Have you ever said “yes” when you meant “no”? Agreed to do something you really didn’t want to do? Given in to someone’s demands because you didn’t want to make them angry or hurt their feelings? If so, then you have used a passive communication style.
The Passive Personality – Path of Least Resistance
Indeed, there are some times when you will decide it is not worth the hassle, anguish, frustration, time or energy to deal assertively with a person or situation. Instead, you choose to ignore or avoid the problem, often hoping it will just go away. These are your passive times.
Passive personalities are intimidated when faced with manipulative anger and feel guilty when faced with manipulative hurt. Passives may avoid a confrontation, but in so doing they create a great deal of unhappiness for themselves. Most stress is caused by avoiding problems and people rather than dealing with them.
No more excuses, please.
People with passive personalities love to tell themselves that their input does not matter. They even make excuses when someone is treating them badly. Rather than place the blame on the manipulator, they often blame themselves saying, “It must be me. Something I did caused this to happen.” The passive plays right into the hand of the aggressive personality.
It’s easy to see why aggressives love to work with, be friends with and marry passive people. Aggressives like to push others to the limit to see just how much they can get away with. Passives often fail to set any limits at all. They would rather let others make the decisions so they do not have to be responsible if things do not work out.
You must decide to take control.
We all have the power to make our own choices as adults and we have the obligation to assume responsibility for those choices. No one will treat us any better than we expect to be treated. You may have experienced things in your life over which you had no control, but you can control how you allow those experiences to define you as a person.
There are two main reasons passives have a hard time with confrontation. Many simply hate the physiological changes that take place in their bodies when they are in a tense situation. The fear of what might happen if you take a stand combined with the anger and frustration of not speaking up is enough to make anyone ill. Many more learned at a young age that in order to stay out of trouble they needed to keep their heads down and their mouths shut.
Assertive is about taking control of your life. Passive is about letting go of control and handing it to others. Setting boundaries means identifying healthy and ethical principles upon which to base your life and making sure that how you treat others and are treated by others is within the framework of those principles.
How do passives get their way?
They seldom do. Passives generally have low esteem as a result of making unhealthy, even self-destructive, choices. Passive people usually avoid saying “no” in order to be nice. They think the only alternative to being nice is to be mean or selfish. Aggressives enjoy being around passive people because passives allow them to do their own thing, in their own time, in their own way, even if it involves manipulation and/or abuse.
Passives are generally intuitive people who play a game called “let’s see if you can guess what I want”. The problem is that they expect others to do the same for them. This “testing” usually leads to their disappointment.
Surprisingly, the passive person values healthy, assertive principles for everyone but themselves. They do not believe they deserve what they work so hard to give to everyone else. In the passive person’s futile attempt to be all things to all people, they often fail to live up to the very principles they work so diligently to model.
When passivity becomes our default response, then we have a problem because not only do we continue to “compromise” with nothing gained, but our ethics and values are inevitably compromised as well. As a result, our self-esteem is diminished. Compromising with another person is one thing. Compromising ourselves is quite another. It is nearly impossible to maintain a healthy sense of self-respect when passive is the communication style of choice.
Think about a time when you chose to be passive.
Why did you choose to be passive? Were you afraid of hurting someone’s feelings? Were you afraid of making someone angry?
Do you often wish you had said or done something instead of remaining silent? If so, think about communicating more assertively in the future.