Dealing With Passive Aggressive People


The Passive Aggressive Personality

There are several important things to understand about a passive aggressive person. The first is that they are at their core, angry people. The second is that they are afraid to show their anger outwardly. The passive aggressive personality has many feelings they have not dealt with from their past. They have feelings about their current situation.

They don’t know how to deal with these feelings. This causes inner conflict within them, since their anger needs to come out, their resentment needs to come out, and they hold themselves back from openly expressing these emotions. So their only choice is to let it come out in ways that people don’t really see it.

This sets up a myriad of problems, for those who are the target of their anger. It is very difficult to deal with someone who is basically unhappy, not willing to talk about it, and not wanting to take any responsibility themselves for their feelings. They want the fault to lay with everyone else. They feel like a victim. In a way they are, but the passive aggressive person has victimized themselves.

Shutting down feelings of anger causes a person to lose touch with their own feelings, not just those of anger, but most other feelings too. It is hard to be happy if you are cut off from your emotions. It is hard to be happy, when your past weighs you down because you haven’t dealt with it.
It is hard to be happy when you carry around hostility towards people, usually parents that you never get to express. It is hard to be happy when you feel afraid to express your natural emotions.

Hidden Anger

Passive aggressive people look for others who are people pleasers. They target people who are not good at setting boundaries. It makes it easy for them to manipulate you, to push your buttons, and make you the focal point of their hostilities. You become a convenient and easy way for them to behave negatively towards.

They make things more complicated than they need to be. It is often frustrating and angering to deal with the results of the way they think and behave. You may notice they become over sensitive to things that are said about them, they seem to complain or procrastinate about requests they are asked to do,appear paranoid, fear authority figures, don’t take responsibility for their own feelings, and display resentment for those who give them advice, and appear envious of others they view as more fortunate.

These individuals are often gloomy, moody, and have a dismal, pessimistic attitude about things. Although these feelings too, like their anger is hidden to those who don’t know them intimately. Passive aggressive people struggle with their own feelings. In all likelihood they grew up in a home where their feelings were shut down and their parents were unavailable to them.

Since there was no healthy outlet for the expression of their feelings, they became submissive to their parents and distrustful of anyone they view as authority figures. They fear becoming dependent on someone, and really want to feel independent to break the chains of restraint they felt in their home.

They usually have low self esteem which makes them dependent on others. Yet they fear intimacy, because they have a deep seated resentment for those they have to rely on. They resent anyone they view as an authority figure. They usually see their partners, bosses, coworkers, and anyone they feel inferior to, as an authority figure.

Why is it Difficult to Deal With Them?

Dealing with a passive aggressive personality is very confusing. They will seem like they are cooperative and helpful. But when it comes to actually fulfilling the task, they fall short in one way or another. They don’t say what they mean.

They present themselves as the nicest people, and even though they usually are, they have a dark side they don’t let others see. They send you mixed messages, and spread their unhappiness back to you. They will agree to do something, but then find a way to be defiant, which ends up angering you.

When dealing with someone who is passive aggressive, it is important to avoid attacking them and giving them fuel that strengthens their belief that you are an authority figure who is putting demands on them. Be on the lookout for the retaliation they are likely to take against you.

People with Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder conduct their lives by what I call ‘ A Five V Technique.’ - venting, vicariousness, vilifying, victimization and vindication.

  • They want to see you get angry so they get you to Vent your feelings.
  • This allows them to Vicariously let their anger out through you.
  • They then can Vilify you for yelling at them.
  • This allows them to feel Victimized by your angry outburst.,
  • They then can feel Vindicated because you must be the one with a problem, or you wouldn’t behave that way and all blame belongs to you.

Typical Behaviors

They often don’t have good communication skills, because they look to avoid confrontation. Yet their personality may be friendly, affable, and talkative but when it comes to the nitty gritty of talking things out, they are not really capable of sharing their feelings that go deeper within them.

Classic behaviors of passive aggressive people is to selectively forget to do things, procrastinate, be late, be ambiguous, lie, make up excuses, and rationalize their behavior to cover up their true resentment. And to make this even more complicated, passive aggressive people are often behaving like this with no self awareness that they are doing these things. Their unconscious actions makes it even more difficult to reach them on a level that could correct their behavior.

So what can you do?

The first thing to do, when dealing with a difficult person is to recognize that they are behaving passive aggressively.

By understanding that a passive aggressive person has anger that stems from their childhood and their dysfunctional relationship with their parents, you can learn to not take the things they say and do, personally.

