How to deal with a passive aggressive person? 5 Psychological traits that define them

Do you feel some people don’t say what they think? Do you think they attack you in subtle ways? Maybe you are dealing with a passive-aggressive person. Find out what this psychological profile is like.

When someone tries to exercise passive violence towards others, we may deal with a passive-aggressive person. This type of behavior usually refers to a psychological disorder that ends up generating discomfort both for the person and for others.

This way of acting has different causes: lack of self-esteem, inability to create healthy relationships, poor social skills, among others. This passive-aggressive attitude occurs in both men and women. In addition, passive-aggressive behavior is difficult to recognize and implies a feeling of pain for the one who suffers it.

What is passive-aggressive?

At first glance, it may seem that a passive-aggressive person does not get angry, but that is not true. He does, but does not externalize it: he uses silence to ignore the person and delay the times. What is behind this attitude? The fear of putting their needs on the table or the impossibility of saying “no”. Thus, if someone exposes the conflict to him, he will simply shy away from it.

When we talk about passive-aggressive behavior, we are referring to those people who express negative feelings indirectly instead of talking about their emotions or thoughts. A passive-aggressive person behaves this way because they mainly cannot express what they have inside. So much so that most of them end up engaging in passive-aggressive behavior because they do not know how to communicate emotionally with others.

This term was coined during World War II. According to psychological research, many soldiers did not follow their officers’ orders because they could not express their arguments against them. Thus, they adopted a passive-aggressive personality, trying not to fully comply with each of their commanders’ instructions.

A person who has a passive-aggressive personality often shows a feeling or attitude that does not define him. So much so that he feels angry, resentful, or frustrated, but is cheerful and acts in a completely false way. Despite showing passive-aggressive behavior, it cannot be said that a passive-aggressive disorder exists. This type of passive-aggressive behavior may show a mental health problem.

Symptoms of a passive-aggressive personality

It is often difficult to detect a passive-aggressive personality. This is because they know how to hide their emotions, although they often compensate with personal attacks. Thus, psychologists have detected that there are a series of behaviors that point to a passive-aggressive personality.

  1. Don’t follow the directions of others

People with a passive-aggressive personality dislike that others try to command them or teach them how to do things. So much so that they often feel that others are doing it just to make them feel bad or inferior.

  1. Sabotages others’ goals

Sometimes, a passive-aggressive person tries to sabotage the successes of others. So much so that he or she may delay a task or make intentional mistakes just so that the other person will not accomplish his or her goals.

  1. Sarcastic or argumentative attitude

Sarcasm is one characteristic of passive-aggressive behavior. So much so that this passive style is probably always present in the replies and arguments of people with a passive-aggressive attitude.

  1. They feel underestimated

These psychological profiles feel their surroundings are constantly judging and underestimating them. It may happen sometimes that people are in an environment where others criticize them, but most of the time this is just a feeling. This is because a passive-aggressive person will often suffer from low self-esteem.

  1. Criticizes others

When a person criticizes his environment or others a lot, it is likely that he is going through a bad situation. So much so that in passive-aggressive behavior we often find this type of offensive comments about others.

If you think you may be part of the passive-aggressive people, it is essential to see what is behind this attitude. Frequently, this passive-aggressive personality shows a psychological disorder. In such cases, it is best to consult a mental health specialist.

Causes of passive-aggressive behavior

Research has shown that people who exhibit this kind of passive-aggressive attitude do so from childhood. So much so that frequently it is the parenting style by the parents that creates passive-aggressive behavior in children. According to psychologists, this type of behavior can be preceded by the following causes:

Parenting style

Family dynamics and other childhood influences can contribute to the development of a passive-aggressive personality. Thus, children who have received severe punishment or neglectful behavior from parents are likely to have this style of character.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

When suffering from ADHD, it is more difficult to express feelings and emotions. So much so that a good way to avoid dealing with them is to engage in passive-aggressive behavior.


A person suffering from exorbitant levels of stress may develop a passive-aggressive attitude. This can not only affect their mental health, but also the surrounding people.

Anxiety and depression

There are many cases in which the passive-aggressive personality arises as a reflection of suffering from anxiety and depression. So much so that most sufferers end up adopting this passive-aggressive style as if it were part of their identity.

