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We’ve all had to deal with subtle manipulations. People angling to get what they want, but acting like little angels to make you feel like you’re the problem or you’re crazy. You can never quite prove it.

We read about dealing with passive-aggressiveness but it doesn’t seem to help. Why? Because we can’t solve a problem we haven’t properly diagnosed.

True passive-aggression usually takes the form of non-compliance. Does that sound like “manipulation” or endless, deliberate head games? No, because what we tend to call “passive-aggressive” isn’t passive-aggressive at all. The proper term is “covert aggression.”


Covert and passive-aggression are indirect ways to attack, but they are different.


Passive-aggressive people express anger in a way that makes you argue; fight back. For example, they play an emotional game of ‘getting-back’ by not cooperating or giving the silent treatment, pouting or whining. They may intentionally forget something you want them to do because they’re angry and don’t feel like obliging.


Covert-aggressive people put you on the defensive. They make you doubt yourself. Their aggression is active, but veiled. They use calculated, underhanded means to get what they want. They manipulate the response of others while keeping their aggressive intentions under cover. Simply put: coverts want to be bad while looking good.


To all aggressive people, life is a competition and they despise losing. They are the most dangerous because they’re not overtly aggressive. What are they up to and what can you do to stop them?


We all behave aggressively now and then. If a person tells a lie, why jump to conclusions and think they are pathological? Refrain from diagnosing people as pure evil because they dodge blame for something. 


People who feign innocence, ignorance or confusion are playing dumb because they’ve done something awful and it’s called to their attention. That tactic is meant to make you question your judgment, even your sanity.


Other tactics you may encounter include diversion and evasion,never giving a straight answer to a straight question; changing the subject when cornered; lying about something––but lies are usually not black and white, straight-up lies. Those are too easy to catch. People lie by omission or distortion. They try to use charm and anger. Why respond to an accusation when you can distract your way out of it with flattery and humor? If cornered, they may turn to anger. 


Remember: anger is an involuntary emotional response. 


Next week – Part Two:  More examples and the Covert’s Playbook!

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