In A Better You, Syndromes & Disorders

Understanding Passive Aggressive Behavior

People who indirectly express their negative emotions instead of addressing them directly are said to have passive aggressive behavior, according to the Mayo Clinic. People who are passive aggressive are often resentful and resist other’s demands.This type of behavior stems from a person’s desire to avoid conflict. People who exhibit passive aggressive behaviors also tend to feel helpless or powerless in their lives, and use their passive aggressiveness as a coping mechanism.

What Does Passive Aggressive Behavior Look Like?

While many people are vaguely familiar with this condition, some may be wondering, “What is passive aggressive behavior?” There are many examples of passive aggressive behavior. They include a person having a hostile or sullen attitude, even when the people are him/her are happy and upbeat. People who constantly complain that they are being treated unfairly may also be exhibiting passive aggressive behavior. A person who is passive aggressive may intentionally be hesitant to meet others demands, or intentionally make mistakes when asked to do something.

Huffington Post also asserts that people who are passive aggressive will deny that they are hurt or angry. This makes the person on the receiving end of the behavior feel delusional. The recipient knows inherently that the passive aggressive person is not being open about his/her feelings. However, the individual with passive aggression won’t admit that they are hurt, angry or offended.

Other passive aggressive behavior examples include the silent treatment, even if the other party is not aware of the reason for the treatment. People with passive aggression are often very sarcastic, even when sarcasm is not necessary and will obviously ruin the upbeat mood of a conversation.

Some people who suffer from passive aggression will without praise or appreciation, even when a person is deserving of recognition. Withholding intimacy is another common trait in a passive agressive person. In relationships, a person who is behaving in a passive aggressive way may never directly tell his/her partner why he/she is upset, hurt or angry, but will stop showing affection or engaging in any type of intimacy.

Other seemingly subtle traits of a passive aggressive person include always being late for work or events. If the passive aggressive individual is angry with his boss or has an issue with the person hosting an event, he will intentionally be late as a form of rebellion. The passive agressive individual will likely not apologize for being late and will pretend that his lack of punctuality is not a problem.

How to Deal With the Behavior

To figure out how to deal with passive aggressive behavior, it’s important to know for sure that this is indeed the problem. After seeing traits like complaining, brooding and making constant mistakes that turn out to be intentional, it’s time for those who are exposed to passive aggressive people to implement healthy coping methods for peace of mind.

Passive aggressive people tend to exhibit their bad behavior around people who won’t address their actions or make them accountable. Passive aggressive individuals seek out individuals who are also afraid of conflict. This increases the chances that the passive aggressive actions won’t be properly addressed. This way, the bad behavior can continue.

Dealing with a friend, loved one or coworker who is passive aggressive is a matter of being honest. Passive aggressiveness is form of hostility, according to Huffington Post. This means that the behavior indicates a power struggle. Calling the behavior out with no apologies and setting boundaries is essential. For example, letting a spouse know that his behavior is not healthy and won’t solve the problem is more effective than simply letting him sulk for reasons that aren’t apparent to you.

It’s important for people who have to deal with someone else’s passive aggressive traits to set boundaries and stick to them. For instance, if a worker is always late for appointments, make it clear that this will not be tolerated, and take disciplinary action if the employee refuses to follow the rules.

At Work With Passive Aggressive People

When passive aggressive employees show their negative behavior to their bosses or supervisors, it’s often the option of the supervisor to provide direct consequences to the passive aggressive person, or to simply fire the individual if the behavior continues.

However, when a colleague shows passive aggressive behavior in the workplace, it may not be as easy to cope with the symptoms of passive aggressiveness. According to CareerBuilder, it’s important to keep a paper trail when dealing with a passive aggressive person. This keeps the conversations and interactions with the individual factual, in case he/she tries to deny not fulfilling his/her responsibilities or pretends to be innocent any time flaws are discussed.

Ignoring emotional outbursts is another way to properly deal with a person who is passive aggressive. When a person suffering from passive aggressive disorder cries or becomes overly offended during a work review, this is usually a tool used to distract supervisors from being honest. This behavior should be ignored. It’s best to be firm and direct without being rude or condescending.

Passive Aggressiveness In Men

When dealing with passive aggressive behavior, it’s essential to note that passive aggressive behavior in men may look different than when the condition is exhibited in women. Examples of passive aggressive behavior when exhibited by a man include being late to events that matter to other people, including loved ones. However, when the passive aggressive man wants to attend an event that interests him, he is prepared and on time.

Knowledge Galaxy also asserts that men who are passive aggressive contradict themselves often. They say one thing and do another regularly, but deny it every time it is addressed. Passive aggressive men procrastinate often and will wait until the last minute to complete important projects, which usually means that the finished product is lacking in quality. Men who are passive aggressive also expect their significant others to know what they are thinking at all time. These men want their partners to behave according to their thoughts or wishes, even when the men don’t directly express their wants and needs.


Knowing how to recognize passive aggressive traits gives friends, family members and coworkers insight into how to deal with this behavior. The Mayo Clinic asserts that passive aggression can be a disorder all its own, or can be a sign of other mental or personality disorders.

Implementing effective strategies to manage the behavior–and sticking to these strategies–is very important for maintaining healthy interaction with a passive aggressive person. This can lead to more harmonious relationships in the workplace, as well as in one’s personal life.

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