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Passive-Aggressive Conversation Killers: LCSW Julie Hanks on KSL’s Studio 5

Passive-Aggressive Conversation Killers: LCSW Julie Hanks on KSL’s Studio 5

Some people joke that women talk in code (and there’s probably some small truth to that!). But what if women owned up to their mixed messages and instead spoke their truth and said what they meant? That’s the topic behind this round of “What To Say Instead.” While it can be tempting to speak somewhat passive-aggressively, it’s much better to be honest and authentic about our feelings.

The following scenarios are ones in which woman mask their true emotions with trite sayings. But doing so is harmful to relationships because it’s deceptive and can limit intimacy. Read about better things to say to communicate and bridge those connections:

Scenario #1: Jane gets a call from her sister. At the time, she is trying to make dinner for her family, take care of her sick baby, and help her recently unemployed husband comb through job applications. Her sister asks how she is doing. Her response: “I’m fine.”

What To Say Instead – If this is a sister with whom she has a close relationship, it’s okay to open up! She doesn’t necessarily have to divulge all personal details, but saying something as simple as, “I’m having a really hard day, honestly” is telling the truth. There’s a pressure as women to appear as if something is going smoothly, but it’s okay to admit we don’t have it all together.

Scenario #2: Dan and Allison are a married couple having yet another argument about finances. Dan wants her to do a better job sticking to the budget, but Allison is struggling to make those numbers work for their family’s needs. After an hour of back and forth, she finally decides to shut things down by simply saying, “You’re right.”

What To Say Instead- Allison can still put an end to the bickering but do so more honestly by saying, “We’re not really getting anywhere, and I’m not feeling heard. Let’s take a break and come back to this.” If you’re caught in an exhausting cycle and not making progress, you need to take time away from the topic, then come back with fresh eyes and perspectives.

Scenario #3: Molly is talking to a neighbor who casually mentions a playgroup that Molly was not invited to. She realizes that Molly may feel left out and hurries to try to explain the situation, but Molly jumps in with a smile and says, “whatever.”

What To Say Instead- “Whatever” is code for “I care so much, but I’m hurt, so I’m trying not to care.” She could say something like, “I’m disappointed” and then ask to be included if that’s what she wants. The neighbor friend may or may not say yes, but at least Molly could speak what she was truly feeling.

Scenario #4:

Friends run into each other at a grocery store. One asks, “what’s new with you?” The other answers, “nothing.”

What To Say Instead- If you’re breathing, you’re still alive, and something is happening in your life! If this is someone you care about, give him/her some information that is authentic. Add a bit to your relationship with that person by being real.

Check out Julie’s book, “The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide For Overwhelmed Women” for more strategies to overcome passive-aggressive conversation killers.



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