Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ask Martha Smith-Standish: Dealing with the passive aggressive in your life

Dear Mrs. Smith-Standish,

What is the best way to deal with passive aggressive people?

Just sign me, Crabby in Cleveland

Dear Mr. (or Ms.) Crabby,

Thank you for asking for my advice on this matter.  A "passive aggressive" personality basically means that the person with the disorder attempts to manipulate a situation by being insulting, judgmental, childish and subtle.  The passive aggressive personality is not combative in an aggressive fashion, but instead weaves a web designed to trip the victim (usually victims) and prompt a behavior which then validates a confrontation.

The evil-genius of this personality type is that the passive aggressive person totally lacks self-awareness and responsibility.  It is never their fault.  It is always the fault of others.  I know that this sounds unfair, but to them, you are nothing more to them than mere mortal that must be crushed.  Like all good emotional vampires, they will never stick around to see the light of day and good reason.  They are only happy whilst someone is crying.  Remember that, or I may need to result to even more metaphors.

Unfortunately, you can do nothing to cure them.  And because we can not cure them (or avoid them all together) we all must deal with them even if they are the best at what they do. 

What I recommend is that you learn to diffuse them, in your own mind.  Prepare before you deal with them.  Ask them questions that are specific.  Record their answers.  But do not engage them beyond the specifics.  And as much as you may wish that you could, you cannot hold their noses (figuratively, of course) and ladle a good dose of smarts down their throats even if it would be the best thing for them.  So don't begin a heated discourse with them!

Remember, passive aggressive traits are not normal, so avoid these people in your leisure moments.  If you cannot do so, then limit your contact.  And unless they are immediate family, never feel guilty for leaving them of the guest list of invitees - there is nothing more miserable that cruising the Aegean Sea on your yacht with a passive aggressive tag-a-long.  It gives me a sick headache just thinking about it!

But if you feel that these people really ruin your day - and they will, given the chance - and you are unable to rid yourself of unpleasant thoughts about them, then see a qualified professional for advance coping skills.

Helpfully yours,

Mrs. Edwin Smith-Standish
Shaker Heights, Ohio


  1. Thanks so much for the afternoon laugh. You are so right and more so,------ and I thought this type only lived in Hollywood.

  2. Mrs. Smith-Standish is available to answer your queries, except medical or legal issues. For those, you may contact the office of her son Attorney at Law Miles Smith-Standish, or the office of her eldest son, Dr. Edwin Smith-Standish Jr. MD of Gates Mills Ohio and Palm Beach, Florida.

  3. genius!
    I think this is how I paper trained my puppy too!

  4. Do Mother-In-Laws count as "immediate family?"