Instead of getting visibly angry, some people express their hostility in passive-aggressive ways designed to hurt and confuse their target. Most people will have to deal with passive-aggression from others in their personal and professional lives at one time or another: a roommate who leaves a sweet-yet-scolding note about the one cup that was left unwashed, for example, or the report a colleague keeps "forgetting" to finish. Passive-aggressive behavior can be intensely frustrating for the target because it’s hard to identify, difficult to prove, and may even be unintentional. Passive-aggression can lead to more conflict and intimacy issues, because many people struggle to have a direct and honest conversation about the problem at hand. Nagging or getting angry only puts the passive-aggressive person on the defensive—often resulting in them making excuses or denying any responsibility. Recent research shows that there are healthier ways to confront passive-aggression and handle relationship conflict.
Dealing with Passive-Aggression
The Quiet Attacks
While passive-aggressive behavior can be hard to pin down, experts agree on the most common signs, which include refusing to discuss concerns openly and directly, avoiding responsibility, and being deliberately inefficient. But how can an individual recognize when someone else is being passive-aggressive? The passively aggressive person often leaves a job undone or “almost” complete. They frequently run late and are masters at subtly sabotaging others when they disagree with a course of action. They often resort to the silent treatment or the backhanded compliment to get their point across.