Passive aggressive simple definition

passive aggressive

The first time passive aggressive behavior was ever described was in 1945 in a Technical Bulletin issued by the US War Department. In this bulletin, Colonel William Menninger reported soldiers expressing aggressiveness via “passive measures,” which he said occurred through behaviors like pouting and stubbornness.

In the 1950s, the first edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) was compiled, which included a definition for passive-aggressive personality, with the subheading passive-aggressive type that contained a description similar to Menninger’s. In 1966, passive-aggressive personality disorder was a common psychiatric diagnosis due to how easily it could apply to people. It continued to be used this way for a long time and often showed up in psychological scholarship.

By the 1980s, though perhaps earlier, passive aggressive began to refer to everyday behaviors. This was a shift from the previous usage, which was a way to pathologize people. It started being used by everyday people to accuse others of exhibiting these types of behaviors.

Passive-aggressive personality disorder was eventually cut from the DSM. It last appeared in the DSM-IV (1994), and it was no longer present in the DSM-V (2013).

Today, it only refers to the obnoxious behavior that people exhibit. Passive aggressive behaviors include sulking, shutting down communication, denying anger, procrastinating, doing things in an intentionally inefficient way, lying by omission, leaving someone out on purpose, delivering backhanded compliments, “forgetting” to do things, being sarcastic, and much more.

What does it mean to be passive aggressive?

