The Secret to Understanding Passive Aggressive Behavior!

Business confrontation.Don’t you just love passive aggressive behavior?  (See what I did there?)  Passive aggressiveness causes a lot of stress, aggravation,  resentment, and has the ability to sever even the closest of relationships.  There are some instances of passive aggressive behavior that are intentional, and there are just as many instances of passive aggressive behavior that is unintentional, meaning the person is unaware that they are acting passive aggressively.  There are many ways in which this behavior can show itself.  Some ways are:


  • Sarcasm
  • The silent treatment
  • Withholding of intimacy
  • Withholding of praise
  • Being critical
  • Sabotage
  • Running late
  • Not doing something that’s asked of him/her

So, what’s the secret to dealing with the passive aggressive person in your life?  The secret is to be mindful of the reason why people act this way.  Very simply, passive aggressive behavior stems from an underlying fear of avoidance of direct conflict, and a feeling of powerlessness and helplessness.  It is essentially an unspoken power struggle.


Now that you know what really is going on with passive aggressive behavior, I will give you the best ways that I have personally used to diffuse the passive aggressive person.  Of course, just because they worked for me does not mean that they will work for everyone.  Use my ways as a springboard for your own ideas.  The goal is to stop engaging and enabling the behavior in someone in your life so how you do it really doesn’t matter; as long as you stick to it.

  1. Practice assertive communication.  Assertive communication means that you are nonreactive, respectful, willing to listen, and want to solve the problem as a win/win for everyone.  The goal is not to push the point that you are right and the other person is wrong; the goal is to take into consideration the other person’s feelings and to find a unified way to solve the issue.
  2. Set limits and stick to them.  Make it clear to the other person that you will not tolerate their passive aggressive behavior and then do not cave in.  How you let people treat you from the moment you meet is how they will always treat you, unless you change the dynamic and stick with it.  There might be a little bit of conflict from this in the beginning however it will blow over and you both will be in a much healthier space together.
  3. Talk in specifics, not generality.  To confront the passive aggressive person, be very clear about the issue at hand.  Do not use generic terms to describe their passive aggressive behavior, use a very specific example, something that happened recently that you will both remember with ease.
  4. Recognize the passive aggressive behavior for what it is; hostility.  It  is important to see this type of behavior for what it is, a power struggle.  Once you recognize it as a hostile behavior towards you, you will want to deal with it efficiently and effectively.  If you do not deal with it, or become lenient in any way by allowing someone to continue treating you this way, you have lost the ability to resolve the issue effectively.


It’s time to have healthy relationships and to value yourself.