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  • How to Spot Passive-Aggressive Behavior

    Clients are often surprised at how they feel when we discuss assertive communication. In a comparison of a healthy assertive communication style with an unhealthy passive or aggressive communication style, clients are amazed how unhealthy their communication style has become. Here’s some things to take note of to help you improve your communication style. 

    They Seldom Say No

    People who communicate passive-aggressively people often feel like a victim or martyr. Because they seldom come out and say “no” to something, they may simply go along with others’ plans and needs, and then sigh, shake their head and roll their eyes because they didn’t get their own way.

    They Tend to Complain – A Lot!

    They spend a lot of time complaining – either out loud to others or silently to themselves. They are usually low-grade complaints so they can back out of them if challenged. They try to consistently mask their real feelings. Others often feel like they are playing a guessing game. And many passive aggressive people feel misunderstood by others because they are never truly genuine in their feelings.

    They Make Backhanded Compliments

    The aggressive part of passive-aggressive communication often comes out disguised in unkind remarks. “That dress looks so much better on you than the last one that made your hips look big.” Suppressed resentment comes out and it tends to come out with backhanded compliments.

    They Sabotage Other’s Efforts

    Another way the aggressive part of passive-aggressive communication shows up is using actions rather than words to derail others or draw attention to their importance. Do you have a coworker who resents that they weren’t assigned to head your project? Do they show up to work late? Work at a snail’s pace? Take long breaks? When passive-aggressive people don’t get their way, they will throw their brand of a tantrum so everyone suffers, but when challenged they tend to blame others and say they are being picked on or mistreated. Back to the victim or martyr scenario.

    They Love Getting a Reaction Out of Others

    Hidden resentments or low-grade aggression motivates the passive-aggressive communicator to push buttons they know are sensitive to others. When challenged, they of course blame the person they just insulted by saying they are “too sensitive” and turn the exchange back around on the true target of the insult. Passive-aggressive communicators seldom take responsibility for their actions or admit wrongdoing.

    They “Accidentally” Withhold Information

    Aggressive communicators seldom set healthy non-negotiable boundaries. So they will say they will help others, but then secretly fail to do so when needed by others. Have you ever had a roommate, colleague or romantic partner take a call that you had been waiting for and then “accidentally” forgot to give you the message? Instead of saying they can’t help, they may try to teach you a lesson by withholding what you need: don’t ever ask me to do anything for you again.

    So How Can You Communicate More Assertively?

    Assertive communication is calm, confident, and consistent. Therapy to communicate more assertively begins with a focus on discovering client values and giving clients permission to set healthy boundaries with others. Often clients have been taught that their values, needs, wants and desires are unimportant or secondary to others. Therapy helps clients understand their self-worth and accept appropriate responsibility for their words, actions, thoughts, and feelings, rather than hold others responsible for their happiness.

    If you want to learn to communicate more assertively, give us a call today at 850.450.7223. We can help.

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