Responding to Passive Aggressive comments

A good way (tho not the only way) to respond to PA comments is to call their bluff. If they’re hinting that you’ve left something undone, ask them straight; “Is there something you wanted me to do?”. If they’re hinting that they’ve been left out, clarify; “You don’t feel left out do you?”. If they insinuating that you’re being a meanie to them, ask them; “Are you ok with this? Is there a problem?”.

That leaves only two paths forward. Either they’ll tell you straight, or they wont.

Unless they’re prepared to tell you straight, you can’t make it your problem. It’s their problem. All you can do is to keep trying to help them share their problem properly, not passively.


How to identify passive agressive comments

Passive Agressive (PA) comments infer that there is a problem (or that you have a problem) without actually saying that there’s a problem. For example; “My last church never did it this way“, “That might make some people feel left out”, “I suppose that will just have to do”. Depending on the inflection and the tone, they could be perfectly reasonable observations. But you know when they’re not just observations.

I’ve always wanted to make a t-shirt that says “Well at least I’m not passive aggressive”. I think that’s hilarious!

It’s really worth training yourself to recognise these type of comments from others and from yourself. A colleague and I used to play a game “Can you say that in a more passive agressive way?” as a fun way of training oourselves to recognise it.
Recognising it is the first step to resolving it. Otherwise you just walk away from the conversation feeling bad, but not really knowing why.

Spaghetti and Pigeon-holes: another “Men vs Women” post

One day I should write a post about how men and women are the same. But not today.

Someone once suggested that mens’ brains are like pigeon-holes and womens’ brains are like spaghetti. I like that analogy and find it helpful. Neither is bad or worse, they’re just different and complementary.

Men are usually quite good at a) categorisation (“What type of conversation are we having? What relationship have we got? Who’s the boss? What’s the next step?”) and b) single focus (“Lets get this done. Here’s the next five steps. I’ve got a solution!! Why are we waiting?!?”)

Women on the other hand are usually quite good at a) seeing connections (“Who will be affected by this? Some people will hear this conversation differently. Mary will hear this from Judy… There are so many layers involved.”) and b) multiple thoughts at once (i.e. switching conversation topics quickly, seeing how solutions don’t help everyone, wanting to think it through more)

Can you see why women often don’t like solutions thrown at them? Because the real problem they are dealing with is that one issue is all intertwined with other issues in their minds!! Husbands (men) can be a wonderful help to their wives by not offering solutions, but by separating the spaghetti and keeping the unrelated ideas unrelated.

In the same way women can help men see how their actions and plans are going to be perceived and heard. They can help guys see connectiveness better.

Don’t condone accusations

Accusations – in any forum – are always serious.

Whether your in a formal minuted meeting, a public forum, an online discussion or a private conversation; accusations are serious forms of gossip.

Accusations commonly move from talking about events to talking about motives or un-heard conversations. They are claims about what other people said or thought.

They shouldn’t be condoned. Feel free to stop people when they make fleeting accusations and ask them to substantiate them; Who said that? How do you know? Was that their intention? Did they tell you? What did you actually see?

Don’t just let accusations pass by. They damage people and relationships. And by the way… be very wary making them yourself.

Turn feelings into numbers

Not every time, but sometimes, its really helpful to ask people to translate their feelings into numbers… just a simple scale of 1-10.

It’s great because it avoids too-positive and too-negative assumptions. When someone says, “Yeah, I’m ok” what do they really mean? Can you trust your gut to read their facial expressions and non-verbal cues? The fact is, I’ve been married for 14 years, and I still have trouble working out how “ok” Julie is when she says she’s “ok”. So how do you expect to know your staff, your members.

So ask them to put it on a scale… “1-10 How are you dealing with this? 1 being a complete mental breakdown, 10 being like you don’t even think about it?”

If their “ok” turns out to be a 3, you’re going to deal with them and help them very differently to if they’re a 7.

And the good thing is, there are loads of categories; how tired are you feeling? What’s your energy levels? etc..