5 Passive Aggressive Behaviors You Need to Know About

I grew up seeing passive aggressiveness as a way to avoid conflict, yet it did the opposite. Often the denial of being angry caused someone else to blow up in frustration. Interestingly, that person looked like the bad guy, while the passive aggressive person looked like the victim. For me, holding in my expression of anger caused illness in my early twenties. This helped me begin a healing journey of empowerment and assertiveness.


Everyone feels anger, as it is a part of the human condition. Anger can be from a person’s hurt, insecurity, fear, jealousy, guilt or annoyance towards you. Passive aggressiveness can be difficult to identify when you don’t see it for what it is, repressed anger. This type of person avoids conflict like the plague. When they feel a hint of anger, this type of person will deny it to the hills. They will not take ownership or responsibility for these feelings.

The 90/10 Rule

I am connected to a lot of positive people, who I love. 90% of them are authentic, meaning they walk their talk. There are the 10% who do not. For those who are passive aggressive; bless them, let them go, and let them be. The lesson is watch what people do, not what they say. Bill Eddy LCSW wrote about this 90/10 rule, when describing high conflict behaviors, which includes passive aggressiveness. (I have included his book link at the end of this post if you would like to learn more.)

The Behavioral Patterns to Watch For

If you are on the receiving end of any of these behavioral patterns, it feels infuriating. Getting stuck in this cycle of conflict causes many people to give up because they feel drained, confused, angry and guilty. Sound familiar? Compassionate people often absorb other people’s emotions. The best way to deal with this type of energy is to disengage temporarily and re-center yourself.

The first step to healing is to gain clarity on this behavior. Remember, how another person acts is not personal. Their reactions stem from covert anger and a lack of healthy communication skills. End these five behaviors listed below with a side order of a smile. The reason for this is you will often see a person denying their anger while smiling. It is good to have a little humor when dealing with difficult people, plus this will help you remember the communication dynamic at work.

5 Passive Aggressive Behaviors You Need to Know About

1.) Vagueness– They keep you on the hook. Since this type of personality lacks boundaries and assertiveness they will not give you a clear answer. You may hear these words; maybe and I don’t know. 🙂

2.) Silent treatments- If this type of a person does not get their way; they will sulk and withdraw. When you ask what is wrong, they will reply “nothing” or give you silence. 🙂

3.) Not showing up or showing up consistently late– They keep you waiting one way or another. 🙂

4.) Carrying out a task inefficiently or they procrastinate- When you ask a request of them, they tell you they will do it, yet never follow through. If they do the task, it is half of what you asked. When you confront them, they looked puzzled as to why you are so upset. 🙂

5.) Giving little digs- In the middle of a perfectly normal conversation, this person will slide in something hurtful in a vague, seemingly benign way. Their anger often comes out as sarcasm. 🙂

For more ways to cope with passive aggressive behavior; read this blog : How to Successfully Deal with Passive Aggressive Behavior

You can learn more about high conflict personalities and behaviors in this book: 5 Types of People who can Ruin Your Life by Bill Eddy, LCSW  

Lisa Hutchison LMHC is the Amazon bestselling author of I Fill My Cup: A Journal for Compassionate Helpers and the kindle book Setting Ethical Limits for Caring & Competent Professionals. Lisa is a licensed psychotherapist and writing coach who helps sensitive souls not just survive but shine.

Pick up her FREE gift 8 Simple Things That Release Chaos from Your Life Now!  at http://www.lisahutchison.net


21 thoughts on “5 Passive Aggressive Behaviors You Need to Know About

  1. Thank you Lisa, I have experienced much of what you speak of here.. And in because of the nature of my childhood, Anger had always surrounded me, So walking away from anger and situations had been my way of coping.. But it all has to come out sooner or later, and holding in these emotions does make us ill, as we both have found out..
    Thank you for your valuable insight Lisa..
    We do need to address them and understand them better. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are welcome Laura. Gaslighting is a little different from passive aggressiveness in that it is used on purpose as a manipulation to gain power or control. It is calculated whereas the passive aggressive person is merely avoiding conflict. Passive aggressiveness and gaslighting overlap in feelings of confusion, denial and a lack of responsibility for their behavior.


  2. I’ve witnessed these types of passive aggressive behavior in the past and the one that I hated the most was the snarky comment type , Lisa. Fortunately like yourself the company I keep have a positive approach to life. Though I have been known to call out such behavior by telling the other person I would not participate in their game. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful insight, Lisa. I recognize a few of those traits from past relationships. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of others and helping us to live a healthier life.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Lisa for sharing your wisdom and experience related to passively aggressive people and how to effectively deal with them. I once lived with someone who was passive aggressive and it was extremely stressful and hurtful. Thankfully I no longer have any of those folks in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think we are taught so early on that anger in unacceptable that many people can develop this behavior, IMHO way more than 10%. Teaching people that it is ok to be angry and express their anger and other “negative” emotions in non destructive ways is important at any stage of our development.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, there is an imbalance as to how anger is expressed in our society, Rachel. I tend to go with the 10%. I understand when you encounter a few people who are difficult personalities it is often so intense, it can feel as if the number is greater. I tend to believe there are a whole lot more healthy people in this world then we think, although they often do not get the attention that others do.


  6. Great article! In terms of conflict resolution, being passive in order to avoid a conflict is very common. It’s about survival, especially if you were raised in an environment where women’s needs were put second to a man’s or confrontation could lead to violence. Being assertive instead is about creating win/win solutions which benefit everyone and help you to serve your needs as well as the other persons. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are welcome. Survival tactics are necessary to get us through an abusive situation. Long-term these behaviors can prevent people from having the healthy relationships they desire. Thanks for stopping in to comment and share your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s