Passive-Assertive > Passive-Aggressive

A friend wanted to ask someone who could help her for a favor. But, they were as much a friend as a fellow professional, and she didn’t want to hurt their friendship with the ask. What would you do?

When I asked what would feel wrong about asking for help, she said it might change the expectations in the relationship.

She mostly didn’t want to come off as being passive-aggressive if she had to follow up. In her head, if she asked and they didn’t immediately deliver, she’d have the awkward “so, about that thing…” conversation lingering over her head. Understandably.

I know this feeling way too well. I once had a boss call me out over NOT asking him for help. He pulled me aside one day and said, “Matt, you never – NEVER – ask me for anything. I know you see everybody else asking. What’s up with that?! I want to help you, but you have to ask for it.”

I told her my story and pointed out maybe her friend was just waiting for her to ask too. I said, “Maybe instead of being passive-aggressive you want to try being passive-assertive. Give them a pass to get out, but be assertive because you want and respect their advice.” (And then I said, “oh man, I should probably write that down”).

Here’s what we decided she’d try:

“I would really like your help with something. But, before I ask, I need you to know I value our friendship more than the help. I’ll ask you this out of professional respect, but I only want your answer if you can see it as separate from our friendship. If not or this will make anything even slightly weird – a point in the right direction or any advice you could offer would be gold to me. Thank YOU.”

It’s an honest and non-aggressive way to both be vulnerable and courageous.

Passive-assertive. Spread the word.

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