Whether it’s a backhanded compliment, a guilt trip, martyrdom, or that sarcastic comment, it’s always annoying and frustrating to deal with someone who’s being passive aggressive.

Or maybe you’ve gotten the cold shoulder freeze out or the shoulder shrug (huh? I don’t know what you’re talking about) or someone who just procrastinates on doing what you’ve asked.

No matter how it shows up, passive aggressive behavior gets in the way of any connection, intimacy or trust. My goal today is that you’ll walk away with a better understanding of what’s really going on when someone acts this way and some actionable tools to do something about it. Listen up if you’re ready to stop feeling frustrated and stuck and start feeling empowered.

What you should know about passive aggressive behavior:

To deal with someone who’s being passive aggressive, you first have to truly understand what’s really going on.

When someone is passive aggressive, they’re letting you know a few things:

  1. They’re angry but don’t want to talk about it.
  2. They’ve got low self-esteem.
  3. They learned it from their family.

How Can I Be Sure Someone’s Being Passive Aggressive?

  1. Pay attention to how you feel. If your partner is saying one thing, but you feel another, then pay attention to this mixed message and “trust your gut.”
  2. It feels mean. If they’re giving you “feedback” but it never feels loving and might even feel downright rude, dismissive and highly critical.
  3. They tell you you’re crazy. A big sign is when the other person is clearly upset but denies any anger, frustration or sadness.
  4. They’re not satisfied and keep bringing up an issue even after it’s been resolved. Since they’re not saying what they really need (and likely don’t even know) they’ll agree to something but they’re unhappy about it so keep poking at you later about it. They say one thing (“It’s fine – I totally get it”) but then act out in some way because they’re really NOT fine with it but don’t realize it. They end up with a ton of resentment and frustration and you can’t understand why.
  5. They consistently take the easier way out with feelings. Passive aggressive people will do just about anything to avoid a feeling (especially anger). They’ll escape into long hours of video games or social media, act addictively with alcohol, drugs, food or spending and will even have affairs – all to avoid dealing with people and situations in their lives.
  6. They mask anger with other things too. If someone is consistently acting like a victim, withholding (praise, love, attention), pouting, unreliable or sarcastic, they just might be passive aggressive.

Tips for Dealing with Passive Aggressive People

Once you’ve identified what’s happening, you’re going to want to do something about it. The key is to have clear boundaries and consistency.

  1. Call them on it but with questions, not statements!
  2. Help them identify their anger.
  3. Hold boundaries with a loving intent.
  4. Say how you feel.
  5. Tell them to ask for what they want.
  6. Don’t take it personally.


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