Passive Aggressives are narcissists. They’re just indecisive narcissists. They’re usually professional victims and insist that NOTHING they do is wrong, and that everyone is out to get them.
They have no charisma or personality. They just like to whine and complain and sabotage situations and people around them. They’re actually worse than outright narcissists in many ways.
How can you tell if someone is JUST passive aggressive, or if they’re an indecisive narcissist?
Does it matter really? The actions and reactions of both are so similar you’re just splitting hairs if you try to distinguish between the two! But, just so you know how Betsy and I determined this (as did the experts we consulted):
Both narcissists and passive aggressives:
- Resort to denial and distortion of facts
- Refuse to accept or even recognize their own feelings, actions or responsibilities in a relationship
- Are negativistic
- Blame others for anything wrong in their lives, including consequences of their own actions and decisions
- Complain of not being appreciated, understood or valued
- Exaggerate their misfortunes
- Do not consider, take in account or care about other people’s feelings even though they profess to
If you’re in a relationship, friendship or in a family or work situation with a passive aggressive you will often feel like YOU are the one going crazy. People around you, (just like with a narcissist) who don’t interact with the passive aggressive like you do, will think you are the hostile one because THEY only see “poor, poor, poor me” and “I’m trying so hard to be nice,” and not the resentful, hostile, procrastinating, blaming, sabotaging behaviors you’re having to deal with!
As Dr. Shaler, the “relationship catalyst” says:
“A passive-aggressive person can make chaos out of thin air, and they are secretly delighted in their ability to do so. It feels like control to them, and that is what they long for. Because they cannot approach situations, feelings, relationships or communication directly, they do so indirectly. That causes the chaos.”
By the way, if you want some awesome info from a Passive Aggressive expert, Dr. Schaler’s book, “Stop! That’s Crazy Making!” is available on Smashwords for $4.95.
Signs you’re dealing with a passive aggressive person:
- They don’t own their feelings. They’ll SAY they “LOVE” or care about people when they really hate them.
- They procrastinate as a way of punishing those they resent, which is pretty much everyone in their lives
- They’re ambiguous about everything – it’s a way of creating insecurity in others, or of hiding their own insecurities.
- Are often intentionally late or forget things, even when asked or told (work) that their lateness is unacceptable. Being late is a way to (1) exert control and (2) punish others. For the narcissist it’s also a way of signaling their time is more important and valuable than the person(s) they’re keeping waiting on them.
- They exaggerate their misfortune or problems.
- They often complain of not being appreciated or valued.
- No matter how good things are going for them, they’re negative and complain about how their life sucks.
- Pessimistic about everything, and I do mean everything.
- Avoid work and social obligations, or may promise, then cancel or not show up as promised, then will blame everything from a spouse, family member, the weather, traffic, their health or the neighbors for why they had to cancel. They are UNABLE to say, “I changed my mind.”
- They are reluctant to, or resent keeping promises to people, employers or family
- They sabotage others, especially anyone who might be seen as competition for them
- They deny having any anger or ill-will towards anyone, even if caught red-handedly sabotaging someone!
- Fear competition, even a perception of competition.
- Fear dependency, especially on people close to them such as friends and spouse.
- Create chaos or chaotic situations around them so the focus on their being jerks is temporarily suspended.
- Fear of intimacy is how the passive aggressive acts out their anger. They deny anyone the chance to really get to know them even while professing to want to be friends. They guard themselves against any intimate attachment, usually by using people much like a narcissist would.
- Conveniently forget the actual details of an event, or only remember the details that puts THEM in a good light.
- They will not acknowledge or respect timelines or deadlines and think that the fact their boss actually requires a properly completed time sheet submitted on a given day so the business can meet payroll, is abusive and unreasonable!
- Sulks. They (in their mind anyway) never do anything wrong. Someone or something else is always to blame. They are professional victims. Instead of recognizing and admitting their weakness, failure or other problems they tend to blame others for their failures.
Maybe it’s more useful to have scenarios where passive aggressive behavior is at work:
You meet your friend for lunch and say, “What kind of food do you feel like today? Mexican, Italian, American or Chinese? I love them all, so it doesn’t matter to me. The friend says, “I don’t care.” So you go to the Mexican place where they order a plain salad and then tell you, “Well I don’t really like Mexican,” and claiming they never said they did. The passive aggressive person doesn’t own, communicate or express their feelings or preferences out of fear of being wrong (TIP: You can not be “wrong” about what you like or don’t like. Whatever you like or don’t like is personal preference.), but on the other hand they expect YOU to be a psychic and just somehow “KNOW” what they really want, need, think or feel and then accommodate them as they wish (but can’t express) to be accommodated. Now you see why they create chaos are are crazy-makers?
