5 Ways to Win With Passive-Aggressive People

Have you ever tried to win an argument with a passive-aggressive person? If you haven’t, you’re probably lying. Passive-aggressive people are hard to truly win arguments with. Their nonchalant nature when talking and arguing is second to none, and they are always playing mind games with you.
I used to have a really hard time dealing with passive-aggressive people in my previous work place, and it turned me into a passive-aggressive person myself. It didn’t take long for me to realize that passive-aggression had taken over our office, sabotaging everyone’s morale and productivity.

After visiting a partner company one day, I saw how pleasant the work atmosphere was over there and decided to actively seek out a solution to improve my own working conditions. I ended up attending a seminar on communicating assertively, and took home five really important tips.

So if you’re looking for ways to deal with these people, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the ways you can navigate an interaction with a passive-aggressive person:

1. Get to Know Them

Since you’re human, you probably like to talk about yourself. It’s natural for humans to want to do this, and it can be a useful tool for multiple reasons — but stop, just for a little while. Turn the tables instead and get the other person to talk about themselves. If you’re going to get to know someone, you have to understand them.

This is especially helpful if you’re dealing with someone who is passive-aggressive. By learning about them, you’ll learn about the person’s backstory and begin to see what makes them tick.

With this information, you’ll begin to form a picture of the person. You’ll start to understand their personality and why they are passive-aggressive. That alone is a win on all fronts.

2. Avoid Being the Trigger

Many types of behaviors can suddenly be brought on by what is sometimes referred to as a “trigger.” In simple terms, a trigger is an event, action or person that makes someone act a certain way. For instance, you may get sad when you hear the song that played on your first date with your ex.

Passive-aggressive people are often quick to react when their triggers are pulled, and that reaction may just be directed at you. You probably can’t always avoid dealing with a passive-aggressive person, so try to survey the situation before you jump in. See if you can determine a person’s potential triggers — for instance, perhaps they received harsh criticism on a project, and so they are skeptical of any future comments.

And, if they do end up lashing out in their passive-aggressive way despite your best efforts, take the high road and avoid a tit-for-tat exchange.

3. Promote Peaceful Language

It’s important for anyone to not feel like they are being blamed, but it’s especially true for passive-aggressive tendencies. When talking to them, don’t use harsh language.

Use words and language such as “us” and “we.” Avoid saying “you” because that’s going to sound blameful or attacking. When someone feels they are being attacked, their passive-aggressive behavior will only increase. Be helpful and respectful in both language and emotion.

4. Let the Passive Aggressive Solve the Problem

Naturally, problems arise in life. It’s not avoiding problems that life is really about, but rather, it’s how you navigate and handle these problems. While some personalities have an easier time than others when it comes to solving problems, the passive-aggressive may not take charge. It’s actually the other way around. Most of the time, the passive-aggressive personality doesn’t think they count. Their voice really doesn’t matter, so why say anything if no one is willing to listen?

Letting the passive-aggressive person solve the problem lends them a sense of power. It shows them that they do, in fact, have a voice. Most of all, it shows that they matter. If you can make them feel important, then you’ll have a much easier time dealing with them in your relationships.

5. Use Consequences to Your Advantage

Nobody wants to be called out. It’s embarrassing and potentially hurtful. However, sometimes it’s important that the passive-aggressive person gets called out on their behavior so they know you know what they’re doing — but there’s a right way to do it.

Let the person know you understand how they feel, but there is a time limit on this behavior. Once you set these consequences, the passive-aggressive will be more likely to cooperate with you. Cooperation is the key and, once cooperation begins, the relationship will grow instead of withering. Just be warned that you need to do this delicately and lightly, or they will turn on you.

While it can be frustrating, it’s possible to effectively deal with someone who is passive-aggressive. Maintain a level head and a respectful attitude — even if that’s not reciprocated — and you’ll be in a great position.

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Anum Yoon loves all things personal finance, and enjoys sharing her hard-earned knowledge with others. You can catch her on Twitter @anumyoon.

4 Comment

  1. These are great tips for dealing with not only passive-aggressive types, but all kinds of people. Learning what makes people tick and making them part of the solution can only help build positive relationships.

    I know I can have a tendency to go off on my own and not be part of the team, so I can even apply some concepts to myself.

  2. That’s a great point! I try to use peaceful language in all my professional interactions, even when there isn’t any conflict or passive-aggression taking place. It helped me build more positive relationships 🙂

  3. Love the tips Graham. Luckily I don’t have to deal with many people like this, but I will honestly bear this in mind for next time I’m in this situation.


    1. Graham says: Reply

      Hey Tristan,
      Glad you enjoyed the tips and that you don’t have to deal with many people like this. Hope the tips help you in the future. BTW, just so you know, this was a guest post written by Anum Yoon of curentoncurrency.com. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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