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Confronting a passive aggressive person, Aggressive person hunting for confronting to passive

People with passive-aggressive behavior express their negative feelings subtly through their actions instead of handling them directly.


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Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out. The subtle manipulations. Always angling to get what they want, but still looking like a little angel. So true passive-aggression usually takes the form of non-compliance.

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Every war, bar brawl or playground smackdown ever fought has resulted from our habit of lashing out first and talking it through only later.

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You see it in the competitive colleague who would never confront you directly but accidentally leaves your name off an about an important meeting. Either way, passive-aggression is more than just the nettlesome habit of a few maddeningly indirect people.

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Clinicians differ on whether it qualifies as a full-blown personality disorder like, say, narcissism or paranoia, but they agree on the symptoms: deliberate inefficiency, an avoidance of responsibility, a refusal to state needs or concerns directly. The behavior is practically defined by its plausible deniability. Leaving things undone.

Running late. Actually, all of us live there — which is why we have watches.

Covert aggressive tactics

To passive-aggressors, a watch is a bother. No worries. The behavior is occasionally deliberate, more commonly unconscious — and always infuriatingly effective. The non-compliment. Compliments are easy. Compliments can even be fun. If you feel like running screaming from the room, not so much.

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Shhh… Hear that? It says nothing at all and yet says volumes. It ostensibly avoids a conflict but in fact provokes one—with the very lack of communication serving as a taunt and a goad. We might be onto something.

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Wistful wishing. You know what I wish? See what I did there? Annoying, right? Passive-aggressive people! Knock off that out-loud wishing. The objective, of course, is to get an idea out there, then immediately disown it — thus putting the burden of getting it done or not done on you.

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Passive-aggressors might not go that far, but you can see where they get their inspiration. That deadline your colleague forgot to tell you about until it was just a day away? As with lateness, this is sometimes deliberate but usually not. Either way the point has been made — and yet not made too.

The disguised insult.

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The social contract under which the rest of us live has a special provision passive-aggressors have added just for themselves. This is as close to pure aggression as the passive-aggressor gets. The chronically late dinner guest can be invited once more on the proviso that the start time of the evening is honored.

Thank you!

After that? Well, the knock-it-off suggestion is a good place to start. Write to Jeffrey Kluger at jeffrey.

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