Ways to Confront Someone Who Is Passive Aggressive

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Ways to Confront Someone Who Is Passive Aggressive

Passive aggressive is the deliberate but covert way of expressing anger / Photo by Getty Images



Passive aggressive behavior is defined by Psychology Today as the “deliberate but covert way of expressing feelings of anger.” Individuals usually resort to being passive aggressive when they are afraid of blatantly showing their anger. They think that if others are able to tell that they are upset, this will just add more to their problems. As a result, they express their anger in such a way that it does not seem obvious as a way of subtly getting revenge. Although they may feel uneasy with confronting their feelings of anger, they enjoy being the cause other people’s frustration.

Signs of Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Some behaviors that are considered passive aggressive include: sulking and leaving an argument or discussion instead of telling the other person about their views or what they need, Saying “Fine” or “Whatever” to end the fight, intentionally doing tasks carelessly, procrastinating, and promising to do better someday even though they do not actually will not alter their behavior.


According to Verywell Mind, the reasons an individual engages in passive-aggressive behavior are:

The way they were raised

The individual may have been brought up in an environment where they were not permitted to express their feelings in a straightforward manner or where they were not encouraged to openly showing them. Since they feel that it is wrong for them to express emotions plainly, they may try to look for other ways to show how angry or frustrated they are.

Situational characteristics

The person may be in the middle of a situation where they may be socially rejected if they acted aggressively. For instance, when they are attending a family event or business meeting. In these circumstances, they may retaliate their anger in a more discreet way when someone or something provoked them.

Fearing confrontation

In some cases, it may be difficult to be assertive and displaying emotions directly. A person may struggle when they try to defend themselves or they may feel anxious when they have to. This may cause them to think that being passive aggressive will help them handle their emotions better while not having to face the person who angered them.

How to Respond to Passive-Aggressive People

As stated by Insider, here are some ways to effectively respond to passive-aggressive individuals:

Detect signs of passive-aggressive behavior

Preston Ni, the author of How to Successfully Handle Passive-Aggressive People, states that it may be easy to disregard indicators of passive-aggression when a person gets into a new relationship. The person may think that it is an exceptional case and not a part of their normal behavior. Often they will just hope that they do not repeat that action.

If the other person’s behavior is starting to become more difficult to deal with, they have to observe if these behaviors happen as isolated incidents or if they are occurring in a pattern. They also have to notice if the individual treats everyone in the same manner.

Tell them about their behavior

People are advised to confront them about the particular behavior that bothers them. Judith Orloff, a professional who handles individuals considered as emotional vampires suggests that they concentrate on a single and specific behavior at a time. This is so that they do not feel attacked or shocked.

She says that it may be best to ask clearly how they can resolve the conflict with the other person. She warns that although they face the passive aggressive individual respectfully and compassionately, it is still possible that they will respond defensively.


Confronting them with their bad behavior one at a time so they won't feel attacked or shocked / Photo by Getty Images


Do not bring up their past offenses

It is advised that they do not refer to previous incidents, even if they have identified it as included in a pattern. Scott Wetzler, the author of Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man, says that it may not be the first time they committed the offense “But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to bring out the laundry list of past offenses or make sweeping generalizations.

Communicate openly

Melody Wilding, a business performance coach and human behavior expert recommends having an “open-door policy” when talking about the behavior. She says that people have to be more open to receiving feedback and dialogue so that they can help them change for the better. Having a two-way communication she says, prevents others from engaging in passive-aggressive behaviors.

Acknowledge their own passive-aggressive behaviors

They may also want to check they may be unconsciously also being passive aggressive, so they should also try to reflect on their own actions.

Try to keep themselves away from the situation

If an individual is deliberately making life harder for them or causing them to lose self-esteem, it may be a sign that they are in a toxic relationship. It may be a good idea to end the relationship for the sake of their mental health.

However, if the passive aggressive person is someone they have to interact with daily such as a relative or a boss, they may try to lessen their encounters or reduce the amount of time they talk to them.

Establish limitations

Wetzler says that establishing boundaries shows that they will not be responsible for passive aggressive person’s behavior.

Remind themselves that it is not their fault

The person must remind themselves that the passive aggressive person’s behavior comes from not being able to identify their shortcomings and their need to blame others for their mistakes.




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