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Dealing with Passive-aggressive People
In respinding to man asking about how to deal with his passive aggressive father-in-law, Dini wrote:
In my experience, it’s unlikely you are going to change their behavior (and unlikely is probably too mild a word), so you change your own to avoid the “sphere of influence” as much as possible, not rely on the person to stick with the plan or consider anyone’s needs but their own, and as Manuel says, just smile politely when you are (inevitably) criticized. (You don’t participate with the family, etc. etc. etc. and whatever else dear old dad comes up with that is really an attempt to pin HIS behavior on you). When that happens, just try to keep in mind that that’s HIS stuff and belongs on his side of the street, not yours. Whether or not he wants to “own” his own stuff is his business, but you don’t have to carry it around for him.
In my experience passive-aggressive people are oftentimes really good at pulling the old “double-bind” on you as well – you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t; I’d apply Manuel’s advice to any attempts at putting you in a double-bind as well; duck’s back. Your damned if you ride with pops, and your damned if you take your own car. When I’m thinking clearly and realize somebody is putting me in a double-bind I try to see that it’s freeing; since no matter what I do they aren’t going to like it, I might as well just do what I want to do. And ignore the inevitable criticism (because in the double-bind you’re going to be criticized no matter what – that’s what makes it freeing; I’m going to be criticized no matter, therefore I might as well do this the way I want to do it.
I recently resigned from a job because the boss was an expert at engaging in both behaviors. I’m not too brilliant but I’ve lived just long enough to know that I wasn’t going to change my boss and she would keep engaging in that behavior till the cows came home. She got off on it. AND wanted nothing more than for me (or anyone else) to “engage” with her – which to her bafflement and annoyance I refused to do. I could have worked there for ten years, and she would have argued and played passive-aggressive and double-bind games with me that whole time and never fired me no matter how much I “fought back” because that’s EXACTLY what got her off. Meantime, I’d have been miserable.
Obviously, you can’t “quit” dear old dad. But you can use your own resources so as not to be dependent upon him, especially when his behavior is so predictable.
Just be prepared for the criticism and remember that it’s the pot calling the pot black. And you’re not the pot. But the pot doesn’t know either of those things.