17 Examples of passive aggressive behaviour

​​Passive aggressive behaviour can be difficult to recognise at first. It is recognisable by the disconnect between what the person says and what they do. Passive aggressive people tend to express their negative feelings in an indirect manner, rather than state their disapproval directly to the person concerned. There tends to be a great deal of hostility associated with passive aggressive behaviour and a great deal of this tends to be derived from miscommunication, failure to communicate or the assumption that the other person knows what they are thinking or feeling.  From a relationship perspective, passive aggressive behaviour can be the most difficult communication style to deal with as you are not quite sure what you are dealing with.

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What is passive aggressive behaviour?

Passive aggressive behaviour is intended to control the other person e.g. control their emotions. It is then hoped that they can manipulate the other person into doing as they wish. If you have been on the receiving end of passive aggressive behaviour, you will know how easy it is to overreact. And, when you overreact, that is a clear sign that the other person is starting to control you.

Whatever type of passive aggressive behaviour you are experiencing, you need to stay calm and composed, so you can formulate the appropriate response. While it is often hurtful to be on the receiving end of this behaviour, remembering the following points can help you to stay calm:

  • Many instances of this behaviour are not actually intended to be hurtful
  • They want to control your emotions and behaviour
  • You can’t control their behaviour, but you can control your own which stops them from achieving their goal

​​It is worth noting the 2 types of passive aggressive person:

The non-malicious

​​This person is trying to control and manipulate your, but they usually are not trying to be hurtful. Because they don’t want to hurt you, they avoid expressing any message which may be interpreted as being negative. They may pretend that everything is ok but eventually, their true feelings will seep out through their body language and tone of voice. It then becomes frustrating as you try to get them to open up and tell you the truth.

The malicious

The big difference here is that this person is not just trying to control you, they are trying to make you feel bad. They are happy to hurt you. So much so, that it becomes a game whereby every interaction is a contest.

These people are usually angry about something but, rather than express their feelings with the person whom they are angry with; they deal with things by manipulating their victim. They try to get rid of their anger by making the victim angry, through manipulation. This allows them to act like the ‘good guy’ while the victim now appears to be the unreasonable one.


​17 Examples of passive aggressive behaviour

​​There are many different ways in which passive aggressive behaviour can be expressed. The following list, though not exhaustive, covers some of the most common examples.

1. Resenting the demands of others

although I express myself passive aggressive behaviour

When others make requests or demands of them, passive aggressive people will often view them as unfair or unjust. Rather than express their feelings, they will bottle them up and resent the other person for making the demands. They quickly forget that they did not have to agree to the demand, or that they could have voiced their feelings at the time that the request was made.

A great deal of passive aggressive behaviour comes from an inability to communicate effectively. It can be incredibly difficult for a passive aggressive person to communicate a message which may be interpreted as being negative, e.g.:​

  • To say ‘No’ to a request
  • To deliver negative feedback
  • To make a complaint
  • To say that they don’t like something

Rather than accept that they had the right to say what they really think but chose not to; they resent the other person for putting them in the ‘awkward’ situation. The inability to speak their mind is often driven by their need for approval. The approval of others allows them to feel validated. It tells them that they are ok.

What passive aggressive people fail to realise is that refraining from saying what they really think only works in the short-term. The longer they go without speaking their mind, they more frustrated and resentful they become. Eventually, it starts to show in their body language and their tone of voice. This is where you start to notice the incongruence between the words they say and, the message they send.

​Key point

​​A great deal of passive aggressive behaviour arises from an inability to communicate coupled with a need for approval.

​Related

​If you struggle with a passive aggressive behaviour check out Tackling Passive Aggressive Behaviour.


2. Deliberate procrastination

fine he is being passive aggressive behaviour

Procrastination, the act of putting off that which needs to be done, is often a subconscious decision. With passive aggressive people, however, it is often a conscious decision. Rather than tell the other person that they cannot agree to their request, the passive aggressive person will delay completing the request until the very last moment, or later. This is aimed at punishing the other person for having the audacity to make the request.

