NOTE: Ignorance is NOT Bliss is an advice column written by Michelle Pendergrass. Questions are submitted by readers like you. To submit an anonymous question, use this form. Disclaimer: Advice is given as a friend would give. Michelle is not a therapist, scholar, expert, or otherwise. She’s just a girlfriend helping a girlfriend. Unless you’re a guy asking for help.
A co-worker has an annoying habit of sighing all the time. She never goes longer than ten minutes and they’re deep, loud sighs that everyone in the office can hear. We’re about ready to scream! What do you suggest? Is she just bored?
Sighed all out….
I can relate, Sighed. Totally.
Wear earplugs. Check out your local pharmacy, they usually have bulk packages.
No? I guess I’ll have to explore your question at a little deeper level then.
This hits close to home as I had a new friend in my life who sighed constantly, maybe even more than your co-worker. This person even sighed in chat. *sigh* It got to the point that I didn’t want to be in this person’s company (in real life or virtual.)
I sigh when I’m overwhelmed, stressed, tired, or as a general emotional release (positive or negative). Naturally, I interpreted other people’s sighs to mean something similar. Boy did I learn my lesson with my sighing friend. It turned out this person’s sighs were a symptom of a much deeper problem. Over the course of several months, my friend started to display many more “symptoms” linked back to passive-aggressive behavior.
What is that? It’s a lifestyle for many. It’s a coping mechanism at best, a tool of denial at worst. It is a way of expressing or displaying negative emotions indirectly, rather than being up front and honest.
Some typical passive-aggressive behaviors can include:
- Lack of personal accountability
- Blaming others for problems
- Showing up late for important meetings or events seen as unpleasant
- Lack of self-confidence
- Making excuses
- Putting people down sarcastically, jokingly or criticizing, in subtle ways
- Making you feel you can trust them, but they’re always letting you down
- Talking about change, but never acting
- Denial that a problem exists
- Appear to follow the rules or directions, but will most often not fulfill the assignment or will, but in a way that’s not helpful.
Since your co-worker is sighing loud and often enough to make sure the whole office is hearing her, I’d think she might be a little passive-aggressive. I would suggest you approach her with a statement like, “I’ve noticed you’re sighing a lot recently, I don’t know if you’re aware of it?”
It could go one of two ways. She could tell you she’s been stressed or tired (or any number of, what I could consider reasonable, explanations) and then she’ll stop sighing as often and as loudly. However, she could also respond in a way that resembles other passive-aggressive behaviors. At this point, I would suggest you ignore the sighing knowing it is attention-seeking behavior and anything else you do might very well encourage her negativity.
Then, buy the ear plugs.
For more information on passive-aggressive behavior: Coping.org