Psychotherapist Andrea Harrn published an article in 2011 about what is Passive Aggressive behavior.
Passive aggressive behavior takes many forms but can generally be described as a non-verbal aggression that manifests in negative behavior. It is where you are angry with someone but do not or cannot tell them. Instead of communicating honestly when you feel upset, annoyed, irritated or disappointed you may instead bottle the feelings up, shut off verbally, give angry looks, make obvious changes in behavior, be obstructive, sulky or put up a stone wall. It may also involve indirectly resisting requests from others by evading or creating confusion around the issue. Not going along with things. It can either be covert (concealed and hidden) or overt (blatant and obvious).
A passive aggressive might not always show that they are angry or resentful. They might appear in agreement, polite, friendly, down-to-earth, kind and well-meaning. However, underneath there may be manipulation going on – hence the term “Passive-Aggressive”.
Passive aggression is a destructive pattern of behavior that can be seen as a form of emotional abuse in relationships that bites away at trust between people. It is a creation of negative energy in the ether which is clear to those involved and can create immense hurt and pain to all parties.
It happens when negative emotions and feelings build up and are then held in on a self-imposed need for either acceptance by another, dependence on others or to avoid even further arguments or conflict.
If some of this is sounding familiar don’t worry – we all do some of the above from time to time. It doesn’t make us passive aggressive necessarily nor does it mean your partner is.
Passive aggression is when the behavior is more persistent and repeats periodically, where there are ongoing patterns of negative attitudes and passive resistance in personal relationships or work situations.
Some examples of passive aggression might be:
Non-Communication when there is clearly something problematic to discuss
Avoiding/Ignoring when you are so angry that you feel you cannot speak calmly
Evading problems and issues, burying an angry head in the sand
Procrastinating intentionally putting off important tasks for less important ones
Obstructing deliberately stalling or preventing an event or process of change
Fear of Competition Avoiding situations where one party will be seen as better at something
Ambiguity Being cryptic, unclear, not fully engaging in conversations
Sulking Being silent, morose, sullen and resentful in order to get attention or sympathy.
Chronic Lateness A way to put you in control over others and their expectations
Chronic Forgetting Shows a blatant disrespect and disregard for others to punish in some way
Fear of Intimacy Often there can be trust issues with passive aggressive people and guarding against becoming too intimately involved or attached will be a way for them to feel in control of the relationship
Making Excuses Always coming up with reasons for not doing things
Victimization Unable to look at their own part in a situation will turn the tables to become the victim and will behave like one
Self-Pity the poor me scenario
Blaming others for situations rather than being able to take responsibility for your own actions or being able to take an objective view of the situation as a whole.
Withholding usual behaviors or roles for example sex, cooking and cleaning or making cups of tea, running a bath etc. all to reinforce an already unclear message to the other party
Learned Helplessness where a person continually acts like they can’t help themselves – deliberately doing a poor job of something for which they are often explicitly responsible
Passive aggression might be seen as a defense mechanism that people use to protect themselves. It might be automatic and might stem from early experiences. What they are protecting themselves from will be unique and individual to each person; although might include underlying feelings of rejection, fear, mistrust, insecurity and/or low self-esteem.
Patterns of unassertive and passive behavior may have been learnt in childhood as a coping strategy possibly as a response to parents who may have been too controlling or not allowing their child to express their thoughts and feelings freely. To cope, a child might adopt a passive-aggressive behavior pattern.??For example if a child was ridiculed, put-down or punished for openly expressing their feelings or disagreeing with their parents the child would learn to substitute open expression for passive resistance – agreeing with what mum or dad said in order to be a “good child” or not speaking out honestly or at all. If there was a consistent pattern within the family of punishment or rejection for asserting themselves the child would learn to become highly skilled at passively rebelling. An example of a child rebelling might be around toilet training, withdrawing from family conversation, choosing subjects at school to please parents and then not working hard, around eating and mealtimes – all causing worry and upset to the parents who may have no idea their behavior is a contributory cause to the problem.
Passive Aggression in the Workplace
In the workplace a passive-aggressive employee or employer may use these techniques as a form of control and/or intimidation. The worker might sulk, make faces, scowl inwardly when given jobs to do or may agree politely and then take ages to do them. By doing so, he they are showing annoyance in the hope they will not be asked to do those tasks again. Employers can also use passive aggression when confronted with employee problems, turning a blind eye, not facing facts or dealing with genuine cases of bullying and intimidation. This avoidant behavior can be very damaging to individuals and teams of individuals within organizations.
Consequences of Passive Aggressive Behavior
In being passive aggressive you are not giving yourself or others an opportunity to listen to what you think or feel
When on the receiving end of passive aggression, you can feel confused, upset, offended, guilty and frustrated. You may think you’ve done something wrong, but have no clear idea what it was
It avoids communication in a very negative way
It creates insecurity in all parties
It creates a bad atmosphere between people
It is a form of conflict where either both or one party cannot engage sensibly in the issues
It avoids the real issues
It creates negative feelings and resentments in an unassertive way
Tips to help you overcome the effects of passive aggressive behavior
If you have got this far in the article then passive aggression is an area of interest to you and possibly a problem in your life or the life of someone close to you.
Five tips for overcoming your own passive-aggressive behaviors:
· Become aware of the underlying feelings causing your behavior
· Become aware of the impacts of your behavior and how your desire to defeat others, get back at them or annoy them creates yet further uncomfortable feelings for yourself
· Take responsibility for your actions and reactions
· Try to not feel attacked when faced with a problem but instead take an overall objective view of the situation
· Learn to be assertive in expressing yourself. You have a right to your thoughts and feelings so communicate them with honesty and truth and strengthen your relationships
Five tips for coping with the passive-aggressive behavior of others:
· Become aware of how passive aggression operates and try to be understanding towards your partner
· Explain to your partner how their behavior towards you is affecting you. Communicate calmly without blaming – i.e. talk about how you feel and what you think without using language that will enflame the situation more. For example you might say “I feel upset by your behavior” rather than “you’ve done this or that”.
· Be aware of your responses to others and yourself– do not blame yourself for the behavior and reaction of others
· Be honest about your part in the situation
· If the aggressive behavior of others continues to affect you in a negative way, set clear boundaries around yourself – rules for what you will and won’t accept. Stay strong and focused and get on with your life in a positive way. ♠

How to Deal with Passive-Aggressive People in 5 Steps

1. Don’t take the bait

There’s a fine line between responding to someone who’s being passive-aggressive and engaging in the drama they’re creating. You want to respond without doing the emotional work for them, Braslow says. That means avoiding asking questions like: “Why did you say that?” or “What did you really mean?”

