you.

Whether intentional or not, these are all signs you’re being passive-aggressive.  Whenever there is a disconnect between what you say (passive) and what you do (aggressive), you fall into that camp.”

I would go further in describing the passive behaviour.  For me it is all about me NOT saying what is really true for me.  I am speaking, and it isn’t my truth.  Not my deep down soul and honest truth.  How do I know this?  When I  really get in touch with what is going on for me in that moment, I notice that it feels uncomfortable for me, what I am saying, how I am responding. Do you notice that is the case for you too?

The aggressive behavior for me is then how I respond.  This is particularly noticeable in the tone of voice that I use and the way that I respond, which may be curt, terse and sharp (if I really listen to myself).  My response, as I spoke about in my earlier article, is also relatively unconscious.  I notice now that I tend to respond in this terse manner without even realising it.

Learn to notice what triggers your behaviour

The best thing that you can begin to do is notice when you are acting out this way.  It may take a while to catch on when your response is automatic, and it is possible to notice, if you are open to it.

Muriel also suggests this approach “It’s important that you recognize which circumstances or situations drive you to be passive-aggressive.  Knowing what they are helps you consciously explore other ways to respond.”

Being open to your team mates noticing and letting you know, perhaps not at the time, but afterwards in a non invasive way, may also help you begin to see the patterns of when you respond this way.  For this to occur you need to trust them and ask for their help.  This is not going to be easy and will mean you being vulnerable enough to even broach the subject.  You may be surprised at the response that you receive if you do.

Understanding your patterns

There is a lot of value once you begin to see the patterns and patterned behaviour that you have of writing it down.  By putting it down on paper it is solidifying that you have noticed it.  This will allow you to see it and perhaps identify the source of where the pattern originated.  I have personally found this has been a childhood incident.  That may not be the case with you, of course.

If you are able to track it back, you might find that this gives you some more valuable insight into the type of person, that triggers your passive aggressive self, or the type of incident that triggers it.  You might also notice that there is a set of feelings (yes, those things that we don’t usually talk about) that occur for you in the lead up to you responding this particular way. In identifying these, it is invaluable in your ability to notice moving forward, when your response is likely to kick in.

Change won’t happen overnight

Go easy on yourself.  Changing this patterned behaviour isn’t going to happen over night.  It has taken me a number of years to begin to change consciously.  Even now I still slip back into this response every now and then, and when I do, I notice that it’s occurred.

The fact that you are open and willing to do something about it, is invaluable and the first step to creating better relationships for you and your work colleagues.

If you’d like anymore ideas or support in changing this sort of behaviour, I am here to support you.



You may also like to read Muriel’s article Signs you are being passive aggressive