IIt doesn’t take two to have an argument or even a minor disagreement. But when the chasm between you and your friend or partner seems to remain, you’ll wonder what’s keeping you from finding a solution: Is it them, or are you playing a role too? ? However, a passive aggressive person may never reach this introspection point because it is passive The nature of their actions may make them feel as though they are not contributing to the conflict.
A passive aggressive person “does not directly express negative thoughts and feelings and often says things that are inconsistent with what they do,” says psychotherapist Anita Astley, LMFT, author of the book. soon to be published said Unf * ck Your Life and Relationships. That could be like “give someone the silent treatment when you’re upset with them, instead of solving the problem; agreeing to do something and then not doing it; or give someone a compliment and then deny it, such as ‘I love your long hair… When are you going to cut it off?’ “she speaks.
“[In passive-aggressive people], there is a strong incentive to actively ignore the reality of feeling aggressive or angry. ” —Peter Schmitt, LMHC, associate clinical director at Kip Therapy
While it is easy to identify the signs of passive-aggressive behavior in others, it is harder to recognize when friend may engage in similar behaviors because “there is a strong incentive to actively ignore the reality of feeling aggressive or angry,” says psychotherapist Peter Schmitt, LMHC, associate clinical director available at Kip Therapy, said. Essentially, passive-aggressive people are negating their own angry impulses, so when it comes to suppressing anger, it can also be difficult to recognize the passive aggression emanating from it, he says.
Tania DeBarros, LICSW, psychotherapist says: Alma health foundation. “For example, if every time I sulk, someone notices me, asks me what’s wrong, or does something to make me feel better without me having to articulate my needs, I will learn that if I sulk, I get support.” she speaks. But of course, this ignores the underlying tendency to be passive-aggressive and the harm this lack of clear communication can have on friendships or relationships over time.
Why might someone be passive-aggressive in the first place?
Like many behavioral tendencies, passive aggression often first appears in childhood as a result of a person’s cognitive conditioning of anger and aggression. “Passive aggressive people often learn at an early age that it is never acceptable to express negative thoughts and feelings, nor is it safe,” Astley says.
When someone sees or hears this message repeatedly, implicitly or explicitly, they can internalize it, “which creates a blueprint around the expression and management of the message.” manage aggression in yourself and toward others,” Astley said. Over time, the person may not even recognize or acknowledge anger when it arises, or may learn to suppress it for fear of conflict, she says.
“If a person doesn’t believe their feelings are important, it seems pointless to express them to others.” —Tania DeBarros, LICSW, psychotherapist at the mental health foundation Alma
In the same field, a passive person may have been “emotionally disabled” as a child, or their emotions so minimized or eliminated that later in adulthood, they will lose their value. private feeling. “If a person doesn’t believe that their feelings matter, expressing them to others can be very difficult or seem pointless,” says DeBarros. “Their internal dialogue could be like, ‘It’s no big deal,’ ‘I’m overreacting,’ ‘I’m emotional,’ or ‘I shouldn’t feel X emotions because they didn’t mean it. Street.'”
Kate Deibler, LCSW, psychotherapist at Alma, says this dialogue can also develop in a particular relationship, in response to another person’s behavior. “The person someone feels angry about may have previously reacted negatively to anger,” she said, prompting the other to hide it at all costs. Or perhaps passive people “live or work in environments where strong emotions are punished,” thereby teaching them to mask these emotions, then eventually emerge in a passive way, Schmitt says.
In other words, passive aggression can be part of the flattery traumatic response, says DeBarros. “This happens when one develops appeasement [aka people-pleasing] behaviors to avoid conflict and establish a sense of security,” she says. “If someone feels unsafe directly addressing their feelings, they may turn to passive-aggressive behavior.”
Why is passive aggression a problem for everyone involved?
If you’re in the final stages of passive aggression, you already know how frustrating it can be. “Dealing with someone’s passive aggression can be like trying to read mixed signals,” says Schmitt. Just think of a time when someone insisted, “It’s okay,” when you could tell deep inside that it wasn’t going to happen — but you still couldn’t really parse them wrong. “Frustration over this lack of direct communication or others denying their aggressive behavior can escalate conflict,” he said.
That conflict can definitely interfere with the relationship and bring both people down. But even before that, the passive person doesn’t necessarily feel great. “Passive aggressive people can become even more frustrated and angry when they are unable to effectively express their negative emotions, leading to further confusion about what is going on,” Astley says. actually happening makes it virtually impossible for them to move from one problem to another,” Astley said.
