Passive Aggressive Diaries

Understanding passive aggressive behavior in families, schools, and workplaces

7 Reasons Why People Use Passive Aggressive Behavior

In the short term, passive aggressive behaviors can be more convenient than confrontation and generally require less skill than assertiveness. They allow a person to exact revenge from behind the safety of plausible excuses and to sit on the sofa all weekend long rather than complete a list of undesirable chores. So, what’s not to love? Read More

Superb article.

As a person who is no friend to what I refer to as the " pseudo intellectuals " thisvarticlevwas great. Simple to the point. I have had problems with passive aggression for quite dome time.

However I will have to disagree that children are not born with the ability to be assertive. In fact children are very direct when it comes to expressing tier needs.

It is only after a child is repeatedly frustrated or verbally abused that a child looses that spontinaity.

As a child I never had a problem expressing what I wanted. As an adult I changed. I became withdrawn and shy. I felt weak in the presence of others . I felt that if I expressed myself some how I might get hurt.

How does your judgement relate to this article?7

I wonder what behaviors rate being judged as a "pseudo intellectual", or how your friendships with people you judge as such relate to this article? Do I have license to judge you as "semi interesting"?

Um, if you really think that

Um, if you really think that ALL people aren't constantly judging and assessing people based on a variety of criteria then you have some serious self awareness problems. I find it interesting that the guy wasn't attacking any one person--or even a group of people--yet YOU attacked HIM because you took his comment personally, without even knowing how he defines that term. If any of these comments are a great case study of passive aggression, yours takes the prize!

What, and my comments aren't

What, and my comments aren't even considered for this prize? Surely psychopaths are passive aggressive in their own special way.


Ed's comment

Ed, I could not agree with you more. I find passive aggressive people never see themselves as doing wrong - or if that statement does not fit, than what I should have said was... refuse to "admit" to doing wrong. Because then they have to admit that they have a flaw. In my experience, I find passive aggressive people to be very manipulative and controlling as well. Sneaky. Do know this is only "my" opinion on this subject and I am not pointing fingers at anyone in particular. I think it must come from feeling - insecure. The passive aggressive person is usually a "one upper" in conversations as well. My experience only.

"It is only after a child is

"It is only after a child is repeatedly frustrated or verbally abused that a child looses that spontinaity."

Very interesting insight, Chris. I hope you haven't stayed reserved and shy. I've had a similar experience, but I'm slowly learning to be more assertive and to cut people out of my life if all they do is act as energy vampires. :)

Good article

Good article. I liked it too.

Who is gaslighting whom?

It's not that simple. I'm frankly intimidated by my sister. When she tramples over my boundaries and then claims ignorance, I withdraw instead of assert myself (standing up for myself is like a red rag to a bull and I don't have the energy to stand my ground in the face of her bad temper). Then, after I've withdrawn, she claims I'm passive aggressive. I feel I don't have agency in the relationship. When I see her I'm regularly reminded of my faults and flaws for my own good, and treated rudely, and if I stay away I'm described as passive aggressive.
Why is it that the party who is prepared to get angriest or most confrontational is the one who sets the standard of interaction? What if I just simply don't want to assert myself as hard as I would have to?
I have been thinking that my sister practices distancing behaviour. If so, while I'm very sorry for her, she needs to look into her own behaviour a bit further. Being able to blame me for not being as assertive as she is, and pathologizing my withdrawal, only obscures the other issues and doesn't help anyone.

So true Barbara!

In my opinion this article is simplistic. Every relationship is an interaction between 2 people, not just one.

If one person makes a request, is the other person free to say No? If they are NOT free to authentically express themselves, then they are forced to go emotionally underground with that person.

It's not always the one who appears 'passive-aggressive' that is the problem. Look at the one crashing the other person's boundaries and leaving them no personal space to make their own choices in whatever situation. Passive-aggression may be the only territory the other person allows you to have. Or, one can simply exit the relationship. Those are the only 2 choices some people give you.

Excellent article!

