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Tips on Dealing With a Passive Aggressive Person


Passive Aggressive Behavior

Passive aggressive people hide their real feelings of anger.

Passive aggressive people hide their real feelings of anger.

Understanding People Who Behave Passive Aggressively

Passive aggressive people let out their anger and resentment in unseen and non obvious ways towards people they are closest to because they believe they can’t show their feelings openly.

Passive aggressive behavior begins to show itself in early adulthood and will show up in a many situations that life presents itself.

There are certain situations that may activate passive aggressive behavior, as an example, when the person’s performance is judged, or they believe they are being judged. This can be seen often in the workplace, and in dealing with authority figures including bosses, parents, teachers, spouses, and with community leaders. On a unconscious level these authority figures indirectly or directly trigger angry feelings.

The Way Passive Aggressive People Were Raised

Teenagers often test the boundaries of their parents and try to assert themselves, but have difficulty or are shut down by their mothers or fathers. This creates an unhealthy thinking pattern and is carried into adulthood.

Some psychologists believe it is a combination of the environment and genes that are the cause of passive aggressive personality disorder developing. At its basics, a person becomes passive aggressive unconsciously because they were not free to openly show their anger. This aggression becomes held back because they feel or were told that these feelings are bad and are not allowed.

Angry feelings still need to be expressed because they never just go away. Their anger comes out in indirect ways to avoid them being shut down by the authority figure or to avoid punishment from the authority figure. Two things happen from this situation. 1) a person learns to let their anger out in covert ways to survive.2) The person also develops a resentment towards authority figures because their feelings were shut down, or not acknowledged. This resentment is carried over to all authority figures and the passive aggressive person tries to defeat the authority figure, while still looking like they respect them.

If you take a look at the way a passive aggressive person was raised, they were more than likely harshly judged for expressing themselves and lived under a very domineering parent. Passive aggressive personality develops because emotional communication was stifled in the household.

Some children learn passive aggressive behavior from their parents, because the parent behaves that way. Some develop it as a survival mechanism out of fear of punishment from a parent, or just having their feelings being ignored by a parent.

Passive Aggressive People

Passive aggressive people hide their real feelings.

Passive aggressive people hide their real feelings.

Low Self Esteem and Passive Aggressive Behavior

Many passive aggressive people have a poor self esteem because they have held back their true feelings. They probably felt overly criticized by their parents. They aren’t honest with their own feelings so they don’t deal with their emotions in a healthy way. They never learned to take responsibility for their own feelings and look to blame other people for their plight.

This kind of behavior becomes problematic as the person grows up and this behavior continues throughout many aspects of their lives. Often the passive aggressive person is not aware of their behavior and what they are doing, so they don’t even try to stop it. Instead, they continue to have disappointing experiences that replicate their past.

What a passive aggressive person really wants is warmth, love, and the support of others, but they are afraid of becoming dependent in the relationship because they fear they will get trapped , they want to avoid responsibility, and commitment to other people.

Passive aggressive people feel angry, but are afraid to display it, so they let it out in ways that people will not readily see. This is problematic for the person who is the target of the passive aggressive person. The target never sees it coming. But by being aware, the target can protect themselves and not fall into the trap the passive aggressive person sets.

How to Deal With a Passive Aggressive Person

It is a lot of work, and can be emotionally exhausting and extremely frustrating, but here are some tips:

  • avoid getting into a power struggle
  • don’t let them get to you. Often they will push your buttons so you yell and become irritated, making you look like the aggressor and them like the victim.
  • avoid becoming frustrated with them.
  • try to turn the table on them.
  • talk in a calm and rational way in order to show them what behavior they are exhibiting.
  • they are experts at denial and will put you in a defensive position.
  • show them inconsistencies in their behavior.
  • look at the argument from their point of view.
  • ask them how they would solve or improve the situation, but they will avoid making any decisions.
  • they want someone else to make the major decisions and avoid giving advice, so that they can blame anything that goes wrong on someone else.
  • they have limited abilities to use logic and reason in expressing their thoughts, so you need to use other methods to possibly get them to understand your thinking.
  • they look for people who are pushovers, who don’t say no, who will make the passive aggressive person’s problem their own.

Passive Aggressive People

Recognize Passive Aggressive Behavior

What to look for in a person who displays passive aggressive behavior: (they may have several or all of these characteristics)

Recognize passive aggressive behavior -

  • do they avoid responsibility?
  • do they may seem ultra sensitive to criticism, paranoid, or sensitive to comments from others and do they misconstrue statements as a personal attack?
  • do you find they are not receptive or open to suggestions about how to do things and may often do things to spite the person who made the suggestions?
  • are they stubborn, somber and gloomy?
  • do they say sarcastic and backhanded comments to you or behind your back?
  • do they make themselves feel like the victim?
  • do they make you look like the bad guy?
  • do they openly tell everyone about other people’s fault?
  • do they have a fear of intimacy, or fight dependency, even though they are dependent people?
  • do they want to make their own decisions with little or no input from other people?
  • do they have a negative outlook?
  • do they pretend to communicate well but upon a closer look they don’t acknowledge your needs?
  • do they blame others for the way things are for them?
  • do they avoid conflict, but act out in covert ways?
  • do they seem jealous of other people’s success?

