How to Spot Passive-Aggressive Behavior

There was a time when the phrase passive-aggressive was rarely uttered among non-psychologists. But it’s a phrase that is mentioned often these days.

The problem is, passive-aggressive behavior is almost so common, that it’s hard for people to pinpoint what that behavior looks like exactly.

Do you know any passive-aggressive people? Chances are you do. But do you know the real behaviors to spot? If not, keep reading to find out.

They Won’t Say No

Passive-aggressive people love playing the part of the victim and martyr. Therefore they’ll never just come out and say “no” to something. Instead, they’ll go along with others’ plans and needs, and then sigh, shake their head and roll their eyes because they didn’t get their own way.

They are Chronic Complainers

Every other sentence out of their mouth seems to be some form of complaint. They are usually low-grade complaints as again, they try to consistently mask their real feelings. It’s always a guessing game with these people.

Backhanded Compliments

“I love your new haircut, it’s so much better than the terrible cut you used to have.” Suppressed resentment is their currency and it tends to come out with backhanded compliments.

They Sabotage Other’s Efforts

Do you have a coworker who resents that they weren’t assigned to head your project? Do seem to intentionally be making the they show up to work late? Work at a snail’s pace? Take long breaks? When passive-aggressive people don’t get their way, they will throw their brand of a tantrum so everyone suffers.

They Love Getting a Reaction Out of Others

If pushing buttons were an Olympic event, the passive-aggressive person would bring home the gold, silver AND bronze medals. Once they know what annoys you, they can’t help but push, push, push.

They “Accidentally” Withhold Information

Have you ever had a roommate, colleague or romantic partner take a call that you had been waiting for and then “accidentally” forgot to give you the message? Whoopsie! This is to teach you a lesson: don’t ever ask me to do anything for you again.

They Appear to be Brilliantly Absent-Minded

Have you ever known someone who seemed brilliant in so many instances, and yet, in a second, they become the Absent-Minded Professor? They suddenly forgot where they placed the very important documents you need for the board meeting? Or where they put your purse (why did they even touch or move your purse??!!). Again, these are instances of someone who has deep-seated anger and resentment, but who can’t just come forth and confront you in a mature and direct manner.

Dealing with passive-aggressive people never feels great. If it’s coming from someone close to you, take some time to address these behaviors as they come up. Getting in touch with the emotions underlying the passive aggressive actions can help to break down the walls and figure out where the conflict or hurt occurred. To share your own examples of passive aggressive behavior you have encountered, or to learn more ways to handle difficult conversations with people you care about, send me a note with the form below!

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logo | Toni Falcone, Psy.D. | Licensed Psychologist | Anxiety & Eating Disorders |  Fort Lauderdale Florida

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