Dealing with a Passive-Aggressive Manipulator (1)
By: Beth McHugh 2006
In the article Is there a Passive-Aggressive In the House?, we looked at some of the behavioral techniques utilized by these people in order to get what they want. In today’s blog, we’ll discover what motivates the passive-aggressive and how to minimize the effect of the dramas they can create in our lives.
In their own minds at least, the passive-aggressive person believes they are nice people; easy to please, eager to help, and always willing to take on more than their fair share of the workload. They are professional martyrs. And they hunger for approval.
All this would lead you to think that these folk would be the easiest of people to get on with, so much so that they are the human equivalent of doormats. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Passive-aggressives love to give of themselves. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Yet, if you are involved with a passive–aggressive, you will know that it comes at a price. If they do something for you, they expect and demand the same in return.
Dawn is a passive-aggressive middle-aged female who showed her true colors one day when her friend had arranged for her to accompany her to the doctors. Unfortunately, on the day, Dawn was feeling ill. She didn’t want to go with her friend to the doctors that day. When she was quizzed as to why she didn’t just explain that she was feeling sick and couldn’t go, she flatly refused. She stated that despite the fact that she was sick, she would be attending the appointment with her “friend” because at a later time, when she herself wanted her “friend” to do something for her, she would have this ace up her sleeve.
Clearly, passive-aggressive people do not act as a normal person would, nor do they see that other people live by a different set of rules to them. Despite her own feelings of unwellness, Dawn was determined to attend the appointment. This illustrates Dawn’s need to look good and appear to never put themselves first. They keep up the façade that they will do anything for their friends. Yet this act of friendship in “helping” her friend was not really friendship at all. In Dawn’s mind, it was a business transaction only. I will do this for you and somewhere further down the track, I will call this account in. Yet in revealing the inner workings of her mind, Dawn clearly has no idea that this is not how good friends treat each other.
Dawn’s form of manipulation in this instance is quite subtle: her friend had no idea that she was an unwitting victim in a plot that existed only in Dawn’s head. On the contrary, Dawn’s friend thought she was a really kind-hearted person. And this is exactly what Dawn wanted her to think.
But there are more overt means of control used by passive–aggressives and yet, in themselves, they seem harmless enough. Behaviors such as sighing, sniffing, eye-rolling, and back-handed compliments. And the most popular of all, sulking. In themselves, these activities seem fairly weak and ineffective tools of warfare. But over months and years, living with a person who uses emotional terrorism to obtain what they want can lead to significant frustration and even illness in the recipient. It’s like having a fight with an invisible enemy, because the passive-aggressive doesn’t use tangible tools. There is no screaming and yelling, no throwing of pots and pans, no name-calling. That is because they need to maintain for themselves their ideal of being perfect.
Next article, we’ll look at how to use their weaponry against them.