Motivation is an important factor in completing any task or project If you really want to do something, it is not difficult to summon the motivation and, take the necessary actions. It is a pleasure to do a job that you really want to do so you don’t think of it as a burden at all.

However, passive aggressive people tend to agree to a lot of tasks/projects that they don’t really want to do. When it comes time to start working, they lack the motivation or interest to get started. Instead, they put it off until the last moment. This can lead to them experiencing extra pressure and stress as they strive to get the job done on time. Of course, due to the pressure and stress, they become even more resentful of being asked to the job in the first place.

Sometimes, the passive aggressive behaviour is even more sinister. They agree to do the job with the deliberate intention of causing trouble for the person who asked them to do it. Rather than rush to make the deadline, they deliberately choose to miss the deadline; knowing that it will have knock-on effects for others. Their hope is that the delays will reflect badly on the person who requested their help.

​Key point

​​If you suspect that you are dealing with a passive aggressive person, keep an accurate record of everything. If they suspect that you are keeping records, they are less likely to mess about as they know it will be harder to blame you for any problems they cause.

​Related

​​If procrastination is a problem for you, check out Stop Procrastinating.


3. Intentional mistakes

fruit of passive aggressive behaviour

Again, rather than say 'No', passive aggressive people sometimes find it easier to deliberately perform poorly at a task. The hope is that they will not be asked again due to the substandard work.

Again, this form of passive aggressive behaviour could be avoided if the person could just learn to communicate effectively. They could speak up when the work is being assigned but they don’t want to be seen as the bad guy.

I mentioned above that the intentional mistakes are often designed to deter you from asking them again. In the process, they also get to irritate and annoy you. People who behave like this will really test your patience and, quite often, they know it.

There are some cases where they know that it is the person who asked them to do the job who will get the blame when things go wrong so; they go out of their way to sabotage the work and make the other person look bad in the process.

There is one other, very sinister situation where a passive aggressive person deliberately makes mistakes. If they sense any weakness in the other person, they use the intentional mistakes to highlight it. For example, if their boss is reluctant to discipline anybody, they may deliberately make mistakes to highlight the fact they can get away with it. It’s like saying:

‘I can do what I want and there is nothing this fool can do to stop me.’

​Key point

​​The intent behind the intentional mistakes may differ from person to person but in each case, the person on the receiving end of the passive aggressive behaviour needs to take charge of the situation and nip any problems in the bud.

​Many passive aggressive people try to get under your skin by intentionally making mistakes; rather than express their frustration openly.

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4. Hostile attitude

I have the choice passive aggressive behaviour

As they often assume that others know how they feel, passive aggressive people tend to immediately assume that anything they do not approve of was an intended to be a jibe at them. For example, they may assume that their boss knows that they have a full workload. When the boss makes a request of them, they assume that the has something against them and wants to put excessive pressure on them. It never crosses their mind that they could point out to their boss that they have a full schedule and he would then ask somebody else to help.

Given the difficulty they have with saying ‘No’ to requests, the hostile attitude is often used by the passive aggressive person to make them as unapproachable as possible. If they are difficult to approach, they are not going to be asked to do anything so, they won’t have to say ‘No’ It is a defence mechanism which uses other people’s discomfort as a form of self-protection.

A hostile attitude almost always backfires because when people become more difficult to be around, others start to avoid them. They are no longer included as it is easier to avoid them than deal with them. This means that they no longer get invited to participate in events, projects etc. The hostile attitude was meant to help the passive aggressive person to eliminate everything they don’t’ want in their life but. It ends up eliminating all the good stuff too.

As such, a hostile attitude leads to more resentment and isolation.

​Key point

​​While a hostile attitude can very hurtful to deal with, it is often intended as a defence mechanism, rather than an attack method.


5. Complaints of injustice and lack of appreciation

not doing anything passive aggressive behaviour

Everything is viewed as an attack on them. When something doesn’t go their way, it is seen as unfair or an injustice. It’s all about how the world impacts on them.

Passive aggressive people are very rarely proactive. They tend to be reactive people who fail to take charge of or, responsibility for, their own life. They have no clear purpose, goals or plan for their life. Rather than spend their days trying to create the life they would really like, they wait to see what happens in the world around them and react to that.

