If you notice these 10 behaviors, you’re dealing with a passive-aggressive person

by Brendan Brown | May 8, 2024, 6:40 pm

Have you ever found yourself in situations where someone’s behavior left you scratching your head, wondering if you’re reading too much into it or if something’s off? 

Well, you’re not alone. Dealing with passive-aggressive individuals can be a perplexing experience. 

They sneakily avoid direct confrontation while leaving you to decipher their hidden messages. 

As someone who used to be passive-aggressive, let me share 10 telltale signs that’ll help you spot these masters of subtlety.

1) Sarcasm is their second language

Picture this: you’re feeling great about a new project you’ve been working on, and you share your enthusiasm with a colleague. 

Instead of the expected support, they give you a tight smile and say, “Oh, that’s just brilliant. I’m sure it’ll change the world.” 

Sounds supportive, right? Wrong. 

Welcome to the world of passive aggression, where sarcasm thrives, and genuine encouragement is hidden behind a mask of snarky remarks.

2) They give backhanded compliments

You’re at a family gathering, and you decide to try out a new recipe. Everyone savors the dish and praises your cooking skills, except for one person. 

They say, “This is delicious! I’m amazed you could pull it off; I never thought you had it in you.” Ouch! 

A passive-aggressive compliment like this leaves you with a strange mix of happiness and confusion.

They leave you wondering if they genuinely liked it or if it was a backhanded jab at your previous culinary attempts.

3) Their “concern” feels more like criticism

We all have that one friend or relative who seems overly concerned about our choices and life decisions. 

They mask their criticism with phrases like, “I’m just worried about you” or “I don’t want to see you get hurt.” 

While it may sound like they have your best interests at heart, it feels like a constant disapproval parade. 

Passive-aggressive individuals excel at turning their criticisms into a caring facade, making you question your own judgment.

4) They give the silent treatment

Ah, the classic silent treatment – a favorite weapon in the passive-aggressive arsenal. I know this too well as I used to use this…a lot.

Basically, what happens is that when we’re upset or displeased, instead of openly communicating our feelings, we retreat into a world of silence.

And it’s not comfortable silence. It’s a thick impenetrable wall of distance.

It’s as if they expect you to be a mind reader, deciphering their emotions and magically making things right. 

You might find yourself racking your brain, trying to figure out what you did wrong and how to break the ice. 

But remember, the silent treatment is more about control than resolution.

5) They play the victim card

Passive-aggressive individuals have a remarkable ability to flip the script and become the victims of every situation

No matter the circumstances, they’ll find a way to portray themselves as the injured party. 

It could be a disagreement at work, and suddenly they’re the martyr fighting for justice. 

Or a disagreement with a friend, and they’ll claim to be the misunderstood one.

6) They’re masters of guilt-tripping

If you want to learn how to guilt-trip effectively, observe a passive-aggressive person in action. 

They have an uncanny talent for making you feel guilty, even when you’ve done nothing wrong. 

When you decline their request or assert your boundaries, they’ll respond with sighs and dramatic expressions of disappointment.

Or maybe even a heart-wrenching comment like, “I guess I’m just a burden to everyone.” 

You’ll find yourself second-guessing your decisions just to avoid hurting their feelings.

7) They use “humor” to hurt

You’re in a group setting, and they crack a joke about you that gets everyone laughing. 

On the surface, it seems like harmless banter, but there’s an underlying sting. 

Passive-aggressive individuals use humor as a weapon, using wit to deliver subtle blows to your self-esteem. 

They’ll pass off their hurtful comments as jest, making you wonder if you’re being too sensitive or if you should join the laughter.

8) They give backhanded apologies

Apologies are meant to acknowledge mistakes and show genuine remorse. 

But don’t expect that from a passive-aggressive person. Their apologies often come with a side of defensiveness and hidden jabs. 

You might hear them say things like, “I’m sorry you got upset” or “I apologize if I offended you.” 

These non-apologies shift the blame onto you, making you question if you have any right to feel hurt in the first place.

