7 typical forms of passive aggressive behavior – here’s how to react and what to do to unlearn it

When someone finds it difficult to put into words frustration, anger, annoyance or dissatisfaction, he or she will resort to passive aggressive behavior – an indirect way of expressing emotions.

“Passive aggressive behavior is often learned in childhood and can generally be traced back to passive aggressive behavior exhibited by a parent or other caregiver,” says Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist.

Anyone can exhibit this behavior from time to time, but over time, prolonged passive aggressive behavior can erode trust and provoke negative reactions in others.

For people who are regularly passive aggressive, learning to express feelings in a more productive way is an essential step in building and maintaining healthy and lasting friendships and love relationships.

The first step to unlearn this behavior or to learn to deal with it better is to learn to recognize it in yourself or someone else. Here are seven examples of passive aggressive behavior and how best to deal with someone who is passive aggressive toward you.

1. Completely exclude and ignore someone

Stonewalling, the English term for cutting off all communication, is one of the most toxic forms of passive aggressive behavior, according to Manly.

Telling someone that you need space and distance to sort out your emotions is not uncommon in difficult situations. But refusing to communicate without further explanation why shows a certain carelessness that can be very hurtful. A 2014 study found that when one partner emotionally shuts down or withdraws in response to the wishes of the other, it can cause physical and emotional damage. In the long run, it can also lead to a partner’s fear of broaching difficult topics, less intimacy and poor communication.

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2. Sarcastic Comments

Another example of passive aggressive behavior is making sarcastic comments. “I call sarcasm ‘veiled hostility’ because it often comes across as intimidating,” Manly says.

“For example, someone says, ‘Thank you so much for my amazing birthday present’ and not being honest about what they’re really feeling, like, ‘I’m disappointed you didn’t think about my birthday.’

“Passive aggressive behavior is often rooted in a person’s lack of self-esteem and fear of conflict, confrontation, or rejection,” said Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist and behavioral scientist. “Sarcasm allows a person to convey unresolved frustration, anger, or disappointment without confrontation.”

3.You say it’s good when it really isn’t, and you let others whine about it. That’s passive aggressive,” says Manly. “Like using sarcasm, pretending to agree is usually a way to avoid conflict.”

4. Putting the blame on others

“The tendency to blame someone else instead of taking responsibility for mistakes is a form of passive aggressive behavior,” Klapow says.

For example, you make a casual comment about the fact that your partner is often late for work. In response, he or she says, “Well, if you didn’t make such a mess of the house, I could get out the door more often.”

“People who communicate passively aggressively often play the victim because it is difficult for them to acknowledge their own mistakes,” Manly says. “They can also be unforgiving and self-righteous and hold a grudge for years.”

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5. Sabotage

“Yet another form of passive aggressive behavior is deliberately sabotaging someone’s project, relationship, or reputation,” Klapow says.

This can be done in a devious way, for example by spreading gossip or rumours, so as not to appear responsible for the damage. The behavior itself usually stems from a deep sense of insecurity. In a study of college students, researchers concluded that passive-aggressive behavior may be related to “an inner insecurity about one’s self-esteem, especially toward those in authority.”

6. Willful Failure to Take Action

Deliberately breaking agreements is passive aggressive behavior. “Instead of saying they don’t want to do something, they just don’t do it,” Klapow says.

For example, your roommate asks you to take out the garbage. You say yes, but then leave the house and leave the other person with the task. make up excuses

Suppose a friend asks you to help him move. You don’t really want to, but instead of being honest you say you have to work – which isn’t true.

If your friend asks if you might come over the next day, you’re making up another family commitment or another date.

“This excuse-driven behavior is passive aggressive because you avoid expressing your needs or wants,” says Klapow.

How to deal with passive aggression?

It is important to learn how to deal with passive aggression, because it is very common. For example, in a 2017 study, Israeli doctors and nurses reported 700 incidents of passive aggressive behavior at work in six months.If someone is out for a response, you can prevent the behavior from being further reinforced by not paying attention to it at all.

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  • Point out inconsistencies in behavior: If someone says one thing and does another, you can ask for clarification without judgment, Klapow says. For example: “You said you agreed with me, but then I saw that you sent a memo against my proposal. Can you explain to me what happened?”
  • Speak calmly and respectfully: If the passive aggressive behavior becomes structural and destructive — such as chronic disparaging sarcasm — Manly recommends sharing what you’ve noticed, how it affects you, and what you’d rather see. For example, you can say, “That comment came across as very sarcastic and touched me. I would rather have a friendly and honest conversation.”

These reactions can initially frustrate the passive aggressive person, as they are likely to not get their way.

“Passive aggressive people often become angry or vindictive when a sensible strategy is used against them,” Manly says. “But a passive-aggressive person who engages in self-development may be able to respond in a healthy way.”

It’s important to remember that people who communicate in a passive aggressive manner may not want to hurt you intentionally at all. They may act out of fear or lack communication skills, Klapow says.

How to avoid being passive aggressive?

People who exhibit passive aggressive behavior may feel inner shame or even self-loathing about it. That’s why it’s important “to step back and take a good hard look at yourself” if you’re exhibiting passive-aggressive behavior, Manly says. This creates room for “self-reflection and improvement.”

Here are some tips to prevent that behavior:

  • Think about the consequences: Keep in mind that what you’re trying to avoid is likely to get worse with passive-aggressive behavior, Klapow says.
  • Be curious instead of defensive: If a partner, friend, or family member points out passive aggressive behavior to you, ask for constructive feedback on how you can communicate more effectively, Manly recommends.
  • Try to communicate assertively: Assertive communication is the opposite of passive aggressive communication. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can boost your confidence, help you cope with stress and build mutual respect. Start by taking a break to think about how you feel about something.Starting this way will make you feel safer to communicate directly.
  • Seek professional help if you need it: It can sometimes be difficult to break with passive-aggressive habits that have been your standard behavior for years, says Manly. A professional can help you understand why you communicate this way and give you tips and tools to become more assertive, Klapow says.

Prevent damage to relationships

Passive aggressive behavior can arise from fear of confrontation or rejection, from lack of self-confidence or from stress. It can be very damaging to personal or business relationships, but there are opportunities to learn more assertive communication strategies.

One way to deal with someone else’s passive aggressive behavior is to express your surprise about it in a respectful way: point out inconsistencies and ask questions about the behavior.

People who exhibit passive aggressive behavior themselves should take some time and space to ponder comments about them and their emotional responses to problems. Help from a professional can also make a big difference in reducing passive aggressive behavior through healthier ways of communication.

Author: Jobly