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AAW ’20: Tips to Manage Passive Aggressive Anger

Get a handle on your shenanigans with this guide.

During Anger Awareness Week 2020 we’re shining a light on passive aggression – what it is, and what you can do about it if you suffer from it. 

Not sure what your anger communication style is? Click here to take our test to find out!

Yesterday we looked into what passive aggression was, how it manifests, and the issues it can cause. Read that article by clicking here. 

Today, here’s some tips for managing your own passive aggression. While most of our clients at BAAM are either mostly passive aggressive or active aggressive, it’s more than possible to be expressing your anger both ways.

Acknowledge it. Passive aggression may not involve shouting, but it is still an anger issue that negatively affects how you engage with the world. Moreover, turning your anger inwards is damaging your own mental health. 

Recognise your anger. This may be hard as you have spent so long suppressing it. But it’s OK! Not only do we all feel anger, it is vital for preserving our sense of sovereignty and sometimes even for our protection. Try to identify when your sense of anger has risen, and is in danger of being expressed unhealthily.

Begin to change your view of conflict. Passive aggression sufferers avoid outright confrontation. Often they have grown up to be wary of anger – perhaps an active aggressive carer or teacher made them never want to be like that, or maybe anger was considered unacceptable in their household and suppressed. 

As uncomfortable as it can be at the time, a degree of conflict is usually essential to move difficult situations forward. It can even bring people together once the dust settles. The goal is to be neither passive nor active aggressive, but assertive instead.

Remember, other people can’t read your mind. Unfortunately, we all need to communicate how we feel to others, even if we find this difficult. Otherwise, we cannot expect them to adapt their own behaviour. 

So don’t write covert contracts. A ‘covert contract’ is where you expect to be treated the same way you treat others. But how are others supposed to know what that is? We all have different ways of approaching things, especially in domestic or work situations. Being clear about your boundaries needs to become a priority in life. 

And don’t expect your needs to be accepted. Just because you draw a boundary, it doesn’t mean that you can count on others to adapt. But the good news is, airing your feelings and getting your point across can make you feel a lot better in itself.

Monitor your behaviour. Make a pledge to identify and limit passive aggressive habits like gossip, expressing negative opinions (especially about other people) at times when it’s not constructive, and attempts to manipulate others behind the scenes – no matter how innocent or valid you think it is.

Especially try not to wind up other angry people. Passive aggressive people act out their anger by triggering it in others. They get an additional reward from seeing their targets embarrass themselves. As tempting as it may be to access that sense of release, and as much as you feel the shouty person in the office might deserve it, you are only contributing to a cycle of toxic anger that could well blow back on you eventually. It’s also a habit you need to get out of that could get you into trouble if you do it to the wrong person. 

It takes time to form new habits, especially after living by your old ways for so long. Don’t expect to be a different person overnight once you start addressing your anger.

2nd December 2020

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