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Passive-Aggressive Example
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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 wrote a Facebook status about my part time job (cashier, retail), how I spent the day making bouquets, how fun it was and maybe I should change my part time work to Florist. I also hold a B.A. in Graphic Design and am currently in training for web design for my career. An ex who used to mock me for not finding something in my field immediately after graduation commented on my status with "I think Florist goes quite well with your degree..." When I called him out on how rude his statement was he flipped it around saying he was trying to be nice and actually serious and that I was being "so dramatic and overreacting." It made me question how I felt for a second but friends and family members with no insight to the situation fully agreed that when they saw the comment they took it as dripping with sarcasm and rude. Needless to say I messaged him directly confronting the issue. Then when he continued to place blame on me and spew more hurtful words I removed him from Facebook.

Response: This is a good example of how effective sarcastic passive-aggressive (PA) comments can be especially when there is no "sarcastic tone" as in a Facebook post or email. Although we can't be absolutely sure this comment was PA sarcasm, given the past history specifically regarding this issue it is likely that it was.

However, this is also a good example of why it doesn't matter if it is PA or not because the response could still be the same. As I've discussed before, what is the goal of the PA person? The goal is to upset you by making you mad, feel bad or crazy, or doubt yourself while being able to deny responsibility. In this instance, the PA person was successful because he created distress and conflict which he was then able to blame on her. He achieved his goal! However, in this situation she was able to satisfactorily resolve it by blocking him from Facebook so she doesn't have to continue to deal with the PA behavior and blame.

But what about a situation where you can't do that? When you have to deal with a person on a regular basis? The best type of response to such ambiguous sarcasm is one that doesn't allow the PA person to achieve his goal. When you prevent the PA person from achieving their goal, they are the one experiencing frustration rather than you. It even allows you a little PA satisfaction that you were able to turn the behavior back on them!

So, what type of response prevents the PA person in this situation from achieving his goal? Either no response or a "thank you." The no response is simple enough to do on a Facebook post. However, if this situation was more direct, a "Thank you. I think so, too" would prevent him from achieving his goal of making her feel bad and then being able to blame her. In addition, if he was actually trying to be nice, this response prevents her from appearing as if she is overreacting.

I especially like the "thank you" because it is particularly frustrating for a PA person to think that not only did he not achieve his goal but she took it as compliment. There really is no way out for him in this situation because he can't come back and say "I meant that sarcastically" without looking like the bad guy. If you continue to respond in this way to a PA person, it is likely they will discontinue the sarcasm because it not only is ineffective but it is frustrating for them.

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