It’s one of the banes of church leadership. But yes, it is everywhere.
People using indirect tactics to communicate thoughts and emotions, but not verbalise

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honestly, usually to avoid conflict. Brushing people off. Muffled responses. Attention focused on only certain people. Fake apathy in dialogue. Not responding to messages. Pretending to be good, but really feeling shorted or vindictive. “I’m fine with whatever”…”It’s up to you, I don’t want to spoil your fun.”

Spoiler alert: It does not work.
Conflict is always a hot topic when working with teams and groups in any function. Anything communal requires us to tap into our personal insecurities and social interactions, as we decipher those same things in others. All of our responses either feed the hungry animal of personal protection or the quiet child seeking comfort within. Passive-aggression is an attempt to keep both in balance, especially in times of conflict.
So why do we choose to remove honesty from our conversations in some of our closest settings? Here are a few reasons I observe and see in myself in all kinds of meetings:

  1. To save face. No one likes to look stupid or take a stand if we are not sure we are absolutely right. So we take a stance like it does not matter, or we leave the soapbox for someone else to stand on.
  2. To not draw attention. Similar, not the same. Our fear response comes out strongest when we feel we will be visible but unsure of how people will respond. Or whatever our opinion held will be a bother to someone in the group. People who stand out may be asked questions or called to account. Guess what? Everyone notices your passive-aggressive actions and signals.
  3. To not risk failure. Failure is scary. No matter how much people praise the values of failing in order to succeed, we still do not like it. You fail, you get noticed, and you might even be remembered for the failure. Somehow we imagine we can become little children again, close our eyes, and no one can see us in the middle of the room. It does not work.
  4. Malice. Gossip. Sin. Yep, we all cringe to admit it, but we can be hurtful. Especially to the people closest to us. We might think we are protecting others, but we might actually be malicious in our actions. We miss the mark on communication, choose to share information in the wrong setting, or just might not choose to be honest with a person. People can get hurt, and they do, when we choose to approach situations with passive-aggression.

So are you passive-aggressive? Ask someone close to you if you show signs of this with the people that are dependent on your honesty, and especially, your leadership.

Would you like some help with how your team works through communication and conflict? Let’s talk:

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