Example: A friend says “thank you” but doesn’t sound pleased.

How to handle it: Answer the content, not the context of the situation. Simply saying “you’re welcome” meets the person where they’re at, but doesn’t take their bait, which is a great way to disarm them.

2. Stay in the present moment

If you’re calling someone out on their behavior, chances are this isn’t the first time they’ve acted this way. Remember: this habit usually gets picked up in childhood as a way to avoid confrontation.

Still, it’s not a good idea to bring out the laundry list of past offenses or make sweeping generalizations, says Scott Wetzler, PhD, vice chairman of the department of psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and author of Living With the Passive-Aggressive Man. Instead, focus on what just happened.

Example: Your mom says, “That dress does a great job of hiding your weight gain.”

How to handle it: Don’t respond with a general statement about how she always criticizes the way you look (even if you feel that way). Rather, focus on that specific moment and tell her how her words make you feel.

3. Be assertive when talking

The passive-aggressive person is being avoidant, so this is no time to beat around the bush. Instead, address the issue head-on. Focus on your feelings and use “I” statements. This method brings understanding and empathy, rather than “you” statements, which can feel accusatory, Brandt says.

Example: You’re at a family dinner and notice a relative adding spices to a dish you made. It’s also not the first time they’ve messed with your recipes.

How to handle it: Approach them and say, “I noticed you adding in spices. I feel disrespected when you do something like that without telling me. It’s fine if you want to tweak your own dish, but I don’t want to change the whole recipe.”

4. Make sure the punishment fits the crime

One way to get passive-aggressive people to change their behavior is to have clear consequences for their actions. But those punishments can quickly go overboard (e.g., screaming “I’m never ever talking to you again!” in the heat of the moment).

Evaluate how their behavior has affected you, then determine the best response, Wetzler says. Should you tell your friend you need some time apart? Or is it time to end the friendship altogether? Take some time and think about it.

Example: This is the third time your friend has been late to the movies without giving you a heads up.

How to handle it: Next time it happens, be direct and tell them it bothers you when they leave you hanging. If they continue to do it, let them know you’ll invite another friend instead.

5. Understand your audience

No matter how hard you try, some people won’t be responsive when you talk to them, says Stacy Kaiser, a therapist and lifestyle coach. “Many people who are passive-aggressive aren’t going to change because you’re bothered by it,” she says.

If you’re deciding whether to bring up a person’s behavior, it can be helpful to do a quick cost-benefit analysis to figure out if it’s worth making an effort to get them to change their ways. In other words, talking to your spouse is a lot less risky than talking to your boss.

Example: Your boss is giving you the silent treatment after another leader at the company compliments your work.

How to handle it: Ask yourself: Is talking to your boss worth your time and energy? Will it lead to change? Will it lead to consequences, like being passed over for promotions or losing your job? If so, ignore their tantrum and focus on spreading positive vibes at work.

7 Signs You’re Dealing With a Passive-Aggressive Person

Human aggression doesn’t have much going for it. Every war, bar brawl or playground smackdown ever fought has resulted from our habit of lashing out first and talking it through only later. But if aggression has one virtue, it’s that it’s unambiguous. It’s hard to misunderstand the meaning of a missile launch or a punch in the nose.

But passive-aggression — regular aggression’s sneaky little cousin? That’s a whole other thing. Passive-aggression is there but it’s not, you see it and you don’t. It’s aggression as steam — hard to frame, impossible grasp. You see it in the competitive colleague who would never confront you directly but accidentally leaves your name off an email about an important meeting. It’s the spouse who’s usually punctual but takes forever to get out of the house when it’s your turn to choose the movie. Sometimes there’s an innocent explanation, but often there’s not — and the passive-aggressors themselves might not even know which is which.

Either way, passive-aggression is more than just the nettlesome habit of a few maddeningly indirect people. Clinicians differ on whether it qualifies as a full-blown personality disorder like, say, narcissism or paranoia, but they agree on the symptoms: deliberate inefficiency, an avoidance of responsibility, a refusal to state needs or concerns directly.

