Brandt, A. (2013). 8 Keys to Eliminating Passive-Aggressiveness. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 184 pages. ISBN: 9780393708462
Reviewed by: Joshua D. Wright, Hunter College of The City University of New York
In 8 Keys to Eliminating Passive-Aggressiveness Andrea Brandt strives to guide readers through practical steps to eliminating passive-aggressive behavior, a surprisingly common response to conflict that is destructive to relationships. Written for a general audience of those who either have identified their own passive-aggressive behavior, or who may be involved in passive-aggressive relationships, Brandt has created a fluid narrative using expertly drafted anecdotes and practical exercises to illuminate concepts.
As a psychotherapist, Brandt describes the origins of passive-aggressive behavior as a suppression of anger due to societal constraints and an outwardly passive response to situations due to perceived anxiety. The eight keys illuminated throughout the book have the goal of revealing hidden anger, teaching the use of body sensation to understand and express true emotion, teaching assertive communication, and guiding people to productive conflict negotiation. According to Brandt, all of this may require “the healing of childhood wounds” (p. xxx).
The key strength of this book is the anecdotal stories throughout each chapter, which describe couples that struggled and overcame relational problems stemming from passive-aggressiveness. Each of the eight keys is elaborated through its own dedicated chapter and consists of practical exercises such as journaling about one’s anger in order to recognize hidden anger or using provided checklists to aid in identifying unmet needs. The accessibility of this style lends to a light reading that is informative without going into unnecessary detail about underlying theory and research.
Despite the lack of demonstrated research support, there is something to gain from perusing its pages. General readers will gain an intimate knowledge of their own behavior and suggestions for eliminating passive-aggressiveness. Likewise, practicing psychotherapists will be exposed to relevant exercises that can be immediately incorporated in the clinical setting.
The final chapter reconnects to the introduction, elaborating on the initial example of passive-aggressiveness and providing a glimpse into how using the eight keys might change a destructive relationship for the better. Ultimately the path Brandt elucidates “[is not] a succession of doors, rooms you can pass through toward some magical destination” (p. 180). Instead she states, “you’ll be moving back and forth among the keys” and eventually realize adjusted relationships with more enabled responses and less reliance on passive-aggression (p. 180).