“If people don’t know how you’re feeling, they’ll have a hard time knowing what will make you feel better.” —DeBarros
It just means that the original problem that caused the passive-aggressive behavior cannot be resolved, leaving the passive person in constant trouble. “Someone who is passive aggressive may miss their emotional needs,” says DeBarros. “If people don’t know how you’re feeling, they’ll have a hard time knowing what will make you feel better.” And the longer the passive person waits for the other person to read their mind, the more disconnection and resentment can form, she added.
Ultimately, those feelings are bound to manifest in one way or another — because repressing or repressing anger in passive actions cannot erase it. “Because passive aggressive people are incapable of expressing and managing their aggression, they are more likely to have disproportionate emotional outbursts,” Astley says.
5 signs of passive-aggressive behavior to look for in yourself
1. You consider yourself non-confrontational or absolutely non-angry
Maintaining an adversarial relationship with anger — as in “I never get angry at people” — can be a sign that you often express your anger passively. “The truth is we all harbor aggressive emotions, and so trying to control that part of ourselves will eventually turn into passive aggression or something worse,” says Schmitt. Schmitt said.
Likewise, feeling like you have “almost no feelings of anger or frustration is a reasonable sign that you’re sublimating into something else or liberating through a different path,” says Deibler.
That could also be the case if you consider Schmitt says your approach to conflict is completely non-confrontational, but later finds that the people on the other end of the line often react as if you said something aggressive or hurtful. (This just means they can sense your passive-aggressive behavior and they get upset or confused when you don’t express directly what you’re feeling.)
2. Others accuse you indirectly with your feelings
In the same way that you can identify passive-aggression more easily in others than in yourself, your close friends and loved ones can better understand your passive-aggression compared to your own. friend. If others accuse you of hitting around the bush with your feelings or think you’re annoying when it comes to feeling that you’re not confrontational, that’s a clear sign of passive-aggressive behavior when play.
3. You say things that you don’t really mean
One of the most obvious signs of passive-aggressive behavior in others is also a habit you can ignore: saying yes when no (or vice versa) in any context, says Astley. You can easily say something just to try to avoid conflict, but what if the words that come out of your mouth directly contradict how you feel (e.g. the now-famous fake of “I am I” okay”), chances are that passive aggression will make you uncomfortable.
4. You often use sarcasm to express your feelings in an argument
DeBarros says: While sarcasm doesn’t always deflect a conversation from how you really feel, if you find yourself mostly using it when you’re upset or having trouble having conversations, that often a sign of passive-aggressive behavior, says DeBarros.
5. You expect others to just “get” how you feel
If you find yourself frustrated by someone’s lack of understanding before DeBarros said you’ve taken the time to explain your feelings, you may be acting passively and aggressively. Expecting that a loved one can read your feelings through your passive actions is a sure way to miscommunication and conflict — while expressing your feelings openly Directly, however difficult it may be in this moment, can put you on the path towards mutual understanding.
How to be more comfortable speaking up about what’s bothering you and owning your aggression
Before you can effectively express your feelings of discomfort or anger to others, you need to acknowledge that you do, in fact, have these feelings. “The best antidote to passive aggressive behavior is to embrace our true experiences of aggressive behavior,” says Schmitt.
To do that, take time each day to actively examine and identify how you feel using emotional words, says DeBarros (e.g., anxious, excited, happy, tired, sad, etc.) When creating that list for any given time, make sure to leave room for negative feelings to pop up. “Once you can identify them, practice getting comfortable with them by saying to yourself, ‘It’s okay; I’m allowed to have these negative thoughts and feelings, and that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person, but rather I’m a healthy person,” Astley said.
While it is certainly wise to be mindful of how you act with negative emotions, “there is absolutely nothing wrong with having them, and they can provide valuable information about what we need from other people and where other people may not live up to our expectations in relationships, says Schmitt, for example, only when feeling upset or frustrated about how a relationship is going and have If you can acknowledge that fact, you will also be able to effectively assert your needs with your partner and get those needs met.
Once you’ve identified and accepted your negative emotions, it’s important to remember that addressing them in a conversation doesn’t make you “emotional,” “dramatic,” or “unprofessional.” ,” said DeBarros. “If communicated effectively, sharing how you feel will improve the situation.”
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