Is There a Passive–Aggressive In the House?
By: Beth McHugh 2006
Do you live with someone who manipulates you into doing things you don’t want to do, yet you just can’t put your finger on how they do it? Perhaps you have a friend who subtly controls you. Yet it’s done in such a way that there is really nothing definite to point a finger at? Sound familiar? You could be dealing with a Passive–Aggressive manipulator.
A relationship with a person who uses passive-aggressive techniques to get their way is frustrating and draining. Perhaps you may not have heard of the term “passive-aggressive” but the behavior will definitely be familiar. The name “passive-aggressive” describes the two main ways these people have of interrelating with others. The “passive” part is illustrated in the following scenario:
P-A: (Long sigh)
Victim: “What’s wrong?
P-A: “Oh, nothing important.”
Victim: “It must be important to let out that long sigh.”
P-A: “Well, it’s just that we’ve run out of milk again. I only bought some yesterday. But I needed it to make that dessert I’d planned. Someone’s drunk the lot. But I’m too tired to bother going out again.”
Victim: “Do you want me to get some more?’
P-A: “Oh….if you like.”
Here, instead of taking an active stance, the passive-aggressive person only states that there is no milk, that they have already gone shopping once, and they are too tired to get more milk. Yet their intention is to get you to get the milk. The “victim” responds in the very manner that the P-A hoped, and the milk is offered to be bought. What “passive” people cannot seem to do is simply state the facts: that there is no milk; that they are tired; and if someone would volunteer to get the milk, they will make a dessert. The worst that could happen is that the person says “no” to the request for milk. But somewhere during the course of their lives, the P-A person has learned to use this subtle form of manipulation to get everything they want, from a carton of milk to an expensive ring. They are master manipulators.
Here is an example of the “aggressive” aspect of the definition:
Father comes back from a doctor’s appointment, sees his wife and teenage children watching the TV and, after a moment’s hesitation, lets out a frustrated sigh and disappears into the bedroom. The family keeps watching the movie. After about half an hour, the father storms back out into the lounge.
P-A: (screaming)” Isn’t anybody
going to enquire how I got on at the doctors?”
Victim: “Well, I thought it was just a routine check, but how did you get on anyway?”
P-A: “I don’t think I’ll bother telling you, since no-one seems interested. You’re all just watching a silly movie that you’ve seen before anyway”
Victim: “No, go on. Tell us what the doctor said. I’ll turn off the movie.”
P-A: “No. I’m not telling you now. If you were really interested, you would have asked in the first place.” Later, after much cajoling, the family learned that the routine doctor’s visit was fine.
In later articles, we will focus on learning how to deal with the Passive-Aggressive in your life, and how to avoid getting caught up in the drama of their lives.