How to Stop Being Passive Aggressive and Say What You Mean
First, it’s important to understand what being passive aggressive means. Being passive aggressive means that your behavior manifests as deliberate contradictions between what you say and what you actually do. Then you can decide whether you are someone who is passive aggressive. The reason you might want to recognize your behaviors as being passive aggressive is because this is really no way to go about living. It’s ineffective in communication and being in relationships, whether we’re talking family, friends, or lovers, and it is simply isn’t a healthy way to live your life. Besides, no one likes a passive aggressive.
So, the first thing you should do when you want to learn how to stop being passive aggressive and say what you mean is to recognize your passive aggressive behaviors. Educator Signe Whitson describes “The Five Levels of Passive Aggressive Behavior” as follows:
Level 1: temporary compliance
Level 2: intentional inefficiency
Level 3: letting a problem escalate
Level 4: hidden but conscious revenge
Level 5: self-deprecation (like self-criticism, putting yourself down)
Here are some scenarios that can help you determine whether you’re a passive aggressive person:
- You offer to help someone with something, say with a home improvement project, but then you procrastinate or undermining the successful completion of it (sabotage)
- You agree to do something like help a friend move but then you don’t follow through or you pretend to forget
- You’re a fan of using the silent treatment when you’re mad but you won’t tell the person know why you’re upset
- You’re two-faced: being nice to someone in public but demeaning them behind their backs
- You expect others to read your mind: you lack the assertiveness to express your feelings and desires but then you expect others to somehow know what they are
- You’re sarcastic: you lay on the positive comments with pointed sarcasm or negative body language
- You complain that others don’t understand or don’t appreciate you
- You’re argumentative: you’re sullen and oppose others’ ideas without offering any constructive ideas
- You have a tendency to blame others for everything while avoiding responsibility, yourself
- You suppress your emotions out of fear of conflict, failure or disappointment
- You are envious and resentful toward others whom you deem to be more fortunate
- You complain a lot and over exaggerate your personal problems and misfortunes
- You alternate between hostile noncooperation and being apologetic
- You’re negative about almost everything
There are a few key aspects to passive aggression that are common to these scenarios.
First, you think of yourself as a victim. That’s why you tend to blame others for everything, constantly deflecting responsibility. This really is no way to live. By taking responsibility and accountability for your actions and basically where you are in life, you are being empowered. This is way better than going around thinking and feeling like you have no control over your life, that everything is happening to you rather than for you to experience and learn from, and basically being completely powerless.
Second, you deny your own thoughts and feelings out of some silly fear that it will cause all sorts of problems if you were to speak up and express yourself. Maybe there will be conflicts from time to time but, that’s life. That’s what living with and interacting with other people is all about. We all have our own personalities, likes, and dislikes. But, by interacting with people in a way so as to try to please them and ignoring your own thoughts and feelings, of course you’re going to be miserable and passive aggressive. So, next time you have a thought or feeling about something, share it. Bottling it up will only result in an explosion further on down the line.
Third, this seeps into an overall negative outlook on life. You walk around with a bubble of negativity surrounding you and that’s really off-putting to others. Perhaps most of the other people in your life are also negative and passive aggressive, which totally makes sense because like-attracts-like. If you want to alter your world and experience more joy, it’s time to shift your attitude. Then, all of those negative people in your life will either catch on and shift, too, or they will float on out of your life and you’ll be all the better for it.
Lastly, lose the sarcasm. Sarcasm is the ultimate passive aggressive weapon and will only make matters and relationships that much worse. As the saying goes, “say what you mean and mean what you say.”
Yes, this is all much easier said than done but, once you are aware that 1.) You’re being passive aggressive; 2.) That it serves no one (yourself and your loved ones, coworkers, etc.); 3.) There’s a better and healthier way to express yourself; and 4.) People will respond much more pleasantly to you when you’re not being a passive aggressive jerk, you will want to make the necessary changes so that you are fully self-expressed.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call the Orchid Recovery Center toll-free at 1-800-777-9588. We have addiction specialists available 24/7 to answer your questions.