Avoiding confrontation or potential confrontation often makes perfect sense. It can redirect emotions, salvage bad situations, and maybe even save your life. Certain kinds of conflict avoidance, however, are counter-productive.
Acting out in a vague sense corrupts communication and breeds resentment. It could present as sarcasm, the silent treatment, withholding of emotions, or relentless procrastination. On social media, it may be called “vague-booking” or “subtweeting.” But new technologies do not change or hide the ugly realities of passive-aggressive behavior.
Why Do We Roll Our Eyes Rather Than Speak Our Truth?
When we choose passive-aggressive behavior over healthy communication, we are not necessarily looking for a problem. It could be that we never learned a functional style of communicating. Or we could be genuinely, but secretly, afraid. Thus, the passive-aggressive person is using tactics like long sighs and slammed doors as a dysfunctional method to:
“Control” and not show their anger
Make others look emotional and over-reactive
Try to inspire sympathy
Project their fears and feelings onto others
“Speak” their minds without social risks and then blame others when this language of avoidance is misunderstood
Hence, any chronic passive-aggressive behavior is not to be taken lightly. The following are some basic hints for addressing and managing conflict.
6 Tips for Talking Things Out When Eye-Rolling, Long Sighs & Slamming Doors Don’t Work
1. Fall in Love With Communication
We have more and faster ways than ever to communicate. Yet we seem to be less and less honest, frank, and open. Healthy communication improves the quality of any interaction or relationship. In addition, it improves your quality of life! Healthy communication skills are not a destination or a pass-fail test. Healthy engagement is an ever-evolving process.
If you lack good communication skills, buy a book or consult a relationship expert and learn them. It will be well worth your investment.
2. Choose Empathy
Put yourself in the other person’s place — as best you can. As frustration mounts and nothing seems to work, why not choose empathy? Think about the other person’s personality, temperament, life experiences, etc., and try to see the situation through those eyes rather than just your own.
All of us see the world through our own personal lens. Our views can sometimes be skewed by negative life experiences.
3. Avoid Knee-Jerk Reactions
The eye roll is a sort of communication trap. It’s frustrating and provokes a response. Moreover, how you react will or will not confirm the beliefs behind the eye roll. Under any circumstances, a snap judgment is risky. With someone unwilling to express their feelings, it becomes part of a self-perpetuating cycle.
The eye roll is also a non-verbal form of contempt and it’s belittling to the other person.
4. Ask Questions (Nicely)
Passive-aggressive behavior is actually thinly-veiled hostility. It’s a dangerous game to speculate on the underlying causes. Nicely asking questions is a basic first step toward uncovering the meaning of, say, a lazy co-worker or chronically late family member.
Get curious as you attempt to understand what is really going on.
5. Remove the Competition Aspect
When communicating, see how it feels to not seek victory. Move the engagement goalposts. Aim for resolution instead of retribution. Focus on understanding rather than winning.
6. Turn Off Your Devices
The presence of smartphones and social media can hamper communication in two major ways. Firstly, of course, they are alluring distractions. We often allow notification alerts to interrupt real-time interaction. Secondly, choosing to use our phones and apps as the primary avenue of communication can negate the benefit of interpersonal cues like:
Tone of voice
Body language and other gestures
Turn off your devices and turn on your best communicative self.
If You’re Not Used to Talking, a Translator Helps
Finally, as touched on above, seek help from a trained counselor to help you build a toolkit of communication skills. Repairing the damage caused by unhelpful communication often requires getting outside guidance from an objective source. Working with a skilled professional can both reduce passive-aggressive behavior and identify its source. Your counseling sessions may also be an ideal place to practice direct communication and healthy ways to manage conflict and reach productive resolutions.