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Face to Face Passive Aggressive Behaviour

(76 Posts)
Notinthemanual Mon 26-Jul-21 06:24:30

When and how should it be confronted? If a person chooses to communicate that way, are they likely to stop?

When is it best to not rise to the bait and ignore it? This might deny the PA the satisfaction of seeing they have caused hurt feelings or anger but might also give the impression you are too thick to have noticed.

I’m thinking of situations where, for instance, the PA obliquely references something that has previously been said or done, or directly references something but pretends they are joking etc. What used to be called “snide”.

Oopsadaisy1 Mon 26-Jul-21 06:35:47

If it’s a family member then try to talk about it with them as they obviously have a problem, most likely with themselves but maybe with you which surfaces as snide remarks.
If it isn’t a family member, then I wouldn’t see them again, just walk away and let them take their spite out on someone else.

CafeAuLait Mon 26-Jul-21 07:09:45

I tend not to have a problem with PA people. The ones I've encountered have been more along the lines of PA refusing to do something (expecting they are then spoiling things for you). Call their bluff. "I'm not in the mood for x anymore. pout" You: "Oh, okay, see you later then." They miss out. The time I did that one they admitted they should have come. They've never done it since.

For those more like you describe where they are trying to hurt or embarrass you, call it out. I did that once too. "Why do you always bring that up? Do you like trying to embarrass people? That was so long ago!" They deny it. "You seem to like trying to make people feel small. You do this a lot." This was agreed to by other people around and they have never done it again either.

Elegran Mon 26-Jul-21 07:14:41

You could laugh at it, then say "Miaow!" and laugh again? The laugh communicates that you are not going to rise to the bait and get upset (as you are probably meant to do) but you have noticed and you are pointing out that it was catty - but amusing that they thought they wee being so clever.

timetogo2016 Mon 26-Jul-21 10:00:22

Just say i`m sorry but have stopped listening and walk off.

Redhead56 Mon 26-Jul-21 10:13:49

If you bump into this person be it family or someone you know. You could say that you have an appointment so you must go straight away. That way you do not need to have any conversation you dismiss them.

notnecessarilywiser Mon 26-Jul-21 10:28:22

When the PA statement has been made, say nothing - don't change the subject, don't walk away, just silence. Remarkably effective, although it takes guts to do it first time. Once you've done it, though, it's quite liberating to know you have this addition to your coping skills.

Notinthemanual Mon 26-Jul-21 10:46:05

Thank you for your responses. I think you are all right. Keep distance to those people who you can avoid and call out those you need to spend time with. It tends to make me angry. I shall have to try to remember your more measured, but "to the point" rebuffs.

Sparklefizz Mon 26-Jul-21 10:55:40

I had a husband (notice past tense smile ) who used to wait until we were with friends to bring up something he was annoyed about, or some criticism, because he knew I wouldn't want a scene in front of anyone.

I put up with it for years but needless to say, eventually I became less of a doormat, and divorced him after finding out he had been having an affair since I was pregnant.

muse Mon 26-Jul-21 11:01:37

On the whole, I have always tried to ignore such comments as I do not like confrontation. It does depend on what mental strength the receiver has and how prolonged the PA behaviour is. As I've grown older, I find it difficult to tolerate such ignorant behaviour. I wish I could be outspoken and stand up to such people.

Yes notinthemanual you are right in calling it snide

I've seen such behaviour face to face and also in the written form. The latter is probably easier to deal with. Just ignore it? Yes, but does that stop it? Not always.

Calling them out is difficult. I wish I could do it CafeAuLait.

The worse effect I have seen of PA behaviour was years ago. I worked in a school where the head was constantly like that with certain members of staff. A colleague, who was also a friend, was the deputy and she tried to discuss this with the head. We had lost one excellent teacher and others were following suit (me included) - all because of her. My friend had a miserable further year there. The discussion had no impact. Head eventually retired.

In answer to your second question Notinthemannual, some will stop but unfortunately some can't stop.

Notinthemanual Tue 27-Jul-21 06:57:34

Thank you for sharing your experiences.

ctussaud Tue 27-Jul-21 10:45:26

My husband had an effective response; he’d reply to the nasty remark with “Do tell me; does it come easily to you or do you have to work hard at it?”

Nasty remarker “…what?”

Husband “Being so very unpleasant” - delivered with serene smile.

