17 thoughts on “21 Passive-Aggressive Behavior Signs That Give You an Eye for Manipulators

  • October 18, 2017 at 7:38 am

    Great article. I’m working with someone who has frequent passive-agreesive behavior. I’ve tried gently confronting but often run into her walking away when I’m speaking and/or she pretends not to hear, I don’t receive critical messages (etc.). Whenever I bring things up, she always has an excuse. I’m struggling because I’m not her superior nor is she mine. I want to be fair and polite but can feel my frustration building after close to a year of observing this behavior pattern. Any tools to help me be constructive would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    • October 21, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      Hey Aly,

      I’m not a therapist but what I have learned in situations like these is it is best to be direct. After all, it seems that is the way to remove the interaction from the loop you two are stuck in and elevate the conversation to a more productive level. Say something like, ” I get really frustrated when you walk away from me when I’m speaking or you pretends not to hear. Can we talk about what’s going on? And see what she has to say and where the conversation goes. It might be a really hard step to take but in my experience these conversations can really lead to understanding and healing. Good luck!


  • October 18, 2017 at 8:52 am

    This is so good, every person needs to read it! Now in my 50s, I have done them all and experienced others doing them. When I was younger, the behaviors mystified me. Seeing them for what they are helps to reduce drama and shame, and adds humor to daily life. Thanks for putting these signs together.

  • October 18, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Man- do you need a poster child? I had no idea passo-aggro behavior was so comprehensive…

  • October 18, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Excellent article! One of the best I have read on this subject.

  • October 18, 2017 at 10:10 am

    Not being insolent… just brief… “so pretty much all behavior can be passive aggressive”. Why not address the topic from the perspective of motive rather than behavior?

  • October 18, 2017 at 10:13 am

    This describes most people. This describes everyone I know. Most of these sound like coping mechanisms to me. I’m not sure how you are supposed to get someone to respect their needs when our culture is telling you that your needs are selfish and it’s honorable to neglect them. Part of our bully culture.

    • October 18, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      You took the words out of my mouth. This behavior is everywhere all of the time. Excellent article wish people could just be honest but as you said those are the ones bullied.

    • October 18, 2017 at 4:46 pm

      I agree.

  • October 18, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Thanks Mike for your article which is helpful to me and, it has confirmed much that I haven’t understood for a big part of my life.

    My mother (deceased now) and sister were both passive aggressive to me, to the extent that I was growing up in a state of bewilderment at what was going on. Wish I had your information way back then because it would have helped me to understand what they were doing. It felt like they always had the upper hand and I the underdog. They were both blamers and I was the scapegoat. They were always in cohoots with each other and I on the outside. The worst part of it was when they gossiped and only told a very one sided and twisted version of the facts, hence, I was portrayed as the ‘bad girl’ and they would elicit sympathy. What a way to treat a child/sister.

    Today I’m much wiser.. I’m in my sixties and over the decades I’ve wised up and I’m now able to recognise my sister’s very passive aggressive behaviours and I don’t let her off. The sad thing is that she hasn’t changed with age rather, she is a lot worse. Very sad indeed. Thank you again for a good article, Sally.

  • October 18, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    The very term “passive-aggressive” incites me because it connotes shame, in my opinion, and generally refers to people who already suffer from low self-esteem. These people probably do not understand why they suffer so much and/or why they are not getting what they want in life. The general populace throws it around as a weapon without understanding what drives it and/or without compassion. Emotional intelligence is really what is needed and, when I was raised, there was very little understanding of it.

    My FOO was very passive aggressive and I’ve had to come to terms with my own behavior. I’ve learned that the brain is very complicated and we all, very quickly, have to be able to interpret our needs, as well as incoming data and then our own reactions to that and then act. I don’t believe it’s an easy thing to do, especially when many of us are taught to suppress our needs and get along with others. As children, we are taught one thing. As adults, another. Maybe the focus should be on identifying and validating needs and learning how to communicate them instead of focusing on the end result? I bet many people who would be identified as passive-aggressive don’t have confidence in themselves or feel that their needs are valid and were perhaps emotionally abused and/or neglected as children.

