Passive Aggressive behaviour is a personality disorder that can be difficult to recognize and somewhat confusing to deal with. Keeping up with a person who’s passive aggressive involves a lot of analysis, trying to decode what they say, what they really mean, what you have/haven’t done. This behaviour is identified by a disparity between what a person says and does, mostly in order to avoid direct confrontation. It's important to understand that the person themselves isn’t passive aggressive by nature, their communication and conflict management patterns are – and these are learned.

Doesn’t sound like this could be you? Let’s change the tone then. It's that sweet-yet-condescending note you left your roommate about the toilet seat or the email you prudently wrote your colleague about pending work. It’s the post-it you left on your lunchbox. It’s just that simple. Once you understand your behaviour better, you may finally understand why you are having difficulties having the relationships you most want, at home and at work. Remember, passive-aggressive behaviour pushes people away!

Although men and women express their passive-aggressive behaviours somewhat differently, generally, you are behaving in passive-aggressive ways if you are regularly:

  1. Saying, “Yes” but meaning “No” – and then behaving in a way that is opposite of what you say. Passive aggressiveness involves an unwillingness to only speak your truth with honesty when asked for your opinion or when asked to do something for someone. This makes you "assertively unassertive."
  2. Appearing sweet, compliant, and agreeable, when you are really resentful, angry, petty, and envious underneath.  
  3. The “I hate you, but don’t leave me” complex stems from a fear of being dependent on someone else and a fear of being alone at the same time. You fear direct communication from a fear of rejection. You then push away the people you care about because you don't want to seem in need of support. All the while, you are afraid of being alone and want to control those around you so they won't leave you. Very confusing!
  4. Passive Aggressive people choose to play the “innocent victim” game, avoiding responsibility or speaking their mind. You say others are hard on you, unfair, unreasonable, and excessively demanding.
  5. Another common habit is making people wait – concocting excuses as to why you haven’t got things done, even blaming others for it, thereby controlling others. It's amazingly unreasonable, but you do it even though it destroys a relationship, damages careers, loses friendships and jobs. And, you tell others how justified you are in being angry because, once again, others treated you unfairly.
  6. Another way of controlling others is by sending mixed signals, ones that leave the other person completely unclear about your thoughts, plans or intentions. Then, you make them feel wrong when you tell them that what they took from your communication was not what you meant. Silly them!
  7. Passive-aggressive women favour the silent treatment as an expression of their contempt. Passive-aggressive men prefer the deep sigh and shake of the head while walking away.  Both expressions say “You poor confused person. You’re not worth talking to.” when the real reason for their behaviour is that they have not, cannot, or will not take responsibility for their own behaviour.
  8. Frequently feeling inadequate but covering it up with cynicism, hostility, and sullen behaviour. (P.S. You likely picked this one up in childhood!)
  9. Constantly protecting yourself so no one will know how afraid you are of being inadequate, imperfect, left, dependent or simply human.

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