We have been discussing ways of communicating anger. To date, we have spoken about passive forms and aggressive forms of anger expression. According to the research of Beverly Engel, the passive-aggressive style of communicating anger has portions of both forms. This style of anger expression can be difficult to understand for the person who is dealing with someone who processes anger this way.
Passive-Aggressive Expressions of Anger
Here are some descriptions of passive-aggressive anger:
Escape Artist: When failing to fulfill an agreed-upon responsibility, and that failure is costly, he or she overreacts, defensively saying the other individual is always jumping on him or her.
Sulker: He or she agrees reluctantly to comply to a reasonable request, as though the request were a contest, but then complains the entire time and even days afterward about complying, so that the other person surely knows that he or she was allowed to “win” but must pay the “price.”
Anger-Sneak: He or she perceives another person did something and sneakily plants some incriminating items and then watches as he or she squirms when authorities find out and question.
Pretender: He or she seems sweet or cooperative, always speaking well of others. When he or she is crossed, a shift to ingratiating ice-coated words occurs and venomous opinions are surreptitiously spread in the sweetest of ways.
Has passive-aggressive anger become normal for you?
As described in the categories above, passive-aggressive anger expressions are perplexing. It may take some time to become aware of what truly is happening; therefore, it is easy to envision how difficult it would be to relate to someone who is passively-aggressively expressing anger.
Yet, when one has experienced this style of anger repetitively, one can become accustomed to this style thinking it to be normal behavior. Often, you will hear the rationalization…“That is just how he (or she) is!”
If you have a family member who expresses anger this way, you may feel loyal to him or her (family loyalties can be unrecognized) and attempt to excuse the anger while absorbing the impact. These situations are “no-win” no matter how you do or do not respond.
This type of anger expression creates insecurity, confusion and apathy. It is quite destructive to trust in relationships. And if it becomes learned, it can be passed on to other relationships and the next generation of children (transgenerational legacies).
Consider how you and those you know communicate anger
It is most important to realize characteristics of passive-aggressive anger and how they can be displayed.
This awareness will allow one to confront it effectively and with clarity. Hopefully, we can then help the individual who is displaying this form of anger communication to realize its destructive impact on relationships. Awareness is the first step in leading to authentic and healthy forms of communicating anger.
More to come on anger communication styles. Thanks again for reading my posts.
Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Information taken from Preventing Violence through Anger Management, 2006, Diane Wagenhals. Licensed Materials. All rights reserved.