This is just some of the signs you may see in passive aggressive people.

The Truth About Passive Aggressive Behavior

Passive aggressive people are really aggressive people, but hide it by being passive

Passive aggressive people are really aggressive people, but hide it by being passive

A Passive Aggressive Person Wants to Defeat You

If you are a passive aggressive person or are dealing with a passive aggressive person the first step to dealing and healing is awareness. By taking responsibility, the underlying anger and resentment can be dealt with and understood that this may be the root of the passive aggressive behavior.

Passive aggressive people are looking to defeat the person they are close to. They are looking to get back at them and annoy them. Sometimes the need to fail is a way to get back at the other person.

Learning to stand up for yourself and expressing your anger in a healthy way is another healing method. Assertiveness training courses can help a person express their feelings, desires, and needs in a healthy way.

People can’t usually change passive aggressive behavior on their own. Counseling can help resolve the underlying anger issues that are causing the behavior. Therapy involves realizing the repeated patterns of behaviors that help discover where the feelings come from, and why they continue.

Treating someone with passive aggressive personality disorder is often difficult because the type of person is attached to the resentment they are feeling. They would rather feel resentful than happy.

Their negative patterns continue and in therapy they can become resentful about needing the therapist and looking at the therapist as a person in position of authority. This can make the passive aggressive person wanting to perform and please the therapist, but they are not able to succeed. Failing in therapy is another outlet for the passive aggressive person to maintain their autonomy.

Recognizing Passive Aggressive People

Dealing With a Passive Aggressive Person

If you are dealing with someone who is passive aggressive it is vital to learn to see the signs of this disorder. If they can get help to learn communication skills things can be improved. Don’t make excuses for their behavior or give them an out. Make them accountable for their responsibilities. Avoid being judgmental, angry or controlling. Accept this person. Don’t ask them for anything. When the passive aggressive person is assertive, respond positively.

It is difficult to see that you are dealing with a passive aggressive person. The best way to recognize it is through a pattern of behavior. Once you recognize that the person you are dealing with is passive aggressive:

  • expect that person to not keep their promises
  • be assertive yourself, but not aggressive by letting them know how you feel and what you need.

Sometimes the best thing to do is walk away from the relationship. If the passive aggressive person is not interestted in changing their behavior, there is nothing you can do. Often they believe the problem is with you, not them.

Passive aggressive behavior is difficult to recognize because they attack you in ways you don’t see it. The passive aggressive person hides and denies and leaves you not understanding what happened. It is hard to prevent when you don’t see it coming and hard to deal with when they deny.

Knowledge is power, and awareness is power. Once you can identify that you are dealing with a passive aggressive person, you can make choices about how you will handle them, how you will handle yourself and handle yourself. You can’t control anything, but your own thoughts, and behavior. It is your choice to get snared in their passive aggressive trap, or to not react the way they expect you to, and understand your relationship better for your own greater happiness.


Been there on September 16, 2018:

I have been married to a passive aggressive man for 48 years whose behavior is getting progressively worse. We have been to counseling many times through the years.During therapy his behavior temporarily improves. But when we stop, he quickly resorts to his old behaviors. I did not realize this is the disorder I had been dealing with for all of these years until I read this and similar articles regarding this disorder. I am an assertive person who has taken over many of his responsibilities as he pushed them onto me through the years. At times, I have tried talking with him about this. He is sometimes open to suggestions and changes that never occur. Another way he has been reacting lately is to suddebecome aggressive. He will suddenly without warning start screaming and becomes verbally aggressive. This is accompanied by screaming obscenities, calling me horrible names, threatening to divorce me and occasionally grabbing and shaking me. It is a horrible experience that I have endured too many times. The last time this occurred he accused me of having an affair with two of my co-workers. These are friends that I have worked with for many years. I am not the type of person to have affairs. His behavior is escalating. He also never apologizes for what he says or does in these fits of anger. When I mention his behavior when things have calmed down, he tells me to get over it. It is no big deal. But it is to me. It is devastating. I cannot get over it.

toknowinfo (author) on August 29, 2017:

I am sorry for everything you are going through. It is difficult to be with a passive aggressive person. They are motivated to do what they do because there is a payoff for themselves. They may want to make you feel bad, or get you to show your anger, or another reason. Don't respond the way he wants you to. Try not to get let anything escalate. Then work on getting yourself to better circumstances so you are not a victim of his malice anymore. Emotional freedom is the best thing for yourself. Change is not easy, but neither is your situation.

