Thursday, July 08, 2010

Are you missing a bit of old fashioned conflict?

Perhaps some of our readers are asking What???....and others are saying Yes!

Some people could just now be missing a good confrontation, one of those that clean the air and allow you to discharge pent up thoughts and you are ready to reconnect again, baggage dropped, and complaints aired enough.
At least, you know where you are...if you share your life with someone so scared of confrontation that systematically avoids conflict, then you are in another pickle.

If your partner, being told long ago that expressing thoughts and feelings that are negative is socially unacceptable, avoids conflicts, then you are in very shaky ground. You never know for sure what the person is experiencing....but you know enough to be sure that the trash is building up; resentment grows under the shield of silence, and some storm is brewing in the horizon.

How do you know? well, you learn fast that the signals are there, for you to see: “Forgetting" to deliver what you need and he promised; couching his anger in kind words followed by a sharp comment on you, agreeing with you and then telling others you’re wrong, being habitually late to meetings where you are invested – these are just a few of the ways a passive-aggressive person manages to express his hostility while still maintaining his “good guy” image.

Using passive-aggression is a way to control situations and people without seeming to be in control, or avoiding accountability. It is a very weird way of being there, but not taking responsibility. By allowing others -in this case you- to take charge, he leaves himself only one option for getting what he wants: sabotage.

What is the solution? To train yourself on assertive techniques, of course. Once you have identified the various ways in which he hides from taking on his share of tasks, you can know when he is hiding.

There is a sequence of words, the "I" assertive sequence, that works in this way:

When you....(here you mention the behavior you want to target) I feel (include your feelings) because (explain how his behavior affects you in a direct way).

"When you make fun of me in front of your friends, telling about my shopping expenses, I feel disappointed because it makes me look as if I'm an idiot that doesn't know how to take care of money."

"When you forget to come back to the house in time for us to go together to the doctor's for our child, I feel very sad because you leave me to face his indications alone, without any support."

This way of confronting him is not magic, but takes away the sting of reproach and accusations that he can experience and surely will make him hide again and be angry at you. What you want to say is the impact that his behavior (no more ignored by you, carefully described as fact) has on you.

If you practice this way of reporting your feelings to him, and expect nothing afterwards (don't wait for his excuses or apologies) you will give him all the impact of his behavior without the chance of covering it up with his logic, silence or pouting. Say the phrase and walk away.

1 comment:

Peacewonk said...

From the readers' comments at passiveaggressivehusband, an exasperated lady comment reads as:

"I've never known anyone who broke as many things "by accident" as my husband."

YES, this is a clear indicator....of his hidden anger! Wouldn't she love to have him expressing this anger and challenging her, instead of breaking things by "accident"?
In this way, she only can understand that he could be angry, but get zero information about his motives, and then can do little to solve the problem.
Perhaps you can tell us in which ways you invite your husband to say what is upsetting him?