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In many life situations, including in the workplace, feelings of frustration and anger can surface. The desire to avoid confrontation and stifle these emotions is a common response. However, when those strong feelings are left unaddressed, they can manifest as passive-aggressive communication.
Passive-aggressive behaviour surfaces in different ways. It is sometimes used with the intent of secretly getting back at the person or group on the receiving end; other times, the passive aggression is not deliberate. It might present through body language, like eye-rolling, exaggerated sighs, o...
There are many reasons people communicate passive-aggressively. This type of behaviour can arise when someone doesn’t feel comfortable or capable of express...
Passive-aggressive behaviour can be intensely frustrating for the targeted person or people because it’s hard to identify, difficult to prove, and may even be unintentional. Passive aggression can lead to more conflict and mistrust because it prevents people from having a direct and honest conver...
Some passive-aggressive comments are so subtle that you might not realize they can be received as passive-aggression. Below are a few widely used passive-aggressive communication examples, including ways to reword to avoid misunderstanding.
Per my last email
Use this instead:...
Use this instead: What do you think about trying XYZ instead?
“For future reference . . .” assumes that the recipient is
a) aware of the reference you’re making and
b) that your approach or insight is the only correct course of action.
Asking for their ...
Use this instead: I don’t feel good about this. Can we talk about it in person?
These words are contradictory, indicating that it’s both OK and that you’re dismissing it at the same time. A statement that’s both assertive (“I don’t feel . . . ”) and emotionally honest reduc...
Use this instead: I’m excited to work together to find the best solution.
Bringing in a manager should not be the first resort for working out conflict. This alternative signals that you’re willing to problem-solve with your coworker, and it promotes team cooperation. It’s ...
Use this instead: I can clarify. Which part is confusing?
Although a report or situation might be clear for you, not everyone will comprehend it the way you do. This alternative statement is effective because it doesn’t undermine the other person’s intelligence; instead, it...
While the above section highlights common instances of passive-aggressive communication, catching passive-aggressive language in all of your emails or internal memos can be challenging.
One way to vet your communication is by asking yourself two questions: “How would I feel if I were on th...
Leaning on passive-aggressive language in professional communication might feel like a safe way to circumvent potential conflict with a coworker. However, hiding feelings of anger and frustration can grow into bigger conflicts in the workplace.
Consider giving your messages a close read to...
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