There’s a lot of advice on how to be successful, but not nearly as much on how to not screw things up. In this blog post, we’ll cover one of the most common ways people torpedo their relationships: passive aggression.
We’ll explore what it is, why people do it, and, most importantly, how to stop it. So read on if you’re in a relationship with a passive-aggressive person or you think you might be one yourself.
What is passive aggression?
Passive aggression is a type of indirect aggression where someone expresses their hostility or displeasure in a subtle, covert way.
Instead of openly expressing their anger, they might sulk or give the silent treatment. Or, they might do something nice for you while secretly hoping it won’t be appreciated or act helpful while secretly hoping you’ll still need their help.
On the surface, passive aggression may not seem like a big deal. But, over time, it can take a serious toll on relationships.
That’s because, while it may seem like a harmless way to express anger or frustration, passive aggression is actually a form of manipulation.
It’s a way of indirectly controlling or hurting someone else, usually to get what you want. In short, it’s a way of expressing hostility or displeasure indirectly.
Common examples include:
- Saying “yes” but then not following through.
- “Accidentally” forgetting to do something you were asked to do.
- Procrastinating or taking a long time to do something.
- Making excuses for why you can’t do something.
- Doing things that will make someone else uncomfortable.
- Sabotaging someone’s efforts.
- Withholding information or purposefully withholding affection.
- Being vague or evasive.
- Pretending to agree with someone while secretly disagreeing.
- Making a half-hearted effort.
Why do people do it?
There are a few different reasons why people may resort to passive aggression. In some cases, it may be a learned behavior from childhood.
For example, if you grew up in a household where conflict was avoided or suppressed, you may have learned to express your anger indirectly.
In other cases, passive aggression may be a way to cope with stress or anxiety. When people feel overwhelmed or out of control, they may use passive aggression to regain some sense of power or authority.
And in some cases, passive aggression may be used as a deliberate form of manipulation. Some people use it to get what they want or avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
Whatever the reason, passive aggression is almost always counterproductive. It creates tension and conflict instead of resolving it. And, over time, it can damage relationships beyond repair.
What are de consequences of passive aggression?
While passive aggression might seem like a harmless way to vent your frustration, it can have some serious consequences.
Some of the most common consequences of passive aggression include:
- It damages relationships: Passive-aggressive behavior can damage both personal and professional relationships. Over time, the tension and conflict can lead to resentment, anger, and even hatred.
- It breeds mistrust: When you’re passive-aggressive, you’re not being honest about your feelings or needs. This can breed mistrust and suspicion.
- It makes communication difficult: Passive aggression often leads to miscommunication and misunderstanding. This can make it hard to resolve conflicts or even have a conversation.
- It inhibits productivity: Passive aggression can lead to decreased productivity and efficiency in the workplace. This is because it creates an environment of mistrust and conflict.
- It causes stress: All forms of aggression, including passive aggression, can cause stress. And chronic stress can lead to various mental and physical health problems.
It can be hard to identify passive aggression in yourself or others.
Sometimes, passive-aggressive behavior can be hard to spot. This is because it often manifests in subtle ways. For example, someone might make a snide remark instead of directly expressing anger. Or, they might agree to do something and then find excuses not to follow through.
If you’re unsure whether someone is passive-aggressive, paying attention to their body language and tone of voice can be helpful. Passive-aggressive behavior often involves an underlying sense of hostility.
So, if someone’s body language is tense or they’re speaking in a sarcastic tone, there’s a good chance they’re feeling passive-aggressive.
To identify passive aggression in yourself, it can be helpful to pay attention to your thoughts and emotions.
If you regularly feel resentful or frustrated, it might be a sign that you’re using passive-aggressive behavior to express your feelings.
It’s also important to remember that passive-aggressive behavior is often a defense mechanism. This means that it’s usually a way of dealing with difficult emotions like anxiety or insecurity.
If you frequently engage in passive-aggressive behavior, it might be worth considering whether there are other ways of dealing with your emotions.
Do you think you might be guilty of passive aggression?
We’ve all been there. Someone says or does something that rubs us the wrong way, and instead of dealing with it head-on, we passive-aggressively retaliate.
Maybe you “forgot” to invite your mother-in-law to your child’s birthday party, or perhaps you gave your colleague the silent treatment after they took credit for your big project at work. Whatever the case, passive aggression is a common way of dealing with conflict.
It’s only natural to want to lash out. However, not all forms of retaliation are equally effective. Some can make the situation worse.
Passive-aggressive behavior is one such example. Passive-aggressive people tend to express their displeasure through indirect means such as sarcasm, silent treatment, or deliberate procrastination.
While passive-aggressive behavior may temporarily make you feel better, it does nothing to resolve the underlying conflict.
It often makes things worse by creating an environment of tension and mistrust.
If you engage in passive-aggressive behavior, try to take a step back and consider other, more constructive ways of dealing with conflict.
Express your feelings, work to find a mutually agreeable solution, or seek professional help if the situation is beyond your control.
For example, talk to your boss about your workload if you feel overwhelmed at work. If you’re having trouble communicating with your partner, try couples therapy.
If you’re unsure whether you’re being passive-aggressive, ask yourself how you would feel if your partner did the same thing to you. If you wouldn’t like it, chances are they don’t either.
Tips for communicating more assertively.
Remember, communicating effectively is essential for maintaining healthy relationships with those around you. With a little effort, you can learn to communicate in a more assertive, direct way. This will help you improve your relationships and reduce stress in your life.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Use “I” statements: When communicating, use “I” statements. For example, say, “I feel disrespected when you speak to me like that.” This will help the other person understand how you’re feeling and what you need from them.
