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How You Can Stop a Personal Passive-Aggressive Cycle

 

It happens all of the time. There is that one person in a group who is upsetting everyone else. Maybe they show up late all the time. Or maybe they ignore emails. Or maybe they just expect everyone else to clean up after them. Most of the time, you won’t see people outwardly reacting to such a person.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t reacting at all. Many people internalize their anger and frustration when this happens so it is kept from being out in the open. As that anger festers, however, it needs to have a release at some point. This is how the passive-aggressive cycle begins.

The symptoms of being passive-aggressive can be as mild as a sarcastic response to extremely hurtful actions. Instead of creating such a negative cycle, you can stop passive-aggressiveness before it requires a release. Here’s how you do it.

#1. Evaluate the situation. What made you upset in the first place? For many, passive-aggressiveness begins when it feels like someone else is trying to take away your personal power. They’re invading your boundaries. So ask yourself this: will you be angry about what has happened next week? If not, then choose to let the anger go.

#2. Summarize the problem. Why is it that the actions which have triggered you are so bothersome? Sometimes the roots of our anger have grown quite deep. Childhood trauma, religious teachings, personal bias – they can all affect the levels and depth of our passive-aggressive responses. We must honestly summarize the feelings which triggered the cycle in order to stop it. It’s usually not the person, but an accumulation of internalized feelings that causes us to spiral out of control.

#3. Connect the feelings to your response. We always have the chance to make a choice. We choose to be passive-aggressive. We choose to let things go. We choose to let anger fester. When we can connect the feelings to our triggers that cause us to lash out, then it becomes easier to recognize and avoid situations and people who create such an internally toxic environment – often through no fault of their own. It’s not about them in most cases. It’s about you.

#4. Explore alternative outcomes. Instead of being sarcastic with someone, what is another way you could respond to them? Could you walk away? Could you give them an honest answer? Maybe you could tell them that you didn’t appreciate their actions? When we explore more acceptable ways to respond than what passive-aggressiveness can provide, then we are giving ourselves a chance to improve our future.

#5. Practice the best alternative. Stand in front of a mirror and practice saying an alternative response. Or practice walking away from a difficult situation with a trusted friend, co-worker, or loved one. Bring a journal with you if writing down your feelings and thoughts is your alternative to letting anger and frustration fester. If you can practice this skill once per day for just 7 days, you’ll be able to have it available as an option when the next frustrating event takes place.

Dealing with passive-aggressiveness is more than just learning a new coping skill or trying to return yourself back to “normal” functioning. Unless each of us can clarify the events which cause us to enter a passive-aggressive cycle in the first place, those negative spirals will never really stop.

Take a moment, be honest with yourself, and think about why you react when someone makes you angry and frustrated. Then implement these steps to stay in better control.

Have you used these steps to help you stay out of a negative passive-aggressive response? Did it help? Was it challenging? I’d love to hear your perspective about how helpful these steps happen to be.

Why You Need to Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

It’s not always easy to step out into the public eye. Whether it’s a speaking engagement or a conversation with the cashier, there are times when I know I’d rather be at home watching movies on Netflix. In order to expand a personal network or relationship, the first courageous step must be taken.

A step that takes you outside of your comfort zone.

When something feels terrifying, even on the smallest level, our natural inclination is to avoid that “something” no matter what. To stay inside of the comfort zone. Here’s how I work on taking that first step into the terror.

#1. Just be honest with yourself. There are many things I don’t like about stepping into the public eye, but that is because I’ve been rejected, neglected, or even bullied a few times by strangers who thought my ideas weren’t worth anything. We must be honest with ourselves and look at why we’re hesitant to step outside of our comfort zones so any issues we have can be addressed immediately.

#2. Make each moment your own. I find myself fighting the inclination to change my thinking when others try to bully me into a specific approach. Or ridicule me to make my approach seem like it isn’t the right choice. We need to each take ownership of each moment we are given. It’s our thoughts and feelings that are important. Not everyone will agree with us or embrace what we have to offer, but that doesn’t make our perspective incorrect.

#3. Recognize collaboration opportunities. I had this plaque hanging up in my home while growing up that said this: “A cord of 3 strands is not easily broken.” Sometimes we must step outside of our comfort zones to build our networks or chase new opportunities. There are times when we can also step out of our comfort zones in the company of trusted associates, friends, and family. If there is an opportunity to take that first step forward with someone, then take it. We are all stronger when we’re together.

#4. Be willing to take a step backward if necessary. I’m stubborn. I don’t like admitting when I’ve failed or when I’ve made a poor decision. I just like to keep pressing forward to let the chips fall where they may. In that stubbornness, however, I’ve learned an interesting lesson. If you can pause for a moment, evaluate where you are, and recognize that a different course of action may be a better opportunity, then you can actually venture further away from your comfort zone. If we can recognize a moment of stubbornness and make a correction immediately, even if it is a backwards step, we can still move forward when the time is right.

#5. Take the plunge – just do it. I am in control of my actions. You are in control of yours. When the time comes to step outside of a comfort zone, it is each individual soul who controls whether that first step forward is going to happen. Make the decision to take the plunge.

