Today’s gem comes from a short little book, “In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People” by George Simon Jr.
If you live with, work with or know a manipulator, get thee to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and order this book.
Passive-aggressive behavior drives me nuts.
I am a very direct person, and I don’t like people who can’t tell it like it is. Did I do something wrong? Just tell me. Are you angry with me? Don’t just avoid me — tell me you’re angry and let’s resolve our differences. Don’t want to come to my party? Don’t tell me you’ll be there and then don’t show up.
I can come on strong sometimes, but people who respect that have told me they appreciate knowing where they stand with me. My contempt is not usually a secret. As I’ve aged and my rough edges smooth, I have come to appreciate diplomacy (being direct doesn’t necessarily mean using a lot of four-letter words, for example) but I remain direct and respect a direct approach.
Author George Simon’s definition of standard passive aggression vs. covert aggression — a manipulator’s preferred form of aggression — illuminates a lot of crazy-making behaviors I recognize in past relationships:
Passive-aggression is, as the term implies, aggressing through passivity. Examples of passive-aggression are playing the game of emotional “get-back” with someone by resisting cooperation with them, giving them the “silent treatment,” pouting or whining, not so accidentally “forgetting” something they want you to do because you’re angry and didn’t really feel like obliging them, etc. In contrast, covert aggression is very active, albeit veiled, aggression. When someone is being covertly aggressive, they’re using calculating, underhanded means to get what they want or manipulate the response of others while keeping their aggressive intentions under cover.
After reading this definition, I realize (too, too late in some cases) that I was labeling serious question-my-own-sanity manipulation as run-of-the-mill passive-aggressiveness. Not the same things at all. And coping with a manipulator requires, if you will, aggressive vigilance.
Simon devotes an entire chapter to a manipulator’s covert techniques and another whole chapter to coping with and successfully challenging them.
It’s an enlightening book. If anything you’ve read in this post piques your interest because you recognize covert aggression in an important relationship, get this book today.