"Remember not only to say the right thing in
the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing
at the tempting moment." - Benjamin
In January I asked for people to share their communication
problems. One of my readers said that passive-aggressive behavior has become common
throughout his workplace. He is concerned that communication is suffering
because of this problem.
Dealing with people who exhibit passive-aggressive
tendencies can be daunting. There is little that you can do to change their
behavior. When you have to deal with difficult people, it's hard to remember
that the only person you have any significant control over is yourself. Managing
your own reaction to the actions of others takes dedication and constant vigilance.
Here are a few tips:
Don't let the behavior get to you. This is probably the most
difficult step. Monitor your reactions and bring yourself under control.
Remember your mother's advice to count to ten before reacting. (smile) For some
people who act this way, their payoff is your negative reaction. Don't let
them get that satisfaction.
If "humorous" insults are directed at you, confront
the behavior and ask if the person is angry at you. More than likely, the
person will deny any anger. Follow up with a statement that follows this
pattern - "When you say ___________, it makes it difficult for us to
communicate. It would help if you would be more direct in your comments."
Don't assign any harmful intent. Just describe the behavior and the result.
Ask the person to share suggestions for improvement. Open up
communication when you can. Let the person know that you value his or her ideas. Remember
that people who exhibit this behavior usually have a problem expressing themselves.They usually don't feel safe stating their
We've all been in situations where a coworker has sighed
audibly, or pouted for an extensive period of time, and we have asked, "What's
wrong?" when this happens if the coworker's response is "Nothing", end the discussion by
saying, "Okay." Don't continue to push the person for a reason.
Watch the actions of the person, and do not rely on his or
her words. Make a Plan B if the person's actions have proven that he or she
cannot be trusted.
Remember that you are the only person you have control over.
Accept the situation for what it is and ask yourself what you need to do to
stop reacting to behavior that is not productive. Ensure that you are direct in
your own communication so the passive-aggressive behavior does not become
What is your major communication problem? Are there
particular types of difficult people you encounter? Let me know and I'll
discuss in a future newsletter.
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