While it is important to be able to react to the ups and downs of life, it is hard to be happy when you are entirely reactive. Happiness comes from being yourself and, you extend your happiness by extending yourself e.g. being who you want to be, allowing yourself to do the things you want to do and, meeting new people. You can’t wait for these things to happen. You must be proactive and take responsibility for your life.

Passive aggressive people struggle to be themselves and express themselves. They allow life to happen to them and then wonder why they are not living the life they want. There is no such thing as fairness. Life only seems unfair when you are not getting the things you want form life. But if you are not trying to make things happen for you, you are not going to get what you want from life. And so, we have the cycle of misery which is passive aggression.

​Key point

​​Feelings of unfairness come from the passive aggressive person refusing to assume responsibility for their own life.


6. Disguising criticism with compliments

our obligation passive aggressive behaviour

At first, passive aggressive people may seem pleasant and warm. They often appear to be complimentary. It is only after they have left that you realise that the compliment was disguising a cheap jibe.

This is the type of passive aggressive behaviour which we often find funny because it takes a great deal of wit and, some very clever wordplay to deliver these insincere compliments effectively. It is important to understand that there are different levels of severity when it comes to insincere compliments.

On one extreme, the person may genuinely want to give some feedback but not know how to deliver it. They may even be trying to use the sandwich technique whereby you sandwich some negative feedback between two pieces of positive feedback. The sandwich technique is a pathetic way to deliver feedback as the positive and the negative detract from each other, leaving you with confused feedback which doesn’t mean a whole lot.

On the other extreme, insincere compliments are a very sneaky way to throw in some nasty insults. They are hoping that you will react badly to the insult. The intention being that if you say anything about the cheap insult, they will tell you that you misinterpreted them, and they were only trying to pay you a compliment. Then you doubt yourself and, if anyone else was present, your behaviour looks unreasonable.

​Key point

Where insincere compliments are intended to be nasty insults, the passive aggressive person wants to see an overreaction. Don’t give it to them. You could simply ignore them or, if appropriate, you could calmly invite some constructive feedback e.g.


‘It sounds like you have some thoughts on ‘X’; I’d love to hear them’

​Related

​​For more on the sandwich technique, listen to the audio below:


7. The last punch

passive aggressive behaviour consumes

Passive aggressive people love to throw the last punch. So much so, that even when an argument has been reconciled, they slip one last insulting remark into the conversation. This remark is often subtler than the ones which went before but it is still an insulting remark which allows them to feel victorious.

Unfortunately, with passive aggressive people, they either feel like they have won, or they have lost. There is no such thing as an honest and open conversation. Every interaction is either a contest or a conflict. Either way, it is something they must win.

If they could communicate and cooperate effectively, there would be no need for competition of any sort. But passive aggressive people just can’t see that when everybody is open and honest; everybody can win.

Due to their feelings of resentment and, their belief that they are constantly being treated in an unfair and unjust manner; they always feel the need to fight. Although they won’t fight in an open and transparent manner, they will keep trying to get the subtle, and not so subtle punches in. Throwing the last punch allows them to experience a sense of victory.

​Key point

​The constant sense of conflict and, feelings of injustice, leave the passive aggressive person feeling the need to consistently be on the defensive. They see lashing out as the best form of defence but as with all forms of communication, they do it in a sneaky and underhanded way.

​Flash Guide to Passive Aggressive Behaviour

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8. The silent treatment

passive aggressive behaviour people

As stated at the start, passive aggressive behaviour is recognisable by the disconnect between what is being said and what is being done. Nothing highlights this more than the famous silent treatment. Silence generally signifies agreement but not in this case. When you are on the receiving end of the silent treatment, you realise that the other person is far from agreeable. They have a big problem with you and just to allow themselves the Pyrrhic victory, they have no intention of telling you what that is.

There are 2 other common versions of the silent treatment. One is to answer the question ‘What’s wrong?’ with ‘nothing’, when there certainly is something wrong. The other, which sadly I used to use myself, is to answer any question with just one word. This is intended to signal that there is a problem, without you having to say it. I used to pride myself on the complexity of the questions which I could answer with just one word.

