We’re pals, right?

PAL: Passive Aggressive Loser

I’m sure you’ve come in contact with lots of PAL’s in your life. Be it the girlfriend that makes jokes about your haircut a little too often, the boyfriend that always has something he needs to do before the thing you’ve asked of him, the friend who gets upset and stops including you in their social circle, or even the sibling that has to always blame someone else for their misfortune or unhappiness.

There are a few things you need to realize when dealing with your local PAL: the first thing being you need to realize that it is not up to you to change their behavior. I repeat, IT IS NOT YOUR PLACE TO FORCE SOMEONE TO CHANGE. They won’t change unless they want to, nothing you can do will make them change. (I recommend that you read those last three sentences again. Maybe a third time.)

Second, if you do try to figure out why your friend, spouse, sibling, lover acts like a PAL, come from a place of compassion. I know it may seem difficult to try to understand why your sister acts like an entitled jerk or why your boyfriend responds to everything you say with half-appropriate sarcasm, but if you can understand why they feel how they feel, you can probably relate to their struggle a little more.* I personally think that if you show someone that you understand where they are coming from, it empowers them and not their behavior. Feeling in control of their emotions or that they have a friend in you will hopefully give them the strength to find it in themselves to get. their. shit. together. Though, there are much nicer ways to communicate the same idea (which you should use like 90% of the time).

Lastly, you can replace your PAL’s negative power with positive power to keep them in check.

Imagine if your coworker says a few kind of mean things to you and when you ask them why they’re being a jerk, they say something along the lines of:

  • I’m just saying.
  • It wasn’t meant to be mean.
  • I’m just kidding!
  • You’re too sensitive.
  • Or even pouts and pretends to be upset that you called them out on their unacceptable behavior. Then unleashes the silent treatment… (YES, “GROWN UP” PEOPLE DO THIS.)

Instead of looking at your coworker exasperatedly, rolling your eyes, or firing a few warning rounds off of your own passive aggressive machine gun, take a breath; not a big obvious sigh of exhaustion, just a quick inhale/exhale to cleanse your mental palette. (Take their negative power.) Tell them that their comment has made you uncomfortable and you feel that it was a personal attack. If having feelings and talking about them is too much for you, you could also ask them why they insist on bringing up x topic. If you’re dealing with someone who is in tune with their feelings, they will take the bait and tell you whats up. Do your best to understand. You can even suggest a better way to assuage their wounds. (Turn it into positive power.)

Bonus tip: your PAL may become extremely defensive once you try to discuss their feelings with them. Muster up all the patience you have. Do your best not to come off aggressive or attacking. Ask like you’re curious, which you probably should be.

Second bonus tip: Sometimes the PAL is you. Revert back to step one and figure out why you feel like your voice isn’t being heard. Then figure out a better way to address it. Your peers will thank you for it.

Don’t be a pal, be a friend.


*Having empathy for a person does not mean you excuse their behavior. It just means that you can feel a similarity in experiences.

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