Helen Stuart on August 29, 2017:

to know info- This is a huge problem I have been aware of with my common law husband for about 6 years. You may or may not want to add, "puts himself totally in charge of a desperately vital project his friends or family or workmates desperately need, will not allow anyone to help, looks busy and announces at the 11th hour that he has actually not even begun project." I have been left praying and crying and desperately seeking help so many times that he was saying "He had it all under control" for months. And with thousands of dollars. I just feel like I have to chalk it up to his aspergers, he really is intelligent. But he is doing again at this minute, and the difference is, this time, I know better to care or expect more. He totally cut me off sexually for two years, and now that he decided he wants that pleasure again, I am totally not interested. Everything ends up"being my fault" in the mean time, I am a 52 year old survivor of EVERYTHING trying not to lay my burdens on him, and he has moved both his under 30 but over 25 daughters into our trailer to "help them out" when we truthfully have zero to give, and they do not even think about how they can take less. I feel like I'm on Mars, they are the Martians, and I need to get myself and my precious pack of 6 tiny dogs out of here, but, even though he's a superb mechanic, my car is broken in the yard.

Deedwin on October 27, 2016:

I'm very glad I found this. A very comprehensive look at this personality disorder and will hopefully help me with my sister. I think she definitely fits the description and since dating her current boyfriend (same personality) it has gotten significantly worse. She has definitely been attacking me as a way to justify him/his behavior towards our family and she is slowly alienating herself from friends/family.

Very hard and I'm worried she will never have the help she needs because she has too many enablers in her life, so any attempt I've made has really blown up in my face and she was recently extremely hateful and verbally abusive to me. I've been struggling with this because I hate not getting along with my sisters and I can see her throwing her life/potential away, but at least now I see that maybe I just need to take a step back. At least until there is a better support network who is willing to encourage her to get counseling. Very sad. But it helps a lot to read this article.

toknowinfo (author) on February 20, 2016:

There is a e-book in the making. I also have several other articles on passive aggressive behavior in my hub pages. I will keep you informed about the book. You can send me your email address to Toknowinfo@gmail.com

Jules on February 19, 2016:

This is so excellent. Is there a book? I would like to give it to a few people. If the passive-aggressive person is a spouse, one can leave and use the lesson learned. If it's one's mother, it's a life-long heartbreak. Read: Mothers Who Can't Love. Thanks

toknowinfo (author) on October 29, 2014:

Hi FirstSteps, You are so right, and that is what makes it very difficult to be in a relationship with a person like this. I have written a series of articles on this topic in the hopes of opening the eyes of people who may encounter those with passive aggressive personality disorder.

FirstStepsFitness on October 27, 2014:

Toknowinfo very good Hub ! This type of behavior can go undetected by someone who isn't aware of it . Thank you

toknowinfo (author) on December 15, 2013:

I am glad this article helped you see things in a new light. Good luck. It is never easy dealing with a passive aggressive person.

ria on December 15, 2013:

I just started searching this morning. Didn't know what i was dealing with. Thanks sooo much. I don't know if i will continue in the relationship although i really love this person. It is killing me

ria on December 15, 2013:

I just started searching this morning. Didn't know what i was dealing with. Thanks sooo much. I don't know if i will continue in the relationship although i really love this person. It is killing me

toknowinfo (author) on June 13, 2013:

Hi Dolores, It is a shame about this personality disorder. And the person who has it, is usually oblivious and will deny any of their actions.

toknowinfo (author) on June 13, 2013:

Hi Nell, I am glad this hub was helpful for you. That is why I wrote it. Awareness is the best defense.

toknowinfo (author) on June 13, 2013:

Hi Writer Fox,

Relationships are complicated enough. What you said is so true.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on June 11, 2013:

Great hub. It makes the passive aggressive person seems so much more than just a jerk. The trouble with them is that they are so totally dishonest you can never really trust them. What a shame to be trapped in such an uncomfortable personality.

Nell Rose from England on June 06, 2013:

Reading this was an eye opener, I do know someone who acted very much in this way, one day calm, another day 'off their rocker' as I used to say it, it can be exhausting dealing with them, fascinating read, nell

toknowinfo (author) on June 05, 2013:

Hi Dili, Thank you for your up votes and for stopping by and commenting

Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on June 05, 2013:

Very comprehensive review of this personality type. The worst thing is that this is always someone close to you and someone you had no animosity toward - yet they want to stab you in the back.

Dilip Chandra from India on June 04, 2013:

Good advice, a well written hub. Voted UP, thanks for the share. Voted UP...

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