Lots of folks are fond of pointing out when others are behaving in a passive-aggressive way, especially when those “others” are your partner in a relationship. But did you know that passive-aggressive behavior was trained into most of us in childhood? And did you know that passive-aggressive people tend to be attracted to passive-aggressive partners? AND did you know there is a solution that can turn your life around??
You may recognize passive-aggressive behavior as what happens when your wife or mother vacuums the floor when you’re trying to watch the game, but it STARTS with the fact that she was trained NOT to ask you for help with the cleaning. That’s right! Well meaning people train their kids that its RUDE to ask for some things directly, or to say what you really mean. Sure, it SEEMS nice to avoid asking people for help and instead wait for the “nice” people to offer their help. It seems “nice” to ask your friend details of their day first as a segue way into dialogue when you’re actually aching to talk about your OWN week. It seems “nice” to ask your co-workers where they’d like to go for lunch when you’ve actually got your heart set on Chinese. But these are NOT nice ways to behave. These are passive-aggressive behaviors parading as “nice”.
If you find yourself hinting around about what you’d like for your birthday, or waiting to be asked or surprised, you, my friend, are passive aggressive. If you call up a friend and ask about her day, then stew because she doesn’t reciprocate, your passive-aggressive (P-A) training is interfering with your life. If you go along with what your friends want to do on your night out but find yourself vaguely prickly and disgruntled without knowing why, you’re one! If you find yourself getting angry and silent a lot without really knowing why, you too. If you can’t ask for what you want in bed (even if your partner wants to know!) its time to re-train yourself!
As adults, we all have the right AND the responsibility to re-train ourselves. If you’ve read The Secret, The Law of Attraction, or other such books, you know that you can achieve your dreams if you focus on what you truly want. But your P-A training may have been so effective that you can no longer really identify what you want out of life or even lunch. This is sadly unfortunate but common.
How to Change?
Re-training yourself is both easier and harder than you think. It’s easy because you only need to practice ASKING for what you want and SAYING what you mean early and often. It is difficult because doing so goes against all your training. It may feel awkward, rude or incredibly difficult to start speaking up at first. You may discover you often have no idea exactly what you want. Alas, you’re in good company.
But if you want to stop your angry outbursts, stop hinting around and being misunderstood, stop manipulating others to get what you want, the solution is always the same:
- Identify your wants and needs
- Say it out loud.
- Say it to others.
With practice, it will become easier and more natural.
What if you’re struggling with step 1.? One solution is to place your hand over your heart, ask yourself how you feel or what you want & notice your feelings. This is an NLP technique that makes good decision-making easier. Begin to use this technique whenever you’re unsure of your feelings or desires. After some practice, your own feelings will become more and more clear.
Step 2. involves speaking out loud to yourself. Even this may feel awkward at first. But ALL healthy people talk to themselves and talking out loud is practice for speaking up to others.
When it comes to step 3. you’ll want to guard against anger. It might at first seem like you have to feel an angry sense of injustice before speaking up to others. Some “How To” memes may even encourage your right to say “NO” and reject those who seem to bully you into going along with the desires of others. But as an adult, you owe it to yourself to accept that no one in your life is overriding your wants and needs, you’re simply letting them have their way by keeping silent. Don’t muster your courage to speak with anger or blame. Simply speak up when you know what you want.
You’ll also be speaking up to say what you DON’T want, but avoid focusing on the No’s. In fact you’ll do well to soften the No’s by using phrases like: I’d rather not. I really prefer not to. I’m going to have to decline. I’d love to, if only I had the time. I’m afraid I’ve got my heart set on something else. So kind of you to ask, I’ll take a rain check. Soon you’ll find that the only one who was bullying you was yourself and the voices in your head. Voices, btw that may sound vaguely like an angry parent telling a child its rude to ask…or deny.
Remember: speak your desires early and often. Soon it will be fun and easy! If the transition back to getting what you want out of life (instead of what everyone else wants FOR you) is too hard, come in to Clear Mirror Healing for help and support. We’ll get you back in charge of your own life in as few as 3 sessions!
Footnote: If you’ve read all this and find yourself thinking “Huh, I always speak my mind.” It’s very likely you are somewhere on the ASD spectrum ( See ASD is NOT a Disease ) And all your parent’s efforts to train you out of speaking clearly and directly have happily failed. Congratulations! If you want to find friends who are also clear, direct, uninhibited and TRULY KIND, look for other ASD folks. They’ll be the one’s speaking up only when they actually have something to say…and the one’s who’s fashion sense is a bit unique…and the one’s content with a good book or their own solitude. You know the type: the folks like YOU.