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7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People
Method 8. Be passive-aggressive
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist

Read the following to:
  • Determine how and when a PA response can be effectively used.
Related articles by Dr. Frank:

Previous: Learn how to use reward to increase desired behavior and reduce PA behavior.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Methods to Use With Passive-aggressive People

Method 8. Be passive-aggressive

When all else fails, be passive-aggressive yourself. However, you should only use this method in the case where you don't care about the ongoing relationship such as dealing with a PA malicious person.

This technique can be tricky so you need to be very skilled and know exactly what you are doing. You don't want to be drawn into a PA one-up-manship game. Instead, you want a response that will shut them down.

This means that you need to put them into a PA trap from which they can't escape without calling attention to their behavior or looking like the bad guy. In other words, their choice is to either become more directly aggressive or to give up. When they get more aggressive, they look like the bad guy and appear to be responsible for the problem which is contrary to what they are trying to achieve.

I've sometimes used this method when I receive mean and unhelpful comments on my Android apps. Such comments are PA because even though the comments could be considered aggressive, the method of anonymity (and therefore, not being responsible) makes it PA.

However, I need to be cautious because sometimes people are sincerely reviewing the apps and their word choice may be unpleasant. In which case, I appreciate the message and ignore the tone.

Other times they are just mean. Using a response such as “Kindly explain to me what you mean and I will take it into consideration” addresses both situations. If the person is sincere and truly wants to be helpful, this statement is likely to open a dialog.

However, for those who are being PA, this statement is a PA response in return which provides no reward for them, and if they continue, makes them look like a bully. Therefore, my response forces them to either get more aggressive or to give up. By the way, they almost never respond if their intention is malicious.

Using these rules and methods won't solve all your problems with PA people, but you are more likely to feel in control and less doubtful of yourself when dealing with PA people.

Full article: 7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People