I'm a millennial and a lot (too many) of my friends were those who were of the opinion that, immediately following the 2016 election, the best way to demonstrate how much they value love, tolerance, inclusion, and empathy, was to abruptly and often very messily end relationships with close friends and family members who either voted for Trump or didn't sufficiently hate him. I wrote those friends off as we weren't super close to begin with and I'm not going to be friends with someone if it's 100% on their terms and their terms are so superficial

I have a really close friend whose friendship I don't want to lose who kind of fell into that group but wasn't extreme about it. I don't what the deal is, but after the results of the 2020 election she began harboring unfair vitriol against anyone who didn't vote for Biden, including me, despite her knowing that I rarely ever support either major candidate and will always vote for some third party candidate in the hopes we'll see a splash of yellow on the electoral map.

I used to be able to overlook her passive aggression but when she failed to elicit a response out of me she began ramping it up little by little until it's now rare that she won't make some "offhanded" attack against me while hanging out, things like:

"I can't believe one of my best friends was racist all along"

"I know you don't respect my choices as a woman, but I think we should go to [restaurant] for dinner, OMG JK JK!"

These 'attacks' aren't random, there's always something that sets them off. This could be a reference to Trump in a TV show we're watching, seeing a reference to current events that are unfavorable to Biden while she's browsing the internet or social media on her phone, etc. When she's not in this weirdly vindictive mood she's very sweet, funny, fun to be around and I love spending time with her.

I'd love to communicate to her that I still want to be her friend, but that I won't tolerate her passive aggressive attacks. I've tried several ways to do so, but she often sees it as being antagonistic or unnecessarily sensitive:

  1. Asked her politely to stop making statements like that because they're unfair, she doesn't know people's reasons for voting the way they did (even pointed out the irony that she knows my reason and still treats me poorly regardless), and that voting one way or another isn't indicative of a person's supposed "righteousness". She dismissed me and suggested that racists/sexists/all varieties of -phobes "feel obligated to defend each other"

  2. A bit hostilely pointed out my opinion that the fact that she doesn't seem to understand that there are more reasons to vote than expressing some form of deep-rooted hatred for one or more demographics is very revealing of her own mindset. This resulted in her getting very upset and refusing to talk to me for well over a week. I didn't apologize because I don't think I was in the wrong for saying what I did and firmly believe it. We're back on speaking terms and hanging out but sometimes we can feel the tension of that argument hanging over us

  3. Tried to tell her straightforwardly that if she gets in one of those moods while we're hanging out then I'll leave until she's calmed down because I don't want to put up with it. She threatened to end our friendship entirely if I do that and I believe she'll act make good on that threat

What are some ways to communicate I still want to be her friend but won't tolerate passive aggressive attacks without coming off as antagonistic or as though I'm being unnecessarily sensitive, which is how he she often perceives it?

  • Heya! I've edited your title to better reflect the question in the body, moreover 'biased mode' seems something that you came up with, 'passive aggressive' will probably be understood by more people. I've also removed the remark about Nazism: It's not really relevant to the question, since it's not about how to handle her when she's making these remarks while you two are hanging out, and it's one of those 'salacious details' that will probably invite a lot of discussion about whether she meant this or implied something else or not.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Aug 23, 2021 at 15:43
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    I have one question still though: You say you have already told her you will leave when she makes remarks like this, and that it was met with another ultimatum: That she will end the friendship. So at this point I'm wondering if you're really looking for a way to tell her you won't spend time with her, or if your question is rather something else? Because to me it seems you've already told her so, bur you just didn't like the reaction you got, and are unwilling to live up to your 'threat'. What would be the point of you telling her the same thing again, if you're not willing to go through?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Aug 23, 2021 at 15:48
  • Thanks for the edits; I'm still relatively new to StackExchange. And I worded my third approach kind of poorly. I didn't mean that I'll end the friendship, I meant I'll stop hanging out until she cools off. I've never threatened to end the relationship as I don't believe in ultimatums. I'll update the post to clarify Aug 23, 2021 at 16:10
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    No, that part was clear to me :) You didn't want to end the friendship, but she said she would. Let me try to write my comment better: Your question seems to be 'how do I tell her this', but your third bullet point says you already did. In response, she said she'd end the friendship if you do leave until she has calmed down. I'm asking you why you're asking us about telling her this again, when it seems to me you're unwilling to leave until she's calmed down if that means she will end the friendship?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Aug 23, 2021 at 16:28
  • Shoot, I'm worse at asking questions here than I thought. I suppose more what the question I should be asking is if anyone has any alternatives I can try. As I was writing down the list of things I've already tried I noticed I don't look like the most patient or easy person, and I'm sure I'm not because I tend to dig my feet in the ground when I feel attacked, so if anyone has more diplomatic of approaches or something like that then I'd appreciate suggestions I can try Aug 23, 2021 at 16:37

1 Answer 1


I am, as you apparently, not very appreciative of passive aggressive comments. I usually go on the offensive. That may or may not be the right strategy for you: Defending yourself can increase the distance between you and your friend. But here is my analysis: Any path you choose here is either going to be confrontational or manipulative. If you do not confront her, well, the only way to make her stop is to change her motivations for making these comments. Doing that without any confrontation is text-book manipulation. And the only way to respect her having those sentiments accordingly is to confront her about this behaviour/communication specifically. So cave at lector.

In either case, passive agressive comments can be parried

  1. in kind
  2. with fake candor
  3. deadpan exaggeration

I will provide examples. As your first example, you could parry; offhandedly remark with passive agressiveness in kind

"Fortunately, my other friends see a difference between me and Hitler"

The beauty here is that you get to pass the ball back, no fuzz. It must be delivered off-handedly though. As if you were commenting on the color of a car or something else mundane.

You could also reply with fake candor. That's easy.

Really!? Who?

The nice thing with this is that most passive agressive commenters are actually a bit afraid of direct confrontation, which is why they have chosen a sly way to present insults without presenting them. If you pretend you are too dumb to understand the sarcasm, it unravels.

Finally, my favorite is the deadpan exaggeration. But it is tricky, the idea is to present an even worse pictue, something so outrageous that it must be false, making it something of a double-passive-agressive. It is harder to succeed with something like this, because you have to ridicule the idea of you being a racist (in this example) without, you know, coming across as one. You must absolutely stay away from any sort of slurs.

"Oh yeah, that reminds me, did I ever tell you about the trip I took to Liberia to purchase highly motivated workers for my plantation?"

"Funny. Several people at the Klan meeting yesterday said the same thing"

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    +1, A good answer with an array of options which may/may not work depending on the kind of person they are. The 2nd one is my go to, along with feigning ignorance and casually asking them to elaborate as though I genuinely didn't understand what they were getting at (being autistic, I feel I get away with this better than most people might, though ;) ). I tend to steer from the first suggestion as I have been a third party in the middle of two people who were batting passive aggressive comments back and forth. It can risk creating more hostility and resentment in both parties.
    – user9711
    Aug 26, 2021 at 14:17

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