There are some situations where the silent treatment happens because the passive aggressive person just cannot find the words to say what they want to say. If this situation is identified, good communication skills can be used to get the person to open up and express their feelings. This then allows the situation to be resolved.

However, if you are dealing with an experienced proponent of the silent treatment; it is more often the case that they know the stress that the silent treatment can lead to and; they want to use that stress to command your attention and control you. However, rather than be controlled, the skilled communicator will use their self-confidence and communication skills to stand their ground.

​Key point

​​​You cannot control the behaviour of the other person. But you can control your own behaviour and by doing so effectively, you can refuse to give the passive aggressive person the reaction they are looking for. When they see that they will not get what they want; most passive aggressive people will realise that they need to adopt another approach.

​Related

​​Having trouble with Passive Aggressive Behaviour? Check out my guide to Tackling Passive Aggressive Behaviour.


9. Sullen attitude

passive pleasure passive aggressive behaviour

As someone who used passive aggressive behaviour for many years, sullen behaviour has been one of the most difficult aspects of the behaviour to eliminate. If you think of the dourest pessimist you have ever met; that is what sullen behaviour is truly like. Sullen people are forever miserable, gloomy and negative.

If you are forced to spend too much time around a sullen person, you may start to feel miserable yourself, but you may not know why. Negativity and a sullen attitude are like a contagious virus. They spread very easily. Just like a hostile attitude, it starts to drive people away which then increases the sense of misery and negativity for the passive aggressive person.

Because a passive aggressive person cannot express their feelings in a constructive manner, they view situations as being competitive rather than collaborative. Therefore, they don’t just attack people; they attack ideas too. In fact, no matter what happens or, how positive it is, they will find a problem with it. They really could list endless problems associated with winning the lottery.

It is worth noting that sullen people are not always aware of just how miserable and negative they are. It may be a learned behaviour which has become their natural disposition. For example, I thought I had moved on from my sullen behaviour until a few years ago when I worked with somebody who was even more miserable than I had ever been. While being irritated by his behaviour, I came to realise that I was still using a lot of that behaviour myself.

​Key point

​Sullen behaviour allows the passive aggressive person to feel better about themselves by finding faults in others, their work and their ideas.

​Miserable, gloomy and negative behaviour can be signs of Passive Aggressive Behaviour.

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10. Stubborn

some poeple are like clouds passive aggressive behaviour

There are times in life when you need to argue your case. The issue is important to you and, there may be negative consequences to be faced, if the wrong outcome is achieved. In instances like this, you need to stand your ground and, stubbornness becomes a very useful trait. You are not just being stubborn, you are being assertive. And assertiveness is an essential skill which will help you in all areas of your life.

But you are only being assertive if the issue you are being stubborn about is important to you. Passive aggressive people are stubborn not because of what is important to them. They are stubborn because of what is important to you.

Passive aggressive people know that they can control you and your emotions by making it as difficult as possible to do the things you really want to do. And they are very good at it. It is not just a case of being against whatever you are proposing. He will have a very reasoned argument and that argument will be presented in a professional manner. But at the same time, he will use other methods, e.g. subtle body language, to make sure you know that the purpose of the stubbornness is to irritate you.

Of course, if you make even the merest suggestion that they are being stubborn for stubborn’ s sake, you will fall into their trap and they will be able to make you look like someone who isn’t open to feedback and, doesn’t consider the views of others.

​Key point

​​Being stubborn about something which is truly important to you is a form of assertiveness but stubbornness when you don’t really care about the issue is a form of passive aggression. It is important that you be able to tell the difference.


11. Leaving things undone

sometimes its not the people passive aggressive behaviour

This is one that isn’t always attributable to passive aggressive behaviour, but it is quite common amongst passive aggressive people.

I talked earlier about deliberate procrastination and how it is a very common sign of passive aggression. However, with deliberate procrastination, there is usually still an intention to finish the job at some stage. It differs slightly from leaving things undone because here, there is no intention to finish the job properly.

