Duality Gone Wrong: Passive Aggressiveness
Updated: Mar 26
I'm so glad you finally got around to reading this article. Bless your heart.
We all know when someone is being passive aggressive even though it is indirect, non confrontational, and unassertive, often with all the subtlety of a brick to the head. Passive aggression is a tool we all use in our lives to manage the anger and resentment we harbor, but for one reason or another don't openly express.
There may be a time and a place for it, but more often than not, passive aggression is a major block in communication, especially in coach-client and personal relationships.
In our third week of our March theme of Duality, we open the discussion with our newly graduated Master Certified Life Coaches and talk with Lisa Finck (A.C.C.), Brooke Adair Walters (M.C.P.C.), and Jerome LeDuff Jr (M.C.L.C.) about how we can stop being so passive agressive and directly confront the resentment we try to avoid at all costs.
Keeping the animal inside
Unfortunately disputes between individuals are no longer settled through personal duels and challenges of honor. Gone are the breezy days of ages past where if someone annoyed you, you could just assault them, and if everyone lived shakes hands and enjoy a beer together.
Warning: the aforementioned statement may have been sarcastic, sarcasm is defined as, the use of irony to mock or convey contempt. Sarcasm is a form of passive aggressiveness. Now please return to your regularly scheduled article reading.
Sarcasm aside, of course it's better off in the grand scheme of things that we contain our "shadow," the part of ourselves that wants to directly go on the attack when we are annoyed or threatened. Polite society, careers, social obligations, and the law all dictate that we handle our anger and resentment in less destructive ways. Here are some passive aggressive tactics we may use and encounter on a day-to-day basis.
If you've ever worked in food service or retail, placation and patronization are some of the tools you may have used to avoid dumping hot soup over a customer's head or calling a guest a ****.
Perhaps if you're married, instead of of arguing or fighting fair, you both are prone to needling, sarcasm, or giving the silent treatment.
Parents are often familiar with sulky and resentful teenagers who cant overtly rebel.
Coworkers, employees, and bosses often procrastinate, gossip, condescend, or maliciously comply to signal their resentment. Not only damaging work relations, but reducing the effectiveness and profits of a company.
Along with social obligations, sometimes we are raised to avoid expressing our feelings and we seek indirect means to communicate our displeasure.
While the reasons why we use passive aggressive behaviours may be varied, they can ultimately be harmful to the relationships we value the most, and are not healthy or productive forms of communication.
Squashing Passive Aggression in Yourself
Coaches, before you go out into the world and try to handle and help other people's passive aggression, you need a certain degree of emotional intelligence concerning yourself. Ask yourself: When do you become passive aggressive? What behaviours do you tend to exhibit?
Knowing yourself and your tendencies is the first step in creating open environments and we've provided links to two quizzes that will assist you in determining if you have a passive aggressive tendency.
While we are in the heat of the moment it can be difficult to accurately articulate how we feel and control how we react to negative situations. One helpful way to practice building our emotional intelligence is to check in with ourselves when the stakes are low. Here is how you can structure such an exercise:
Set an alarm every two hours to check in with yourself.
Check in: Stop what you are doing and think about how you are feeling in that exact moment.
Write down how you are feeling. Go from vague to more specific if you can. This article by The Chalkboard on The Feelings Circle is a good way to move from the general to the specific. You may be Angry, but as you think more you realize you are Let Down, and eventually feel Betrayed.
Accept your emotions and find ways to express your feelings openly.
#4 may be the hardest part, but being able to understand and articulate how we are feeling will make the process easier. If the passive aggression stems from a person, directly talk to them about where the issue arises and listen to them without hostility or resentment; you will find that this creates an environment where creating a mutual resolution is now the goal.
On the other hand, sometimes our frustrations don't arise from people but from circumstances and obligations. This bleeds over into our relationships and we often express our frustrations as passive aggression; this is an opportunity to be vulnerable and allow people to know that you are dealing with hardship. Do not believe this is playing the victim; you should not be ashamed to let people into your world. By doing so you allow a space for empathy, one of the most important tools in a coach's arsenal.
Letting go of you own passive aggression is an active and often arduous process to undo the bad habits we get stuck in. Patience and forgiveness are both essential if we want to become better people.
When you are the victim of passive aggression
Don't be fooled into thinking that passive aggressive behaviour should be tolerated or that it is harmless. Passive aggressiveness is antagonism that can be directed at you.
When confronting someone who is being passive aggressive, first ask yourself, why are they acting this way?
The why? question serves two purposes and will have two answers. An answer you don't know and an answer you do know.
Answer #1: The answer you don't know is their underlying motivation. They could be dealing with issues unrelated to you or feel ashamed to express themselves. What is important is to be empathetic and give people the benefit of the doubt. Your goal is to get to the root of the problem and work towards a resolution.
Answer #2: We do know why, despite the plethora of underlying reasons, people use passive aggression. They want to avoid direct conflict. Do not allow them to play the game on their terms. Our goal is to confront their behaviour with kindness and candor. We aren't meeting passive aggression with outright aggression.
This is where our coaching and investigative skills come into play. Ask questions regarding their behaviour, be curious and allow them to speak without fear of judgement or repercussion. Of course there should be boundaries that are appropriate to the relationship but we acknowledging the other person and that they have valid frustrations. From there you can help the individual build and work towards a solution where all parties are satisfied.
With enough time and hard work you will find that there is a happy medium between the duality of passivity and aggression. Not a combination of both but a way of direct communication and emotional intelligence where open discourse can flourish.
#CLCIHowTo Challenge Reminder!
Throughout the month of March, CLCI LIVE is going to be live streaming and recording How-To videos based on topics coaches like you have submitted.
Want to learn how to find your niche, create video content, use streaming platforms, how to price unapologetically, and more? Then be sure to participate and follow us on Facebook & Youtube to stay tuned!
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Juan, Story, and Destiny for joining us on CLCI LIVE
and Thank you
Lisa Finck, Brooke Adair Walters, and Jerome LeDuff Jr.
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