Are You Being Hurt by Snide, Passive Aggressive Remarks?

controlling behavior

Are you in the receiving end of passive aggressive snide remarks?

Have you ever experienced the odd situation where someone is putting you down, with a funny joke, just in your face? The person is making fun at you, highlighting a personal characteristic of yours in the worst possible way…and is it supposed to be funny?

For the other person, of course it’s funny! We in society are somehow allowed to make fun of each other, and so many people develop full time jobs criticizing others in caricatures, editorials, comic stump, or "roasts."

At least, you know what is coming from one of the "professional jokesters"... what you don’t expect is that the same "I’m better than you, and I will show you how stupid you are" attitude will appear in a relative, co-worker or best friend, and sometimes, when you least expect it! For the receiver, it feels very much as a personal attack, and worst because it is coming from someone near us.

Do you have to deal with someone who tries to manipulate and intimidate you with insults or put downs veiled as "jokes" ? Is there someone who speaks to you, or about you to others, in a way that demeans your contributions?

Even when it’s used in the context of "joking," it’s abusive if it puts you down in some way, or destroys some positive aspect of yours. Verbal abuse can come from your boss, coworkers, family and friends. And of course, it can be coming from your life partner! Snark behavior is another word for this attitude, that allows people to get away with abusive behavior, because it is explained away as a joke.. "I’m just kidding.."

Of course, the first impulse is to move away from mean critiques and demeaning comments, isolating or removing these snarky people from our lives. Sometimes it is not possible, like when the person is our spouse or our boss. Perhaps, finally, we have to come to the conclusion that we need to learn how to deal with abusive people, and stop verbal abuse cold.

The first question that pops up is: are there some people who attract verbal abuse more than others? If you are a quiet, non argumentative, non confrontational, friendly and sympathetic person, who tends to give a patient and gentle response, some people will naturally mistake you as a person who is weak, easy to influence and control. Some abusive people could wrongly imagine that they can have a free and funny ride with you!

Is there a way that you can be who you are and stop verbal abuse at the same time?
Of course: you can be nice and patient, while at the same time be on the look out for snarky comments.

Once you get the first, you can stop it dead on its tracks by saying:

"I like being with you, and doing things together. However, when you feel the need to put me down with snarky comments as the one you did just now, all my motivation is gone and I want to leave this activity immediately. Is this the results you want? Your feeling smug and funny at my expense destroys any respect I can have for you. Let me know what you want to do just now."

Of course, you still have the choices of either getting angry or losing your temper with the abusive person, however answering back the perceived aggression with more anger will escalate the conflict.

Sometimes, people don’t have any idea of the nasty impact that their comments are having on others: they grew up in a very abusive environment, where this kind of nasty jokes were the norm and don’t realize that other people can be hurt by their "jokes." Just asserting yourself back to the offender can give this person an opportunity to assess the damage done and correct their ways of relating to you.

You can repeat the assertive comment several times to give the other time to catch up with the message and really know that demeaning comments are out. It’s only up to you to decide if the other person is really trying to stop using verbal abuse to control and demean you, or if the situation in general can’t be healed. In that case, you will know when to move on and leave the verbally abusive situation. If the situation develops in your work place, there is help here:

Guerrilla Tactics Against Passive Aggression in the Workplace

To your success!

NoraNora Femenia is a well known coach, conflict solver and trainer, and CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc. Visit her blog and signup free to be connected to her innovative conflict solutions, positive suggestions and life-changing coaching sessions, along with blog updates, news, and more!

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