The term frenemy has recently made its way into the pop culture lexicon and there is perhaps no person for whom this term is more applicable than the passive-aggressive friend. Passive-Aggressive behavior is destructive, hurtful and can be nearly impossible for its victims to manage. A friend who engages in passive aggressive can be extraordinarily hurtful, and the ease with which they get away with their hurtful behavior can be maddening. While the simple solution to a passive-aggressive friendship is to cut the friend out of your life, this is much easier said than done. After all, we choose our friends for a reason and your passive aggressive friend may have wonderful redeeming qualities. In short, it may not be necessary to give up hope on your friend. Here’s how to turn your passive-aggressive frenemy into a true blue best friend:
Why Are People Passive-Aggressive?
If you want to stop a person’s passive-aggressive behavior, you need to understand why they’re engaging in it in the first place. Passive-aggressive people have found a way to stand up to people without being confrontational, and are typically most likely to engage in undermining behavior when their egos are bruised. Some examples of this kind of behavior can include:
-Backhanded compliments: “Oh, that dress looks much better on you than the things you usually wear!”
-Attacking a person’s interests or character and then denying it: “I would never be able to do your job. It’s just so boring. I don’t mean you’re boring. We’re just different!”
-Gossiping about a person behind their back
-Periodically excluding you from the group for no apparent reason: “My friend all like to x” (and x is something you don’t like!)
-Not showing up for planned outings
In some cases the passive-aggressive behavior is a way for them to punish you for some perceived slight. However, it’s more likely that the passive-aggressive behavior has nothing to do with you. People generally don’t engage in this kind of behavior with one person only; it’s a relationship style as much as any other style, so someone who is passive-aggressive is most likely this way to varying degrees in all of their relationships.
Confronting Passive-Aggressive Behavior
The very best way to end the hurtful passive-aggressive behavior of a friend is to directly confront them. People engage in passive-aggressive behavior to avoid confrontation, so forcing a person to address her hurtful behavior automatically makes that behavior less likely to occur. It’s important when confronting the behavior not to attack directly, but instead to address the specific comments made. Your friend needs to know that she will no longer be able to get away with hurtful statements and flakiness. Some conversation starters might include:
“I like the job I have, and it hurts my feelings when you imply it is not good enough.”
“Did you just insult me or did I misunderstand? Please don’t say things like that to me.”
“When we make plans and you don’t show up, it makes me want to stop making plans.”
“If you don’t want me to participate in group activities, then you should not invite me.”
With a passive-aggressive person, the key is to call out the behavior as soon as it happens. Because people who engage in this destructive behavior are afraid of confrontation, they will either deny it or say it was taken out of context if you bring it up later.
Don’t Play the Game
Unfortunately, passive-aggressive behavior tends to beget more passive-aggressive behavior. This is probably why women get a reputation for being so mean to each other. It starts with passive aggression by one party and then quickly spirals out of control. The point is this: don’t attempt to get back at your friend by sinking to her level. Further, if you’re the victim of passive aggression, make sure to check your own behavior and make sure you aren’t the instigator!
When To Move On
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a friend just can’t move past her passive-aggressive behavior. While some might say that this is reason enough to end the friendship, it’s important to take a long hard look at the sum of the friendship before breaking up with your friend. If the passive aggressive behavior is only sporadic, then it’s not your job to force your friend to change. If, however, your friend’s behavior is interfering in your life or making friendship with them intolerable, it’s time for a friendship breakup. Rather than just ignoring your friend, however (which is passive-aggressive in itself), you need to have something of a breakup and tell them why their behavior means you can’t be friends anymore.
Ending a friendship because of passive-aggression can be extremely difficult, but no friendship is worth it if it is causing you emotional harm. Moreover, by pointing out the behavior and ending the friendship you may be doing your friend a long term service by forcing them to take a look at their way of relating to friends.