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Psychiatrist Daniel Hall-Flavin describes passive-aggressive behavior as “a pattern of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them. There's a disconnect between what a passive-aggressive person says and what he or she does.” In our highly competitive, pressure-filled and stressful society, passive-aggression is a prevalent and disempowering phenomenon, both for the passive-aggressor and the intended target.   

Here are four major categories of passive-aggression, excerpted from my book: “How to Successfully Handle Passive-Aggressive People”:

Category One: Disguised Verbal Hostility

Examples: Negative gossip. Sarcasm. Veiled hostile joking — often followed by "just kidding." Repetitive teasing. Negative orientation. Habitual criticism of ideas, solutions, conditions, and expectations.

Category Two: Disguised Relational Hostility

Examples: Sullen resentment. Simmering anger. The silent treatment. The invisible treatment. Social exclusion. Neglect. Backstabbing. Two faced. Mixed messages. Deliberate button pushing. Negative or discomforting surprises. Overspending. Indirectly hurting something or someone of importance to the targeted person.

Category Three: Disguised Task Hostility

Examples: Procrastination. Stalling. Forgetting. Stonewalling. Withholding resources or information. Professional exclusion. Denying personal responsibility. Excuse making. Blaming. Broken agreements. Lack of follow through. Resistance. Stubbornness. Rigidity. Avoidance. Inefficiency, complication, incompletion or ruination of task.

Category Four: Hostility Towards Others Through Self-Punishment (“I’ll show YOU”)

Examples: Quitting. Deliberate failure. Exaggerated or imagined health issues. Victimhood. Dependency. Addiction. Self-harm. Deliberate weakness to elicit sympathy and favor.

Many chronic passive-aggressives struggle, and suffer personal and/or professional setbacks during the course of their lives. Common failures and negative consequences of chronic passive-aggression may include some of the following:

  1. Multiple communication and relationship issues from one’s unwillingness or inability to engage in constructive dialogue.
  2. Personal and/or professional alienation from others feeling put-off, disappointed, betrayed, manipulated, or sabotaged.
  3. Poor personal and/or professional reputation from a lack of trust, credibility, reliability, dependability, and authenticity.
  4. More distant, weary, and stressful relationships with family, friends, and social contacts.
  5. Family estrangement, divorce, friendship fallouts and social cut-offs in worst cases.
  6. Poor professional credibility at work.
  7. Poor performance reviews at work, leading to career set-backs, job demotion, or termination in worst cases.
  8. The passive-aggressive often experiences physical, mental, and emotional distress due to repressed anger, resentment, and/or hostility.
  9. The passive-aggressive often feels more isolated personally and professionally due to the unwillingness or inability to engage in effective communication.
  10. The passive-aggressive often feels more stressed and burdened from others expecting him or her to be more open, forthright, and responsive.
  11. The passive-aggressive may feel frustrated and upset with oneself from the inability to be more assertive in communication and problem solving situations.
  12. The passive-aggressive may experience “quiet but persistent unhappiness” in life from the denial of issues, suppression of emotions, and unwillingness to handle problems (even when many are solvable).

Can a passive-aggressive person change for the better? Perhaps. But only if he or she is willing to go through the process of self-discovery. For passive-aggressives who are aware, there is the unique opportunity to evolve towards the Higher Self, signified by astute pro-activeness, effective communication, and the capacity to engage in healthy and constructive relationships.

For tips on how to deal with Passive-Aggressives, see my book (click on title): “How to Successfully Handle Passive-Aggressive People.”

For tips on how Passive-Aggressives can attain greater emotional and relational maturity, see my book (click on title): “A Practical Guide for Passive-Aggressives to Change Towards the Higher Self.” 

© 2017 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.

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