First, watch this. You're welcome.
Let's all agree that our girl Kristen has got the passive-aggressive crap DOWN. Humor aside, the truth is that people who are passive in expression but aggressive in intent can be, at best, annoying; at worst, pull-your-hair-out crazy-making.
The P-A person is never going to come right out and say what it is they want but they will show it through their (infuriating) behavior. They will use sarcasm, derision, non-funny/insulting “jokes,” mutter under their breath, slam doors, and say, “I’m not mad!” while glaring right at us, all to avoid simply saying what they really want, think and feel. Well, good news. There is a solution, almost elegant in its simplicity. And it is something you can start now. Today. No, don't punch them in the face. What you do is:
Pay attention, and react, only to the words they say. Ignore everything else: body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, eye rolls, sighs, all of it.
Whaaaat? No way! It cannot be that easy!
I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying it is simple. And it is the ONLY way to handle people who make you crazy without going crazy yourself.
How does this look in reality? If the P-A person says, “go ahead and head to the bar, I’ll be fine here by myself…” but you know they don’t mean it, what do you do? You calmly, sweetly, say, “okay, bye” and you get up leave. Don’t ask if they “mean it.” Don’t make sure they’re “going to be okay.” And for the love of Pete don’t pick a fight about it or top-spin lob the passive-aggressive volley over the net back at them.
Why do this? Because P-A people won’t own their s**t. Ever. Direct confrontation isn’t in their DNA, and they are also incapable of stating what it is they really feel or want.
What if they get mad. you ask. What if they stomp their feet, send ugly text messages, or don't speak to you for days? Hon, your sign is right there: get out. The behavior has become abusive. And if they person is a relationship of circumstance, not choice (like your mama or in-laws), you gotta settle in. Let them be angry. You cannot control their feelings. (Check back here for advice on dealing with controlling people.)
The best part is that once we do this, we get to stop mind-reading, guessing wrong and then paying a price for it. We get to have a rational, adult conversation or even conflict, or no conversation at all. And maybe, just maybe, the P-A person will learn that they had better say what they mean and mean what they say, or they won’t say anything at all. At least not to us.
Until then, we'll be at the bar.