Excellent article! Passive-aggression is so attractive to people who feel angry and/or jealous. People who practice it delude themselves into thinking they're "winning," when they're just destroying the relationship. Nobody wins.

its a good one nice written

its a good one nice written by the author..

here are some more about it,

A coping mechanism

I am extremely passive-aggressive. It started off in youth, as a coping mechanism because my parents would tell me how "disgusting" it was when small children acted angry or badly in their dealings with others. It made me feel very repulsive whenever I expressed a negative emotion. Then I realized that most people disliked others who expressed negative emotions.

Now whenever I encounter people who I feel deserve my aggression, I manipulate them. Since I have been doing so from childhood, it is easy to make them feel angry, sad or confused. If they were an especially hard nut to crack, I would just sabotage them through others. It's my way of getting back at people without being seen as repulsive or guilty. Sometimes life is tough, and you can either sit down and take it or decide to fight back. Passive aggression is a tool to cope in life, and it works.

And no, I'm not a sociopath.

Wow! What an amazing admission!

Wow! What an amazing admission! I'm wondering how you know you're reading people correctly when you decide they deserve punishment? Are you careful whom you harm?
And out of curiosity, I ask, with respect, do you express positive emotions whether you feel them or not (since they are the acceptable emotions to express)? Do you thoroughly hide your true nature with a cheerful, co-operative facade? Have you ever been caught?

I am excellent at reading

I am excellent at reading people correctly, that's why it's so easy to manipulate them. Once you understand how a person ticks, you can make them do anything.

I am not too concerned about being 'careful' when I control people. Most people deserve it because they are weak of mind, which is the reason they can be manipulated in the first place. Not that I manipulate just anyone, only if they did something to deserve it.

I do express positive emotion often as people respond better to influence when the person displays friendly characteristics. So yes, I can be cheerful and co-operative if it serves a purpose.

Lastly, no, I have never been caught. That's the best part about passive-aggression. The recipient cannot comprehend how they are being affected. This is for 2 reasons:

1) The passive aggressive person has not been outwardly negative or aggressive. This confuses the person into believing that the result was a product of natural consequence.

2) On the off-chance of suspicion, the person cannot prove any misdeed on my part, as all actions can easily be rationalized as well-meaning or unintentional.

Thanks for that. Perhaps you'd answer another question?

Thanks for that. Perhaps you'd answer another question? Do you equate "weak of mind" with a nature that is co-operative and agreeable, or less intellectually gifted? I imagine either personality would be easier to manipulate?

I know a couple of people who do what you do. They are perfect pillars of their communities, and (almost) universally loved. I see what they do, however, and they have both done it to me. Someone's doing it now, in fact. She has tried and failed to provoke me, and being able to see through her machinations makes them curious and interesting rather than hurtful, but she might be able to rouse the community (if I make a mistake) or gaslight me. She's still putting out feelers and testing me. And poisoning my relationships, or trying to. So interesting.

May I ask why you don't think this is sociopathy? It seems more comprehensive than passive aggression.

'Weak of mind' includes (but

'Weak of mind' includes (but is not limited to):

1)An individual who lacks the ability to determine their own position and thus looks to others to bolster their sense of self-worth. This is usually because of their poor self-image and/or insecurities that others will dislike them. This results in 'co-operation' which is one of the factors you intuitively realized. This may be because you are highly co-operative yourself. These types of people usually say, "I'll do it if it will make you like me."

2)An individual who lacks judgement of an adequate nature, and so happily resolves to allowing other individuals to set a status quo for them to follow. This is usually because they do not understand what they are doing and do not trust themselves to make their own decisions. This results in the 'agreeable' factor you also mentioned. These people often say, "I'll do it if you think it's right."

3)A culmination of points 1 and 2 is a common example of an individual who deserves any manipulation that resulted from their stupidity(for lack of a better word). Yes, you are getting good at this, that was the 3rd factor you mentioned, the 'less intellectually gifted' individual. These people often say, "How did I end up being buried alive in this 50 m deep grave?"

The last point was not meant to be taken too literally. I am not a sociopath because I am a psychopath, and their is an obvious difference.

That may have been me having a go at you...

Didn't think you were a passive aggressive.