This problem stems from total resentment at being asked to do something which the person doesn’t want to do. They may also feel that it isn’t their job and you are only asking them because it is easier than dealing with the person who should be doing it.

Leaving things undone is often a cry for independence and rebellion against authority. Think of the teenager who is ordered to tidy their room. They may leave a small part of the room untidy because they want to feel like they have some control over their domain.

Whatever the specifics of the situation, leaving things undone is almost always fuelled by resentment at having to do the job. The other thing to note is that they are careful to only leave a small amount of the job undone. This leaves you in a quandary, trying to determine whether it is enough of a problem to speak up and, risk starting an argument over.

​Key point

​​Being stubborn about something which is truly important to you is a form of assertiveness but stubbornness when you don’t really care about the issue is a form of passive aggression. It is important that you be able to tell the difference.


12. Punctuality problems

they resented the patronage passive aggressive behaviour

I am sure you have been in a situation where a friend has agreed to meet you at a specific time but when that time arrived, they weren’t there. Instead they rock up 10-15 minutes late. It is frustrating to be left waiting but you know delays can happen so, you don’t’ make a big deal about it. Besides, your friend apologised for the delay.

But what if your friend doesn’t even mention the fact they are late? That’s more annoying isn’t it?

Or, what if, in addition to not mentioning the delay; they turn up with a fresh, takeaway coffee in their hand? They stopped for a coffee, despite knowing they were already late! I bet you would find that even more annoying.

The reason these things make the situation more annoying is that you see punctuality as a sign of respect. You value people and their time enough to not want to waste it by being late. So, when they turn up late, you wonder whether they have any respect for you.

It’s not just you. We all see punctuality as a sign of respect, even though we may not think of it daily.

Passive aggressive people know the importance of punctuality and, they use it as a weapon. They will regularly turn up late to meet you. They won’t apologise for their tardiness, they won’t mention it and, unless pressed, they won’t give any reason for it. Should you raise the issue, they will act like you are entirely unreasonable to expect them to turn up at the agreed time.

Another way that passive aggressive people use poor punctuality is when they don’t want to attend something in the first place. Rather than say ‘No’ they will arrive late to send the message that they don’t care about the meeting / event. Even when they arrive an hour late, they may still give a look of astonishment that other people are already there.

​Key point

​​Whether the poor punctuality is a result of passive aggressive behaviour or, just poor time management; people won’t learn to respect your time unless you teach them too. While you can’t make someone respect your time, you can ensure that you can behave in a manner which communicates


13. The indirect request

to be silent is to be passive passive aggressive behaviour

When we think of passive aggressive behaviour, we often think of people who want to decline a request but don’t know how to do it. So, they find some indirect way to let the other person know that they don’t want to do it. This is certainly a part of passive aggressive behaviour but what is not always mentioned is that these people have the same problems when making requests.

They are often incapable of stating exactly what they want so, they ask in an indirect / vague way. They are so indirect and vague that somebody who isn’t familiar with them might not notice anything unusual about the request.

For example, if you heard my father ask me if I heard who won a particular horse race, you wouldn’t think anything was strange. But my father knows that I have no interest in horse racing. I wouldn’t even know the race had taken place, never mind who won it. What he is really asking is for me to look up the result for him because he can’t use the internet. He is just incapable of asking a straight question like that.

That example is pretty harmless but indirect requests can be a very sneaky way of putting pressure on people, especially when used in conjunction with wistful thinking. Wistful thinking is when somebody says what they would like but then rules out the possibility themselves. It can cause serious problems because the person who delivers the message and the person who receives it, hear two different things. Take the following example:

‘It would be great if you cleaned the garage this weekend but I suppose next weekend, will have to do.’

The recipient thinks that they have been told that it is fine if the garage isn’t cleaned until next weekend. The passive aggressive person was trying to tell them that they want it done this weekend. So, come Monday, when the work isn’t done, one person feels let down while the other doesn’t realise that there is a problem.

