Could you be passive-aggressive and not know it? Rhoberta Shaler has a test to help you find out.
How do you know if you’re passive-aggressive?
Well, do people think you’re difficult to be around? Do they not trust you or respect you the way you wish they would? Truth is that you may be exhibiting passive-aggressive behaviors that totally confuse people — and turn them off away from you.
In order to make these unseemly behavioral traits abundantly clear to you, I’m offering you a very straightforward list of passive-aggressive examples. You may find this harsh. But I hope you find it helpful.
Generally, you’re behaving in a passive-aggressive manner when you:
- Don’t speak your truth openly, kindly and honestly when asked for your opinion or when asked to do something for someone. How this shows up in communication is being “assertively unassertive.” You say “Yes” (assertive) when you really mean “No way” (unassertive). Then, you let your behavior say “No way” for you. People become confused and mistrusting of you.
- Appear sweet, compliant and agreeable, but are really resentful, angry, petty and envious underneath. You’re living with pairs of opposites within, and that’s making those around you crazy.
- Are afraid of being alone and equally afraid of being dependent. This is the case of “I hate you. Don’t leave me.” You fear direct communication because you fear rejection. You then often push away the people you care about because you don’t want to seem in need of support. All the while, you are afraid of being aloneand want to control those around you so they won’t leave you. Very confusing!
- Complain frequently that you’re treated unfairly. Rather than taking responsibility for stepping up and speaking your truth, you set yourself up as the (innocent) victim. You say others are hard on you, unfair, unreasonable and excessively demanding.
- Procrastinate frequently, especially on things you do for others. One way of controlling others is to make them wait. You have lots of excuses why you haven’t been able to get things done. You even blame others for why that is so. It’s amazingly unreasonable, but you do it even though it destroys relationship, damages careers, loses friendships and jobs. And you tell others how justified you are in being angry because, once again, others treated you unfairly.
- Are unwilling to give a straight answer. Another way of controlling others is to send mixed messages, ones that leave the other person completely unclear about your thoughts, plans or intentions. Then, you make them feel wrong when you tell them that what they took from your communication was not what you meant. Silly them!
- Sulk, withdraw and pout. You complain that others are unreasonable and lacking in empathy when they expect you to live up to your promises, obligations, or duties. Passive-aggressive women favor the silent treatmentas an expression of their contempt. Passive-aggressive men prefer the deep sigh and shake of the head, while walking away. Both expressions say “You poor confused person. You’re not worth talking to.” when the real reason for their behavior is that they have not, cannot, or will not take responsibility for their own behavior.
- Cover up your feeling of inadequacy with superiority, disdain or hostile passivity. Whether you set yourself up to be a self-sabotaging failure—“Why do you have such unrealistic expectations of me?”–or a tyrant or goddess incapable of anything less than perfection—“To whom do you think you are speaking, peon?”—you’re shaking in your boots from fear of competition and being found out as less than perfect. (P.S. You likely picked this one up in childhood!)
- Are often late and/or forgetful. One way of driving people away is to be thoughtless, inconsiderate and infuriating. And, then, to put the cherry on top, you suggest that it’s unrealistic to expect you to arrive on time, or, in your words, “think of everything.” Being chronically late is disrespectful of others. Supposedly forgetting to do what you’ve agreed to do is simply demonstrating your lack of trustworthiness. Who wants to be around that for long?
- Drag your feet to frustrate others. Again, a control move somewhat like procrastinating, but the difference is you begin and appear as though you are doing what you said you would do. But, you always have an excuse why you cannot continue or complete the task. You won’t even say when it will be—or even might be—done.
- Make up stories, excuses and lies.You’re the master of avoidance of the straight answer. You’ll go to great lengths to tell a story, withhold information or even withhold love and affirmation in your primary relationships. It seems that, if you let folks think you like them too much, that would be giving them power. You’d rather be in control by creating a story that seems plausible, gets them off your back, and makes reality look better from your viewpoint.
- Constantly protect yourself so no one will know how afraid you are of being inadequate, imperfect, left, dependent or simply human.
Seriously take a while to ponder your own behavior, and if any of these traits describe you as you usually are, take notice. This may help you may finally understand why you are having difficulties with personal and work relationships.
So, if you’ve realized a few uncomfortable things about yourself in the list above, what now?
Get some relationship help! We all come by our passive-aggressive “stuff” honestly. There’s no blame here. If you read the list and saw yourself, you have two choices: recognize what’s not working for you and change it, or continue to blow it off as other people’s problems. Choose the first so you can feel more accepted, loved, wanted, appreciated and respected immediately. You cannot do it any younger!
Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, has spent the past 30 years helping couples navigate challenging relationships. If you’re worried that your partner is passive-aggressive, take her free online “passive-aggressive checklist.” Read her ebook, Stop! That’s Crazy-Making: How To Quit Playing The Passive-Aggressive Game.
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This post is republished on Medium.
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