5 Signs You’re Dealing with a Passive-Aggressive Person

We’re all guilty of being a little passive-aggressive sometimes.

It’s hard for many of us to be upfront about what’s bothering us! And so, we resort to other, sneakier ways of getting back at the people who we feel wronged us. Passive-aggression can be tricky. It is shrouded in politeness; it’s also intentionally ambiguous.

Sometimes its hard for even one’s self to know that we are being passive-aggressive.

But are our actions a little meaner than we might make them out to be?

Do you know anyone that isn’t outright insulting to you, but rubs you the wrong way at times?

Here are 5 signs of passive-aggression, and the ways you can overcome them.

Silent Treatment

This is perhaps the most infamous hallmark of passive-aggression. Instead of confronting their grievances head-on, passive-aggressive people would rather let you feel their anger by way of neglect.

Do you know anyone who won’t respond to texts or return phone calls even though they’re generally pretty diligent otherwise? Does it take you a couple of attempts to get a response from them when you’re asking them questions? You’re probably dealing with someone who has a problem with you. Passive-aggressive people also tend to respond to questions and statements with blunt, brief answers. “How was your day?” … Fine.

My suggestion? Fight fire with fire! Often times, just asking a passive-aggressive person what their problem is, just leads to denial on their part. Get the message across that you understand that they are frustrated with you. Let them know you won’t go out of your way to bother them, and that you’re ready to talk when they are.

Subtle Insults

Passive-aggressive people don’t call you names to your face. They’re too afraid of immediate conflict to do so. It’s much easier to backtrack on their words when the insults are a little more underhanded.

Passive-aggressive people are more inclined to say things like “Your hair actually looks good for once”, or “wow, don’t you have some interesting opinions”. Comments like this aren’t as obviously offensive, but they can still pack a punch to your feelings, leaving you unsure as to whether or not they meant any offense.

Insults like this are easily deniable, so the best way to handle subtle jabs is to ignore them. Passive-aggressive people seek emotional reactions for their satisfaction; so don’t give it to them. Ignore their attempts to bring you down. The more you remain unaffected, the sooner they’ll explode and tell you what’s really bugging them.

Procrastinating on Purpose

I know all of you at one time or another have asked someone you knew for a favor, only to have them respond with “in a minute”. What are they doing? Sitting around doing nothing. It’s not that helping you with the dishes is taking up their oh-so-valuable time. The real need to procrastinate is to get under your skin.

This is a power move that passive-aggressive people use to show you that you need them and that you must adhere to their schedules. Holding off on helping you is a sign that they see your time as invaluable or lesser.

Are they not getting off their butts after telling you they’d drive you to the mall? Take the bus! Let them know that healthy relationships aren’t based on power imbalances, and you are your own person.


This might sound a little more sinister than it seems. But let me tell you a little story to illustrate what I mean. I spent a day shopping with a friend of mine. We had initially planned to have a sleepover at my place when we were done. Unfortunately, her and I got into a little argument. I thought we had moved past it, so I drove us back home. As soon as I park in my driveway, she turns to me and says: “I actually want to go home. I have to work early tomorrow.” I asked her why she didn’t just tell me that before I drove all the way back to my place… she only shrugged. I drove her home.

Isn’t it a little suspicious that your study partner chose the night before your quiz to remind you about it? Or that your roommate dug into your ice cream even though you clearly put a label on the tub? Yes, we get the message loud and clear. You’re mad. But it doesn’t make actions like these immature.

This one’s a little harder to deal with. It’s hard to pretend that these things aren’t a bother. Don’t accuse them or try to give evidence that what they did was malicious; you’re only giving them fuel to deny their aggression. Besides, they know what they did. Let them know how the situation made you feel, and what you feel could have been done to make the situation a better one for everyone.

Keeping Score

A healthy relationship does not consist of keeping count of mistakes and wrongdoings. But a passive-aggressive person might just use the day you couldn’t attend their house-warming party as an excuse to skip out on your birthday. Passive-aggressive people may even decide to stop sending future invites your way after you had to call in sick from your R.S.V.P.

Stuck in a situation like this with a passive-aggressive friend? Take the time to remind them that they are not perfect, and you have not been tallying their mistakes. Healthy relationships come from understanding and forgiveness.

What Can You Do?

Do any of these points sound like strong descriptions of you, dear reader? It’s hard to admit that we can be a little petty at times. But the real culprit of passive-aggression is directness, or a lack thereof. It is important to take the time to realize why it is so difficult for you to be more direct. Seeking help from a therapist or counselor is always a good start, but if you don’t have access to one, here’s an exercise for you.

Feeling angry or upset at the end of your day? Keep a journal. Take out a notebook and a pen, and jot down all the reasons you are feeling animosity towards the person you may have been not so nice to. Then ask yourself these questions:

– Are these important enough reasons for me to be mad?

– If I don’t say something about these reasons, will I continue to be upset/be upset again under similar circumstances?

If the answers are yes, take some time to write about how you feel. Call the person you’re cross with, and

– Apologize for your passive-aggressive behavior

– Tell them why you were upset.

Trust me, it takes up much less emotional energy than the silent treatment.

What did you think of the article? Do you know anyone who might be a little passive-aggressive? Are any of these points habits you might have?

Via Psych2Go

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