​Key point

​When somebody is engaging in indirect requests and/or wistful thinking, it is important to get clarity about what exactly they want. That way, if you can’t meet their demands, you can deal with the disappointment up front.

​Related

There are times when requests are so indirect/vague that no request is actually made. The passive aggressive person assumes that the other person understands them. Listen to the audio below, 'What did you communicate?' For more information.

Note: The example in the audio isn’t always due to passive aggressive behaviour. The topic involved can feel awkward for many people.


14. Sabotage

to let friendship die away passive aggressive behaviour

​Sabotage occurs when somebody sets out to ruin your best efforts. When the passive aggressive person sabotages your efforts, it may be a conscious or subconscious decision but either way, they are still 100% responsible for their actions. There is some intent to send a message.

There are many ways that someone might choose to sabotage your best efforts. Some of them have been mentioned already:

  • Deliberate procrastination
  • Leaving things undone
  • Intentional mistakes
  • Poor punctuality

​​Sabotage is one of those situations where you might just wish that the problem goes away but that doesn't work. You must understand that avoidance is not an effective problem solving strategy, but the underhanded nature of sabotage makes it difficult to deal with. These methods are a little more overt, but they are still situations where it is hard to pin the blame on the passive aggressive person without looking unreasonable. There are also more subtle behaviours which can be every bit as harmful, while being difficult to identify. These behaviours will occur behind your back and may include:

  • Failure to pass on important information/ instructions
  • Deliberately passing on inaccurate information / instructions
  • Noticing a problem / potential problem and, failing to raise it so that It can be rectified
  • Borrowing equipment which they know you need, to prevent you from using it
  • exclamation-triangle
    Booking meeting rooms, they knew you needed
  • exclamation-triangle
    Any disruptive behaviour which is intended to damage the effectiveness and harmony of the team e.g. gossiping, back stabbing, disclosing confidential information

​​Sabotage attempts are often hidden behind ‘kind’ gestures. I once had a colleague volunteer to proofread an important document for me as I had an important appointment the next morning and, there was a tight deadline. He told me that he would do it first thing the next morning as he was always in work by 7. When I turned up at lunch time, it just happened to be the one day that something important had arisen for him at home and, he hadn’t had the opportunity to do the proofreading. I could have challenged him but how could I prove that he didn’t have an emergency at home?

​Key point

​Sabotage is rarely overt. It is often intended to not only ruin your efforts but to drive you crazy trying to understand what is going on and, how best to deal with it.

​Flash Guide to Passive Aggressive Behaviour

You can make a head start on tackling passive aggressive behaviour with my FREE Flash Guide to Passive Aggressive Behaviour.


Get Your FREE Copy


15. Confrontational questions

some poeple are like clouds passive aggressive behaviour

A confrontational question is any question which is intended to aggravate the other person and provoke a confrontation. It is common for the question to be delivered in a manner which is intended to put the other person down – usually a challenge to their intelligence.

The confrontational question is generally delivered in a way which exaggerates any error you may have made in your statement so; tone of voice and body language can play a big part in the way question is delivered. The idea being to make your point look more outrageous and absurd. Some examples include:

  • Are you for real?
  • Are you crazy?
  • Why would you even consider that?
  • What possessed you to do that?

If delivered in the right manner, these questions will make the other person go on the defensive. Any reaction will be deemed as an overreaction to a genuine and, well-intentioned question.

It is worth noting that confrontational questions are not always intended to be nasty and hurtful. They may be intended to get the other person to pause for a moment and think about what they are saying. For example, if your friend says something which makes absolutely no sense, you may be tempted to reply with something like:

‘Did you even listen to what you just said?’

Delivered in the right tone of voice; that question may well elicit a laugh, but it is still passive aggressive because you are using an indirect way to highlight the fact that you don’t agree with what they are saying. It would be more appropriate to be constructive and assertive in pointing out any inaccuracies in their statement.

​Key point

​​The person delivering the confrontational question may not realise that the question is passive aggressive, but it is the aggravating nature of the question which makes it so.

​Related

​​If you use confrontational questioning, you may wish to review your communication skills to deliver feedback in a better manner. How to Talk So Others Will Listen will help.


