For some people, it is not easy to tell whether their friend, family member, or partner shows all or any of passive aggressive signs. In this case, it is helpful to know which communication styles are considered passive aggressive, as it can help you pinpoint whether or not passive aggressive behavior is present in the current situation. A passive aggressive person will use most or all of the following communication styles:
Non-Communication: being silent when there is clearly something problematic to discuss
Ignoring: refusing to talk about the problem, even when they are so angry that they feel they cannot speak calmly
Evading: avoiding problems and issues by changing the subject to something “safe,” like the weather
Procrastinating: skirting doing something by intentionally putting off important tasks for less important ones
Obstructing: deliberately stalling or preventing an event or process of change
Ambiguity: being cryptic, unclear, not fully engaging in conversations
Sulking: being silent, morose, sullen and resentful in order to get attention or sympathy.
Chronic Lateness: intentionally being late, as a way to put themselves in control over others and their expectations
Chronic Forgetting: showing a blatant disrespect and disregard for others to punish them in some way
Fear of Intimacy: often there can be trust issues with passive aggressive people. Guarding against becoming too intimately involved is a way for them to avoid losing control of the relationship. Don’t ever talk about feelings, show emotions or allow “mushy” conversations.
Making Excuses: always coming up with good, convincing reasons for not doing things
Victimization: unable to own their part in a situation, they will turn the tables to become the victim, behave like one and change the focus of attention.
Self-Pity: the “poor me” scenario that relieves them of responsibility
Blaming others for situations rather than being able to take responsibility for their own actions and/or take an objective view of the situation as a whole.
Withholding usual behaviors or roles, for example: sex, cooking and cleaning or making cups of tea, or running a bath, all to reinforce an already unclear message of punishment to the other party
Feigned helplessness: where a person continually acts like they can’t help themselves – deliberately doing a poor job of something for which they are often explicitly responsible (such as work duties)
Note that these behavior/communication styles are common to all of us at some point or another. The distinction is that a passive aggressive person will use these as their first-resort, as the normal everyday form of communicating and interacting with others. Although passive aggression may be hard to spot at first, the negative and toxic consequences of these behaviors isn’t hard to miss – all of these behaviors let distrust and frustration build up and fester. Are you constantly feeling like you can’t trust this person, that they are distant, aloof, petty and child-like? There is a good chance you’re facing a passive aggressive person.
Nora Femenia is a well-known coach, conflict solver and trainer, and CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc. You can find innovative and compassionate passive aggression solutions on her website: http://www.passiveaggresive.com