19 Steps To Deal With People Who Engage In Indirect Conflict With You

Updated on 30 Aug, 2018 at 4:53 pm


Passive aggressive behavior, which affects the thoughts, emotions and interpersonal interactions of a person, can be frustrating and unproductive for both people involved. Passive aggressive people tend to be become particularly difficult, stubborn, irrational, or ‘tight-lipped’ and express their real feelings in a subtle way, which can be more destructive than expressing anger. How can we deal with people who aren’t straightforward or open with their emotions? Here’s what you can do:

1. Identify the behavior

You can never find a solution to anything unless you identify the problem. Look for signs that tell you are dealing with a passive-aggressive behavior.

2. Research

Buy books or research online about the behavior pattern and the reason behind it. You need to know your enemy (not the person but the behavior) before trying to deal with it.

3. Make a plan


Write down a plan about how to deal with the behavior. Do not make plans in your head, because you may lose your plan when you are in an extremely frustrating situation.

4. Identify your triggers

Realize what it is about the person’s behavior that is triggering the anger/annoyance in you. Make list so that you are sure about what you are saying when you finally confront the person.

5. Identify their motives

Passive-aggressive behavior can be unintentional sometimes, but it is not without a motive. Find out why the person is showing passive-aggressive behavior.

6. What’s the cause?

Is it need for control or jealousy that is bringing out this behavior? These two underlying issues  are most common reasons, though there are many others. Be able to pin point it rather than being general.

7. Practice patience

Believe me, you will need tons and tons of patience if you want to tackle a passive-aggressive behavior pattern.

8. Stand strong

Do not buckle under the pressure, because that would only encourage the behavior. Stand strong and be in control of yourself.

9. Don’t mirror the behavior

It is easier than you think to become a part of this game. Do not mirror their behavior yourself. Make sure you express your feelings clearly and openly.

10. Be calm

Easier said than done when the person you are dealing with gets on your nerves. But unfortunately, your anger and flare-ups only end up serving their purpose.

11. Confront the person

Once you are very sure of your patience and calmness, confront the person when he/she tries to trigger you with their passive aggressive behavior.

12. Do not accept denial

The first thing passive-aggressive people do is deny they have any such behavioral problem. You already have the proof, don’t you?

13. Engage in direct conflict

Since passive aggressive behavior is often expressed to avoid direct conflict, give it to them. Real hard and in the face.

14. Lay firm deadlines

A common way of being passive aggressive is not doing something that’s asked of him/her. Lay down firm deadlines with time (not days) and the consequences that will follow.

15. Practice before you preach

Be firmly assertive in your communication. Let the person know that you expect the same from them.

16. Overlook subtle messages

Ignore the subtle messages. Pretend as though nothing has happened.

17. Elephant in the room

Since the passive-aggressive person is never going to do it, point a finger and address the elephant in the room directly.

18. Help

Make it clear that you know what the problem is, yet you want to help them.

19. Finally – be supportive


Show positive response and support even when you see a tiny glimpse of change. Assure the person that being open and even aggressive is better than passive-aggressiveness.

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