How to Deal with a Passive-Aggressive Friend


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We can all exhibit symptoms of passive-aggressive behavior from time to time, but how do you handle a friend who is constantly creating drama, sugar-coating personal jabs at you and being just plain toxic?

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According to Time, passive-aggressiveness comes in varying degrees with clinicians differing on whether it qualifies as a full-blown personality disorder, but they all agree the symptoms include deliberate inefficiency, an avoidance of responsibility and a refusal to state their needs or concerns directly.

In her book 8 Keys to Eliminating Passive Aggressiveness, California-based therapist Andrea Brandt, Ph.D, says of people possessing those characteristics, “They find people who enable them. They act passively aggressively to people who won’t call them out.”

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To avoid being ensnared in your passive-aggressive friend’s trap you may want to:

Keep a Positive Attitude – It can take a toll when you are constantly being dragged into someone’s negative drama. Try to keep a positive outlook by focusing on the good things that are happening in your life and not the chaos your friend seems to constantly be embroiled in. Remember his, or her life choices are not a reflection of yours.

Set Limits – Dealing with a passive-aggressive person can be draining, so set limits and healthy boundaries. Be up front and tell your friend in a clear and calm manner what behavior you’re not willing to tolerate. If your passive-aggressive friend is constantly being late, or cancelling on plans you have made, let them know you aren’t prepared to deal with that. Likewise, if your friend tries to embroil you in their drama by hinting at things that may be going wrong, don’t bite! It is perfectly ok for your own sanity to step away temporarily for a breather from the relationship. You have to put your own well-being first.


Remain Emotionally Neutral – So you have received another backhanded compliment from your passive-aggressive friend? Instead of responding with a sarcastic retort – thus making your friend look like the “victim” – reply with a simple “thank you.” By staying emotionally neutral you can remain calm whilst letting your friend know you aren’t prepared to be dragged into their game.

Know When To Step Away – Ultimately it may be your friendship is unable to withstand the dynamics of being friends with someone who is passive-aggressive – and that’s ok. If the friendship leaves you unfulfilled, angry, sad or stressed it is ok to walk away and end the friendship. Don’t stick with staying in a toxic relationship because of guilt. If you have articulated to your friend in a calm and forthright manner how their behavior makes you feel and they still continue to act the same way, it may be best to step away from the relationship in order to protect your own sanity.