Didn't think you were a passive aggressive. Those folks just look sulky.

..tralala...the hills are alive with the sound of music...tralala..

And you imagine me as wielding a knife and dancing to 'The Sound of Music'?

I didn't...

I didn't til you drew that picture. Gimme some more images. I like the 50m deep grave one, too.
I imagine the lack of a stage to parade on would be a frustration sometimes, but that's the price you pay for hiding your light under a bushell.

"I am excellent at reading" by DesolateWanderer

Though you may not read this since it has been so long, I'm still going to say it because it needs to be said...

As the only child of passive-aggressive parents--though I may not have known the term when I was younger--I learned the signs early. P-A people think no one knows what they are doing, but it becomes extremely obvious to those who deal with them on a daily basis.

I'm now 70 and take care of my 95-yr. old father in my home. He hasn't changed a bit in all these years. If it weren't for the fact that I hated the way my parents manipulated me and that I never wanted to be like them, and if I hadn't had other relatives who weren't P-A, I would probably have put him in a nursing home without a second thought, walked away forever, allowing him to die slowly, lonely, and on his own.

So as a P-A person, be careful what you do in life because it can come back and bite you.

And delusional too! Cruel,

And delusional too! Cruel, cruel, cruel.

Foolish child

There is no light, only darkness.

Who are you?

If you knew what makes me tick...

If you knew what makes me tick, Desolate (may I call you Desolate?), of course, I would tell you. Thank you for the insights, I have enjoyed our conversation.

I feel hurt at your sudden

I feel hurt at your sudden dismissal. Call me what you like, I have no name here. I have enjoyed your snarky comments immensely. You were interesting enough to want to solve. But so be it. Should this be my last post here?

If so, I also "enjoyed our conversation." Maybe we'll meet again in real life, the friendly psychopath next door?

*you decide*


A classic. Meant to be "Desolate" Meant to be the "Wanderer". It's perfect for you.
You could not control Barbara. And that got to you. But, you struck out in showing your weak side.
Ha. Funny how you are the expert - when people are just being kind and don't want to engage you. You will never see this as the truth because then all that intelligence you possess would have no meaning. Since you are at the top of the ladder in your mind, you have won the prize, no one knows more or is better - you can congratulate yourself. Now all that you have strived for is complete. Good for you.

On the same note, is your 'Anonymous' title any better?

Or is it an attempt at hiding your true identity? Your non-name indicates your lack of a brain.

And since you seem so interested in mine: "Desolate" actually refers to my emotional state, which is bleak and barren, devoid of feeling. "Wanderer" is a reference to my physical state, which is always wandering this world in an attempt to find something of enjoyment. The name came to me subconsciously, but it aptly describes me, don't you think?

Anyway, I do love a good list. What better way to control ideas into a logical format:

1) Perhaps you are correct in stating that not being able to control Barbara is mildly annoying for me, as are people in general.

2) I am an expert in people-reading and manipulation, I won't pretend to be anything less. People are simple tools to use, and I have mastered the art.

3) What "weak side" have I shown you? 'Needing to Control' is more of a strength than a weakness, don't you think?

4) I see the truth as the truth. If what you are saying makes logical sense, then I will see it. I'm not swayed by emotions of grandeur on my part.

5) Your ladder metaphor makes sense too, I do see myself at the top of the ladder in my mind. This is simply because I am. I have yet to meet someone whom I can't manipulate in person. If the "prize" you speak of is for mind games or intelligence, then I believe I stand a reasonable chance.

6) I cannot congratulate myself just yet. What I am striving for is not complete. When it is, you'll know.

This post wasn't meant to describe machiavellians, psychopaths, etc

The articles on this site are usually meant for general consumption. I might be reading too far into this article (or tired and seeing hostility for no reason) but it sounds like the writer has a pet peeve for people they believe are "taking their frustrations out on others in a non direct way."

When you are on the outside looking in, you get just enough information to jump to conclusions. We all like to feel like we know why someone did something. We all like to feel good about ourselves by classifying certain behaviors better than others.

