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Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

When You Have Been Betrayed

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

Conflict in the Workplace

Motivation: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

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

Promoting Healthy Behavior Change

10 Common Errors in CBT

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Rejection Sensitivity, Irrational Jealousy and Impact on Relationships

For Women Only: How to Have the Relationship of Your Dreams

What to Do When Your Partner's Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Relationship

Making Attributions for a Healthier Attitude

Happiness is An Attitude

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Co-Dependency: An Issue of Control

The Pillars of the Self-Concept: Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?


Panic Assistance

Motivational Audios

Mindfulness Training

Rational Thinking

Relaxation for Children

Change Yourself--Don't Wait for the World to Change

Loving Kindness Meditation

Self-Esteem Exercise

Meadow Relaxation

Rainy Autumn Morning

Energizing Audios

Quick Stress Relief

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

Lotus Flower Relaxation

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

All Audio Articles

Kindle Books by Dr. Monica Frank


Emotion Training: What is it and How Does it Work?

How You Can Be More Resistant to Workplace Bullying

Are You Passive Aggressive and Want to Change?

When Your Loved One Refuses Help

The Porcupine Effect: Pushing Others Away When You Want to Connect

What if You Considered Other Peoples' Views?

5 Common Microaggressions Against Those With Mental Illness

What to Expect from Mindfulness-based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (MCBT) When You Have Depression and Anxiety

Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Lack Compassion? It Depends Upon the Therapist

When Needs Come Into Conflict

What to Do When Anger Hurts Those You Love

A Brief Primer On the Biology of Stress and How CBT Can Help

50 Tools for Panic and Anxiety

Coping With Change: Psychological Flexibility

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Ending a Bad Relationship

I'm Depressed. I'm Overwhelmed. Where Do I Start?


Building Blocks Emotion Training

Hot Springs Relaxation

5 Methods to Managing Anger

Panic Assistance While Driving

Autogenic Relaxation Training

Rainbow Sandbox Mindfulness

Mindfulness Training

Riding a Horse Across the Plains

Cityscape Mindfulness

Change Yourself--Don't Wait for the World to Change

The Great Desert Mindfulness

Tropical Garden Mindfulness

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Probability and OCD

Choosing Happiness

Magic Bubbles for Children

Lotus Flower Relaxation

Cloud Castles for Children

Hot Air Balloon Motivation

All Audio Articles

Passive-Aggressive Example

The Perfect Backhanded Compliment

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

Question:How can I respond to "I wish I could be like you and not care about the latest fashion trends."

Response: Although I've addressed backhanded compliments before, this one is particularly difficult. A backhanded compliment is an insult disguised as a compliment. Often, the "compliment" is delivered with a sarcastic tone and can be easily identified as an insult: "You're making a fashion statement today." Or, the word choice gives it away: "You're fashionably dressed for a change." In such cases, the insult can be ignored by focusing on the compliment. A simple "thank you" can prevent the PA person from obtaining satisfaction. Or, in some circumstances, the insult can be more directly addressed. See my response to Handling a Backhanded Compliment.

But the statement "I wish I could be like you and not care about the latest fashion trends" delivered with a tone of sincerity can be a perfect backhanded compliment. The reason that I consider it "perfect" is because unless it is a pattern of behavior it can be very difficult to determine whether it is a genuine compliment indicating that the person admires your nonconformity and individuality or if it is a backhanded compliment. In such a circumstance, simply saying "thank you" may be inadvertently agreeing with an insult. So, we need to have a better way when a statement is so ambiguous.

If we look at my article 7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People several rules apply to addressing this behavior:

1) Determine the person's reward. Usually the reward for a backhanded compliment is to make you feel uncomfortable and without a way to confront. If you confronted this person, it can be easily turned to make you look bad, "I was just paying you a compliment that you don't worry about what others think. But maybe I'm wrong--you're so sensitive!"

2) Choose your goal. Most likely your goal is to stop this person from being rewarded and to not have to take a hit to your self-esteem.

3) Always remain calm. If this is truly a PA "compliment", then the purpose is to get you upset. The more you remain calm, the less the PA person achieves the desired response, and thus, is not rewarded for the PA behavior.

4) Be assertive. In this case, being assertive means controlling your non-verbals. In other words, you do not want to look like you've been hurt by this statement. Keep your head up, keep a positive focus, and maintain a smile and eye contact. By doing so, it lets the PA person know that the desired outcome of making you feel uncomfortable has not been achieved.

As for the methods to use:

1) Laugh and agree technique. Although this technique could be used in this situation, unfortunately it means accepting an insult which could be the desired outcome of the PA person. However, if you are skilled enough and this is not a pattern of behavior from the PA person, you could respond with a joking agreement, "Yeah, but it takes a lot of effort to be a fashion rebel." But if you are dealing with person who frequently undermines you in this way, it is best not to agree, even jokingly, as it could reward the behavior.

2) Questioning technique. A person could use a direct question in this situation such as "What do you mean?" with a very puzzled tone. But, that could show the PA person that you are uncomfortable which means they achieved their purpose. Instead, I think a quizzical look indicating that you didn't comprehend the statement may be the most effective approach because it leaves the PA person confused about whether their purpose was achieved. Of course, you need to have good acting skills to pull this off. If the person responds to the look, it may be to further clarify which could lead to an opportunity to more directly address the insult.

3) Be passive-aggressive. A PA response is usually not the best method but can sometimes be quite effective. However, in this situation, such a response may be an option as the PA person has created a perfect trap. As I indicated in the article a person needs to be fairly skilled to use this technique but if you can respond with sincerity "Yes, I imagine it can be quite tiresome to be controlled by fashion demands" it could be a good response. As you can see, it reflects the insult back to the PA person by suggesting a negative characteristic of being "controlled." If you can consistently challenge the PA person in this way, he or she may stop the behavior as it is backfiring on them.



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