Passive-aggressiveness comes in varying degrees, which can make it tricky to know if you work, live or socialize with a passive-aggressor — or if you’re one yourself. The behavior is practically defined by its plausible deniability. So we’ve compiled seven of the most commonly reported ways passive-aggressive character traits can show up in your life:

Leaving things undone. Passive-aggressors are champions of the almost complete job: the room that’s painted except for the molding; the laundry that’s washed but doesn’t get folded; the dishwasher that’s loaded except for the utensils, because really, who needs clean utensils when we can always spear our food with sharpened sticks or the fondue forks we’ve had in the back of the closet since 1997! (Not that I’ve ever experienced this at home.) It’s a nifty strategy, signaling resentment at having to do the job and leaving just little enough undone that you’d feel picky criticizing it and will ultimately decide just to do it yourself for, like, the twelve billionth time. (Not that I’ve ever experienced that either.)

Running late. If you’re a passive-aggressor you live in an Einsteinian universe of eternally elastic time, where a few minutes can turn into a few hours. Actually, all of us live there — which is why we have watches. To passive-aggressors, a watch is a bother. If they don’t want to go to a dinner party but feel obligated to be there? No worries. They’ll just accept the invitation and then — oopsies! — only vaguely remember the time it starts so they don’t show up till the middle of the soup course. The same is true when they resent having to attend a meeting so they wander in 20 minutes late with a mystified expression that says you’re all here already? The behavior is occasionally deliberate, more commonly unconscious — and always infuriatingly effective.

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The non-compliment. Compliments are easy. Compliments can even be fun. Here are some nice compliments: “Great haircut!” or “Terrific soup!” Here are some less nice compliments: “Great haircut — I used to get the same one in college,” or “Terrific soup — I didn’t even taste all that cilantro.” It’s no secret which kind of compliment the passive-aggressor goes for — usually out of competitiveness. If you’re not sure which kind of compliment you’ve gotten, pay attention to your own responses: If you feel like saying “thank you,” you’ve probably gotten a good one. If you feel like running screaming from the room, not so much.

Silence. Shhh… Hear that? No? Exactly. That’s the sound of a passive-aggressive person who’s cheesed off about something. If you were upset with something a friend or family member did, you might say — and we’re just spitballing ideas here — “I’m upset with something you did.” A passive-aggressive person would instead say: . Silence is always a go-to strategy for passive-aggressors and it’s not hard to see why. It says nothing at all and yet says volumes. It ostensibly avoids a conflict but in fact provokes one—with the very lack of communication serving as a taunt and a goad. It’s thus passive, and yet, um, aggressive. Hey! We might be onto something.

Wistful wishing. You know what I wish? I wish passive-aggressive people wouldn’t dreamily announce something they want and then immediately conclude — always out loud — that it’s probably not going to happen. But I guess that’s too much to ask. See what I did there? Annoying, right? I could have said, “Hey! Passive-aggressive people! Knock off that out-loud wishing.” But instead I came at it sideways. If that sounds like things you’ve heard in your life — “It would be great if you could get the project done by Wednesday, but I guess it’ll have to wait till Friday” — it’s a pretty safe bet there are passive-aggressors in your circle. The objective, of course, is to get an idea out there, then immediately disown it — thus putting the burden of getting it done or not done on you.

Sabotage. It’s not hard to tell the bad guy in a movie. He’s the one who’s always tampering with the brakes in the hero’s car or sneaking the bad lines of code into a computer. Passive-aggressors might not go that far, but you can see where they get their inspiration. That deadline your colleague forgot to tell you about until it was just a day away? Those work clothes your spouse tossed in with the dry-cleaning the day before you went off on that business trip you’d been arguing about? As with lateness, this is sometimes deliberate but usually not. Either way the point has been made — and yet not made too.

