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Are You Guilty Of This Ugly Behaviour?

May 26, 2015 4 min read

Each and every one of us has encountered passive aggressive behaviours in our lives. A backhanded compliments, for example, is something you may encounter often. It is easy to see it when it is happening to us but it isn't so easy to identify when we are doing it. Passive aggressiveness doesn't mean you are a terrible person. It is "a strategy we use when we think we don't deserve to speak our minds or we're afraid to be honest and open," says psychotherapist Tina Gilbertson, LPC, author of Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings. If you need help identifying whether or not you are passive aggressive, here are 8 common signs:

1. Asking threat based questions.

According the behavioural therapist, Alex Hedger, passive aggressive comments can come off as confrontation like accusations. For example: "Why on Earth would you ever think that?" or "Are you nuts?" These questions put the other person immediately on defense. Which means you probably won't get the response you were hoping for.

2. Making whistful statements.

This happens when you want something but won't ask for it directly. For instance, when a friend mentions she’ll be attending a party and you say, 'I wish I could go,'" says New York City-based psychotherapist Janet Zinn, LCSW. "It's better to ask, 'Any way I could come?' It's more direct and doesn’t leave your friend feeling pressured or uncertain." Another way this can manifest is through small put downs. For example, someone comes to the office in beautiful new shoes and you say, "I wish I could get a new pair like that — but, sadly, all my shoe money goes to rent." The receiver of these comments is often left feeling guilty for having or doing what it is that you can't.

3. Doling out backhanded compliments.

Passive aggressiveness and jealousy often go hand in hand. Instead of being happy for the person, you end up saying something that just sounds rude. If a friend of yours buys a new home and you yourself are no where near being able to afford such a purchase, you might say "Oh what a great fixer upper!" Or maybe you are waiting for your boyfriend to propose when your friend gets engaged and you reference her ring as "cute" or say that you thought it would be bigger. If you find yourself doing this, step back and apologize. It is better to acknowledge your slip up than to hope that no one noticed. If the person you've insulted is a close friend, it is okay to acknowledge your jealousy. Honesty is best.

4. Ignoring or saying nothing.

Sometimes saying nothing at all can be passive aggressive. According to psychotherapist Katherine Crowley, author of Working for You Isn't Working for Me, checking your phone when a colleague is trying to speak with you or during a meeting are examples of passive-aggressive behavior. If this sound familiar, try to break this habit ASAP. Don't bring your phone to meetings. Put it in your desk drawer. Ignoring someone's calls, texts or emails is another way this behaviour can be displayed. "Instead of communicating clearly and honestly, you are dropping hints and waiting for the other person to pick up on them," says psychotherapist Jessica S. Campbell, LCSW. "When she doesn't, she is punished with the silent treatment, cold shoulder, or some other method of withholding."

5. Procrastinating.

This is an active form of ignoring. Maybe you are unhappy with your current job. Instead of saying something, you just take extra long lunches or a sick day when you know a deadline is approaching. Socially, this manifests as backing out of obligations at the last minute. You make excuses for why you can't go instead just saying that you never wanted to go in the first place. "Passive-aggressive behavior has 100% deniability and zero percent accountability," Gilbertson says. "You can always say you didn't receive the invitation, you lost it, or it completely slipped your mind, while your true motive — to turn down the invitation — remains hidden."

6. Leaving someone out.

Maybe you don't like one of your colleagues. Instead of addressing the issue, you go out of your way to edge her out of the circle. Maybe you invite everyone to lunch but her or you gossip about her whenever possible.

7. Sabotaging someone.

This is a very extreme move, linked to leaving someone out. Instead of just leaving out your cowoker, you forget to tell her about important meetings or leave her off the email chain that explains that your deadline has been moved forward. If someone points out the error you say "oh, I'm sorry. I had no idea" and absolve yourself of blame. Sabotaging can take many forms. If your friend is on a diet, you knowingly bring her a cupcake. Or you pressure a friend into hitting the mall with you when you know she's trying to save money.

8. Keeping score.

If someone misses a major event in your life, your birthday or your wedding, it is natural to feel disappointed. Many of us, instead of confronting the person about it (or just letting it go) we keep track. We won't go to their baby shower because they didn't come to our birthday party. Keeping score is a perfect way to destroy a friendship. In most of these examples, it appears that honesty is the better way to go. What do you think? I know I've been guilty of a few of these. #2 was uncomfortably familiar. Did you see yourself on the list?

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