- Be specific: Be as straightforward as possible when communicating your needs. This will help the other person understand what you’re asking for and make it more likely that they’ll be able to comply.
- Talk about your feelings: If you’re upset or frustrated, talk to your partner about it. Don’t bottle it up or try to hide it.
- Communicate directly: When you have something to say, say it straight. Don’t beat around the bush or make indirect comments.
- Be assertive: If you need something from your partner, ask for it directly. Don’t expect them to guess what you want or need.
- Compromise: If you’re having trouble agreeing on something, try to find a midpoint that works for both of you.
- Be patient: Changing long-standing patterns of behavior takes time and effort. Don’t expect things to change overnight.
How to deal with a passive-aggressive person.
Passive-aggressive behavior is a way of expressing emotions that can be difficult to deal with. The person may seem calm on the surface, but underneath they are seething with anger or resentment. This can make it hard to know how to respond, especially if you’re not used to dealing with conflict.
The best thing to do is to try and get to the root of the problem. Why is the person behaving this way? What are they trying to say?
Once you understand what’s going on, you can address the issue constructively. It won’t be easy, but it’s a necessary step. If you’re on the receiving end of passive aggression, it can be frustrating and confusing.
But, there are a few things you can do to deal with it:
- Acknowledge it: The first step is to recognize what’s happening. Once you’re aware of the problem, you can start to deal with it.
- Don’t take it personally: It’s important to remember that passive aggression is not about you. It’s about the person who is being passive-aggressive.
- Avoid reacting: It can be tempting to lash out when you’re feeling hurt or frustrated. But try to avoid reacting at the moment. This will only escalate the situation.
- Talk about it: Once you’ve calmed down, talk to the person who is being passive-aggressive. Let them know how their behavior affects you, and ask them to stop.
- Set boundaries: If the passive-aggressive behavior continues, it may be necessary to set some boundaries. For example, you might decide to limit your communication with the person or take a break from the relationship.
If you think you might be dealing with passive aggression, the best thing to do is to talk to the person involved. Let them know how their behavior affects you, and ask them to stop. If the problem persists, take a break from the relationship.
How to set Boundaries.
If you’re dealing with passive-aggressive behavior, it’s essential to set boundaries. This will help to protect you from further hurt and frustration.
But, setting boundaries can be difficult. You may feel like you’re walking on eggshells or being too demanding. But, it’s important to remember that you have a right to be treated with respect.
There are a few things to keep in mind when setting boundaries:
- Be clear: It’s vital to be clear about what you want and what you don’t want. The other person should know exactly where they stand.
- Be firm: Once you’ve set a boundary, it’s essential to stick to it. This can be difficult, but it’s important to be consistent.
- Be respectful: Even though you’re setting a boundary, it’s necessary to be respectful. Avoid being confrontational or aggressive.
- Give them time: It may take time for the other person to adjust to the new boundary. They may test it or try to push it. But, if you’re firm, they will eventually learn to respect it.
Setting boundaries can be hard. But, it’s important to remember that you have a right to be treated with respect. If you’re being treated in a way that is not acceptable, you have a right to speak up and set boundaries.
Passive aggression is often mistaken for being shy or introverted.
This is a common misunderstanding because passive aggression and introversion share some characteristics. For example, both involve withdrawing from social situations and being less likely to speak up.
However, there are some key differences between the two. Passive aggression is a form of indirect communication. It’s a way of expressing emotions that can be difficult to communicate directly. On the other hand, introversion is a personality trait that is not necessarily related to communication.
Indeed, introverts are often more passive-aggressive than extroverts, but there’s a big difference between the two.
Shyness is simply a preference for not being in the spotlight, while passive aggression is a deliberate attempt to undermine another person or situation.
For example, someone who is shy might refuse to speak up in a meeting. In contrast, someone who is passively aggressive might deliberately sabotage a project by withholding information or refusing to cooperate.
Passive aggression can be frustrating to deal with because it’s often hard to tell the person’s true motives. However, it’s important to remember that passive-aggressive behavior is usually a sign of insecurity or fear and not an indication of malice.
Can you trust a passive-aggressive person?
It can be hard to know what to make of a passive-aggressive person. On the one hand, they often seem nice enough. They may even be likable.
But on the other hand, their actions often speak louder than their words, and their behavior can be frustratingly difficult to deal with. So can you trust a passive-aggressive person? The answer is not always clear.
Their indirect communication style can make it hard to understand their motives, and their lack of forthrightness can create an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust.
You never quite know what they’re thinking or feeling, and it’s easy to get caught in their web of drama. If you’re considering befriending or dating a passive-aggressive person, it’s critical to proceed with caution.
Stay calm and assertive. Remember that you have a right to your own opinion, and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. That said, there’s no need to be confrontational; simply express your needs clearly and directly. By doing so, you can establish boundaries and help to prevent misunderstandings.
And here we are at the end of the article. I hope you found this helpful in some way. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.
Do you have any experience with passive-aggressive behavior? How do you deal with it? Did you ever find yourself being passive-aggressive? If so, what did you do about it? Let us know in the comments!
Joanna Perez is a Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Practitioner, a passionate blogger, writer, traveler, wife, and mother of one boy. Joanna loves to share her thoughts on parenting, health, wellness, and lifestyle.
She is a Certified Women Empowerment Life Coach and has done courses on Life Mastery, Happiness, Health, and Success. She also has studied Neuroscience for Parents and took the Skilled Helper Training Course.
She believes in helping people become the best version of themselves and strives to provide quality informative and inspiring content. She loves animals, especially her two cats, and can often be found taking photos of them as they pose for the camera.