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5 Reasons Passive Aggressive People Express Hostility Indirectly

Many people are in a relationship with a passive aggressive individual and do not even realize it.

The symptoms of this communication style are subtle and deceptive.  They are difficult to detect unless you know what to look for, and have the objectivity to sort out appearances from reality.

Part of the problem is that people with this type of self expression can charm you out of your objectivity.  They can make you believe what they want you to believe about themselves, about yourself and about how the world is supposed to work.

One distinguishing factor is that passive aggressive people handle their anger differently from the rest of us. They do not lash out like actively aggressive people, they are not openly abusive. They try to maintain what they call in politics, “plausible deniability.” They often act with hostile intentions while keeping a smile on their face.  Afterwards, they are able to say, “What did I do?”

Passive aggressive people see themselves as nice or pleasing. But that is merely a phony role that they play. They express hostility indirectly:

To keep others from hurting them.

To keep others from inconveniencing them.

To control without others knowing it.

To get their own way.

To avoid responsibility for anything they do.

Passive aggressive people struggle to understand why others do not appreciate their pleasing efforts. Any ingratitude makes them angry but they can’t show it because it isn’t “nice.”

They complain that others are not grateful, when they were just being thoughtful.  The passive aggressive person assumes the role of the “injured party,” the “victim.”  They hide behind a smoke screen of innocence, so others feel guilty.

Since passive aggressive are “so nice” others feel that there must be something wrong with them because they “overreact” to every “little thing.” Those around them take the bait and apologize, but are unsure why.

Passive aggressive people however, do not forgive and forget so easily.  They are deeply offended by others failure to appreciate their supreme benevolence. They want the recognition that is due, but never get. This is “wrong”, unfair and they feel others deserve to be punished.

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5 Reasons Passive Aggressive People Express Hostility Indirectly

Aaron Karmin

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APA Reference
Karmin, A. (2016). 5 Reasons Passive Aggressive People Express Hostility Indirectly. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Nov 2016
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