DEFUSING/COPING AND SELF-PROTECTION
This is a two-part section. A. is a list of suggestions from "Living with the P.A. Man." that individuals may want to implement in an effort to defuse the passive-aggressive behavior. This is not a complete list, and suggest that you read the book for more detail. Also in this section are suggestions from Dr. Simon from his book, "In Sheep's Clothing." Please refer to that book also for more detail. Part B. are suggestions from the on-line group members on how to cope and protect oneself from the consequences of p.a. behavior.
(from "Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man")
Set boundaries, confront obvious lies, unravel ambiguities. Let the p.a. know how far things can go and what is acceptable and unacceptable in how they treat you.
Be clear about what you want. Communicate that you will not be treated cavalierly or with disrespect. Be specific about what bothers you...Tone is important.so do not be vindictive or authoritarian. Do not use ultimatums you cannot enforce....
Find a balance between encouraging the p.a.(s) sense of power, independence & choice and supporting him/her when they feel weak and dependent. Remind them that they have a range of options from which to choose, do not force or tell them what to do. Give them the power of choice.
When dealing with submerged hostility, bring it into the open, convince the p.a. that it is okay to be angry. The p.a. needs help articulating what they are angry about. Do not retaliate. Do not attempt to humor the person out of anger. Use "Feelings Reports" - a description of a person's state of mind.
Confront the behavior not the character...("I feel," not "you did this.") If this person hurts you let them know. Use tactful confrontation. Be level-headed, do not use wild threats and recriminations.
Attempt to us "fair fighting." Do not let the p.a. get you off the subject. Help teach this person that they can face trouble and conflict and have both dignity and power.
To change the p.a. needs an opportunity for trust to develop...let them talk and express themselves. Don't psychoanalyze them or belittle them for not confessing enough. Don't make them feel inferior by giving them examples of how you would say something. Take the little indirect hints they provide about what they want and respond to them. Empathize with how they feel, and don't make your affection contingent on how they behave.
Do not avoid conflict by playing their game. (p.a.)
If the p.a. is being especially difficult while out socially, let them know how it effects others. Talk about the issue... If still pouting after your attempts, acknowledge their feelings but discourage the pouting.
( the following is from "In Sheep's Clothing" which addresses covert-aggression - see how/why page for an explanation of the difference between p.a. and c.a.)
ACCEPT NO EXCUSES: don't buy into any of the reasons someone may offer for covertly aggressive behavior. If someone's behavior is inappropriate the rationale they offer is irrelevant. Confront inappropriate behavior directly and label it for what it is.
JUDGE ACTIONS, NOT INTENTIONS: never try to "mind-read" or second-guess why somebody is doing something. There is no way for you to really know, and in the end it's irrelevant. It is a good way to get sidetracked. Judge the behavior itself. If what a person does is harmful in some way, pay attention to and deal with that issue.
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF: Know and "own" your own agendas. Be sure of what your real needs and desires in any situation are.
SET PERSONAL LIMITS: Becoming more empowered in interpersonal interactions necessarily involves setting two kinds of limits on behavior. 1) you must decide what kinds of behavior you will tolerate. 2) you must decide what kind of action you are both willing and able to take in order to take better care of yourself.
MAKE DIRECT REQUESTS & REQUEST DIRECT RESPONSES: Be clear about what you want. Use "I" statements. Avoid generalities. Be specific about what it is you dislike, expect or want from another person. Whenever you don't get a clear, direct, to-the-point answer, ask again. Don't do it in a hostile way, but respectfully assert the issue you raised.
WHEN CONFRONTING THIS BEHAVIOR, KEEP THE WEIGHT OF RESPONSIBILITY ON THE AGGRESSOR: When confronting someone about inappropriate behavior, keep the focus on whatever they did to injure, no matter what diversionary tactics they might use to keep you off base.
WHEN YOU CONFRONT, AVOID SARCASM, HOSTILITY, & PUTDOWNS: Aggressive personalities are always looking for excuses to go to war and they perceive "attacks" on their egos as precisely the justification they need. Attacking their character "invites" them to begin using their offensive tactics such as denial, selective inattention or blaming others.
AVOID MAKING THREATS: Making threats is always an attempt to manipulate others into changing their behavior while avoiding making assertives changes for oneself. Never threaten. Just take action. Don't counter-aggress, just do what you need to protect yourself and secure your own needs.
SPEAK FOR YOURSELF: Use "I" statements and don't portend to speak for anyone else, i.e. the children. Have the courage to stand up for what you want openly and directly.
STAY IN THE HERE AND NOW: Forcus on the issues at hand. Don't bring up past issues or speculate about the future. And, don't let the aggressor steer you away either.
MAKE REASONABLE AGGREEMENTS: Make aggreements that are appropriate, reliable, verifiable and enforceable.
BE PREPARED FOR CONSEQUENCES: Always remain aware of the covert-aggressor's determination to be the victor. It is important to be prepared for this, and to take appropriate action.
TAKE ACTION QUICKLY: Aggressive personalities lack internal brakes. If you are going to successfully engage them, get a word in edgewise, make an impact, then you need to act at the first sign that they are on the march. Be ready to immediately confront and respond to one of their tactics. Move quickly to remove yourself from the one-down position and establish a balance of power.
Educate yourself - knowledge is power.....
Let them know when they have said or done something hurtful, use "I feel..."
If they say something absurd - repeat it back to them, "So what you are saying..." This lets you retain your power and control....
Remember revealing the importance of your wants/needs may only backfire on you.
Realize they want a strong reaction from you so the focus will be off of them and on your anger ... stay calm
When you see/feel a "game" coming on.... walk away, stop the conversation, do whatever it takes not to become involved in the game. Remember that their goal is to manipulate and control you and the situation.
When it is a matter of importance, stay calm and rational, tell them what the consequences of their actions will be, stick to your guns.....
They function under intense fear....
Some of what they do is not deliberate - but most of what they do is.
Change can only occur if the p.a. recognizes that THEY have a problem and seek professional help.
DIVORCED WITH CHILDREN suggessions:
Distance yourself (physically & emotionally) as much as possible to protect yourself.....
Assume full responsibility (physically & emotionally) for the children -- rarely ask for their support.....
If support is needed, DO NOT reveal the importance of their support or they will not help. Make sure they know they have a choice and you have other options as well. (this is not a game..make sure you do have other options...)
Do not give them any opportunity to "Pull the rug out from under you." If they are on "best behavior" do NOT relax and assume this will continue... If they sense this, they WILL revert to p.a. tricks.....
If p.a. tricks extend to the children - TAKE A VERY FIRM STAND and let them know exactly what the consequences will be. DO NOT BACK DOWN.
IN ALL AREAS of your life let them know unequivocally that you will not play their games any longer.........