What does the DSM (Diagnostic Manual for Psychiatrists) say?:
Passive–aggressive personality disorder was listed as an Axis II personality disorder in the DSM-III-R, but was moved in the DSM-IV to Appendix B (“Criteria Sets and Axes Provided for Further Study”) because of controversy and the need for further research on how to also categorize the behaviors in a future edition. As an alternative, the diagnosis personality disorder “not otherwise specified” may be used instead.
The DSM-IV Appendix B definition is as follows:
- A pervasive pattern of negativistic attitudes and passive resistance to demands for adequate performance, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:
- passively resists fulfilling routine social and occupational tasks
- complains of being misunderstood and unappreciated by others
- is sullen and argumentative
- unreasonably criticizes and scorns authority
- expresses envy and resentment toward those apparently more fortunate
- voices exaggerated and persistent complaints of personal misfortune
- alternates between hostile defiance and contrition
- Does not occur exclusively during major depressive episodes and is not better accounted for by dysthymic disorder.
Tips for dealing with the Passive Aggressive:
Don’t feel guilty.
You are not to blame for their miserable, sucky lives, no matter how much they may try to pin the blame on you. Remember that you’re not to blame for someone else’s passive-aggressive behavior. Also remember that “Passive Aggressive” is a DIAGNOSIS…and, like stage 4 (terminal) cancer, it’s not going to go away by simply wishing it would.
RUN. Run far, far away.
If you’re in a relationship with a passive aggressive person and you truly want to be happy, leave. If you have an employee who is passive aggressive, fire them or lay them off, but get rid of them. If you are too soft-hearted or haven’t been through enough hell yet, then transfer them to a closet where no one has to deal with them. Some people think the relationship can be saved, but I’m not one of them. If you want to spend what few precious years you have on this earth feeling like crap and dealing with someone who will never, ever be able to relate to you, love you and respect you in the way you deserve, then that’s your choice of course. Most of us prefer to get on with our lives and find healthy people who can and will love and cherish us.
If you are a business person and have made the mistake of hiring a passive aggressive, then you know how disruptive they can be to your business. You’re probably losing GOOD employees who flee when they see what you expect them to deal with. Fortunately it’s not too hard to get a passive aggressive to QUIT their job. Just create and start enforcing rules – like showing up on time for work, completing a time card, finishing what you start etc. The Passive Aggressive will be unable and unwilling to comply and will quit the instant they find some other schumck to hire them, or when they violate your human resource’s contract/probation period and must be fired. Either way, you’re rid of them. Go you!
Refuse to play their game.
A passive-aggressive personality doesn’t know how to respond appropriately to conflict. When people don’t know what to do, how to act, what to say, or feel they will typically attempt to find out. NOT the passive aggressive. They will deny everything! If they stand you up for a date or meeting, or “forget” to pick up dinner when it’s their turn to cook, they will deny they agreed to it, or blame everyone or everything around them for their failure and refuse to own their actions.
Don’t let them get away with it. You can’t beat them over the head with a baseball bat even if that’s what you feel like doing. Express your concerns and anger in an appropriate and healthy way, but stick to the facts at hand and how his or her actions make you feel. Something like, “This is the third week in a row you have ‘forgotten’ to pick up dinner on the night you agreed to fix dinner. When you keep forgetting I feel disrespect and feeling disrespected makes me feel angry. I am feeling angry right now. I’m going to go out and get my own dinner. I do not want you to join me. If you forget dinner next week I will assume you no longer want to have dinner with me on your night to cook and I will go out with friends.” Then do it.
Confront their dishonesty.
Don’t ignore their behavior in hopes it will “fix” itself. It won’t. It will actually get worse because not confronting it will only reinforce it. When your passive aggressive person is being a pain-in-the-ass, confront them immediately and them know you are confused, concerned or appalled by their behavior. Tell them if they value the relationship, they must stop the behavior. Unfortunately for you, this will relieve most passive aggressives, unless they are financially dependent on you, and they will make sure not to change because they really don’t want, nor are they capable of, any kind of intimacy, caring or relationship.
Don’t let them get away with bad behavior.
Instead of letting the person off the hook and allowing him or her to continue the behavior, you can try to create an atmosphere in which he or she might feel more comfortable sharing feelings of anger, resentment, fear, etc. but this is the long road to hell as opposed to the short road of leaving their negative, whiny, poor me, suffering self and finding a real relationship yourself. If you like pounding your head against a cement wall, sticking around trying to help or heal or reform a passive aggressive is tantamount to being a masochist. They DON’T change.