6 Signs You're Being Passive Aggressive & How To Stop

Everyone has probably dealt with someone who's passive aggressive. There are certain traits that passive aggressive people have, and even though you can probably pinpoint when someone else is acting out those particular behaviors, it might be harder to figure out that you may be doing them as well. Being passive aggressive means you're being deceptive about how you truly feel; it's an alternative way to express yourself without doing it directly. Basically, it's a way to avoid conflict, which isn't good. But conflict isn't a negative thing at all; it exists to help resolve issues.

I personally grew up in a very passive-aggressive home — I just never realized it until I was older. When I was growing up, I thought that passive aggressive behavior was normal. So when I brought that trait into my romantic relationship, things didn't go well. My boyfriend and I would get in arguments because I wasn't being honest with him about my emotions. I would assume that he should have known how I was feeling all along, which I eventually realized was totally unrealistic. Now that my significant other and I are communicating so much better, I realize just how many problems my passive aggressive tendencies caused. It's hard to admit it, but since acknowledged the problem, I've been able to make important changes that have benefited our relationship. If you're like me, and feel like you might be a little passive aggressive in your personal or professional relationships, here are some key signs to help indicate if you are or not.

1. You Don't Use Direct Statements


Passive aggressive people tend to go around the issue instead of attacking it head on. Even though they know exactly what they want, they won't ask for it directly. According to The Washington Post, New York City-based psychotherapist Janet Zinn, LCSW gave a great example, “For instance, when a friend mentions she’ll be attending a party and you say, 'I wish I could go,' it’s better to ask, ‘Any way I could come?’ It’s more direct and doesn’t leave your friend feeling pressured or uncertain.” By doing this, you're being honest with yourself when it comes to your emotions. It might be hard at first to deal with them head on, but you'll probably feel better because you cleared the air.

2. You Use Backhanded Compliments


A lot of people may not realize when they are actually giving a backhanded compliment, but it tends to happen especially when an individual is angry or upset. Instead of feeling truly happy for another person's good fortune, you may give a compliment that's actually a small insult. According to Psychology Today, licensed social worker and school counselor Signe Whitson said that backhanded compliments are designed to get back at another person without having to express your true feelings. "Passive aggression is motivated by a person's fear of expressing anger directly," continued Whitson. In general, people who are passive aggressive use this type of language so other people can get angry, which will allow the passive aggressor to finally open up about their own feelings. It's essentially another way to manipulate the situation to get what they want.

3. You Give The Silent Treatment


Nothing is worse than getting the silent treatment. You know the person is angry, but there's nothing you can do about it because they have complete control over the whole situation. When someone is being passive aggressive, they will use this form of nonverbal communication as another way to hint that there's actually something wrong. Another great example of this is by saying "Nothing's wrong" or "I'm fine" when someone is inquiring about your behavior. According to Business Insider, counselor and author of Constructive Wallowing: How To Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them Tina Gilbertson said, "The silent treatment is caused by a combination of hurt feelings and an inability or unwillingness to talk about them." In the end, you and the person that you're having beef with want to find an amicable solution to the problem, but it takes courage to make the first move of opening up.

4. You Procrastinate


People will take this route when they're choosing not to be proactive when dealing with an issue, but still want to voice how they feel through nonverbal behaviors. For instance, this could entail backing out of an event last minute because you never wanted to go in the first place or avoiding an angry text message that was sent from your friend. The passive aggressor knows what their true motive is but instead of being upfront, they will lie to avoid dealing with the possible negative consequence. According to Psychology Today, Whitson said that when people choose to be intentional inefficient, or procrastinate, they are permitting others to act out their own anger for them. "This ability to control someone else’s emotional response makes the passive aggressive person feel powerful," continued Whitson.

5. You Have A Hostile Attitude


Some passive aggressors may take things more personally than others because they may feel that every negative thing that they don't approve of is actually a personal attack on them. According to Fox News, Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, said, "Whether you set yourself up to be a self-sabotaging failure — 'Why do you have such unrealistic expectations of me?' — or a tyrant or goddess incapable of anything less than perfection — 'To whom do you think you are speaking, peon?' — you are shaking in your boots from fear of competition and being exposed as less than perfect." Instead of assuming that everyone should know how you feel (because let's be honest, no one can read anyone's mind), speak up and clarify what that person meant. This is way better than having a hostile attitude.

6. You Constantly Complain


If someone chooses not to deal with their problems head on, they are probably more inclined to complain about them — especially to everyone else except the person who hurt them. According to INC., people who are passive aggressive will take great lengths to avoid confrontation and allow others to treat them poorly. They are permitting others to take control over their lives instead of having the courage to stand up for themselves and make a change. By complaining to others, that is essentially the only control they do have — and that's why they may exercise it a lot.

While being passive aggressive every now and then isn't terrible, you want to strive not make it an everyday habit. If you feel like you've been acting out some of these traits, now is the time to acknowledge them and try to make a positive change, because there are ways to stand up for yourself without it turning into a huge argument. Make a conscious effort from now on to complain less, be more direct with what you want, and stop using backhanded compliments. You may feel a lot better after you finally gain control back in your life.

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