Indirectly Direct

Blue road sign that has a detour route arrow

Passive-aggressive people are worse than aggressive people. At least aggressive people tell you, in words and action, where they stand. Where they stand may be wrong. But at least you know, and at least they tell you. Passive-aggressive people don’t want to tell you where they stand. They leave it implicit, and they do so deliberately. It’s not merely shyness or lousy communication. It’s a deliberate intention. The intention is to leave you wondering so they need not assume responsibility for what they actually think and feel. A passive-aggressive person will say one thing and then do another. If you comment on what he said, he’ll act as if he never said it. If you comment on what he does, he’ll refer back to what he said. If he’s always an hour late or always “forgets” about your plans, he’ll insist that he still wants to do them. If she commits to one kind of relationship or association and then proceeds, in action, to something completely different–she’ll still insist the initial commitment is what she wants, and indeed always wanted. Passive-aggressive people can be downright maddening. But you need not put up with it. Just tell the passive-aggressive person whatever it is you want to assume–whatever is easier for you. “I’ll assume you’re NOT coming unless you tell me otherwise, two days ahead.” Or: “I’ll assume that the information I gave you is accurate unless you tell me otherwise.” Or, simply give up on them and tell them why: Their words don’t match their actions, and therefore you don’t believe them. A therapist I know used to tell her passive-aggressive clients this: “Your words say one thing, but your actions say another.” This might or might not change the actions of a passive-aggressive person, but it will certainly make your own life a whole lot easier.