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PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE EXAMPLES


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The following is an example from website readers of passive-aggressive encounters they have experienced. Keep in mind that the suggested responses are not personal advice as a full evaluation of the situation is not available. As such, the suggestions may not work in every situation but are to give you an idea of possible ways to respond. Read: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

The Passive-Aggressive "Nice" Mother

Question: I'm an adult child living at home. My mother makes me so angry but she is always so nice about it. She'll tell me, "Honey, we're trying to treat you like an adult, but you're not thinking this through and making good decisions." Anything I try to do she finds fault with but she does it in a nice way, "Are you sure that is what you want to do?" I don't choose the right career. I can't eat right. I can't spend my time in the right way. Why can't I just make mistakes and learn from them? It's my life! If I get angry, she's just clueless and claims, "I'm just trying to help you become independent."

Response: This is one of the more difficult passive-aggressive (PA) scenarios because the mother probably isn't even aware of how she comes across and most likely has good intentions of "helping" her daughter. Often this occurs because the parent feels she has to raise her child "right" and doesn't want the child to make mistakes because that would reflect poorly upon her as a mother. The problem, however, is that it often leads to the child questioning herself, doubting herself, and unable to make decisions.

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At least this person is getting angry about it which actually is a good sign. It means she recognizes that her mother is wrong and focusing on that rather than blaming herself and second-guessing herself. However, she is getting stuck on confronting her mother because her mother doesn't understand the effect of what she is doing. If the daughter tries to explain the effect her comments have, she can't see it. She truly believes that she is only trying to help. When her daughter becomes frustrated with trying to get her to understand and reacts angrily, it confirms in the mother's mind that the daughter has a problem.

In this situation, it is best for the daughter to have a single statement that she uses over and over whenever her mother tries to advise her such as: "Mom, I'm an adult and I'll make my own decisions."

Let's see how this might look. The daughter should remain calm throughout this interaction, otherwise the mother "wins" by showing that the daughter is unreasonable:

M: Don't you think you should get up earlier to look for a job?

D: Mom, I'm an adult and I'll make my own decisions.

M: But it just seems that you're more likely to get an interview...

D: I'm an adult and I'll make my own decisions.

M: I'm just trying to help.

D: I know your trying to help, but I'll make my own decisions.

M: But I don't think you're making good decisions.

D: Then I'll handle that as an adult by making my own decisions.

M: But...

At this point the daughter should cut her off firmly but calmly: I'm not going to discuss this anymore. I will make my own decisions.

This may not stop the mother's behavior but it gives the daughter a way to respond. Such a response is an adult response which can help the daughter build her confidence. Otherwise the daughter becomes trapped in the childish response of frustration and anger which only proves to her mother that she can't handle her life.

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