It’s that special time of year again! Christmas lights, turkey… and passive-aggressive relatives
You know the ones I’m talking about, too. The ones that smile insincerely as they tell you how interesting it is that your new boyfriend is a driver or that your stuffing is um… different. The ones that instigate family drama and dominate conversations with their back-handed compliments.
They can get under your skin, but you don’t have to let them ruin your holidays.
Here are five different conflict resolution skills and methods for dealing with these passive-aggressive people when they try to latch onto your neck and suck out all your holiday cheer:
1. Ignorance is bliss
This approach can be employed by simply pretending that you are dim-witted enough to take their obvious insult at face value by responding happily, “Why yes, I did get fired last month! That’s a bummer, right?”
Pros: It takes all the air out of Aunt Maggie’s bad vibe balloon and will most likely have her searching for a different target for her poisonous perceptions.
Cons: Everyone within earshot is going to probably think that you’re too clueless to realise when you’re being dissed.
2. Turn the tables
This will require some charismatic flair and a cursory knowledge of performance, but if you’ve ever scored a role in a school play or done karaoke sober, you should be fine. Essentially, you need to stop them mid-sentence and ask them, with your best poker face, if they are okay. Use your imagination. Tell them you’re concerned.
Pros: It will totally confuse them, but they’ll be suspicious that you’re on the offensive. This will generally put an end to it for the evening.
Cons: You have to be careful with this. You could easily aggravate the situation, so proceed with caution.
3. Avoid them
It will become much less fun for the passive-aggressive family member to continue being a drag if they notice that their intended target always seems to be in a different part of the room to what they are.
Pros: Well, this is fairly obvious. If you spend the entire day watching TV when they’re holding court in the kitchen, or outside when they are inside just being their usual lovely selves, you will avoid having to be the recipient of their vitriolic vibe.
Cons: You will be investing quite a bit of energy playing distant relative hide and seek for the entire day, and this will make it next to impossible to enjoy the holiday, the company and the meal. This method is low on my list of favourites, but there have been times when it was also the most prudent for a given situation.
4. Call them out
At a holiday gathering, this can be done safely and publicly – and that, my friends, is the best way to do it. So, if your Uncle Richard makes a remark about how well you always seem to pull off thrift store suits, you can increase your volume to project to everyone in the room, “I think Uncle Richard just took a shot at me! Uncle Richard, are you hinting that I can’t afford to buy clothes at retail?” You can, of course, make your own alterations to this approach based upon your personal situation, but I’m sure you get the idea.
Pros: There are actually two in this case. First of all, it’s fun. Let’s be honest, you can skilfully and deftly go from intended victim to aggressor with a few well-placed phrases. Secondly, you will leave the antagonist so dumbfounded, I doubt they will ever attempt to make you the butt of their low energy tirade in the future.
Cons: You can very easily change the dynamic of your relationship with the other person forever. As I mentioned, you will undoubtedly leave Uncle Richard speechless and more than slightly embarrassed, so, as tempting as it may be to utilise this approach, “play the tape to the end” as they say in psychological circles, if you are not prepared for the sort of blow-back throwing this much shade will net you, you may not want to use it. Your call, of course.
5. Try to out-do them
Last, but certainly not least, is ye olde tit-for-tat method. Say, for example, when dinner is served, your cousin – who we’ll refer to as Brunhilda – remarks that the turkey isn’t as dry as it was at the last three family gatherings, you can thank her and then remark how wonderful her macaroni and cheese tasted this time around – adding that it doesn’t resemble the wall spackle that it always had in the past.
Pros: Talk about shutting someone down! If this is done properly and with the right flair, this will actually lighten the mood and cause all the guests to laugh heartily at the dinner table banter.
Cons: If you incorrectly gauge your audience, it could turn ugly fast. I wouldn’t recommend this method if you happen to belong to one of those families that start passing around the drinks right after breakfast. In situations like that, you could be inviting police intervention. Best you use good judgement if you try this one at Christmas dinner.
Regardless of which of these methods you wind up going with, as long as you do not settle for being the victim of someone’s passive aggression, you will be much more apt to enjoy your holidays. You don’t necessarily have to add fuel to the fire, but I do suggest standing up for yourself and utilising whichever approach works best for you.
Remember, this is a time to be grateful and to spread love. Happy holidays!
Billy Manas is a poet, singer-songwriter, and truck driver from the Hudson Valley in New York with a degree in literature. Follow Billy on Instagram.
This article was reprinted with permission from YourTango.