Passive Aggressive Behavior – Part I

Have you met someone that made you feel like you did something wrong, yet they say nothing is wrong? You doubt that because you see certain subtle changes in their character such as ignoring you, suddenly shutting off or being sulky, and giving backhanded compliments.

That person might have Passive Aggressive Behavior or Personality Trait.

What is Passive Aggressive Behavior?

Passive aggressive behavior
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Passive aggression describes behavior or personality traits that are indirectly aggressive rather than using direct aggression. It is characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation. It is also a form of emotional abuse.

There are several ways in which a passive aggressive behavior can manifest. If someone who is passive aggressive gets angry, they most times would not admit it. Instead, they might shut you out or hurt you indirectly.

For instance, Jane hurt Bella, and instead of Bella to confront Jane, she keeps it to herself. Jane might not even know that she hurt Bella but she notices that Bella is no more herself. She has seen a change in behavior; Bella intentionally cancels on planned outings at the last minute, she keeps to herself, she gives Jane the silent treatment, shuts down conversations and so on. However, when Jane asks Bella if everything is okay, Bella says “everything is fine”.

Also read: Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms, Types and Treatment

At this point you might be thinking, “am I passive aggressive?” Not to worry, you might not. You see, everyone displays a form of passive aggression. It does not necessarily mean they are passive aggressive. To qualify one as having this personality trait, the behavior has to be more persistent and has to repeat itself frequently.

How to Identify Passive Aggressive Behavior

Passive aggressive behavior
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There are characteristics that are common to people with passive aggressive behavior and knowing them can help you identify if you are and/or if someone is passive aggressive.

  • Procrastination or being forgetful – They tend to procrastinate a lot and are purposely forgetful
  • Sulking – being silent, and resentful in order to get attention or sympathy
  • The silent treatment or non-communication – usually, they would give one the silent treatment and they also don’t communicate well. They usually respond with just one word answers
  • Doing tasks or completing requests poorly – they intentionally delay or make mistakes when dealing with other peoples’ requests. When reluctant to do something, they usually don’t say “no” instead they intentionally do a poor job
  • Evading problems and issues – they tend to evade problems and issues and they often do so smartly
  • Always giving excuses and playing the victim – nothing is ever their fault. They always have an excuse for everything and find it difficult to take responsibility for anything. Instead they play the blame game
Passive aggressive behavior
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  • Mostly late – they are often late to functions and meetings
  • Fear of intimacy – Often there can be trust issues with passive aggressive people and guarding against becoming too intimately involved or attached will be a way for them to feel in control of the relationship
  • Withholding usual behaviors – for instance, if they usually cook for the family, they can decide to not cook because they are angry. It’s a way to display their aggression towards you
  • Frequently complaining about feeling underappreciated and deceived
  • Acting stubborn
  • Backhanded compliments – these are remarks that appear to be a compliment but could be understood as an insult. An example is, your photo is really nice, it doesn’t look like you
  • Sabotaging someone – they intentionally mess things up just to make you feel bad. For instance, they might not let you know someone asked to see you for something important or they could turn off the alarm so you don’t wake up early for an important meeting

What causes Passive Aggressive Behavior?

Passive aggressive behavior, psychology in Nigeria
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Upbringing has an effect on passive aggressive behavior. For instance, if someone is raised in an environment where they were not allowed to express emotions, it can cause them to be passive aggressive over time. This is because, they can’t express their feelings openly and so they use other “passive” ways to do so.

Having a low self-esteem can cause one to be passive aggressive. People with low self-esteem would not easily speak out or confront someone. They do this for fear of losing a relationship. Therefore they suppress their feelings because they don’t want to appear confrontational, neither do they want conflict. This makes them express their anger in ways that are not too obvious or in a passive manner which sometimes can be dangerous.

Also read: Emotional Insecurity

Finally, child abuse, neglect and harsh punishment can cause a person to develop passive aggressive behaviors.

Below is an excerpt from an article written by Andrea Harnn

“Passive aggression might be seen as a defense mechanism that people use to protect themselves. It might be automatic and might stem from early experiences. What they are protecting themselves from will be unique and individual to each person; although might include underlying feelings of rejection, fear, mistrust, insecurity and/or low self-esteem”

Passive aggressive behavior can be destructive…

It causes one to lose meaningful relationships and it makes a working environment quite uncomfortable for others. Identifying it might be difficult because almost everyone has been known to display one or two of the characteristics particular to this behavior. However, certain people display most of these characteristics and they do it quite frequently. If you display passive aggressive behavior or you know someone that is passive aggressive, there are ways in which you can overcome and cope with it.

Read: Passive Aggressive Behaviour: How to overcome it

What are your thoughts on Passive Aggressive Behavior?

Have you come across someone with such behavior?

How was the experience?



In my next post, which is scheduled for Monday, 17th of September, I will write about how to overcome and cope with passive aggressive behavior.

Meanwhile, you can connect with me on facebooktwitter and instagram @theroyaldeviant Also, don’t forget to subscribe, to get more of these kind of contents right in your mail box.

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  1. Alexpearls said:

    I have a question o, if you exhibit two or three of the characters when you are hurt or to someone who hurt you is that still being passive aggressive? Lovely read and very educative

    September 19, 2018
    • Nakas said:

      Yeah it is, cause it’s passive aggression. It doesn’t mean you have passive-aggressive behavior. For someone to have passive aggressive behavior, the characteristics has to be persistent and frequent. Besides, it’s just 2 or 3 characteristics, usually it’s more than that, so one can’t really say you have passive-aggressive behavior.

      September 19, 2018
    • Nakas said:

      Yeah it is, cause it’s passive aggression. It doesn’t mean you have passive-aggressive behavior. For someone to have passive aggressive behavior, the characteristics has to be persistent and frequent. Besides, it’s just 2 or 3 characteristics, usually it’s more than that, so one can’t really say you have passive-aggressive behavior.

      I’m glad you found this educative dear

      September 19, 2018

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