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Passive-Aggressive Example
Boyfriend's Critical Roommate

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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: My boyfriend's roommate is overly critical of every statement I make and brings negativity to my ideas. I think this is because he thinks we spend too much time together, but also because I think he hates women. He is trying to make me feel as uncomfortable as possible so that I will stop coming to a place where I am made to feel bad. Regardless, I'm not going to stop seeing my boyfriend, but how do I respond to his passive-aggressive comments?

Response: This is a good example of not only passive-aggressive (PA) behavior but making assumptions about someone else's behavior. Now, certainly, it is possible that the girlfriend is able to “read” the roommate's intentions and personality, but frequently assumptions are wrong. For example, instead of the roommate hating women, perhaps he is uncomfortable with women or doesn't know how to treat them. Therefore, a technique that can potentially defuse the PA behavior as well as uncover more about the roommate's intentions is best used in this situation.

For example, the girlfriend could show an interest in the roommate's comments. In an inquiring way (with an innocent, not accusing tone) she could ask, “Oh, what makes you think that?” or “How do you think I could do that better?” If the roommate is truly being PA such non-defensive statements would throw him off his game. PA people want to irritate or escalate without having to take responsibility for their behavior. This type of inquiry places the responsibility for his statements on the roommate but in a non-defensive, non-hostile manner. If the girlfriend continues this type of gentle prodding every time, he will likely discontinue the comments if he is truly PA because PA people do not want to explain their comments—it defeats the purpose of a sneak attack.

However, if the roommate is not being passive-aggressive, but there is some other reason for his behavior, such an inquiry can possibly gain more information. The girlfriend may be able to establish a better understanding of his intention and comments.

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