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How-to-Navigate-Passive-Aggressive-Behaviour-in-People Behaviour In People Around You

6 Ways To Navigate Passive Aggressive Behaviour In People Around You

Passive-aggressive behaviour from certain people leaves us wondering what’s going on in our relationships with them. 

 Do you ever feel like you’re constantly decoding cryptic messages? Does a friend “accidentally” forget your birthday after a conflict with them, or does your family member offer “helpful” suggestions that feel more like criticism? If yes, you are probably engaging with a person with passive-aggressive tendencies. Passive-aggressive behaviour leaves us wondering what’s happening and creates a feeling of helplessness, powerlessness, or even anger in us. 

But the good news is, that by understanding these tactics and developing clear communication skills, we can navigate these situations and build stronger connections. This article will equip you with 6 powerful ways to address passive-aggressive behaviour, transforming those frustrating mind games into direct and productive communication.

The Meaning Of Passive Aggressive Behaviour

Passive-aggressive behaviour is a pattern of suppressing certain emotions like anger, annoyance, jealousy, or resentment, instead of openly expressing them. 

When someone behaves passive-aggressively, there is a disconnect between what they say, and what they feel like. This is precisely why you feel perplexed when you talk to someone who displays such behaviour.

Remember, if someone interacts with you in a passive-aggressive way, it’s not a personal attack. Often, this behaviour stems from an inability to comfortably express vulnerable emotions. Underlying causes of passive-aggressive behaviour can range from low self-esteem, and unresolved feelings to simply lacking the communication skills to express themselves effectively.

While the silent treatment, a classic example of passive-aggressive behaviour, might seem intentional, it often reflects a struggle with emotional maturity and open communication. 

It’s crucial to remember that while this behaviour mainly impacts the person exhibiting it, understanding it empowers you to manage such situations effectively. By learning more about passive-aggressive tendencies, you can enter conversations with awareness and navigate them with greater ease.

Examples of Passive-Aggressive Behaviour 

Let’s look at some examples of passive-aggressive behaviour.

Backhanded Compliments

The backhanded compliment is an insult that is masked as a compliment. It usually has two parts. For example, “You are so confident (Part 1)… considering the way you look. (Part 2)” Now, leaving the comment in the first part would mean that it is a compliment. When you hear the first part, you feel happy. However, the second part stings you as it shows the true intention of the comment. This way, backhanded compliments leave you hurt and confused. 


This is a form of passive-aggressive behaviour that leaves you wondering if you are imagining things, or if you are crazy. Let’s say, you have a friend that is constantly avoiding you, being curt and serious with you, which is unusual as they aren’t like that with you. You can sense that they are angry, but when you ask them, they deny their feelings. This behaviour can make you overthink and start worrying that you have caused them to feel this way. 


These are actions such as rolling their eyes, letting out a heavy sigh, looking away when you look at them, tight smiles, raised eyebrows, and clenched fists. These actions are a glaring sign of their inner frustration, jealousy, or annoyance which is masked by their words.

Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is another form of passive-aggressive behaviour where they avoid speaking and interacting with you. When you ask them what’s wrong, they either go into denial or say, “I am fine.” This mismatch between a very obvious sign of their anger and what they say can create more frustration and miscommunication in the relationship. 


With a hidden jab masked as humour, sarcasm conveys frustration or criticism indirectly, leaving you confused. While seemingly lighthearted, it can sting, creating distance and hindering open communication. This could look like jokes made at your expense, like saying, “Yeah, you look great!” with an eye roll, thus hiding their inner negative emotions with “humour.”

Feigned Forgetfulness

Have you ever collaborated with someone who seems to forget tasks consistently? You assign them a clear deadline, and when the time comes to review their work, they claim it completely slipped their mind. You try to be understanding and give them another chance. But a week later, the same excuse pops up – “Oh, I totally forgot!” This pattern of forgetfulness can be incredibly frustrating, especially when it starts to feel deliberate. It delays your progress and leaves you wondering if their forgetfulness is a passive-aggressive way of expressing something else, like resentment or defiance. Such communication patterns in the workplace can give rise to more tension and conflict between co-workers. 

Navigating Passive Aggressive Behaviour In 6 Easy Ways

Are you frustrated and tired of these tactics? Struggling to find a way to respond to people behaving passive-aggressively with you? Here are 6 easy ways to navigate these tricky situations and protect your well-being:

  • Keep calm: Reacting to passive-aggressive comments and actions from an emotional space only adds fuel to the fire. Try to mentally distance yourself from the situation and remind yourself that this behaviour is not your responsibility or a reflection of you.
  • Give them space: If someone keeps avoiding and denying their emotions despite you knowing that they are angry, give them the space to process their emotions and wait till they reach out to speak with you. 
  • Set boundaries: Understand that their behaviour is not something you will have to live with. Clearly communicate what is unacceptable and the consequences of the behaviour.
  • Avoid engaging in mind games: Do not try to decode the hidden meaning behind their actions and words. Instead, ask for clear, direct communication from their end. 
  • Look at facts, not feelings: Often, passive-aggressive behaviour is done to gain a sense of control over your emotions. By making you feel confused, frustrated, and responsible for their actions, they can place the blame on you. To overcome this, focus on stating concrete examples and how they impacted you, and avoid getting caught up in emotional accusations. 
  • Focus on your well-being: Disengage from their behaviour and engage in self-care activities by surrounding yourself with people who communicate clearly and express their needs authentically.

While passive-aggressive behaviour can be frustrating, it doesn’t have to define your interactions. By equipping yourself with knowledge and tools, you can navigate these situations with grace and resilience. Remember, clear communication and emotional honesty are the cornerstones of healthy relationships. Let this be your guide to fostering genuine connections and creating a more open and understanding world, one conversation at a time.

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