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Passive-Aggressive Example
Sister's Lack of Support

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The following is an example from website readers of passive-aggressive encounters they have experienced. The suggested responses are not personal advice as a full evaluation of the situation is not available. Also, the suggestions may not work in every situation but are to give you an idea of possible ways to respond. For more, read: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People and 7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

Question: I've had to work at different locations due to personal conflict with my boss. At the beginning of this saga, I stated to my sister who works for the same company "I'll never work for that boss again." Well, after a year of drama, it looks like I will be going back to that location. I feel like my sister is trying to rub my nose in it. She left a long-winded message on the phone about me returning and told my mother about it. I feel irritated by it. What should I do?

Response: Obviously, we aren't privy to the tone of the sister's comments, but according to the writer's description we can assume the tone is either sarcastic or somewhat gleeful such as "I guess you're going back after all." In that case, this would be an example of back-stabbing passive-aggressive behavior (PA) because when the writer needs her support, the sister uses sensitive information against her.

This is a case where it might be best to directly confront the PA behavior. However, it needs to be done with a careful attention to the wording so that it is not accusatory. For instance, she could say to the sister "I'm sure this wasn't your intention but it sounds as if you are happy that I have to return to a miserable situation." This type of statement puts the sister in a bind because she certainly can't admit she is happy about it (unless she is truly malicious which is then an entirely different issue) so she is more likely to respond with support: "Oh, no, I didn't mean it that way. I'm just worried about you."

Some people reading this might think that's not a true show of support. However, it is, because if we confront someone's behavior and they care enough to change, then it is meaningful. In this case, we don't know why the sister acted this way, but if she is given the benefit of the doubt maybe the relationship can improve. The important part of confronting as suggested is that it helps the writer determine if the behavior is malicious or not (based on the sister's response). If it is malicious and meant to intentionally hurt, the writer may need to re-think her relationship with her sister.

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