Cossy Tue 27-Jul-21 10:48:38

Smile and nod !! If they are doing it just to get a reaction then this infuriates then, if they are genuinely being awful and labelling as a joke I normally say “I’m sure you think that’s funny, but actually is isn’t and it’s not nice!”

pid2000 Tue 27-Jul-21 10:50:05

Just say 'that's a bit snide and unnecessary' every time they do it .

Alis52 Tue 27-Jul-21 10:50:45

Sad to say but after years of enduring PA from a close family member I’ve learnt that pretending I didn’t understand what was said was snide so responding in a very deadpan way or that I didn’t hear it and asking them to repeat it, works a treat. Basically meeting PA with better PA makes them mad and after years of being made to feel wretched, it’s a small victory that makes family gatherings more bearable. I know it’s not ideal and I sound petty but I’ve tried everything else mentioned here and none of it has lessened the PA of this person. It’s either that or I cut them off and that would hurt everyone else and I don’t want to do that.
If ‘friends’ do the PA stuff on me then I just gently let them fade away…life is too precious to put up with that kind of unpleasantness.

Jillybird Tue 27-Jul-21 10:52:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hilarybee Tue 27-Jul-21 10:57:39

I’ve always been unsure as to what passive aggressive behaviour is and this thread as been helpful to understand what it is. Do other gransnetters have different examples of PA behaviour?

polnan Tue 27-Jul-21 10:59:55

wondering why the need to confront?

montymops Tue 27-Jul-21 11:03:39

I would definitely call it out. It’s horrible behaviour. Cafeaulait gave excellent advice. Why should you put up with such nastiness? You’re better than that and you don’t need that in your life. Good luck 😉 x

staffietara Tue 27-Jul-21 11:09:28

Good response!

loopylindy Tue 27-Jul-21 11:10:15

I have two points here. When does PA become emotional abuse? The second is a retort:
To PA - 'I hope you got a refund....'
'refund for what?'
'for the Charm school course you failed...'

Alioop Tue 27-Jul-21 11:16:50

My sister is like that and has been since early teens. We have had many a fallout over it, but now I walk away from her when she starts. She did it in a phone shop the other week, that I drove her to may I add, as I was trying to help her understand what the young man was telling her. She flashed her eyes and started, totally embarrassed me in front of people and I turned on my heel and walked out.
I hate confrontations and I end up getting myself so upset, so no more, I find walking off far better for me anyway.

Newatthis Tue 27-Jul-21 11:24:53

I really dislike people who are PA. I have a friend who is so PA and always adds a little giggle at the end of her PA sentences. It's got to the stage where I don't want to spend time with her anymore.

Hermia46 Tue 27-Jul-21 11:27:53

Maybe inferiority complex perhaps? Still a total failure to 'read the room' or mood of nearest and dearest. Denial that it was 'just a joke' places the blame back on the offended person, who is right to be offended or upset. I usually try to explain that the message is how it is received and interpreted in an effort to persuade the sender that their comment is unacceptable. Or I simply bite back.

Doodledog Tue 27-Jul-21 11:32:53


I’ve always been unsure as to what passive aggressive behaviour is and this thread as been helpful to understand what it is. Do other gransnetters have different examples of PA behaviour?

P/A behaviour is aggressive without being assertive, so it is finding ways to be unkind, or to gain power without risk.

Examples might be being 'ill' at work when something is happening that you don't want to do.

It might be playing the victim, or saying things as 'jokes' that are intended to hurt. You could then say that the other person was being too sensitive if called on it.

It might be saying things like 'ok, I'll let you have the last word', so taking the last word yourself, as the other person can't reply without looking as though they are being 'difficult'.

Or saying, 'I don't want an argument, it's only my opinion' suggesting that everyone else is saying things that aren't only their opinion, and basically removing their right to disagree.

Or agreeing to do something but never getting round to it, or getting your own back by being late for something that the other person wants to do, or any number of things that are difficult to call on their own, but add up to making things difficult for others, whilst seeming to be the 'nice' one in the relationship or workplace.

It's insidious behaviour, and is usually associated with people who have limited power to just ask for what they want, or state their case upfront (assertive behaviour). Being assertive is not the same as being aggressive - the difference is that assertive people understand that they might not get their own way, and are not willing to bulldoze the other party, but just want to make their position clear to save misunderstanding.