The disguised insult. The social contract under which the rest of us live has a special provision passive-aggressors have added just for themselves. It typically comes in the form of a “but” clause, like, “I don’t want to sound mean, but…” “I hope you don’t think I’m insensitive, but…” “Not to be judgmental, but…” after which they say something mean, insensitive or judgmental — and sometimes all three at once. An uncharacteristically honest variation on this disguised insult is the “You’re going to hate this, but…” which at least has the virtue of being true, because you will inevitably hate it down to your very last strand of DNA. This is as close to pure aggression as the passive-aggressor gets. Feel free to hold up a hand and halt the conversation before any passive-aggressors in your life get past the comma that ends the clause — but don’t be surprised if they drive right through that stop sign.

If you’re a victim of passive-aggression, there are a few basic coping strategies. For starters, remember that you’re not nuts. If you see a pattern it’s probably real. So respond — and know that it’s OK to draw sharp boundaries. The chronically late dinner guest can be invited once more on the proviso that the start time of the evening is honored. After that? It’s Chipotle for you, bub.

And what if you’re the passive aggressor? Well, the knock-it-off suggestion is a good place to start. That’s not always easy, and it can take work and even the help of a good therapist to determine why directness is so hard for you. It’s a lot better than indirectness, however—and it’s a whole lot less work.

Write to Jeffrey Kluger at [email protected]

Don’t fool yourself: Seven signs that you’re being passive-aggressive

By Natasha Burton April 14, 2015
It’s possible you’re just distracted, but not paying attention when someone is speaking to you can also be a sign of passive-aggression. (iStock)

We’ve all come across passive-aggressive behavior at some point — from the friend who compliments your “starter home” to the co-worker who checks his phone while you’re talking. But while it’s easy to spot when it’s happening to us, it’s not always easy to know when we’re doing it.

Being passive-aggressive doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Often it’s “a strategy we use when we think we don’t deserve to speak our minds or we’re afraid to be honest and open,” says psychotherapist Tina Gilbertson, LPC, author of Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings.

Are you being passive-aggressive … but have no idea? Here are seven common signs.

1. Making Wistful Statements

One passive-aggressive behavior happens when you want something but aren’t asking for it directly. “For instance, when a friend mentions she’ll be attending a party and you say, “I wish I could go,’” says New York City-based psychotherapist Janet Zinn, LCSW. “It’s better to ask, ‘Any way I could come?’ It’s more direct and doesn’t leave your friend feeling pressured or uncertain.”

Another, far less benign way this type of passive aggression can manifest is through small put-downs and insults, says clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula. For example, someone comes to the office in beautiful new shoes and you say, “I wish I could get a new pair like that — but, sadly, all my shoe money goes to rent.”

Comments like these (perhaps intentionally) make the receiver feel guilty for getting or doing whatever it is that you can’t.

2. Doling Out Backhanded Compliments

Sometimes jealousy and passive aggression combine. Instead of being able to react the way you might want to (happy for the person), you instead say something that just sounds, well, rude.

For example, if a friend gets engaged and you’ve been waiting years for your boyfriend to propose, you might call her new bling “cute” or say you thought the diamond would be bigger. If a friend buys a house and you’re nowhere near a down payment, you might call his place “cozy” or remark that it’s a good “fixer-upper.”

If you catch yourself doing this, take a step back and apologize. It’s better to acknowledge your misstep — even your jealous feelings, if you’re talking to a close pal — than mistakenly assume that no one caught it.

3. Ignoring or Saying Nothing

On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes saying nothing at all is passive-aggressive. According to psychotherapist Katherine Crowley, author of Working for You Isn’t Working for Me, checking your phone when a colleague is trying to speak with you or during a meeting are examples of passive-aggressive behavior.

Sound familiar? Try to break this habit ASAP by not bringing your phone into meetings or even sticking it in your desk drawer when a colleague approaches. (If you get a must-be-answered-now email, momentarily excuse yourself from the conversation or meeting to respond so your typing doesn’t come off as rude.)

Ignoring someone’s calls, e-mails, or texts as a way of sending a message that you’re upset with him or her is another way this behavior can manifest. “Instead of communicating clearly and honestly, you are dropping hints and waiting for the other person to pick up on them,” says psychotherapist Jessica S. Campbell, LCSW. “When he doesn’t, he is punished with the silent treatment, cold shoulder, or some other method of withholding.”

