Passive Behavior: The Right Or Wrong Choice?

Passive behavior moves against yourself and does not take any action; it gives no feedback, and it does not resist. In many company cultures passive behavior thrives, in leadership and management.

Any individual with a dominant passive personality finds it difficult to say no. In situations where a passive individual does say yes, it’s often reluctantly.

As a business owner, consider why passive behavior has crept into your culture. Often it’s because owners have stood by with resentment, afraid to say no.

Warning signs that you exhibit passive behavior:

  • Constantly alert for potential displeasure and disapproval from others.
  • Make decisions based on permission and approval from others.

Without assertiveness, individuals lack the effective communication skills needed to thrive in business.

Inherently there is nothing wrong with passive behavior, in some contexts, it may be the right choice. For example, when I find myself in a bad neighborhood, I remain passive for my safety. The difference here is that my passive behavior is a conscious choice and not a compulsive response.

Passive behavior can be harmful.

In many cases, an individual will surrender important parts of their character or values to gain acceptance and seek approval, usually from someone deemed important.

Avoidance of criticism

Avoidance of criticism is another unhealthy motivator that leads to a passive response. When I set out to write this blog, I felt rejection when readers would unsubscribe from the mailing list.

A crucial step for me was to move past the rejection and regret, so I could deliver my mission and be the person God intended. I understand now, not everyone approves of me, likes or agrees with my message, but this is part of life, none of us are perfect.

Make choices independently

Make choices in your life independently, without the expectation and approval of others. A

As a Christian, I believe that I am only accountable to God, who gifted me with a purpose. I use my God given gifts, talents, and abilities to shape my own life and not the life of others, likewise, it is not the responsibility of others to construct a path for me to follow.

Of course, receive advice from others, and listen to the wisdom of those with experience. But, ultimately, your choice should be independent, so don’t allow others to mold you.

Building teams: Remain separate, yet connected.

In business we share a collective purpose and mission; however, teams are a collection of individuals. It’s easy to lose sight of individuality within a group setting, but those who respect unique attributes while including unity of purpose and clarity, succeed by building strong teams with clarity of purpose.

Red Flags of Passive Behavior in your team:

  • Withdrawing from a situation
  • Walking out of a situation
  • Excess: sleeping or drinking too much
  • Receiving physical abuse without resisting
  • Remaining quiet
  • Withholding feedback; without feedback, relationships collapse.

A hint of weak communication

A hint is never the right communication choice. Ask directly, even if the risk of hearing no is too high. People hint because they’re afraid of hearing no because it represents rejection or disappointment. Therefore, indicating something covertly or indirectly attempts to avoid the pain that comes with hearing no.

First, learning how to receive no as an answer builds character, and is the first step to remove passive behavior. Persevere through the rejection, and understand how to live without what was lost.

In the grocery store, the screaming child perseveres without the candy bar and learns to live without it.

Children are often indulged, which robs them of an important process in their development: character building. After you persevere, character is what you have left.

From my experience.

In this blog post, I want to share with you a personal anecdote, which reveals the games people play due to their own emotional dysfunction and how it applies to business and personal relationships because this dysfunction when recognized and dealt with assertively can make for healthier relationships and stronger teams.

Setting the scene. One particular morning, in 2001,  as I was taking my third born daughter to elementary school, my mother called my cell phone.

The call went something like this:

Mother: Roger, where are you?

Although I cannot duplicate the tone of voice, I immediately recognized the attempt at manipulation though shame and guilt.

Roger: Dropping your granddaughter off at school.

Mother: What are you doing after that?

The tone became weaker than before.

Roger: I have a full day planned. Do you need to ask me to do something? What’s up? What do you want to ask?


Her tone became angry.

Roger: What Mother? I just got up? I am here. What do you want to ask?

Mother: Well I am stuck at home and out of my medicine. It is raining, and I can’t see well enough to drive. In a very angry loud tone.

Roger: Okay. What?

Mother: Well, I hate to ask you, but can you get my medicine from CVS?

Roger: Sure. I can do that.

Manipulation as a tool to avoid no.

I’ve often discussed my mother’s passive style with her, so I can to use this example today.

To my mother, hearing no signals that I do not love her, which isn’t true. With this mindset, my mother avoids situations where no might be the response. And here is where hints and an attempt to shame me creep into our relationship – neither of which are constructive.

Moreover, she struggles to say no, and as a result, reluctantly agrees to commitments. Without boundaries in place and unable to accept that she has the right to say no, her plate is full of other people’s expectations.

Own your life; establish boundaries.

No does not mean that I don’t love and respect my mother. No simply is a boundary word that establishes clear lines of what I will do and will not do, and under what circumstances.

No keeps out the bad and allows room for the good; In our industry no provides room for loyal clients, opportunity and proper processes that lead to profits.

A final word.

As a passive child and young adult, I encountered many problems in personal and professional relationships. Only when I became a free and healthier person did I discover that I owned my life and I could decide how to build it. Without the need for permission, I could make the choices, and therefore accept the benefits – and consequences – of each choice.

Apply these lessons to all relationships in your life and watch communication and healthier relationships flourish.

I welcome your feedback in the comments below.

About the author, Roger

Roger Daviston is a personal growth consultant who gets measurable results. He facilitates and encourages individuals to change behavior and make different choices to achieve better outcomes.

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