Dealing with a Passive-Aggressive Manipulator (2)
By: Beth McHugh 2006
In Dealing with a Passive-Aggressive Manipulator (1), we looked at some of the thoughts patterns, beliefs, and behaviors of the passive-aggressive person. In this article, we will look at ways to minimize the damage they can cause in your life.
Because the passive-aggressive person inherently believes they are blameless, innocent, and basically good people, anything that threatens that view of themselves threatens the very core of their being. They live in a world where they must conceal all the “awful” things about themselves at all costs.
Yet, for the most, none of these things are awful at all. They are normal human emotions. Emotions like anger, disappointment, sorrow. The passive-aggressive, perfect as they are in their own minds, simply do not get angry. They do not yell, nor are they so undignified as to lose their temper. They’ll leave that up to you, so that, once again, they can justify that they are the ones in control. While you, on the other hand, are clearly a difficult and hurtful person.
As they hunger so much for approval, if they don’t get it when they expect, the rage will come out. But the rage comes out in a muted form: sighs, sulks, sniffs. That way, they can easily maintain their façade, if questioned, that they are not angry at all. Somehow admitting to normal human emotions is next to impossible for these people.
So, how best to cope with one?
- If you ask “What is wrong?” in response to a period
of pronounced sighing or sulking and the answer is “Oh, nothing,”
simply say, “Okay”. This is making the PA responsible
for their own responses. In time it may make them actually admit that
they are angry, and valuable progress may be made. As a bonus, you,
as the potential victim, will not get sucked in to yet another round
of Question and Answer Time, where you will ultimately lose.
- Be direct and assertive yourself. If you are angry, say so. If you
are disappointed with a passive-aggressive, let them know. Do not
be sidetracked into using their language of vagueness and non-assertiveness.
Insist on the language of reality.
- Do not enter into a battle with a PA; once you have done so, you
have lost the war. The only person you can change in this situation
is yourself, so you must approach each potential “battle”
by suspending your own beliefs about the way your relationship with
this person “should” be. You must accept that it is not
going to be the way it “should be.” Easy to say, hard
to do, but necessary for your own mental health.
- Observe their actions, not their words. Although they genuinely
believe they do everything for other’s interest and not their
own, their actions speak louder than their words. Do not take their
sugary platitudes at face value, it is only their actions that you
should take note of.
- Always give lots of positive feedback. As PA’s crave love,
when they do genuinely perform well, heap praise on them. Technically
this is a form of counter-manipulation, but honest praise is still
- Avoid criticism. This will only elicit an endless stream of explanations,
rather than what you want: an apology. Nor will there be any behavior
changes. Accept that apologies or personality changes are almost impossible
to come by with a person with this affliction.
- Do not waste your time attempting to explain to the PA why their
behavior is in error. It’s easy to believe that at some point
you will get through to this person and they will experience the “Ah-ha!”
phenomenon, and all will be well. This is particularly the case with
people who are themselves very rational and logical. This process
cannot work with the PA.
- If you can’t control your temper, avoid interacting with a
PA. Your temper will be interpreted by them as further evidence of
your abuse towards them, and further justify their own position as
innocent martyr. Under these circumstances, it is better to keep your