    • October 19, 2017 at 9:34 am

      Lisa, from my experience passive-aggressive individuals are self centered, dishonest, sly and devious. They set out to get what they want even at the expense others and they are fully aware of what they are doing. Growing up with a mother and sister who were both passive-aggressive, caused me a great deal of hurt because of their machinations. Pity that I didn’t understand what they were doing because forarmed is forwarned.

      The passing decades have bestowed upon me a deep insight regarding passive-aggressive behaviours. I can spot those who are playing their nasty little games, to the extent, that telling them straight off stops them in their stride. I do feel that their is a huge difference between lack of confidence, fear of rejection and those who ‘choose’ to be deviously passive-aggressive.

      • October 19, 2017 at 1:50 pm


        I too have (still alive) a passive-aggressive mother and sister. My brother and sister were adopted and I was the last and only natural child. My mother was an only child and had a difficult time seeing the point of view of the other. My parents adopted my sister while she was still under 1 year of age but, wherever she had been, she was not held. Her bottle was propped for her. I suspect she might have attachment/bonding issues but, in any event, she was her own little engine and did and does her own thing with little regard for others. My mother was the classic “gaslighter” and very invalidating. I understand only too well how painful and difficult it is to grow up with difficult people.

        I’m sorry to hear about your experience. Your mother may have identified with your sister and/or you reminded her of a relative/friend that she had when she was young whom she didn’t like and these issues were playing out in her parenting. You should have been as important to her as your sister and for her to take part in blaming you and making you the scapegoat was just plain awful parenting. There is no other way to say it.

        My mother was not the best mother either and, aside from all her other issues, she was never assertive or verbal about anything. I would be the recipient of her anger but rarely understood as a child what I did wrong except to understand that “I” was wrong. It was a very hard way to grow up.

        And, so, In my old age, I’ve come to the conclusion that we all have needs and we all have the right to ask for them to be met. It seems to me the larger problem is that of the brain trying to interpret all the messages that we are getting from ourselves (our wants/needs) and from others (the resistance we feel). These conflicts were in no way verbalized in my family and we persisted in a loop of unmet needs and anger. It seems that the conflict feeds itself and no one ever gets to the point where what is not gotten is grieved, hence the aggression. There is grieving that must take place for that which was wanted but not gotten. I’d say many people aren’t pulling all these conflicting messages up into consciousness and resolving them one way or another for themselves.

        And then again, where exactly does narcissism fit in and when does the aggression cross the line to bullying?

  • October 18, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    I disagree that this describes most people. When it is there as a strong personality element you see it loud and clear…my brother´s first wife, mother of his now adult kids who have nothing to do with her is classic…when visiting their city once when young we said “OK we want to take you all out for a nice meal, your choice…” Patti … oh I dunno, I am so busy… “well that´s OK, we can just do brunch close by…” oh but I am really lactose intolerant and allergic to eggs” … “OK how bout we just do a barbecue here, we´ll get all the chicken and burgers ” oh no, that will be so much trouble, plus he never cleaned up from the last time … “Alright we will be eating at 8 pm at our hotel, y´all are welcome – just come for drinks or dessert if you want ” Later brother arrives and says she had a hissy fit when he went out. They are the most unpleasant people on earth extreme passive aggressives – and yes as Inez says in comment above they are seeking a position of power through dominating the conversation with their passive-aggressive continual disruption of normal clean interaction.

  • October 19, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    I agree that we all display this behaviour a lot of the time and very rarely is it intended aggressively. To interpret it as such seems quite paranoid to me. This article could cause a lot of people to feel very bad about themselves and all their ‘passive aggressive’ behaviour. I must have been passive aggressive at least 10 times today, and didn’t even realize it until now.
    Having said that, it probably sometimes really can happen, but I think we would know if we were doing it.

  • October 20, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Hmm.. Some of this was a bit “ouchey”, and there was I thinking, I’d done kinda well in dealing with my psychological glitches, well at least those whose cause was related to CEN etc.
    Well, never gonna be perfect, nor do I expect others to be that way, but at least I can attend to my most glaring ones and hopefully not let them sneak out into my behaviour quite as much…


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