I have 3 sister-in-laws who suffer from ‘passive aggressive behavior disorder’. They’re deliberate, carefully camouflaged acts of hostility are fed by jealousy and low self esteem. In dealing with passive aggressive people you need to not show any sign of weakness for that would be like a deer waving its leg under the nose of a wolf.
I am not a psychologist nor do I have my PhD. in human behavior studies. What I do have is 31 yrs of life experience. From having all female friends from kindergarten to high school, mostly guy friends in college, working in a predominately female workplace, marrying the most handsomest, charming, funny man in the world— who happens to have 3 sisters. I have learned a thing or 2 about passive aggressive behavior, aka being catty. It is a very common behavior trait found in all of the female populations of the world!
The major problem with passive aggressive behavior is not so much the aggressor, but those in the same circle of friends/family. The catty behavior is usually so perfectly aligned and aimed at the deer that those around don’t even notice the behavior or are aware of the wolf’s existence. Take for example, a family reunion— the wolves WILL bite, more than likely they will bite when the grandparents are in ear shot. In this instance, the deer can’t flinch or cry out when the wolf bites for if it does the relatives in ear shot will turn and see what the wolf wants them to see. They will see the wolf camouflaged to look like the innocent deer and they will see the deer as a salivating, burly wolf pouncing on the poor deer.
Mastering self control and as cliché as it sounds, ‘rising above it’ are the most important things to arm yourself with as you encounter people that relish in being passive aggressive. Remind yourself that the only reason the wolf has chosen you to attack is that you are above them. Perhaps you have a stronger & happier marriage, maybe your kids haven’t dropped out of college, or you were just promoted at work.
Now if the wolf is continuously chasing the deer and really, really making life a living hell, and it just won’t back off, it may be time to enlist the help of a bear. The bear is that Type A, larger-than-life personality— an aunt or uncle, sister, co-worker, BFF, whoever it is—find a time to talk with them one-on-one. Speak from the heart, and don’t sugarcoat your emotions. Let them share any of their own experiences at dealing with wolves. If the bear is in the same social circles that this wolf stalks his prey— even better! If you can buddy up with the bear a few times–when the wolf starts circling have the bear move in. The bear’s presence may cause the wolf to back off or it still may try and bite, however, if it does try and bite–the bear will knock that wolf out cold. This time when people turn and look they will see the wolf for what it really is.
Just remember that passive aggressive behavior, regardless of it showing up in the school yard or work place all originates from the same place. The aggressor deliberately making the choice to tear someone else down in order to lift themselves up.