There are days when I must force myself into the next great frontier of life instead of grabbing a bag of sour cream and cheddar potato chips and enjoying a day of Netflix. Then there are days when stepping outside of my comfort zone is the only thing I want to do. Some steps are easy. Others are difficult. We must take them nonetheless.

What actions do you take when you’re ready to step outside of your comfort zone? What outcomes did you receive if you took the steps outlined above? I’d love to hear your stories about each step you’ve been able to take. 

Why Taking Your Time With a Decision Is So Important

 

When there’s a decision to be made, the natural response is to make it quickly. We want things to be as perfect as possible. We want to correct problems right away. The only problem is that a fast decision often ends up being the wrong decision.

At least it has been that way for me.

Of course there are times when a fast decision must be made. You don’t want to stand in front of a car speeding at you in the crosswalk. You’ll either go one way or the other quickly to get out of the way, right? You won’t just stand there and debate which way of escape has better long-term merits as you get thrown into the windshield of the vehicle.

In the business world, we must focus more on the long-term merits a decision may provide. Instead, and I count myself included in this, we take the emergency approach to decision-making because we settle for the short term benefits.

The Difference Between Confidence and Skill

The reason why we settle for the fast answer so often is because of our confidence. We’ve had success before and we know that we can have success again. The only problem is that these causes you and I to believe that we already know everything.

Fate has a funny way of proving that perspective wrong.

As we gain experience in what we do professionally, we gain confidence. We assume that this means we’re also gaining skills, but this isn’t necessarily the case. We also become afraid of three little words: I don’t know.

Strangely enough, the group of people who tend to make the best and most consistent decisions over time are those who are willing to admit that they don’t know something. That admission forces them into what I call “research mode” so strategic thinking can happen.

In other words, confidence helps with survival. Strategic thinking skills help create better long-term decisions.

Take Your Time and Don’t Be So Sure About an Outcome

When mistakes happen, it’s not because there was a lack of skill or experience. It’s because there was too much overconfidence. Sometimes it is better to slow down, assume that you’re not sure about the circumstances of a decision that needs to be made, and approach the situation as if it was the first time you’d ever encountered it.

What separates the good from the best is the ability to apply that mindset on a consistent basis. I know it’s far too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you know what is best. Maybe you do. But what happens if you do not? What risks will you face needlessly because a fast decision was made instead of a good one?

I’ve learned to slow down. To not treat every situation as if it were a life-threatening scenario. Even when my gut instinct is to go in one direction, I slow things down to openly and honestly examine the other solutions that might be in play. Sometimes I go with my gut. Sometimes I’ve discovered better solutions by going against my gut instincts.

In doing so, the short-term and long-term needs I have can be met.

How do you approach the decision-making process? I’d love to hear about how you slow down the process to ensure you’re taking the best possible solution out of every scenario. 

What It Means To Actually Listen To Someone

 

The average person believes that they are a pretty good listener. Some of this attitude comes from self-confidence. I’ve also found that many people feel like not talking when others are speaking, being aware of your non-verbal communication, and be able to specifically repeat what has just been said qualifies them as being a good listener.

Unfortunately it does not.

What does it mean to actually listen to someone? In short, good listeners are actively involved in the conversation instead of sitting on the sidelines. The goal isn’t to be a parrot who can repeat something. The goal should be to understand without a doubt the other person’s perspectives and opinions that are being offered.

Understanding is very different from repetition.

How can me make sure we understand more and repeat less of what someone tells us? Here are are few tricks that I’ve found which help me to stay engaged with the listening process.

#1. Listening doesn’t tear others down. Even when there’s a contrary opinion, good listening must have respect for that opinion. Far too often, and I’m guilty of this myself, there’s this need to interrupt someone because we feel they are “wrong.” We’ve got to step into the other person’s shoes and determine why they think they are “right.”

 

#2. Listening is about asking questions. Good listeners don’t just sit back and do their best bobblehead impression. They are actively asking questions when they’re not sure about what they have heard. Listening is a two-way conversation that requires dialog to go back and forth. Sometimes it may be necessary to be passive, but even then, I’ve found that at the end of the dialogue, it’s better to go back and ask questions then get up and leave.

 

#3. Listening is still about repetition. It’s just not the word-for-word repetition many people seem to think it is. The goal of listening is to make sure you’ve understood the exact point the other person or people are trying to make. I’ve found that for this process to be effective, I need to start with a phrase like this. “What it sounds like you’re trying to say is this…” and then I offer the impressions received from the dialogue. Then I end it with, “Does this mean we’re on the same page?” If not, the incorrect impressions I received can be adjusted for better understanding.

 

#4. Listening helps each person involved become better. Listeners will invariably provide meaningful feedback when a conversation is over. The trick here is that you can’t just jump into the middle of a conversation and attempt to solve problems because you think you’ve got solutions. I’ve found it is much easier to wait until the conversation has been completed to begin the solutions process because then all parties can be involved in finding the right answer. It’s cooperative instead of combative this way.

 

Listening is a skill that we can all develop. As long as there is a willingness to become active within a dialogue, there is an opportunity to practice these skills.

 

How do you feel about actively listening? Can you share a listening success story? I’d love to hear some of your thoughts and comments about what listening means to you.

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