Passive Aggressive  |  Explained

Do you have a friend or colleague who is friendly one day and withdrawn the next? A person who always makes you feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. They make intentional mistakes, disguise criticism with compliments, resent your demands, and constantly complain of injustice. You may be dealing with a passive aggressive person. At this point, you’re probably thinking “what is passive aggressive behavior?” Read on to find out.

Is she Passive Aggressive?

Is she Passive Aggressive?

Passive Aggressive Definition

People define passive aggressive behavior in different ways. However, it can be summed up in this one sentence: it is a masked and intentional way of conveying concealed feelings of anger. Passive aggressive behavior is the indirect communication of hostility – such as through stubbornness, sullen behavior, procrastination, silence or deliberate failure to fulfill requested tasks.

Passive aggressiveness isn’t always easy to recognize. This is because passive aggressive people never state their disapproval directly. They express negative feelings indirectly. They are often hostile because they assume that other people know what they are feeling or thinking. It can be very hard to maintain a relationship with a passive aggressive person because you are never sure what they are thinking or feeling.

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Do you have a Passive Aggressive friend or coworker?

Dealing With Someone That Is Passive Aggressive

Whether you like it or not, you will come across a passive aggressive person at one time. It could be a new friend, a love interest, or a colleague. Relating to such a person can be a hurdle as you may often get frustrated or become angry. How do you maintain your composure? Here are a few helpful keys.

Avoid Jumping Into Conclusions

When you experience passive aggressive behavior from a person, don’t assume that they are passive aggressive. Look at the situation from different angles before reacting. For example, if you send a colleague an important email and they don’t respond, don’t think they are ignoring you. Consider the fact that they may be busy or they are taking time to decide what to write. When you avoid personalizing another person’s behavior, you see their expressions more objectively. Broadening your perspective decreases the probability of misinterpretation.

Don’t Try To Change Their Behavior

When dealing with passive aggressiveness, you may be tempted to change the person. Don’t do it because you’ll end up disappointed and frustrated. The reasons for passive aggressive behavior are deep-seated and complex. A passive aggressive person can only change when they mature and become self-aware. Don’t try to change the person’s attitude and behavior instead,  take control of your own.

Keep Your Distance

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Keeping distance is a great strategy when dealing with Passive Aggressive relationships!

Passive aggressive people can be more difficult to deal with than people who are openly hostile. Hostile people are direct in words and actions hence they are more predictable. Passive aggressive people operate on hidden scripts and you never know when you might be affected by their maneuverings.   They often deny responsibility when confronted. This is why you must keep your distance and always be diplomatic when dealing with them.

Don’t Seek Revenge

You may want to strike back when dealing with a passive aggressive person. You may be tempted to argue or to become passive aggressive yourself. Both of these approaches are not helpful as the person can claim you are victimizing them or deny responsibility. They may respond to your passive aggressiveness with even more concealed hostility. You may end up getting frustrated because you allowed the person to take away your poise. Retain your calmness when dealing with a passive aggressive person.

Deal With the Problem from the Get-Go

Sometimes, you have to interact with a passive aggressive person on a regular basis. If this is the case, stop any potentially damaging behaviors early on. If you tolerate passive aggressiveness, you only encourage the behavior to intensify. Set the tone of the relationship. When an incident occurs, talk to the person to make sure they understand you won’t tolerate that type of behavior. For example, you can say “I am not comfortable with your jokes, they are offensive to me”.

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Passive Aggressive Notes

The internet is full of passive aggressive notes written by neighbors, roommates, colleagues, and even relatives. Some are offensive while others are downright hilarious. These sentences are derived from passive aggressive notes.

At the Workplace

  • T-Rex has very tiny arms and can’t change the water bottle when it’s empty. T-Rex has an excuse, what’s yours?
  • If you stole my digital camera, thanks a lot! I hope you enjoy the pictures of my family!
  • To the person who ate my lunch: I know who you are because I sit 10 steps from the fridge. However, today is your lucky day. I won’t tell anyone. But if one grape goes missing from today onwards, I’m going straight to the HR.

From Neighbors

  • Dear neighbor, your car’s sound system is amazing. It is so loud that it shakes all the apartment buildings in the complex. This is extremely cool when you pull up at 4am in the morning. Don’t even try to lower the volume as we are all very impressed! In fact, we are totally envious!
  • Mr Zack, we know what you have been doing, mooching off our Wi-Fi. Please do so respectably or else we’ll be forced to let the world know.

From Roommates

  • If you don’t replace the toilet paper roll, terrorists win. Don’t you love your country?
  • I don’t know who you are but you stole my butter. Kindly put it back or I’ll lick everything in the fridge!
  • To the person who took my bagels: thanks for stealing my breakfast. I will eat the cream cheese instead.

Learn How to Deal with Passive Aggressive Behavior

Dealing with passive aggressive people is not easy. They act passive but convey aggression covertly. They are obstructions who won’t let you have your way. As a result, they can transfer their anger to you, making you furious and frustrated.

Remember, speaking directly and openly about how you feel gives the passive aggressive person the safety to do the same. Use this technique in all of your communications.

Use the above tips to identify passive aggressiveness and to deal with it from the start. You might even make the passive aggressive people in your life learn how to deal with conflict appropriately.


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Author: Esateys Stuchiner

Esateys (pronounced Ee sáh teez) is an International Life Transformational Speaker, Author, Master Facilitator, Life Coach and Expert in the Human condition. She is a Nationally and Board Certified Nurse Practitioner. For over 30 years, she has practiced, taught and lectured extensively in the allopathic and alternative medicine field.

Esateys is known for her groundbreaking work in the areas of personal empowerment and health restoration using mindset and inner connection as the catalyst for all change.

Esateys describes herself as the ‘Architect of the New You’ and has dedicated her life and professional career to helping her clients create “New Beginnings” by facilitating self empowerment, economic freedom and restored health.

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