Once you know you are dealing with a passive aggressive person, it is important to not let them get to you. Your outlet of anger is a form of relief to them. They want to upset you so that you react and they don’t have to. They gain a sense of accomplishment when they have set you up, by irritating and frustrating you. So if they don’t know how to get you to react, they can’t continue their behavior.

It is important to remain calm when dealing with a passive aggressive person. Try to keep your emotions in check, because the less you react to them, the less power you give their passive aggressive feelings. By being rational and explaining what you have observed about their behavior and to point out their inconsistencies, you will not be subject to their manipulative ways. Often their actions and words don’t match. With a passive aggressive person, it is their actions only that count.

How to Deal With Them

By being empathetic towards them you might be able to disarm them. It may be helpful to tell them that you understand their frustration and how difficult things are for them.

It might be beneficial to be assertive and clear about what you expect of them, and what the consequences of their actions will be. When dealing with them, it is important to be factual, not emotional, to be levelheaded and clear. These may be your only defense against a passive aggressive person.

You may be able to encourage better communication by modeling good communication yourself and rewarding them when they respond positively. It may be helpful to encourage them to communicate clearly and assertively, although this is probably best done in a therapeutic environment with a professional counselor.

Be direct and assertive about their actions. They often will not have a reaction to your feelings, Since they shut their own emotions off, how can they relate to what you are feeling? But if you set a model for expressions, they may follow your example. It is important to use ‘I feel...’ statements. If your comments place blame on them or accuse them, you have just made the communication with them counter productive.

It is important to refrain from getting into arguments with passive aggressive people. When they lure you into arguments, you give them an opportunity to let them feel like the victim, and they make you look like the bad guy. Walk away instead of arguing.

If you rely on a passive aggressive person, they will most likely not keep their word, which will cause you to feel frustrated and react. So if you are dealing with a passive aggressive person, it may be best to have no expectations. Relationships with passive aggressive people are often strained.

What You Can Do When Dealing with a Passive Aggressive Person

Because they have the habit of forgetting to do things or to follow through on promises, you might want them to put their agreement in writing. That way it is proof that they made a commitment and you can hold them accountable. This is especially helpful when dealing with passive aggressive co workers.

Getting them into therapy would more than likely be helpful. Through professional counseling, they may be able to learn to express their thoughts and feelings more openly, and feel safe dealing with their emotions. Most passive aggressive people will not go to therapy on their own. They usually don’t realize they have a problem.

Many people find that the only way to deal with a passive aggressive person is to just accept them. But relationships with these people are difficult, tumultuous, and burdensome. Their unhappiness will drag you down, and you may need to think about what you are sacrificing to coexist with this passive aggressive person. You are the one with insight. They are not.

They have no incentive to change because things are working for them, or so they think. But you, being more self aware become ensnared by their actions, false promises, and inconsistent behavior.

It is not a healthy way to have a relationship, but it is a personal decision, one that is best made with as much awareness as you possibly can have about the situation you are in with this person.

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Comments 21 comments

carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

I find people like this really difficult to deal with as you never know how they feel.. Well done. Voting UP and sharing.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Great suggestions my friend. I have found my own unique way of dealing with people like this.....I scratch them from the list of people that I see. No problem! :)

lovedoctor926 3 years ago

Useful information. Excellent hub!

Pamela-anne profile image

Pamela-anne 3 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

I have someone very close to me that seems to fit the bill of the passive aggressive person; thanks for the info I say this is getting voted up good work!

Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Interesting information. I had never really seen passive-aggresive under this light so I have been enlightened :) Not a great condition to have or have to deal with. Well written!

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Very interesting with some very good points.

Have a wonderful day.


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 3 years ago Author

Thanks Eddy for stopping by and commenting.

RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Loved this! This is awesome information...!

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 3 years ago Author

Hi Carol, Thanks for sharing my hub. It is always nice when you stop by.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 3 years ago Author

Hi Lovedoc, Thank you for your kind comments.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 3 years ago Author

Hi Pam, I am glad this hub was useful to you, and I appreciate your kind words and up votes. Thanks for stopping by.

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

Very good information and explanation on this disorder. For me, the best way to handle this type of behavior is to stay away from it altogether. Voted up and sharing. Thank you.

sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

Fortunately, I don't know anyone with this type of behavior. However, I am now "armed" with knowledge on how to handle them if I do come in contact with some with this type of personality. Great information! :)

Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 3 years ago from USA

You helped better understand someone I know. Thanks for the good information.

