What is Passive Aggression?

What is Passive Aggression? thumbnail

Crazy Making 101

This is a great article from Psychology Today about passive aggressive behaviour. If you find yourself feeling confused and always feeling shut down or helpless in a relationship, it could be because of passive aggressive behaviour. Or, you could even be the one who uses it as a defense mechanism. Either way, this is good information to help you recognize the signs.

Backhanded Compliments and Sugarcoated Hostility

Is there someone in your life who consistently makes you feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster? Do you know a person who is friendly one day but sulks and withdraws the next? Does a family member or friend consistently procrastinate, postpone, stall, and shut down any emotionally-laden conversations? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, chances are you may be interacting with a passive aggressive person.

Passive aggression is a deliberate and masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008). It involves a range of behaviors designed to get back at another person without him recognizing the underlying anger. These ten common passive aggressive phrases can serve as an early-warning system for you, helping you recognize hidden hostility when it is being directed your way:

Bottom of Form

1. “I’m Not Mad.”
Denying feelings of anger is classic passive aggressive behavior. Rather than being upfront and honest when questioned about his feelings, the passive aggressive person insists, “I’m not mad” even when he is seething on the inside.

2. “Fine.” “Whatever.”
Sulking and withdrawing from arguments are primary strategies of the passive aggressive person. Since passive aggression is motivated by a person’s belief that expressing anger directly will only make his life worse (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008), the passive aggressive person uses phrases like “Fine” and “Whatever” to express anger indirectly and to shut down direct, emotionally honest communication.

3. “I’m Coming!”
Passive aggressive persons are known for verbally complying with a request, but behaviorally delaying its completion. If whenever you ask your child to clean his room, he cheerfully says, “Okay, I’m coming,” but then fails to show up to complete the chore, chances are he is practicing the fine passive aggressive art of temporary compliance.

4. “I Didn’t Know You Meant Now.”

On a related note, passive aggressive persons are master procrastinators. While all of us like to put off unpleasant tasks from time to time, people with passive aggressive personalities rely on procrastination as a way of frustrating others and/or getting out of certain chores without having to directly refuse them.

5. “You Just Want Everything to be Perfect.”

When procrastination is not an option, a more sophisticated passive aggressive strategy is to carry out tasks in a timely, but unacceptable manner. For example:

• A student hands in sloppy homework
• A husband prepares a well-done steak for his wife, though he knows she prefers to eat steak rare
• An employee dramatically overspends his budget on an important project

In all of these instances, the passive aggressive person complies with a particular request, but carries it out in an intentionally inefficient way. When confronted, he defends his work, counter-accusing others of having rigid or perfectionist standards.

6. “I Thought You Knew.”
Sometimes, the perfect passive aggressive crime has to do with omission. Passive aggressive persons may express their anger covertly by choosing not to share information when it could prevent a problem. By claiming ignorance, the person defends his inaction, while taking pleasure in his foe’s trouble and anguish.

7. “Sure, I’d be Happy To.
Have you ever been in a customer service situation where a seemingly concerned clerk or super-polite phone operator assures you that your problem will be solved. On the surface, the representative is cooperative, but beware of his angry smile; behind the scenes, he is filing your request in the trash and stamping your paperwork with “DENY.”

8. “You’ve Done so Well for Someone with Your Education Level.
The backhanded compliment is the ultimate socially acceptable means by which the passive aggressive person insults you to your core. If anyone has ever told you, “Don’t worry-you can still get braces even at your age” or “There are a lot of men out there who like plump women,” chances are you know how much “joy” a passive aggressive compliment can bring.

9. “I Was Only Joking”
Like backhanded compliments, sarcasm is a common tool of a passive aggressive person who expresses his hostility aloud, but in socially acceptable, indirect ways. If you show that you are offended by biting, passive aggressive sarcasm, the hostile joke teller plays up his role as victim, asking, “Can’t you take a joke?”

10. “Why Are You Getting So Upset?
The passive aggressive person is a master at maintaining his calm and feigning shock when others, worn down by his indirect hostility, blow up in ager. In fact, he takes pleasure out of setting others up to lose their cool and then questioning their “overreactions.”

I’m sure we have all come across this kind of behaviour at one time or another in our lives. As I share this, my intention isn’t for you to blame and point a finger at the people in your lives that exhibit these behaviours. The idea is to let yourself off the hook, to understand why you get so upset when this happens and then it will lose it’s power over you. Then you get to say no to this bad behaviour and that’s where you get the power to start to change your relationships.

OMGosh, this is great stuff.




5 Responses so far.

  1. Rachael says:

    Gosh I can’t believe how many of these I use. Especially with my other half. Fine and Whatever are probably some of the most used words in my vocab – especially at the moment!!

  2. Thanks Marion

    Don’t take this the wrong way…
    I love ending up underneath You,
    This is a good thing.
    It sound s Like you knew the old Michael 1.2
    I was that Guy for a time
    Thankfully I have Evolved to at least Version 2.3 NOW!

    P.S. I was only joking. Ending up under you makes this posting thing really easy I love your work and find it easy to comment on.

    Mikee Likes IT!

    • Marion says:

      Hey Michael,
      I appreciate the time you took to make a comment. And I’m glad you are aware of your patterns and are looking to make a difference in your life.
      For me to be a practitioner of what I teach, there is something I have to tell you about myself in relation to your comment.
      Although you say you are only joking, comments like that do feel a bit weird on my end from people I don’t know.
      I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty, but to let you know how it lands so you have the information and you can make choices about it moving forward as I’m sure you want to be able to attract rather than detract an audience. In a relationship, it allows for greater connection between two people as they do get to know one another if each is open to hearing the others feedback.
      I appreciate that you are a guy that is out to help others learn to earn. I wish you tons of luck!

  3. Hello Marion

    read through the post twice. There are a fair amount of points which are so recognizable in people. You don´t pay attention to it in your daily life but must admit this article was an eyeopener. Very interesting mmm thx fr sharing. Have a great week.

    • Marion says:

      Hey David,
      Thanks so much. It is interesting when even the new culturally accepted “Whatever!” shows up on the list. It’s also easier to see when other people are saying and doing these things. It’s even more of a jolt when we catch ourselves! The good news is, that’s when we can start making some changes in our lives, hence changing the results we get.
      I appreciate your comment!

Copyright © 2015 All rights reserved