“Oh, your being passive aggressive again.” You hear this term “passive aggressive” being batted around a great deal these days. Unfortunately, most people have no idea what it means although we are sometimes guilty of exhibiting the signs unconsciously. In a nutshell, passive aggression is a deliberate and masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger. It involves a range of behaviors designed to get back at another person without him/her recognizing the underlying anger. Teens are notorious for being able and willing to use passive aggressive phrases toward their parents when the need suites them. The ten most commonly used passive aggressive phrases used by teens can serve as a wake-up call for you in helping you recognize hidden hostility when it is being directed your way:
1. “I’m Not Mad.”
Denying feelings of anger is classic passive aggressive behavior. Rather that being upfront and honest when questioned about his feelings, the passive aggressive person insists, ‘I’m not mad’ even when he/she is seething inside.
2. “ Fine” ‘Whatever.”
Sulking and withdrawing from arguments are primary strategies of the passive aggressive person. Since passive aggression is motivated by a person’s belief that expressing anger directly will only make his/her life worse, the passive aggressive person uses phrases like ‘Fine” and “Whatever” to express anger indirectly and to shut down direct, emotional honest communication.
3. “ I’m Coming!”
Passive aggressive persons are known for verbally complying with a request, but behaviorally delaying its completion. If whenever you ask your child to clean his/her room, he/she cheerfully says “ Okay, I’m coming,” but fails to show up to complete the chore, chances are he/she is practicing the fine passive aggressive art of temporary compliance. You also see this with teens who are chronically late for school, work or appointments.
4. “ I Didn’t Know You Meant Now.”
Passive aggressive persons are master procrastinators. While we all like to put off unpleasant tasks for as long as possible, people with passive aggressive personalities rely on procrastination as a way of frustrating others and/or getting out of doing certain chores without having to directly refuse them.
5. “ You Just Want Everything To Be Perfect”
A person complies with the request, but intentionally carries it out in an haphazard , inefficient way. An example might be a student turning in sloppy homework, when you know that he/she is capable of higher quality.
6. “ I Thought You Knew.”
This phrase is used by people who express their anger covertly by choosing not to share certain information that could lead to problems for the target person. By claiming ignorance , the person defends his inaction, while secretly taking pleasure in his foe’s trouble and anguish.
7. “ Sure, I’d Be Happy To.”
This reminds me of a song that had the following lyrics: “smiling faces, tell lies” On the surface, they are all smiles, but behind the facade they are angry and bitter. These people operate from behind the scenes. You see this with customer service reps, who feel that you are causing them to work harder or indirectly blaming you for their problems in life.
8. “ You’ve Done So Well for Someone with your Educational Level.”
Talk about the ultimate insult. These backhanded compliments are finely tuned to deliver a stinging blow to the unsuspected. Other examples would be, “ Don’t worry-you can still get braces even at your age” or “ There are lot of men out there who like plump women”.
9. “ I Was Only Joking”
This is sarcasm at its best. The passive aggressive person can express his hostility aloud, but in a manner that is indirect and socially acceptable. Even after you recognize this sarcastic remark. for what it is, you’ll hear “ Can’t you take a joke?”
10. “ Why Are You Getting So Upset?”
The passive aggressive person is a master at maintaining his calm and feigning shock when others, worn down by his indirect hostility, blow up in anger. He/ she takes pleasure out of setting others up to lose their cool and then question their “ overreactions.”
So how do you deal with your teen who is being passive aggressive? Here are some directives you can use:
1.Don’t feel guilty.
Remember that you’re not to blame for someone else’s passive-aggressive behavior.
2. Refuse to play their game.
Because a passive-aggressive personality doesn’t know how to respond appropriately to conflict, he or she will most likely deny everything. It’s important to express your concerns and anger, but stick to the facts at hand and how his or her actions make you feel.
3.Confront their dishonesty. Hold them accountable for their actions.
Not confronting the passive-aggressive behavior will only reinforce it. Confront your teen immediately and let him or her know you are confused by the behavior. If they value the relationship, he or she has to stop the behavior.
4.Don’t let them get away with bad behavior.
Instead of letting your teen off the hook and allowing him or her to continue the behavior, try to create an atmosphere in which he or she might feel more comfortable sharing feelings of anger, resentment, fear, etc. Is this passive aggressive behavior a symptom of a larger problem.? Communication, not judgement, is key.