FyrFytr234 profile image

FyrFytr234 3 years ago

Wow. I've been told over the years by a few people that know me well that I'm p/a. I don't see it that way. Denial? lol. I do NOT think I'm an angry person. In fact, far from it. I also don't have parental issues nor authority issues. My childhood was pretty good. My career was in a para-military organization. I took orders from my superiors and gave orders to my subordinates. I preferred the latter...but who wouldn't? I've learned over the years to try to refrain from saying things in anger. That rarely works out well for anyone involved. I prefer to wait until I'm no longer upset to discuss things. I just want to go to my cave, calm down and process my thoughts and feelings. To me that seems to be a mature and realistic way to deal with an issue. Apparently there are no caves on Venus. Women want to discuss every problem at that exact moment. I do understand that. I p/a because I'd prefer to have a more calm and reasonable discussion after a short visit to my cave to regroup, calm down and gather my thoughts? I honestly don't think so. Things said in the heat of the moment can not only be hurtful...the can never be taken back. I'm certainly not perfect. We all have issues. If you do not think you have a BIG one! lol.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

This is an interesting explanation of passive aggressive behavior. It is a subject that once came up with my brother. However, he was discovered to have a brain tumor which had an effect on his memory and perceptions.

savvydating profile image

savvydating 18 months ago

Pretty much, we're stuck between a rock and a hard place if we work with these people, and if we basically have to interact with them. I find that email is helpful---because that puts distance between us, and is also a way to get the date of your request in writing. My feeling is that the most benign way to "call them out" is to ask, What makes you say that?' This said, of course, in response to something they say that is hurtful---in that annoying passive-aggressive way they enjoy using.

Anyway, this is a good article. I really enjoyed it and it helped me to have a clearer definition of what passive-aggressive really means. Voting up.

Alastair McIver 17 months ago

Codswallip. The majority of behaviours described above are perfectly normal things everyone does from time to time. All this article does is arm people to label other people who have pissed them off for one reason or another. I find this article, ironically enough, to be very passive-aggressive.

It also makes a lot of large assertions without one scrap of evidence. Voting down, and won't be buying the books plugged here, thanks.

cheryl in las vegas 13 months ago

In am in a s truggle with my daughter who i believe noe is p/a .we have had a close relationship always but i am the people pleaser with no boundaries. Set. I raised my two children trying to d o a ll i could and with my daughter i did to much ...i never let her fix her own roblems and never let her grow to be able to believe she could solve a bad situation on her own i was there to pick up pieces to remember whatcevercwas needed for any situation thatvmay come up in othercwords she didntvhave to think...i never dreamed i cou)d be harming her by doing son moved out and to florida ×ith his father and had to fendcfor himself at a much younger daughter who is 29 is emotionaly imature and extremely abuse and crurl to me. She has used me as the reason everything in her life that is wrong is my fault ....i can do or say nothing to help her b÷cause it is somehow wrong...she resently hadvtwins and father is no whrre can provide no care has no money has no job...i have supplied everything dhe has for baboes dod bab s/how÷r and contacted hercod friends to come .mind u i was wrong forcdoing th[s and her favorite saying" i never ask u to "....BUT i amd the person WHO IS causing all thr problems for her...not her boyfriend who is on probation for !ug charges and shebcant bevaround because of her prior arrests. But she blames me because i called police because he attacked me when i was caring for twins. So i am at fault because they cant be together the ist goes on snd on....i now live with her but have decided to move out alone .i am worried about twins thpugh because she is so angry...he bf has not bothered to send even wipes for babies ...she is definitely suffering but i am the bad guy @nd can not continue to do things for her as she has NO RESPECT OR NOT A KIND WORD TO S@Y TO ME..z i dont know whayvshe will do but i cant help her she has no one else except a few friends but i dont THINK ANY WOULD STICKNTHERE NECKS OUT FOR HER AND BABIES...I DONT KNOW HW TO GET HER TO SEE THAT SHE NEEDS TO TAKE RESPONSIBIITY FOR HER ACTIONS. I LOVE HER BUT CANT TAKE THE ABUSE ANY MORE. THIS ARTICLE REALY HIT HOME WITH ME AND I AM TRYING TO GET THE ATMOSPHERE IN THIS HOUSE TO CALM DOWN .THANKS FOR THE INFO

ARTICLE SAYS IT ALL 11 months ago

Passive aggressive people love the big drama and when it turns to drama they turn it into something hurtful being done to them. The best way to disarm it is not give them the blow up they seek. Always be calm. I do not agree with walking away because that is passive aggressive and hostile in itself, shows disrespect, and

incites frustration.

writehard 5 months ago

great article!

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