OK here is my problem, or rather, here’s his problem, which I make my problem…which I shouldn’t make my problem but I do. Here’s the situation: I work with a rather young man in our office that confides in me, a much older woman, about a lot of his life’s challenges, his upcoming wedding, his fears, his happy moments, stuff he’s done that he has never told anyone, what he did this past weekend or what he’s planning to do for the wedding…so far so good. I usually get a smile and a nod of acknowledgement across the room, a sincere “how was your weekend?” and sometimes we sneak off to lunch together just so we can be away from the rest of the office.
It’s all fine and dandy for a few days, maybe a few weeks….then BAM! A complete 360. Suddenly there’s no eye contact, no smile. I ask him how’s he feeling and he says “I’m tired” and no further explanation. His body language is closed. His face looks bored when he talks. He exits the room as soon as I get in and cannot stand to be near me. All along I am thinking, what did I do? I am taking it personally. Wouldn’t you?
As most modern people do nowadays, we go to Google for advice. Long gone are the days of the Fortune-telling 8 Ball that you turned upside down to get advice. So I type in the following words:
HOW TO DEAL WITH MOODY PEOPLE or PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE PEOPLE
and get a bunch of good advice. Most of the information out there makes me feel good. It says, don’t take it personally, it’s probably not you, it’s them…but I mean, how can you NOT? Can any human not take this personally? How can you go from being warm and friendly to icy and indifferent and not wonder if you did or said something wrong?
The funny thing is, he’s done this in the past about 3 other times, but given enough time, he usually comes around to his normal self and sometimes even knows he’s being stand-offish and will apologize, or blame his rocky relationship with his then-girlfriend, now-fiance as the source of his withdrawal, and at other times, won’t even give an explanation.
I’m usually one of those ripple-type people: throw a rock into the water and it will just accommodate the rock and ripple softly until it’s flat and smooth on top. I don’t like to dig deep into people if they are not willing to share; I just go with the flow. I know he’ll come along but at the same time I’m very annoyed that he treats people he’s close to with this amount of indifference and sometimes, intentionally mean. It would be one thing for someone to like or dislike someone or keep a professional distance but it’s mixed messages all along when he calls me his good, true friend he can confide in and that I’m a rare gem among rocks. He says he doesn’t trust anyone at work except me. Then proceeds to totally ignore me, or worse, talk to others sincerely and interact with them warmly and does the total opposite to my face.
I thought maybe he’s has a bipolar disorder but doesn’t seem to show the traits of someone with bipolar disorder (I have a best friend with this issue and I’ve seen both her manic and depressed side). I truly believe this is a pattern of being passive-aggressive. He once said to our group “I wish sometimes people would ask me if something is wrong” but when you ask him if he’s ok, it’s always “I’m tired” or “fine”. Say one thing, do another. So weird I don’t understand it.
I am not sure I know how to protect myself from this person’s negative energy. I know I should just ignore it and trust me, I do. I carry on with him as if nothing has changed. I still greet him warmly each day. I ask him how his weekend went (“I’m tired”), I still try to engage in small chat knowing I’ll just meet with a flat affect with a monotone voice reporting one sentence replies. Sometimes I try to joke and tell him he needs more sleep so he doesn’t turn into a zombie, but I’m secretly off-put inside.
It drives me insane. This is what I want to say to him.
“I really like you but your up and down moods are wearing on me”
“You are purposefully nice to everyone around me yet treat me differently when you are in one of your moods – what kind of game are you playing?”
“It’s OK to be upset at something or some situation, but it’s not OK to treat your friends like crap”
“I will not let your passive aggressiveness ruin my day.”
“Please leave your bitchy moods at home and don’t bring it to work”
“Why don’t you come clean and tell me if I’ve done anything to make you mad?”
Me asking him if I’ve done anything wrong makes me look like I’m taking it very personally, which I am. I don’t want him to think I am, because I could be wrong and it may just as well be girlfriend problems, which he has had a lot of prior to asking her to marry him, but why the cold shoulder? It really must be me, and he wants me to know it in no uncertain terms by his treatment of me. But here’s the catch. I AM NOT SURE WHAT I DID WRONG!
Once a friend, you can’t really “unfriend” in real life. I suppose I could make my distance larger by being more aloof and perhaps keeping a buffer of professionalism between us to prevent any more closeness between us. I really, really like the guy and when he’s a good friend, he’s as loyal and thoughtful and amazing as can be, but the payback is a total bitch, and in my opinion, not worth keeping up the friendship.
I have had experiences with a fair number of passive aggressive women, but hardly ever men. It’s a weird feeling.
Has anyone experienced this kind of behavior before? What did you do about it?