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Passive-Aggressive Behaviors Destroy Relationships

A simple yet creative approach to personal growth and leadership development. (Reprint Saturday, March 8, 2008)

 “I have always despised the whining yelp of complaint and cowardly resolve.” -Robert Burns, Scottish Poet known as the Bard of Ayrshire, Robert Burns 

Passive-aggressive behaviors destroy relationships. Whining, complaining, blaming and deflecting responsibility for every problem that arises exasperates others. Relationships require people to take ownership over their own actions and life, so that all members can deal with each other on equal ground.

Many people form passive-aggressive habits without even knowing it because their friends or loved ones are afraid to confront them or tell them the truth. No one likes to hurt a friend’s feelings, but are you really doing them a favor by ignoring these types of behaviors?

No. If you care about someone, you tell them the truth; otherwise, if your cannot or do not, you will eventually abandon the relationship altogether. The responsibility, though, ultimately lies with the individual offender. The majority of the times – when it’s not a clinical condition such as PSTD – passive-aggressive behaviors are a choice.

It’s easy to blame others for your own misfortune, and it’s hard to take accountability for your own actions and condition in life. The ‘whoa-is-me’ attitude or the ‘it’s not my fault’ mentality is an easy way for cowards to justify their actions, or lack thereof.

Anger, insecurity, lack of self-confidence and fear of failure are often linked to passive-aggressive behaviors, so it is important to recognize and address these feelings before they get deeply rooted. If you want to build and maintain successful relationships with others, they will expect you to take responsibility for yourself. Friends want to help you get through tough times and listen to your opinions, but whining never inspires anyone to want to come to your aid.

Passive-aggressive behaviors ultimately destroy relationships. If you have a tendency to whine, complain and blame, the only thing you can be certain of is that people will eventually stop listening to you. Successful relationships are built on equality and trust, and the only way you instill these things in others is by taking responsibility for yourself.

But should all passive-aggressive people be treated this way?

Individuals suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder cognitively recognize the concept of over-whining being a tiresome burden, however they often bound in the opposite extreme and internalize–feelings. These individuals become so certain that no one wants to hear of their struggles and no one can or wants to help that they essentially see themselves as altered and isolated in experiences from those around them. And though there usually is a root issue, event or journey point that caused the condition, many become overly sensitive to the world’s frustration with whiners and so they resolve suffer in silence which further exacerbates the condition and symptoms.

Although the human instinct is to handle all such “chronically damaged” and troubled infividuals exactly as they would a stereotypical nagging spouse or neighbor–simply walking away or avoiding–those suffering from PTSD are already diminished in their ability to parse, separate and organize events. They stack events such as relationship rejections, and as a result spiral further into isolated distress. The result is deep emotional upheaval and depression which sometimes even extends itself into physical ailment and death.

So how can you tell whether you are being used as a dumping ground of aimless whining and complaints or are being reached out to by someone who needs that life-line? Perhaps the best way to react to any relationship is to stop and think, “What would this person do if it was me?” (or simply apply that Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”)


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