Passive-aggressive behavior violates people's rights and makes it impossible to get along. Sometimes, this kind of behavior happens between friends, where one person takes advantage of the other's trust and engages in blackmail, victimizing, and other harmful behavior.
Passive-aggressive friends are bad company. Even so, it can be hard to leave them behind, to say goodbye, to tell them that they make everything difficult, that their friendship is painful, and that they’ve hurt you. While facing these kinds of relationships can be complicated, it’s really important to do so.
So what’s the best way to handle these situations? Should you have a serious talk with your friend and demand change? Put up with it and hope that it will get better? The truth is that there isn’t a universal answer. There are sub-types of passive-aggressive personalities, some more harmful than others.
Whatever the case, dealing with a passive-aggressive person means putting up with behavior that’s fraught with insecurity, ambivalence, resentment, and hidden aggressiveness. Sometimes, it’s really subtle but when you spend time with someone like this, those subtleties become clear and they’re as sharp as daggers.
Whatever the case, the appropriate thing to do is to react. When you have a passive-aggressive friend, you’ll deal with conflict constantly. It’s a gradually demoralizing process. Especially because friendship should be just the opposite. Let’s delve a little deeper into this idea.
“Fear generally manifests itself in one of two ways: through aggressiveness or submission.”
Psychology identified the passive-aggressive personality more than a century ago. Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich was the first one to talk about it right after World War II. According to Reich, it was the most common personality type across the population.
Likewise, passive-aggressiveness appeared shortly thereafter in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a personality disorder. In the most recent versions of the manual, it’s no longer considered a “disorder”. Instead, it’s classified as a kind of personality that can sometimes manifest with other conditions such as OCD or dependent personality disorder.
On the other hand, as you well know, the people around you probably engage in passive-aggressive behavior sometimes. Parents, significant others, coworkers, friends, etc. However, it’s interesting that it’s easier to identify this behavior in others than in ourselves. It’s important to remember that all of us are capable of engaging in this kind of harmful behavior. No one is immune.
Passive-aggressive friends and their behavior
Talking about friends who are passive-aggressive is a rather complicated subject. Why? Because often what keeps us in these friendships is time and an emotional bond. Maybe you’ve been through a lot with this person, so you’ve gotten used to being patient and forgiving. You’ve given them so many chances.
Even so, you know there’s something that’s not quite right, but you’re not sure what to call it. Read on to learn more about this personality type so that you can identify it in your own life. We’ll use the work of Theodore Millon to explain passive-aggressiveness.
Passive-aggressive friends are devious
What do we mean by devious? This term refers to a kind of clearly twisted behavior. Here are some examples:
- They tend to procrastinate. It takes them a long time to answer and they’re late to appointments. They’re slow to react when someone expects something of them.
- They’re always “forgetting” things. You can’t really trust them, and they always have a million excuses and justifications for things.
- They’re quick to anger. When they’re mad, they punish those around them with silence.
Passive-aggressive friends engage in abrasive behavior that’s hurtful and leaves an emotional mark. In other words, they tend to treat you in a hurtful way. Sometimes, they adopt a morally superior attitude to judge and criticize you. An instant later, they’re submissive and dependent.
Instability as a way of life
The best way to describe this is “with you, but without you”. They want to control you and micromanage every aspect of your life. At the same time, however, they can’t stand hearing what you think of what they do or don’t do. Passive-aggressive people often come off as full of energy and positivity at first, but a short while later they’re angry and suffering.
Passive-aggressive friends see the negative side of every situation. They look for the mistake in every nice gesture, the speck of dust on the polished surface. It’s hard to share your happiness with them because they’re experts at raining on people’s parades.
This personality type is also skilled at playing the victim. Their view of reality is distorted and they make everything about them.
What can I do if I have passive-aggressive friends?
Passive-aggressive friends can completely distort the concept of friendship. You shouldn’t get used to this kind of behavior or just put up with it. Instead, you should react with these concrete strategies:
- Don’t fall into their trap. If they get angry and stop talking to you, let them. If they ask you for something that you don’t want to do, don’t do it. When your “friend” gets in your face about every little thing, ignore them. The last thing you want to do is reinforce this bad behavior and let it affect you in some way.
- Always remember this. The thing that passive-aggressive people fear above all is being ignored and losing your friendship. Consequently, don’t listen to their threats or blackmail.
- Be firm and calm. You have to be very clear with your passive-aggressive friends that you aren’t going to tolerate this kind of behavior. Communicate your feelings in a calm and friendly way. Finding balance is your best bet.
- If they don’t change, let them go. Make sure they understand that you aren’t going to tolerate their harmful behavior. If it continues and they don’t show any signs of changing or improving, your best bet is to keep your distance.
If you have a friend that engages in this kind of behavior, they probably need professional help. Given that you don’t have any control over whether or not that happens, the best thing you can do is protect your psychological well-being. Remember that this kind of behavior is harmful and you don’t have to put up with it.