What Is Passive Aggression And How To Recognize It?

7 signs of discontent that they want to hide from you

Clear aggression has, perhaps, the only advantage – it is unambiguous. It’s hard to misjudge the mood that accompanies a targeted swearing or a ballistic missile launch.

Passive aggression is a much less obvious phenomenon. The negative is quite tangible, but it seems not – it’s like a vapor that can be seen, but difficult to catch. Manifestations of PA are guessed in the behavior of a colleague who will never enter into an open conflict, but accidentally forgets to put you in a copy of an important meeting notice. Or a boyfriend, usually extremely punctual, but suddenly stuck at work when you got tickets to the premiere of your favorite opera. Such mannerisms can only be justified by the fact that sometimes (or rather, occasionally) passive aggressors really do not know what they are doing.

In any case, passive aggression is not just an unpleasant habit, but a constant suppression of anger and negative emotions, which is fraught with serious psychological discord. Psychologists are still arguing about the possibility of qualifying such behavior as a full-blown personality disorder, but have long agreed on a single list of symptoms: deliberate inefficiency, avoidance of responsibility, refusal to directly state needs or problems.

Here are seven behavioral clues that will help you identify the passive-aggressive personality in your circle or, in fact, your character. These people tend to…


Passive aggressors are masters of imperfections: the products are bought, and why put them in the refrigerator; linen is washed, but it is not necessary to hang it up; the dishwasher is running, and let Pushkin pull out clean dishes. This manipulative strategy signals dissatisfaction with the duties performed – so that the partner (friend, parent, colleague) can feel unnecessarily demanding, and as a result – for the hundred thousandth time! – do everything yourself.


PA-persons live in Einstein’s universe of elastic time, where minutes are easily stretched into other units of measurement. If they do not want to go to a dinner party, but they know what they need, then they will certainly come – approximately for dessert. When they are annoyed by the need to attend a meeting, they will show up half an hour later with a puzzled face: how are you all already here? Often deliberately, sometimes unconsciously, but always incredibly effective.


Examples of nice compliments: “Great haircut!” or “Awesome soup!” And here are the same phrases, but adjusted by a passive-aggressive personality, usually for competitive reasons: “Great haircut, I had one about five years ago” or “Amazing soup, even though I could not eat all this cabbage.” For ease of recognition: if “thank you” bursts out of your chest in response, you were actually praised, and if you want to run out of the room in tears, the compliment was not very good.


Complete silence is the sound of a passive-aggressive person who is angered by something. It would seem that if you are upset, you can directly say what the matter is. But our PA is not like that. Silence is the general strategy of passive aggressors, because the “I’m not talking to you” status actually says a lot. The ruthlessly stubborn silence gets on the nerves of everyone who does not participate in it. He/she ostensibly avoids conflict, but in fact provokes it, using his/her passivity as real aggression – which was to be proved.


Passive-aggressive behavior is revealed in bright intentions with bleak predictions. There is an (always aloud) optimistic wish, accompanied by the conclusion that this most likely will not happen: “It would be great to finish the project by Wednesday, but I think we will hardly manage it before Friday.” The goal is to get the idea across to the public and immediately disown it, shifting the burden of doing or not doing the task to someone else. For example, on you.


Passive aggressors are not negative characters, but they draw inspiration from similar areas. Remember the deadline that a colleague forgot to warn about, reaching the last day? And the favorite suit that your help-minded mom had dry-cleaned the day before you left for the business trip you were buzzing her about? As with being late, sometimes it’s by accident, but usually it’s not, don’t be fooled.


Here passive-aggressive individuals truly have no equal. The main tool is the union “but”, which can instantly turn a positive approach into a derogatory opus: “I don’t want to seem rude, but …”, “I highly value and I appreciate your efforts, but … “,” I do not want to offend in any way, but … “, followed by something condemning, cruel, merciless. An uncharacteristically honest variant of the disguised insult: “You’ll probably hate me for saying this, but…”, promising at least a truthful reaction. This format of communication is as close as possible to pure aggression, and if inner harmony is dear to you, try to stop toxic revelations in time and without hesitation – before the interlocutor goes over the “but” to spoil your mood.