9) They deploy the art of selective listening

In conversations, passive-aggressive individuals have a remarkable ability to cherry-pick what they want to hear. 

They’ll conveniently ignore your valid points or brush them off with dismissive remarks. 

It’s as if they have an internal filter that screens out anything that challenges their worldview or requires them to take responsibility for their actions. 

This selective listening leaves you feeling frustrated and unheard.

10) They play the “I was just joking” card

Remember that hurtful comment they made about you? 

Then when you confront them, they’ll quickly resort to the classic escape route: “I was just joking! Can’t you take a joke?” 

This tactic allows them to avoid accountability for their words while making you feel overly sensitive or unable to take a joke. 

In truth, their “jokes” often contain nuggets of truth or underlying animosity.

Understanding the psychology of passive aggression

At its core, passive-aggression is a defense mechanism—a somewhat convoluted method of expressing discontent without direct confrontation. 

As someone who was well-versed with passive aggression back then, I can confidently say that it’s tied to our fear of vulnerability, of revealing one’s true feelings or thoughts. 

People who habitually resort to passive-aggressive behaviors may be uncomfortable with their anger or feel powerless to express it in a healthier way.

Here’s a truth that might surprise you: Passive-aggressive people are often unaware of their behavior. 

They may not even realize the impact of their actions on others. 

After all, it’s easier to say “I was just joking” or “You misunderstood me” than to admit to feelings of anger or dissatisfaction.

The mental health impact on the doer

Being passive-aggressive can have a significant impact on the mental health of the person exhibiting the behavior. 

As they don’t confront or address their feelings directly, they may experience increased stress, frustration, and dissatisfaction.

Imagine bottling up all your negative emotions, but never really addressing or resolving them. 

Over time, this behavior can contribute to feelings of bitterness, create a pervasive sense of negativity, and could potentially lead to anxiety or depression.

The mental health impact on the receiver

For those on the receiving end, dealing with a passive-aggressive person can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. 

It’s like navigating a maze with moving walls—just when you think you’ve found your way, the path shifts again.

The constant undercurrent of negativity, confusion, and guilt can lead to a state of chronic stress and anxiety. 

Moreover, it could damage self-esteem and self-worth, especially if the receiver starts questioning their own perceptions or feelings in response to the passive-aggressive behavior.

In some instances, this might even escalate to a situation resembling gaslighting, where the receiver starts doubting their understanding of reality.

How to deal with passive aggression

We’ve all likely encountered passive-aggression at some point in our lives. Maybe you’ve even recognized it in your own behavior. 

Either way, it’s essential to know how to handle it effectively.

In my experience, it’s all about setting boundaries and fostering open communication. 

There was a time when a close friend of mine constantly masked her dissatisfaction with sarcastic remarks. 

At first, I laughed it off, but over time, it took a toll on our friendship. I started feeling anxious and less enthusiastic about our interactions.

I realized I had to address the situation. So, I approached her calmly and expressed my feelings. 

I explained how her comments were affecting our friendship, and instead of accusing her, I focused on my feelings using ‘I’ statements. 

This non-confrontational approach made her more receptive and less defensive.

The conversation was a revelation for both of us. It turned out, she was unaware of her passive-aggressive behavior and its impact. 

The open dialogue helped her understand my perspective and, surprisingly, she made efforts to change her communication style.

Final words

So there you have it. Passive-aggression isn’t a simple annoyance. 

It’s a complex, potentially harmful behavior with far-reaching implications for both the doer and the receiver. 

It’s essential to recognize it, understand it, and deal with it effectively for the sake of everyone involved.

In handling passive-aggression, remember it’s not about winning an argument. It’s about creating an environment of respect and understanding

If you’re at the receiving end, voice your feelings. 

And if you recognize passive-aggressive traits in yourself, it’s never too late to seek self-improvement

Open communication, empathy, and self-awareness are your allies in this journey. These are the secrets to fostering healthy, sustainable relationships with anyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *