by Dr. Fayr Barkley, M.Ed, DCH, Ph.D., DAC
Passive-Aggressive Personality types have no healthy way to confront others or ask others how to meet their self-centered needs, so they have to devise ruses in order to manipulate others into getting their hidden agendas met. Since they fear being found out, they often have to enlist a middleman or another party to champion their causes, act as a buffer, or to go along with their ruses to make the illogical seem more plausible to the one they are trying to manipulate.
Prima fascia, the ruse seems plausible and many people who are not accustomed to breaking down the behavior patterns of the Passive-Aggressive person are likely to fall for the manipulation. But if one takes the time to dissect the equation, one can readily see through the smokescreen to the person’s true agenda: manipulating the outcome to meet a self-centered need.
This particular ruse is something I have dubbed “The Wind Up and The Pitch”.
It goes like this:
A divorced father has invited his grown daughter to a family gathering for a special occasion. She has accepted and is looking forward to going.
His girlfriend, a passive-aggressive personality type and heavy drinker resents the relationship between father and daughter and wants to make sure the daughter does not show up. She can’t say this to her husband or his daughter directly because she doesn’t want to take responsibility for having to admit she is jealous of the relationship, so she must create a ruse to get her self-centered agenda met.
The ruse must be prima fascia plausible and she must enlist the girl’s father to be in on it without his knowledge to make it more sellable to his daughter. Many passive-aggressive people hide behind other people, religion, rigid “right and wrong” belief systems, and alternate inactivity, pouting, avoidance, and fake smiles to mask their aggression and validate their actions. They learn to manipulate others instead of employing healthy ways to get their needs met.
The Wind Up:
The girl friend calls his daughter as if there is no ill will betweenthem. In her best, happy sing song voice, she tells the daughter, “Things are just soooo hectic with all these people coming in and out of the house for the next few days so your father and I (uses him to legitimize her ruse) have changed our plans. So, instead of you coming over to the house as we originally planned, (minimizes the fact that it is a big event) we have decided to take you to church the day before lunch afterward.” (She is hiding behind religion and the promise of a treat to lunch to minimize the blow she is about to deliver.) Her mission here is to make the daughter think that accepting this alternative is somehow just as special than what was originally offered and accepted.
To reinforce her ruse, she repeats it over and over, which in the mind of a Passive-Aggressive Personality Type, hopefully makes the other person think a story repeated often has more validity. If a person has to keep selling an idea in order for it to be bought, there is something wrong with the idea. It is important that you don’t listen to what people necessarily say. Listen to what they don’t say. There is where the agenda lies. What she is not saying is, ”You have been uninvited to the house and the main event and as a default “prize” to appease your father, we are just taking you to lunch as we have done a dozen times before.” This disenfranchises the daughter and diminishes her as a person. She has been dismissed. Denied. Diminished. She has been thrown under the bus.
The manipulator must now send the other person into home base, sliding fast and cheering them on excitedly so they think they have hit a home run. She throws a fast ball by saying: “We can’t wait to spend time with you! We’ll go to lunch together. It will be wonderful!!!! We are going to have some delicious roast beef!!!!” She draws out the words “delicious” and “roast beef” as if they are manna from heaven after 40 days of wandering in the desert without food. The father has been enlisted and is on board. He doesn’t see the manipulation because prima fascia, it seems logical and his girlfriend has him convinced this plan of action is somehow a win-win for all and will make his daughter feel special and happy. What he doesn’t see is the fact he has been enlisted to help her sell the manipulation and her real agenda is to disenfranchise his daughter and keep her away from him.
The Passive-Aggressive personality type has no healthy means to confront. They can’t just be honest, own up to what they want and ask for it. They cloak their agenda in the darkness of manipulation and sometimes they do nothing at all. They burn the steak when they know you eat it rare. They show up a half hour late to your event, or not at all. They assume a victim role. They smile at you when they are seething inside and then throw you under the bus when you aren’t looking. Their hostility is expressed indirectly and when you are fed up with it and blow up at them, they look at you as if you suddenly went off your rocker. They toss out back handed compliments and then say,”Just kidding!” They pretend to agree and comply and then do the opposite. Passive-Aggressive people feign ignorance. When you confront them, they tend to back pedal or cry or claim you are being the mean one. They say things such as “whatever” in order to end a conversation and not have to deal with the honesty of emotions. They attack your personal character when they run out of excuses and you have them cornered. They deny being angry when you know darn good and well, they are.
The best way to deal with a Passive-Aggressive personality type is to walk away and cut them out of your life. Getting on their level, playing their game, throwing it right back at them only puts you in a never-ending spitting match that causes anxiety, anger, aggravation and can lead to depression. Don’t expect them to see the errors of their ways and change. Their patterns of behavior are highly ingrained and, on some level, they bring about the outcome they want. And as the saying goes, “If it works it ain’t broke. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Surround yourself with people who value spiritual journey, self-reflection, self-honesty and who are interested in working on healthy relationships. Don’t try to pound a square peg into a round hole. You will only wind up with splinters.