Dear Rhonda & Dr. Cheri: Friend reveals side as passive-aggressive bully
Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
I’m being bullied by a friend in high school. If we’re alone, she doesn’t talk and hums instead. I asked her why she wasn’t talking to me.
She answers only when other friends are around.
We’re both on the cheer team and I’m the captain. In front of the team, she said I created a good routine, but she mumbled that she was just kidding.
She said I got the captain position only because the advisor is my mom’s friend. I cried and told her I couldn’t believe she was attacking me for no reason. She looked at me like I was crazy.
It worries me that she’s trying to turn other teammates against me. Maybe she wanted to be cheer captain, but she didn’t try out for it. I asked her if she was going to try out and she said, “Why, are you worried?”
I asked her what I did to make her so angry at me. She had no emotions. She looked surprised.
She may have some passive-aggressive feelings toward you. However, people with passive-aggressive behavior are complicated and complex.
The NYU Medical Center defines a passive-aggressive individual as someone who “may appear to comply or act appropriately, but actually behaves negatively and passively resists.” Passive-aggressive actions can range from being mild, such as making excuses for not getting together, to serious sabotaging actions.
Here are common passive-aggressive behaviors:
• Ostracizing someone in private, making her feel like she’s in control.
• Subtle insults without taking responsibility, because she may see herself as the victim.
• Accusing the victim of being unselfconfident, when it’s common for a passive-aggressive bully to be a person who’s very insecure.
• Passive-aggressive people don’t like confrontation and deflect criticism of their bad behavior. Confrontation means they may need to address their angry or uncomfortable feelings.
You may deal with her behavior by the following:
• Ignore her because she feels empowered only by directing her negative feelings toward you. However, this often doesn’t work and these bullies increase their harmful behavior.
• Be direct and honest with the bully and try not to be offended or show your hurt emotions. Set boundaries by saying that you recognize her negative behavior and you will walk away from her or call her out on her behavior each and every time she bullies you. Mean it and do it.
• Tell a trusted adult, if neither tactic works, until something is done about it.
• Recognize that most passive-aggressive people lack self-confidence and communication skills. Your best advantage is to choose not to stay a victim.
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri
Rhonda Orr is the president of Rhonda’s STOP BULLYING Foundation and host of a podcast at BullyingLifeAndStuff.com. Dr. Cheri L. McDonald, PhD, LMFT, is a crime-victim specialist. Write them at Rhonda@rhondastopbullying.org.