16. Leaving someone out

we met for a reason passive aggressive behaviour

Human beings are social animals. We are supposed to interact, and we get a great deal of joy from interacting with others. You only need look at the popularity of social media to see this. While we understand how much fun it is to be part of a group, most people don’t realise how hurtful it can be to be excluded from a group. Passive aggressive people know it only too well.

The passive aggressive person seems to understand how group dynamics work. They know that they can keep leaving you out of things and the only one who will notice is you. Truth be told, most people don’t notice someone else being treated badly unless it is overt enough to make them feel awkward. For example, if somebody was being bullied in an aggressive, physical manner, you might step in or speak up. But if the bullying is passive aggressive and subtle, you might not pay it any attention at all.

Some examples of being left out include:

  • Not being invited to meetings where you should be
  • Everyone else is asked for their views but you are not
  • Not being included in rounds at the bar or, coffee runs from the office
  • Being the only one not invited on a night out, to an event, to a party etc

Basically, anywhere that a group of people join together, with a shared purpose, is an opportunity for the passive aggressive bully to leave someone out.

Again, this is a situation which is difficult to deal with. How do you prove that somebody intentionally left you out? You might remember several occasions where you were left out but, apart from the passive aggressive person, nobody else notices. So, when you raise the issue, the passive aggressive person gets what they want – a confrontation where you look like the bad guy.

​Key point

​​Before you respond, you need to be sure that there is a genuine pattern of leaving you out. Even then, you must choose a response – don’t react. When you react, the other person is controlling your behaviour, which is what they want. When you respond, you are taking time to determine the appropriate course of action.

​Related

​​This is one of the most disgusting forms of passive aggressive behaviour. It shows a lack of values. In choosing your response, you should make sure that it is consistent with your values. Values Based Living will help.


17. Keeping score

when introverts are in conflict passive aggressive behaviour

On several occasions in this article, I have mentioned how passive aggressive people regularly see interactions as contests. Keeping score is another one of these examples. Passive aggressive behaviour can lead to being an accountant of misery. Every time that somebody treats the passive aggressive person in a way that makes them feel disrespected, they make a record of it in their books. And like all good accountants, they feel the need to balance the books.

If they do a good deed for you, the original motivation for the deed may have come from the heart but the good deed is never free from expectation. It is expected that you will return the favour. If they feel that you haven’t done so, it will go down as a negative in their books.

Any wrongdoing on your part, real or perceived, cannot go unanswered. You will find some unpleasant experience coming your way although, as usual, it will be delivered in a sneaky, underhanded way which allows them to dodge all responsibility for their actions.

When somebody treats you badly or, you perceive that they have done so; you have three options:

  1. Confront the person, preferably in an assertive manner
  2. Let it go
  3. Make a mental note and get them back in a devious manner when the opportunity presents itself.

Passive aggressive people have never heard of options 1 and 2.

​Key point

​​Before you respond, you need to be sure that there is a genuine pattern of leaving you out. Even then, you must choose a response – don’t react. When you react, the other person is controlling your behaviour, which is what they want. When you respond, you are taking time to determine the appropriate course of action.

​Related

​​If you struggle with passive aggressive behaviour, yours or someone else's, Tackling Passive Aggressive Behaviour will provide you with some excellent strategies.


​Conclusion

There are a number of communication styles. Many times, we do not notice them until a dispute arises. It is then that we really see the style which people are most comfortable with. In many ways, passive aggressive behaviour can be the most difficult to deal with as it is not always immediately recognisable. Also, the passive aggressive person can be quite childlike (I say this as someone who used this style) and demonstrate an unwillingness to resolve any dispute. It is important to the passive aggressive person that they have the upper hand and they will use some ridiculous tactics to achieve this. The 8 signs of passive aggressive behaviour, listed above, will help you see where you or somebody you know is behaving in a passive aggressive manner. This will allow you to adapt your approach in an attempt to resolve the issue.

I must acknowledge the assistance of my friend Dennis Miedema, of Motriz Marketing, in developing some of the content of this post.

Image credit: Chance Agrella