4. Procrastinating

A more active form of ignoring is procrastination. Maybe you’re unhappy with your job or your role in a particular project, but instead of saying something (or doing something proactive), you take extra-long lunches or even a sick day as the deadline approaches.

Socially, this behavior typically comes in the form of backing out of an obligation at the last minute — like giving an excuse that you can’t make it when you really just didn’t want to go in the first place, says friendship expert Nicole Zangara — or denying knowledge of the event altogether.

“Passive-aggressive behavior has 100 percent deniability and zero percent accountability,” Gilbertson says. “You can always say you didn’t receive the invitation, you lost it, or it completely slipped your mind, while your true motive — to turn down the invitation — remains hidden.”

5. Leaving Someone Out

Perhaps you’re not fond of a certain colleague. Rather than address the issue directly, you go out of your way to edge him out of the office clique. You might do this by inviting everyone on your team to lunch, except him, or gossiping about him, Crowley says.

Another example of passive-aggressive behavior in this category, says counselor Michael Diettrich-Chastain, is when “it’s your day to go on a coffee run for work and you ask everyone in the office except the co-worker you don’t like.”

6. Sabotaging Someone

A more extreme move related to leaving someone out is downright sabotaging her. Instead of just excluding someone socially, you purposely leave her off e-mail chains or meeting invites, or even “forget” to tell her when a deadline has been changed. If someone points it out, you make statements like, “Oh, I had no idea,” “I’m so sorry,” or, “I wonder how that happened,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Ben Michaelis, to absolve yourself of blame.

In personal relationships, sabotaging could come in the form of “innocently” bringing your friend a cupcake when you know he’s trying to lose weight or pressuring a pal to hit the mall when she’s struggling to save money. In both cases, you might feel, however subconsciously, jealous or that you lack his or her discipline or willpower.

7. Keeping Score

When someone misses an important life event of yours, whether it’s not attending your birthday party or not making the effort to go to your wedding, it’s natural to feel disappointed. In many cases, however, instead of confronting the person directly (or letting it go), we tend to fall into a tit-for-tat sort of pattern — which is passive-aggressive.

“For example, you aren’t going to their birthday party because they didn’t come to your baby shower. Or you aren’t inviting them to your dinner party because they couldn’t attend your last one,” Campbell says. “Either way, you are keeping score and not creating a supportive relationship.”

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17 Signs You’re a Passive-Aggressive Person

We’ve all thought about leaving sticky notes around the house or office with comments like, “Has anybody here ever heard of washing dishes?” The question is: have you ever actually followed through with this? If so, you’ve at least engaged in passive-aggressive behavior. Yes, avoiding direct confrontation and implementing a satisfying power move is something we all indulge in from time to time, but for others, it’s a way of life. Thing is, passive-aggressive people often aren’t aware of the fact that it’s their way of life.

In other words: you could be one of these people. (Gasp!)

As the year ends and the time for self-reflection begins, it’s time to look in the mirror and see once and for all if you are, in fact, a passive-aggressive person. To that end, we spoke to experts and identified some surefire signs to look out for when making your analysis. Good luck. We guess…

1 You still aren’t satisfied after coming to a resolution.

“Since passive aggressive people don’t express what they need, you will often end up with a resolution that doesn’t really satisfy them,” says Lucio Buffalmano, psychologist, social skills coach and founder of So, even after an issue has been resolved, the vicious cycle continues, as the passive-aggressive person is still unhappy and unwilling to admit it, and continues to lash out as a result. Can you relate to this? If so, you’ve got some soul searching to do!

2 You’re a people pleaser.

Not all people pleasers are passive-aggressive, but many passive-aggressive people are people pleasers. This may seem surprising, as passive-aggressive behavior is considered an unbecoming characteristic, and not a manner someone would adopt in order to be liked.

Clinical psychologist and certified life coach Dr. Cali Estes explains it like this: ” contemplate, ‘How can I get through this situation without offending anyone, and how can I get out of the situation with everyone still liking me?'” Of course, the catch-22 here is that your aggression—even if given out passively—will likely still offend people.

