THE BLOG
05/31/2013 05:35 pm ET Updated Jul 31, 2013

How to Pass on the (True) Passive Aggressors

As females, we're guaranteed to be victims of passive aggressiveness at one point in time or another. Sure, females are known as nurturing creatures who can carry a child for nine months and bear innocent life to the world. But we're also known for our snarky statements, our beady stares and our not-so-nice mutters.

If you're like me, you don't regard the passive-aggressive remarks or actions that you yourself issue day to day. After all, that's not relevant. Instead, you're aware of the difficult personalities that exist in your life.

For instance, there's always that one person who has no shame: You get a form-fitted, A-line skirt to wear when leading your upcoming board meeting to feel confident and powerful. You email "her" the picture. A week later? She gets a shorter, tighter skirt to wear at that same meeting with a va-va-voom push-up bra stuffed underneath her designer blouse. And then, she has the nerve to bring everyone breakfast muffins.

Then, one week later at your monthly cupcake exchange, you bake vanilla creme cupcakes with a buttercream frosting. To your not-so-surprise, she bakes buttercream vanilla cupcakes garnished with edible faux pearls harvested from the limited edition Martha Stewart line.

In my opinion, this type of person isn't a passive aggressor; she just mimics irritating behavior. In fact, the person who carries out these not-so-subtle attacks is one thing -- and that rhymes with "britch." And, for me, I'm typically able to recognize such blatant misbehavior and brush it off, because that person usually treats everyone with the same competitive contempt.

On the other hand, you've got to watch out for the true passive aggressor. This type of person reminds me of that time I ordered a plain bagel from Einstein's with strawberry cream cheese. Half asleep, after biting into what I expected to be a sweet, early morning wake-up call, I was left with a mouthful of salmon cream cheese. Oh and, despite being a Marylander, I gag at the thought of anything sea-related -- especially when it's in a schmear.

To me, true passive aggressors are like that. They present themselves in the form of sweet statements; but, when you get to the meat of their motive, you realize that they are not so nice. What's left after you're done talking to them? A sour taste that makes you want to stop what you're doing and spit in the trashcan.

So herein lies the question, my fellow females: Since passive aggressive situations are an inevitable encounter, how should we deal with these types of unwelcome remarks?

That's a hard question, and it's unfortunate that there's no concrete answer. And, what's even more unfortunate is that true passive aggressors are typically the people that we see every day. They can't be outwardly aggressive, because they take pride in their game by making subtle digs to watch your reaction. If you want to complain, you can't -- because others will tell you to stop over analyzing and to just, "Let it go."

So, you say nothing.

If you're like me, though, it's hard to stay silent after a run-in with a true passive aggressor. Instead, time and time again, I've wanted to pull aside one person in particular and ask, "What gives?"

Despite my nature to be (politely) confrontational, I've stopped myself from approaching such subjects. What's really the point? My passive aggressor knows what she's doing. I know what she's doing. And, if I politely confront her, I know she'll feign shock and leave me with no resolution, other than with the feeling that I'm hypersensitive and take things way too personally.

So, precisely for this reason, I find it's not necessarily "letting go" that works for me -- but more so, "moving on." Much to my chagrin, moving on is not continuing the passive aggressive battle. Of course, everyone -- myself included -- wants to whisper an audible zinger. But you have to move on before you consume yourself with another person's negativity.

What's been working for me lately? When I have to deal with difficult people, I allow myself to take ten minutes to process the situation. For me, it's easier to move on when I process my thoughts, instead of intermittently trying to block out whatever I'm feeling at that time.

Most times, after I've processed irritating situations, I find that I'm left laughing. Why? Because there's no easy answer for dealing with passive aggressive personalities. So instead, you simply have to laugh in order to move on.

On a final note, remember this: You don't have to effectively deal with difficult people every time. You don't have to like them, and you don't have to make them like you. But what you should do is try to move on -- at least, until it gets easier and easier to try.

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