Coach Felicia: Pass On the Aggression!

Photo by Keith Major
Coach Felicia gives tips to employ when targeted by passive-aggressive behavior.

Discover Your Worth! Regardless of how many times my client, Stacy, asked her sister in-law to talk to her directly when she had a problem (with Stacy), she often only found out about her missteps during pillow talk with her husband. Stacy was the target of passive-aggressive behavior, which can erode the trust and security of a relationship because of its termite nature.

Normally as a coach, I do a great job of maintaining space and objectivity. But there was something about Stacy’s situation that touched a nerve. As I reflected, I realized it was because I am a reforming passive-aggressive. I’ve done my fair share of shadow boxing issues to avoid confrontation.  

The danger of dealing with a passive-aggressive is that it is hard to tell where they are coming from. They can be sweet and supportive one minute—catty and snide, the next. Passive-aggressives can literally knock you off your emotional center because they are good at causing you to question if there really is a problem? Wondering, “Is he/she mad or am I too sensitive?” can be draining. Intuition says, “Something is off,” but the passive-aggressive denies that what you are detecting is actually real.  

Here are some tips to employ when targeted by passive-aggressive behavior. Next week, we’ll discuss strategies for self-management when you’re the guilty party.  

1. Perform a Diagnostic: Passive-aggressive behavior expresses itself in a variety of ways, but the underlying emotion is what Dr. Wetzler of Montefiore Medical Center calls “sugar coated hostility.” If you’re unsure of whether or not you’re in the midst of a passive aggressive interaction, be alert to some tip offs. Passive-aggressives avoid asking/answering direct questions or complying with a request. Also, watch out for sarcasm, jabs and criticisms. These are often clear indicators of passive aggressive behavior at play. The most important thing you can do is call it what it really is—unspoken hostility.

2. Deny Them The Pleasure: The passive-aggressive thrives off your reaction. One of the best ways to diffuse a situation is to deny them the satisfaction. Your refusal to cooperate with negativity denies them the desired control that typically fuels their behavior. Brush it off, laugh it off and—when someone is in that mode—walk off as soon as possible!

3. Be Clear on Your Boundaries: When passive-aggressive behavior is at play…disengage. Try to get to real solutions, rather than simply providing a venue for negativity. If someone cares enough about the relationship they will find a way to say the hard things. If you can address what you believe to be the issue in a calm manner, do so.  Otherwise, it may be best to leave them to their baggage.

4. Don’t Take It Personal: Although passive aggressive behavior can be infuriating, it’s important that we don’t take it personally. Liars lie, cheaters cheat and passive-aggressives avoid conflict when they are unsure of getting their way. It is futile to try to control someone else’s behavior, instead focus on having the right perspective and attitude. Don’t let their need for growth determine how you will show up!

5. Accept the DNA: Passive-aggressive behavior is normally composed of a myriad of complex emotions. Very rarely will someone stop this type of behavior until they are ready to deal with the deeper issues such as control and insecurity. Practice indirect confrontation by applying the “When you…,” “I feel…” method. For example, “When you talk about my appearance, I feel hurt.” This could open the door to a larger discussion, while eliminating defensiveness.

Define Your Wealth! Every day affirm, “I am clear, honest, direct and loving in my communication.”

Recently named the “North America’s Next Greatest Speaker” by eWomenNetwork, Coach Felicia is a Certified Executive Coach who empowers her clients to “Turn their Worth into Wealth” as she partners with them to DISCOVER their WORTH, DO their WORK and DEFINE their WEALTH. Get more insight, download the FREE “8 Choices Winners Must Make!” seminar MP3 at www.coachfelicia.com!

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