3 You’re fluent in sarcasm.

Using humor to mask how you’re really feeling is classic passive-aggressive behavior. Further, it’s a way to deflect any sort of criticism that may come from whomever was the butt of your joke.

“Passive-aggressive people make sure that they become the victim of a misunderstanding, instead of the perpetrator of a mental jab against their target,” says Sheri Sutherland creator of Your Bliss Guide here at Tranquility Soul Spa. If you use sarcasm to diffuse your hostility, but then claim it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously when someone takes offense (“Jeez, it was just a joke…”), well, we’ve got news for you. And no, it’s not good news.

4 You don’t keep promises.

If and when someone asks you to do something or to be somewhere and you say yes out of guilt, even though you really don’t want to, you may want to look inward and see if you move forward passive-aggressively. You may intentionally not follow through, and even convince yourself that it wasn’t really on purpose.

“When you don’t want to go someplace, you somehow end up being late,” explains licensed clinical psychologist Nicole Issa. If showing up late to a thing you never wanted to attend because “the trains were horrible” or “traffic was so backed up,” when really, you left your apartment thirty minutes after you already said you did, you may have a problem.

5 You’re specific and manipulative with your emotional punishments.

“Once a passive aggressive is resentful towards you—and it happens often because they won’t tell you what’s bothering them—they will start secretly undermining you,” says Buffalmano. Let’s say you’re mad at someone for cancelling plans on you, and instead of telling them that you’re upset, you decide you’ll simply “get back at them” by purposefully cancelling plans next time you make them together. That right there is some major passive-aggressive handiwork at play, friend.

6 You dish out backhanded compliments.

So, what exactly is a backhanded compliment? It’s a term we hear thrown around a lot, but few may know its true definition. The folks at Psychology Today explain it with this example: “A colleague may pretend to give you a compliment, yet when you get a chance to think about it, you realize it’s really an insult in disguise.”

This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of expressing distaste, while remaining “friendly” enough to avoid a fight. If you find that you maneuver your way around heated arguments by masking your put-downs with courtesies, it’s time to start addressing exactly what you mean by those comments.

7 You downplay personal statements or requests.

In simple terms, passive-aggressive people are afraid, ashamed, and unwilling to express themselves. So, when they do work up the courage to do so, they make sure to preface what they’re about to say with something that will make it seem less significant. For example, Julie Williamson, a licensed professional counselor, notes that you can catch yourself being passive-aggressive by asking yourself if you are qualifying your requests with things like, “This is so silly, but…”

8 You’ve got all the hot gossip.

Talking smack behind someone’s back is a great way to vent about your frustration without having to directly confront that person. Issa notes that passive-aggressive people “might tell someone about something that someone else did that upset them, in order to indirectly communicate to them that they should behave differently.” In this case, your subconscious hope is that the person you’re gossiping with will tell the person you’re upset, relieving you from the responsibility of doing so yourself.

If reading this made you feel like you were back in middle school when things were communicated by so-and-so telling so-and-so, who then told so-and-so, that’s because this kind of passive-aggressive behavior is incredibly immature. Let’s leave it to the middle schoolers, yeah?

9 You enjoy being left alone at work.

Receiving feedback—particularly criticism—is a nightmare for a passive-aggressive person. Confrontation is being delivered right to their doorstep, and they aren’t in the driver’s seat. Dr. Estes says that passive-aggressive individuals prefer to be in work situations where they aren’t “policed,” so they can steer clear of any harsh feedback. If you prefer to go unsupervised while working, mainly due to anxiety about being reprimanded for doing something wrong, you be may more passive-aggressive than you realize.

10 You have a habit of talking under your breath.

If you mutter things to yourself and someone just happens to hear what you said, they can’t hold it against you, right? Wrong. But, if you’re a passive-aggressive person you’ll likely try to deflect or deny the comment you just whispered. “You will say something under your breath and then, if asked about it, you will insist it is ‘not a big deal,'” says Issa. The question here is: are you muttering things that are only meant for yourself, or are you secretly hoping someone will hear what you said?

