Passive aggressive behavior can be best described as a negative manifestation of feelings dues to inactive, non-verbal anger brewing inside of someone. It is just the opposite of active anger which an individual expresses verbally as soon as he feels it. With passive aggressive attitude you are actually angry with someone over something but you choose not express it or you cannot, circumstantially, express it. Instead of coming out in open and letting people know that you are angry and upset with them, you bottle up the feelings, stifle yourself with anger and then be negative, antagonistic and sullen. It may also give rise to evasive behavior and the individuals suffering from it would start ignoring positive requests and feedbacks from others by creating bafflement around the main issue. Passive aggression can be projected in sly and concealed actions or can be expressed blatantly and obviously. Although people with passive aggressive tendencies have deep seated resentments and anger, they will not always project that in their behavior. They might come across as people with completely normal behavior patterns and would seem compliant, polite and down to earth. But under their cool exterior, there is repressed anger and manipulation. Passive aggression is considered poisonous in interpersonal relationships; it is dormant emotional abuse which gives rise to trust issues between two people. It affects an individual’s capacity to form stable and long-lasting relationships. There is a huge mismatch between what a passive aggressive person does or says. They usually do not mean what they say or promise. This kind of an individual shows how he feels by actions/inactions, but rarely through words.
Different Levels Of Passive Aggressive Behavior
- Transient Agreement: Here the passive aggressive individual agrees with a person or a situation and does not at any point show that he/she dislikes something. But, when it comes to acting on something, there are behavioral discrepancies.
- Deliberate Incompetency: At this level, the passive aggressive intentionally shows inefficiency in his/her actions and behavior, making it seem like it is something that is out of his/her control. You will know that it is deliberate because he/she will show inefficiency in very obvious things.
- Letting It Brew: At this stage, the passive aggressive person lets the problem grow and silently waits for it to escalate. He/She takes comfort in the misery of the people involved in it.
- Revenge: The passive aggressive people make intentional move to take revenge from someone but keep it hidden from everyone’s knowledge, so much so that he/she does not even let it show through his/her behavior.
- Self Devaluation: In this the passive aggressive person goes as far as destructing himself /herself to take revenge from someone who he/she thinks has wronged him/her. This usually happens in close relationships.
Reasons For Passive Aggressive Behavior
There could be many reasons for passive aggressive behavior to develop in an individual. The most common reason, according to studies, is having a controlled childhood. If the individual in question has been a curious and just a tad bit more excited than other child in his/her childhood and unfortunately had parents who were either too busy or were over stressed work-wise or emotionally, then there are chances that his/her enthusiasm was controlled or he/she was often reprimanded for it. This, for the very first time, instilled passive anger into him/she and he/she held his/her parents responsible for his/her unhappiness but could not express it to them either because he/she was not given an opportunity or he/she was not very expressive anyway. This leads to bottling up of emotions, a lesson learnt for the rest of the life because what a child learns in the early years of his/her growing up, it stays with him/her forever. These passive aggressive children eventually start to feel inadequate in pleasing their parents and fails in their own eyes. Also, passive aggressive behavior develops in people who do not express their needs and opinions much often. These people then develop the tendencies for a secret life wherein they take revenge from manipulating people whom they hold responsible for their misery or dissatisfaction.
Signs Of Passive Aggressive Behavior
- Intentional Obscurity: Not being clear of one’s intentions and keeping someone confused on purpose. If you counter this trait in a passive aggressive person, he/she will make it seem like he/she does not know what you are talking about, making you guilty for blaming him/her for dubious intentions. The whole point of this person is to keep you confused at every step with them. They will say something and mean completely something else, on purpose.
- Purposeful Absent-mindedness: Just to win an argument or to keep his/her stance clear, a passive aggressive individual will deny remembering many of the events that you will argue with him/her about.
- Aloofness: This person will retire into long periods of silences and would not care to solve a conflicting situation for a long time. He/She will make it seem like they are hurt and would take their own time to heal when it should be the other way around.
- Procrastination: Passive aggressive people have the tendency to overlook deadlines. They work according to their own time schedule, without bothering about those who expect their work to be done in a different way or at least, to be completed on time.
- Delay: Never expect a passive aggressive person to reach anywhere on time. You should not wonder why he/she is late for a lunch date or birthday party – the person actually wants you to wait for him/her.
- Blame Game: Passive aggressive people blame others for their own actions. They would hold others as responsible for the wrong deeds that they do. Moreover, they think that others should be punished for their faults.
- Fear of Dependency: The fear of dependency haunts passive aggressive people. In this process, they try to acquire control over others.
- Fear of Intimacy: Passive aggressive people are also very afraid of getting too intimate. The emotional fragility makes them pick up fights to maintain a distance with people who are close to them. This fear of intimacy often leads them to lose trust in their loved ones.
- Thought of Being Oppressed: Passive aggressive people often think that they are not treated fairly. According to them, they are the innocent victims of oppressive treatment. Worst is the case, when they become offensive on seeing that you are upset due to their behavior.
Dealing With Passive Aggressive People On A Personal Level
- Don’t Take It Personally: Do not take your passive aggressive partner/friend/family member’s behavior personal. You should learn to empathize with them and understand that it is their learnt behavior and they are not trying to attack you on a personal level when they are acting edgy and grumpy.
- Patience: Show them that you are patient to their problems and concerns and they will soon learn to trust on you and be less defensive around you.
- Do Not Be Authoritative: Do not be overbearing with passive aggressive people because they detest authority and controlling people. Show them that you respect their opinions and would like to make a healthy contribution by presenting your side of the story as well.
- Give Them Time To Calm Down: If they are throwing one of their tantrums then let it all settle down slowly on its own and the approach the problem. This will help them to understand that you do not want to have a conflict with them but have genuine intentions towards them.
- Be Open: Talk about the problem with them. Tell them that you think that they represent passive aggressive tendencies and you are concerned about it. This might liberate them and they would come out in open with it.
Dealing With Passive Aggressive People On A Non-Personal Level
- Be empathetic and understand their need to elude conflicts and arguments.
- Try to understand that these people feel inferior to others and you should help them find some confidence by appreciating them.
- Give them clear instructions and set realistic roles for them but let them know it is not because you think they are incapable but it is essentially because of professional reasons.
- Value them and pat their back at every little achievement.
- Let them have some control over the situation and do not boss them around but treat them as respected individuals.
- Keep the communication open and give them a chance to express their opinions from time to time.