Passive aggressiveness normally comes from a place of powerlessness. They feel they don't have the power to change the situation. A person can call that immature if they want but it can be strategically useful if you don't have the skills, knowledge, or power to change the situation.

Authority figures have power and can bring out the passive aggressiveness of others. So can pushy people.

Assertiveness takes a balance that not everyone has, it probably takes more wisdom than maturity. By maturity, I mean having reached full potential which is different for everyone. Wisdom requires knowledge and good judgement.

Desolate you might have just been trolled by anonymous. He wanted to provoke you like trolls do and you fell for it...

Anonymous, if you even get updates, people aren't just being kind. They choose to not engage because it's a hassle for them, they know they can't change the person's mind, or any number of reasons that are not kind. Another reaction to an unchanged mind is hostility which you had in spades.

People often won't engage me because I am direct, I have not quite got assertiveness down because I'm on the side of aggressiveness more often than not. People don't engage me, especially the authors, because they are experts and often look down on self taught people such as me. This is an assumption, therefore not accurate, but has a great chance of being correct.

Socrates seemed to have the right of it, wise because he admits he knows nothing.

I know I keep wondering if anyone really knows what they think they know.

Childhood environment determines personality flaws

Passive aggressive people were taught from a young age that self expression of negative emotions was a bad thing. Hence they stopped expressing themselves in a normal manner, and look for sneaky ways to get back at others. In a way you are correct in stating that authority figures and pushy people will bring out passive aggressive behavior in others. This is because they will not tolerate direct resistance or opposition, so passive aggression is needed.

If Anonymous is a troll, then he was brought up in an environment where he wasn't afforded enough attention, and now tries to provoke an emotional response in others in order to feel fulfilled. These are my favorite people to manipulate, they usually have a well of anger which you can harness and enjoy.

Assertiveness takes neither wisdom nor maturity. All it takes is someone who was brought up in an environment where direct communication was favored. Apart from psychopaths, most people develop learned personality behavior from their childhood. These patterns are repeated, become stronger as the individual ages, and then are used as a method to cope with the world.

This is why people are so simple to manipulate. Once you understand How they are who they are, you can activate the pattern. You can control them through simple manipulation, it is the greatest pleasure of life!

As for people, if they think they know something which isn't factually proven, then their thought is more than likely based on a preconceived notion of THEIR reality, not an unbiased viewpoint of life.

You obviously don't believe

You obviously don't believe in philosophy or in the ability to change. Change can and does happen. Major changes aren't seen often because people like habits. Personality is pretty much like a habit. You should read the power of habit. Also the brain is a rather interesting topic. Try that though you seem to get off on debate.

Ever heard of codependent people? They manipulate too but not to get back at others, to get those around them to do what they think is best.

I've met a sociopath, she told me quite a lot. I've read up on people like her and you who claim to be a psychopath. Funny enough, you aren't emotionless. Just guilt free, manipulative, and narcissistic. You don't need people for anything but entertainment and to get simple needs met. We are pawns.

There are wild cards. Things outside of your control but your need for control could drive you nuts if you let it. You can't account for everything. Sometimes there are just too many variables.

Oh and just so you know, I get something out of this so it's not like I did something because you manipulated me, I am perfectly capable of ignoring people if it suits me. I do what I want to do.

I believe in reason. Reason

I believe in reason. Reason tells us that most people are incapable of understanding basic principles of their minds, let alone knowing enough to change their ideas or personalities.

A recent study found that personality and disorders were fully formed by the age of 7. Psychologist determined behavioral patterns of these kids and were able to predict significant traits and personalities, which were confirmed when these kids reached adulthood.

The 'PEOPLE CAN CHANGE' badge you seem to wear is both idealistic and sad. People can be manipulated. We can use their formed personalities to generate favorable outcomes. Why care about trying to change them when we can control them?

It's true that I have emotion, I believe I derive immense joy from controlling people and events. Most things can be controlled, the variables of which you speak just add spice to an otherwise predictable chain of events. I derive even more joy from dealing with those variables.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker and co-author of The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed.


Subscribe to Passive Aggressive Diaries

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.