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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Passive-aggression more harm than relief

    We’ve all been in that situation where we are screaming bloody murder at someone in our mind, but instead, we simply smile, nod and continue to be on our best behavior.

    I’m not saying we should be going around shouting up a storm at anyone who provokes us, but we should at least acknowledge the reason we’ve got all this pent-up frustration. Many people are passive-aggressive because it’s easy. We want to avoid confrontation, laugh things off and let people push us to our limits. All because we’re afraid to get a little bit assertive.

    But passive-aggression isn’t healthy. Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic, wrote that though passive-aggressiveness itself is not a mental illness, it can be a trait of other mental illnesses and can be cause for seeing a therapist.

    A passive-aggressive person uses indirect techniques to express his or her frustrations. Hall-Flavin said that instead of handling resentment or other issues directly, passive-aggressive people take out their anger by simply refusing to complete a project, missing deadlines and talking behind another person’s back, all while enthusiastically agreeing with the directions given to them.

    That kind of behavior can easily make it hard for a person to maintain good personal and professional reputations.

    The article “Effects of Habitual Passive-Aggressive Behavior” from says that passive-aggression can’t exist in a vacuum. There has to be a relationship and both people are negatively effected.

    “Needless to say, passive-aggression is not only detrimental for the person exhibiting the behavior,” the article says, “as it keeps their partners and friends at a distance so they never know a truly intimate relationship, but it also severely affects the health of their relationship and of their children.”

    The capacity of passive-aggression to affect others’ health and create unbalanced relationships leads some to argue that it is a form of domestic abuse called covert abuse. Cathy Meyer, a divorce coach, wrote in a divorce help article that passive-aggressive people frequently exhibit such behavior.

    “When someone hits you or yells at you, you know that you have been abused,” Meyer wrote. “It is obvious and easily identified. Covert abuse is subtle and veiled or disguised by actions that appear to be normal, at times loving and caring. The passive aggressive person is a master at covert abuse.”

    Passive-aggressive people tend to keep their feelings inside. It’s normal to get angry, but it’s not healthy to not communicate it. It may not even be the person’s fault — passive-aggressive people often can’t even identify their own feelings, and are uncomfortable when confronted aggressively. These people need to be confronted in a productive way in order for them to gain insight into the consequences of their behavior.

    It’s best to coax passive-aggressive people out of their emotional shells. We need to make our feelings the subject of the conversation, instead of their bad behavior. Instead of yelling at them, we should confront their behaviors one at a time in a private, safe place. If they need their space, let them have it.

    Beyond the annoyance passive-aggression causes and its potential to exacerbate even small issues in our relationships, it rarely ever solves anything. There are more constructive ways to handle communication issues, without unnecessary subtlety or subterfuge. Just be clear, honest and direct.

    — Kasey Shores is a journalism sophomore. Follow her @kaseyshores

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