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Recognizing Passive - Aggressive Behavior

Nov 16, 2015 07:56PM ● Published by Savannah Ludwig

Manipulation is a way of life for passive-aggressive people.  While an occasional passive-aggressive approach to life's problems isn't unusual, true passive-aggressive personality types seek to manipulate others indirectly rather than confronting or opposing directly. While their demeanor may be pleasant, be on guard for their underling hostility.

Ever wondering if someone in your life is passive-aggressive or if you may be? These six passive-aggressive traits may help answer your questions.

1. Deliberately "Forget" Events and Responsibilities

Passive-aggressive people prefer to be viewed as "pleasantly forgetful” rather than “manipulative” or “disagreeable”. Rather than declining to work on a project, a passive-aggressive co-worker may claim they forgot about the deadline. Or a passive-aggressive friend may say they forgot to make reservations for the restaurant you'd been talking about for weeks because she didn't actually want to go.

2. Agree to Something They Have No Intention of Doing

In an effort to look like people-pleasers, passive-aggressive people rarely say no. They may ignore an invitation altogether only to claim later that they never received it, or agree to face-to-face invites, even though they have no intention of attending. To escape obligations, they might cancel plans at the last minute by feigning an illness or family emergency.

3. Purposely Inefficient

Passive-aggressive people are stubborn. When they don't want to do something, they often become as inefficient as possible to avoid getting the job done. A passive-aggressive person may procrastinate on purpose in the hope that someone else will take over.  If they do complete a job, it’s a poor attempt so that they will not be asked again.

4. Display Learned Helplessness

Passive-aggressive people don't believe they have much control over the events in their lives. Rather than take steps to solve problems, they convince themselves that they have no control over making their lives better.  This passive approach unnecessarily subjects them to more hardship and, unfortunately, many of their negative predictions turn into realities for themselves.

5. Avoid Confrontation

Even when deeply offended, a passive-aggressive person will avoid direct confrontation, offering common responses to the offender as "That's fine” or “Whatever!" They allow others to treat them poorly, and refuse to admit their feelings are hurt.

6. Manipulate People

Passive-aggressive people struggle to ask for what they want, and resort to manipulative tactics to get their needs met. For example, rather than asking for help carrying a box, a passive-aggressive person may complain, stating, "I'm probably going to hurt my back carrying that large box by myself." They don't mind others feeling sorry for them or taking pity on them—as long as it works to get their needs met.

Addressing Passive-Aggressive Behavior

If you're prone to taking a passive-aggressive approach to life, you may be unnecessarily stressed. When your words are in line with your emotions and behavior, you'll enjoy a much more authentic and fulfilling life.

If you spot signs of a passive-aggressive behavior from someone in your life, be willing to hold that person accountable. Allowing passive-aggressive people to shirk responsibility or avoid confrontation only reinforces their behavior.

Disclaimer: This article is being published as general information. Although researched for accuracy, the information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat and/or replace professional medical treatment or assistance.  

Sources:  American Psychological Association, U.S. department of Health and Human services, Association for Psychological Science

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