Passive Aggressive Pitfalls

“Everything all right, honey? You seem a little… off.”

“I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be fine? Is there a reason I might not be fine?”

If you’ve ever found yourself and your significant other having a conversation like the one above, you know that “fine” may not mean “fine” at all… and those questions aren’t rhetorical! Passive aggression can get the best of us, but they don’t bring out the best in our relationships with those we love. Read on to find out the top pitfalls that couples therapists in Littleton know are caused by passive aggression and how to beat them with clear, appropriate communication.

Message delivered, message received. At its most simple level passive aggressive communication can be misinterpreted easily. Many couples come in for counseling or couples therapy in Highlands Ranch because they can’t say what they want—at times, the other person may not even know there is a problem to begin with. When we say things that are not true to our feelings (“I’m fine” when you’re frustrated; “that sounds good” when you hate the idea), we are not giving the other person the information they need to make the right decisions. Instead, state your words clearly, trying to avoid blame. Active listening can help. 

I’ll never get it right. For the person on the “receiving end” of passive aggression, a feeling of hopelessness may occur. No matter what they do, the person being passive aggressive just keeps getting angry—and sometimes, gets more passive aggressive if the other person does not interpret the hidden message. This can lead to deep sadness, increase feelings of depression, and break down the trust in your relationship. Instead, focus on seeking and providing clear feedback. “Another healthy meal, as usual” is less helpful than saying “I really wish we could start cooking healthier meals for the kids, including vegetables and protein, even though I know they just want jam sandwiches and tater tots for every meal.” Making a genuine appreciation of effort is also important (“I’m glad to see Picky Child is eating something other than juice today, so maybe the jam sandwiches weren’t such a bad meal for tonight”).

I feel like nobody listens. The person being passive aggressive is not 100% at fault. If you feel like nobody listens, no matter how many dirty looks, irritated grunts, or “clearly” sarcastic responses you are throwing their way, you can start to feel unappreciated. In fact, most people who fall back on passive aggression often feel frustrated, ignored, and resentful. The more “unheard” you feel, the more you likely fall back on this strategy. The problem is: it doesn’t work. Just like putting out a fire with gasoline, it is quite difficult to make someone listen with passive aggression. Instead, consider writing an honest letter to your partner, or contact a psychologist in Highlands Ranch for animal assisted therapy. Zeke, Dr. Lazarus’s expert therapy dog , can help you learn to both “speak” and to “be quiet” when you need to.

Human beings are gifted with one of the most complex communication systems in existence. However, we are not always good at using our words, thoughts, or feelings effectively. When our goals seem impossible, we learn ways around them—and these “shortcuts” are not always effective in other situations. Redirect your communications around these shortcuts and back on a path to honesty and collaboration that will keep your relationship strong. If you need more help, contact Steve Lazarus, a psychologist in Littleton.


Teaching Your Child Time Management

As the school year winds down, your child is ready to be done with it all! Whether you have a pre-school child ready to move on to kindergarten next year or a high school senior embarking to college, both are going to experience major changes in their lives—including a shift in time. The end of the school year can be the perfect season to help your kids develop time management skills that are vital for success throughout their lives.

A Developmental Perspective

One of the biggest complaints that Littleton child behavior psychologists hear is that kids are slow. Slow to get dressed, slow to get homework done, and all of a sudden, things start getting rushed, done at the last minute, or missed entirely. To keep your wits and help your kids develop theirs, make sure that your expectations are appropriate to your child’s age. In the preschool crowd, time is generally limited to just a few minutes or hours into the future. When your 3-year-old asks “are we there yet?” and asks again just 20 minutes later (on your cross-country road trip!), don’t get frustrated. To him, 20 minutes doesn’t seem unreasonable to drive from Colorado to Maine… and that 20 minutes probably felt like 20 hours. As kids get older, learn to tell time, and experience more timed events (30-minute TV shows, 45-minute classes, etc.), these skills develop.

Teaching Skills

  • Help your child understand how long common tasks take. Getting a basic grasp of how long it takes to shower, finish 10 math story problems, walk the dog around the block twice, or style the perfect hair can help to plan effectively. Teens and adults, especially those with ADHD, often struggle to realize the amount of time they spend on tasks .
  • For your child to have good time management, they must learn a variety of steps. One of the biggest is the passage of time, which does come somewhat with age, but can be developed in other ways as well. For example…
  • Note the time frequently, and connect it with real events. “We are going to the park and play for an hour today! That’s as long as it takes to drive to Grandma’s house, but it will seem much faster!” or, perhaps “
  • Speed it up! For the “pokey puppy” out there, encourage speedy performance in a fun way . This can include the classic “last one there’s a rotten egg” sort of games, a personal “world record” for common tasks, and playing speed response games together. Teach your child to “turn on” the speed. This can be a great topic to pursue through play therapy in Highlands Ranch.

Taking Breaks

As a final note, remember that most people can’t perform their fastest, or their best, on a consistent basis. Sprinters go faster than distance runners. Encourage your child to schedule breaks, not only to keep themselves sane, but to keep productivity and time on track. If your child’s time management skills seem very much below that of his or her peers, or if simple strategies don’t work, consider consulting with a child psychologist in Littleton. Dr. Lazarus is skilled in helping children achieve at their highest levels.