Other psychological disorders

This type of passive-aggressive behavior can show other psychological disorders such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Although it is one of the least identifiable features of these illnesses, it is also very common to develop it.

Substance abuse

When someone is hooked on a substance, it is very possible that he/she will develop a passive-aggressive attitude because of the so-called ‘mono’. In these cases, it is crucial to curb drug addiction.

All these causes denote that frequently a passive-aggressive attitude is accompanied by a psychological problem. For this reason, it is crucial to consult a psychologist when this type of behavior is detected.

How do I deal with a passive aggressor?

The passive-aggressive acts like the dog of the Hortelano. He neither eats nor let’s eat. He wants to feel cared for and to be followed, but he can’t stand being ordered around and wants autonomy and freedom. As we have mentioned, it is difficult for him to express his wishes, so when he does not feel loved he uses non-confrontational strategies: stop talking, disappear, turn off his cell phone, do not answer, ignore the other… When someone confronts him, the passive-aggressive person will try to get his way in the discussion, denying even the clearest evidence. This is a clearly victimizing attitude. He does not recognize what is happening to him in front of others, but because he does not even recognize it to himself. The lack of self-criticism and flexibility rules and reaffirms him in his attitudes: “it is the rest of the world that is wrong, not me”. The result is that, even if he has not spoken to his partner for two days, he will only know his own pain, never of the pain he is causing. If you have identified a passive-aggressive person in your environment, you can combat it with the following strategies:

  1. Recognize when this situation occurs and let it pass.

There is no point in trying to make him understand he is wrong: you will only reaffirm his position. If you don’t insist, he will end up backing down and asking for help, if he needs it. He won’t feel so judged if you give him time

  1. Distance yourself.

It is very logical that you experience the situation as a personal attack, but it is not. Even you are not the problem. Practice compassion.

  1. When the time has passed, reason with him/her about his/her attitude.

Being compassionate doesn’t mean you have to let anything go. Explain how it makes you feel and avoid personal accusations.

  1. Ask him about his emotions

A good way to get a passive-aggressive person to learn to describe his emotions at the worst times is to train him to do so when he is at his best. In this way, it can be a good idea to always ask them how they are feeling and what emotions they perceive.

How do I know if I am a passive-aggressive person?

Frequently we recognize the bad attitude of others. But accepting that sometimes we are the ones who act badly is more difficult. If you think you may engage in passive-aggressive behavior, you can ask yourself the following questions:

Do you often find yourself in a bad mood when you are unhappy with someone else?

Do you avoid people you are upset with?

Do you ever stop talking to people when you are angry with them?

Do you stop doing things as a way of punishing others?

Do you sometimes use sarcasm to avoid engaging in meaningful conversations?

In case you answered yes to most of them, maybe you are a passive-aggressive person. Therefore, it is essential to see a professional psychologist in order to treat this problem.

How to stop being a passive-aggressive person?

If you believe that this attitude in you is damaging both your professional and personal development, it is vital to change this way of acting with others. According to psychologists, you can follow the following guidelines:

  1. Improve your self-awareness

Knowing yourself is vital to know how to communicate with others. So much so that passive-aggressive people develop this personality because of their lack of communication with others. To do this, it is vital to be in the present and pay attention to everything that is on your mind.

  1. Don’t be too critical or demanding

When you change your attitude, don’t get frustrated for not getting it right the first time. Changing a habit and especially a personality trait such as passive-aggressive behavior can be much more difficult than it seems at first glance.

  1. Practice your expression

The fundamental problem of a passive-aggressive person does not know how to explain himself. Therefore, it is ideal to learn to express emotions and feelings in an appropriate manner. So much so that you should take advantage of any opportunity you have to say what you feel.

  1. Meditate and lead a healthy life

Practicing sports, establishing good eating habits, and meditating can be the perfect recipe to leave behind a passive-aggressive personality. A healthy lifestyle is vital to avoid the effects of stress and anxiety.

Passive-aggressive people show through their attitude a lack in their personality. For this reason, it is essential to point out their faults and help them enjoy good mental health.

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