Six Signs of Passive-Aggressive Behavior

 In Blog

We’ve all heard the term passive-aggressive behavior, but what does it really mean? Passive-aggressive behavior is expressed in various ways and is an unspoken power struggle that can result in hostility and conflict. It occurs when we’re afraid to be honest, unable to speak our minds, feel threatened or are disappointed by others behavior towards us. Passive-aggressive behavior is generally intentional and most of us engage in it from time to time. Think of the last time you said “yes” when you meant “no.” It’s easy to spot when this behavior is happening to us however; it’s not as easy to recognize it in ourselves.

Are you being passive-aggressive? Here are six common signs:

1.     Indirect statements. Put-downs and insults are a form of passive-aggressive behavior. Your friend buys a new car and you say, “I wish I could get a new car — but, sadly, all my money goes to rent.” This comment makes the receiver feel guilty for having something you can’t afford to purchase.

2.     Backhanded compliments and sarcasm. Jealousy often prompts a passive- aggressive response and instead of a positive reaction to someone’s good fortune you choose to say something unkind or underhanded. You’ve been waiting for months to get promoted and when your coworker receives a promotion you say, “Well, it’s not the job I would prefer, but I’m happy for you.” If you find yourself in this situation it’s best to take a step back and apologize. Jealousy fuels negative emotions and ruins relationships.

3.     Saying nothing. Ignoring someone during a conversation by checking your cellphone or avoiding text messages and emails because you’re upset with the sender is passive-aggressive behavior. Stop dropping hints that you are frustrated and be direct. Using the silent treatment or cold shoulder approach to punish others is immature and ineffective.

4.     Procrastinating. Not meeting work deadlines, taking extra-long lunches or ignoring a social invitation are active forms of passive-aggressive behavior. It’s best to speak up and be honest about a work assignment that is frustrating or a social invitation that you prefer not to attend.

5.     Exclusion. Perhaps you’re not fond of a neighbor, family member or work colleague and you intentionally exclude them from email chains, lunch invitations or informal work meetings and gatherings. Be proactive and resolve negative feelings rather than leaving someone out or using gossip as a way to exclude and sabotage them.

6.     Not letting go. We all tend to feel disappointed when someone doesn’t attend a life event that is important to us like a wedding or birthday celebration. Instead of being direct and sharing our disappointment with that person we keep score by deliberately missing an important event in their life. This form of passive-aggressive behavior leads to hostility; it’s best to let it go and move on!

Anger and frustration are part of life and can lead to a passive-aggressive response. It’s important to take ownership of your personal behavior, stop taking responsibility for others’ actions and making it clear that you won’t be mistreated. To avoid conflict begin by establishing boundaries, not tolerating inappropriate behavior in yourself or others, and being direct with your expectations and communication. Passive-aggressive behavior centers on zero percent accountability, is extremely unproductive, and curtails personal and professional momentum.

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