Have you ever logged on to your favorite social media website to see — or make — a status update like this?
“I can’t stand when so called friends trash talk behind your back!”
“Today I realized how much I hate certain people.”
“Why can’t people just mind their own business?”
Well, it may be true. You may be feeling distressed over a betrayal in friendship. You may be feeling angry at a friend or loved one. You may be feeling overwhelmed or intruded upon. But what is it that you actually accomplish with a passive-aggressively worded post, like the ones above? What are the alternatives? And how can you respond when you see one?
First, let me be clear: Airing your dirty laundry on the Internet is a bad idea. While it may function to annoy an intended victim, it also is likely annoying everyone else who isn’t involved. As a result, these kinds of messages can be harmful to your personal or even professional relationships. Further, while the initial intent of such a remark may be to “get to” someone, it is likely that, at the end of the day, the message the author really wishes to convey is, “I am hurt and upset by your actions and I want you to know about it.” If this is true, a status update may not be the best way to achieve your goal.
If you are contemplating publicizing your feelings on a social media outlet, I suggest you instead try a more direct approach. That is, shift from passive aggression to assertion. After all, time and emotional energy are valuable resources and it only makes sense to use them effectively.
So how can we do this?
First, wait until you are out of the heat of an emotion. We do not make great problem-solving decisions when we are at the height of our emotional experiences, so try taking some time, having a cup of chamomile tea, or maybe taking a hot bubble bath until the peak of the moment passes.
Next, contact the person in question DIRECTLY — not through some vague Facebook post or Tweet. If you prefer writing, try an email. Be sure to use factual events to help describe your feelings, and try to stick to the following formula: “I feel _____ when _______. I would prefer ________.” These kinds of comments will open the gates for communication, instead of putting up walls.
If you see one of these posts, how can you respond?
First, don’t play the game – even if you think you’re the intended victim. Replying with a passive-aggressive message of your own accomplishes the same empty outcome as the initial message.
Remember to act in line with your goals: if you want to repair the relationship, it’s best to act as such, even if your social partner didn’t. Instead of fighting back, try responding with love. “I really care about you. Let’s talk about this.”
If you can’t do that, or don’t wish to repair the relationship, ignoring the comment is most certainly a better option than fighting fire with fire.
For more information on assertive communication or dealing with difficult relationships, contact me for an appointment.