11 It’s always “fine.”

It’s the worst two-word text message you can receive from someone: “It’s fine.” Pretty much everyone knows that “It’s fine” means the polar opposite. However, if you are passive-aggressive to the core, stating feelings that are obviously false is your go-to. People who are passive-aggressive in nature tend to dangle this unspoken truth over people’s heads, even when their culprits ask for reassurance.

“If you ask them if they are angry, they will push back and say that, ‘No, I’m not angry,'” says Buffalmano. If you will die on the hill of insisting that everything is “fine” when it’s clearly not, you may be utilizing more shady power plays than you thought.

12 You’re unaware that you’re a passive aggressive person.

According to research in Psychology Today, a lot of people who are passive-aggressive in nature don’t realize they’re passive-aggressive. It may stem from the fact that passion-aggression has a bad connotation, but utilizing it doesn’t always come from a conscious place of wanting to inflict harm. In fact, as Estes says, most passive-aggressive people are simply trying to avoid making others feel bad. Many passive-aggressive people are inherently passive, and relationally aggressive. They feel as if being confrontational will undoubtedly make someone feel bad, so an alternative course of action—in this case, avoidance—is better.

Of course, intent rarely matches outcome. Making a passive-aggressive comment can hurt just as much as a blunt one, and ultimately will lead to a less productive solution. So, while you may not realize that you’re being passive-aggressive, you’re simultaneously unaware of the damage you’re causing.

13 You love the silent treatment.

We’ve all been on one side of the silent treatment at one point or another. (And if you haven’t, here’s what it is: If someone is upset, they purposefully and inexplicably cease communication as a means of informing a party that, yes, they’re upset.) But if you’re a passive-aggressive person, the silent treatment is among the most-used weapons in your arsenal; you frequently express dissatisfaction through silence in an attempt to get what you want from someone. Whether or not it works, however, is another story entirely.

14 You ask leading questions.

Williamson says that if you have passive aggressive tendencies, you’ll likely “ask leading questions in hopes that others will read your mind.” Asking leading questions in hopes of getting a specific answer is a tactic sometimes used by lawyers or law enforcement when trying to incriminate someone. But, if you’re using this method in order to avoid telling people what you want from them, you’re likely less of a detective and more of a passive-aggressive person trying to avoid making a direct request from someone.

15 You’re afraid of asking for what you want or need.

Forms of open communications—like asking for a raise, or expressing dissatisfaction with a partner—can be a challenge for anyone. But some people are so paralyzed by the idea of burdening someone with their requests that they resort to subtly hinting, hoping the other party will pick up on queues and figure things out themselves. (Yeah. Good luck. If you don’t ask for something outright, then you don’t have to feel guilty for being selfish or a nuisance.)

However, things get tricky when the plan backfires and the person you were sprinkling clues in front of just doesn’t figure out what you’re trying to convey. Then, you may feel angry. “Anger is often an easier emotion to allow ourselves to feel than guilt because feeling angry makes us feel we have some sense of control, and that we have a ‘right’ to feel that way because of what someone else did or didn’t do,” explains Williamson. Being passive-aggressive may seem like an easy way out of asking for things, but ultimately it won’t lead to satisfaction.

16 You keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

Being nice to someone you dislike may seem polite, but if you’re doing it to avoid addressing the qualms you have with them, this kind of behavior is passive-aggressive. Also, no one likes a fake person. Best to ditch this habit regardless. Be civil, but don’t pretend to like someone you hate.

17 You feel like a victim.

“If you are a passive aggressive, you’ll often feel angry and frustrated at everyone in your orbit. You perceive the world as out to get you,” says Katie Ziskind, a Holistic Marriage and Family Therapist. This is especially true when others don’t pick up on aggression you’re doling out passively. You’ll likely feel hurt that people don’t “get” you and can’t figure out what you’re trying to relay. It’s you, a passive-aggressive person, against the world. And if you’re looking to work toward self-improvement, check out these 23 Things To Let Go of to Be Happy in 2019.

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