Career coach shares the phrase that will stop passive-aggressive coworkers in their tracks
It's all about being direct.
Dealing with passive-aggressive people, whether at work or in family life, can be very frustrating. It's like trying to solve a puzzle without all the pieces. Their indirect communication and subtle digs force you to guess what they mean, turning simple conversations into a minefield.
It's draining because you're always on edge, trying to decode hidden messages or intentions, which can create a tense atmosphere. It's tough to have to go through all the extra work when you're just trying to get along and keep things smooth.
It also means that passive-aggressive people can take shots at you that you can’t defend because they hide behind the plausible deniability that they were just being helpful.
Jennifer Brick, a career counselor who goes by the moniker “Your Career Bestie'' has some excellent advice for those forced to deal with passive-aggressive people. She has a simple phrase that, when delivered correctly, can stop them from getting beneath your skin.
Replying to @brett.lancaster you shutdown your passive aggressive coworker, here's why they aren't going to admit they're trying to be hurtful. #career #fyp
“I started using this with passive-aggressive people last year, and there has not been even one case where I have used it where the person hasn’t backed off with their toxic little tail between their legs,” she said in a video with over 1.4 million views.
Brick advises that when dealing with someone who’s passive-aggressive, to in “your most neutral tone” and ask one simple yet direct question: “Are you trying to be helpful or hurtful?"
Brick’s approach is a confident, but non-confrontational way of exposing the passive-aggressive person for their toxic tactics while allowing them to save face. That can be important when you have to deal with them on a regular basis.
In a follow-up video, she notes that it is “by design” that the person will say they’re being helpful.
Replying to @beachy625 ofc they're going to lie, we expect them to. here's why...
“The statement I shared in that video is a light confrontation, and they are going to avoid it at all costs,” she continued. “They are going to backpedal, they are not going to say that their intention is to be hurtful. They want to conceal their toxic selves,” Brick concluded.
Bricks’ advice is helpful because people use passive-aggressive communication to hide behind their nefarious ways so they can be hard to expose. This is a way for you to acknowledge their unfair communication tactics without ratcheting the situation up into a full-blown confrontation.
Dr. Cortney Warren agrees with Brick's tactic. The Harvard-trained psychologist says the key is to remain neutral with the person and ask them about their intentions, just like Brick. "You could say something like: 'I know you’re telling me you’re not upset, but it doesn’t feel that way to me.' Or, 'I get the impression that you’re upset. Do you want to talk about it?'” she tells CNBC.
This is another way to confidently address the aggressive hidden message without being confrontational.
"Remind them that you care and are willing to talk if and when they’re ready," Dr. Warren continues. "In the meantime, walk away and focus on what you do have control over: you."