The Passive Aggressive Personality
There are several important things to understand about a passive aggressive person. The first is that they are at their core, angry people. The second is that they are afraid to show their anger outwardly. The passive aggressive personality has many feelings they have not dealt with from their past. They have feelings about their current situation.
They don’t know how to deal with these feelings. This causes inner conflict within them, since their anger needs to come out, their resentment needs to come out, and they hold themselves back from openly expressing these emotions. So their only choice is to let it come out in ways that people don’t really see it.
This sets up a myriad of problems, for those who are the target of their anger. It is very difficult to deal with someone who is basically unhappy, not willing to talk about it, and not wanting to take any responsibility themselves for their feelings. They want the fault to lay with everyone else. They feel like a victim. In a way they are, but the passive aggressive person has victimized themselves.
Shutting down feelings of anger causes a person to lose touch with their own feelings, not just those of anger, but most other feelings too. It is hard to be happy if you are cut off from your emotions. It is hard to be happy, when your past weighs you down because you haven’t dealt with it.
It is hard to be happy when you carry around hostility towards people, usually parents that you never get to express. It is hard to be happy when you feel afraid to express your natural emotions.
Passive aggressive people look for others who are people pleasers. They target people who are not good at setting boundaries. It makes it easy for them to manipulate you, to push your buttons, and make you the focal point of their hostilities. You become a convenient and easy way for them to behave negatively towards.
They make things more complicated than they need to be. It is often frustrating and angering to deal with the results of the way they think and behave. You may notice they become over sensitive to things that are said about them, they seem to complain or procrastinate about requests they are asked to do,appear paranoid, fear authority figures, don’t take responsibility for their own feelings, and display resentment for those who give them advice, and appear envious of others they view as more fortunate.
These individuals are often gloomy, moody, and have a dismal, pessimistic attitude about things. Although these feelings too, like their anger is hidden to those who don’t know them intimately. Passive aggressive people struggle with their own feelings. In all likelihood they grew up in a home where their feelings were shut down and their parents were unavailable to them.
Since there was no healthy outlet for the expression of their feelings, they became submissive to their parents and distrustful of anyone they view as authority figures. They fear becoming dependent on someone, and really want to feel independent to break the chains of restraint they felt in their home.
They usually have low self esteem which makes them dependent on others. Yet they fear intimacy, because they have a deep seated resentment for those they have to rely on. They resent anyone they view as an authority figure. They usually see their partners, bosses, coworkers, and anyone they feel inferior to, as an authority figure.
Why is it Difficult to Deal With Them?
Dealing with a passive aggressive personality is very confusing. They will seem like they are cooperative and helpful. But when it comes to actually fulfilling the task, they fall short in one way or another. They don’t say what they mean.
They present themselves as the nicest people, and even though they usually are, they have a dark side they don’t let others see. They send you mixed messages, and spread their unhappiness back to you. They will agree to do something, but then find a way to be defiant, which ends up angering you.
When dealing with someone who is passive aggressive, it is important to avoid attacking them and giving them fuel that strengthens their belief that you are an authority figure who is putting demands on them. Be on the lookout for the retaliation they are likely to take against you.
People with Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder conduct their lives by what I call ‘ A Five V Technique.’ - venting, vicariousness, vilifying, victimization and vindication.
- They want to see you get angry so they get you to Vent your feelings.
- This allows them to Vicariously let their anger out through you.
- They then can Vilify you for yelling at them.
- This allows them to feel Victimized by your angry outburst.,
- They then can feel Vindicated because you must be the one with a problem, or you wouldn’t behave that way and all blame belongs to you.
They often don’t have good communication skills, because they look to avoid confrontation. Yet their personality may be friendly, affable, and talkative but when it comes to the nitty gritty of talking things out, they are not really capable of sharing their feelings that go deeper within them.
Classic behaviors of passive aggressive people is to selectively forget to do things, procrastinate, be late, be ambiguous, lie, make up excuses, and rationalize their behavior to cover up their true resentment. And to make this even more complicated, passive aggressive people are often behaving like this with no self awareness that they are doing these things. Their unconscious actions makes it even more difficult to reach them on a level that could correct their behavior.
So what can you do?
The first thing to do, when dealing with a difficult person is to recognize that they are behaving passive aggressively.
By understanding that a passive aggressive person has anger that stems from their childhood and their dysfunctional relationship with their parents, you can learn to not take the things they say and do, personally.
Once you know you are dealing with a passive aggressive person, it is important to not let them get to you. Your outlet of anger is a form of relief to them. They want to upset you so that you react and they don’t have to. They gain a sense of accomplishment when they have set you up, by irritating and frustrating you. So if they don’t know how to get you to react, they can’t continue their behavior.
It is important to remain calm when dealing with a passive aggressive person. Try to keep your emotions in check, because the less you react to them, the less power you give their passive aggressive feelings. By being rational and explaining what you have observed about their behavior and to point out their inconsistencies, you will not be subject to their manipulative ways. Often their actions and words don’t match. With a passive aggressive person, it is their actions only that count.
How to Deal With Them
By being empathetic towards them you might be able to disarm them. It may be helpful to tell them that you understand their frustration and how difficult things are for them.
It might be beneficial to be assertive and clear about what you expect of them, and what the consequences of their actions will be. When dealing with them, it is important to be factual, not emotional, to be levelheaded and clear. These may be your only defense against a passive aggressive person.
You may be able to encourage better communication by modeling good communication yourself and rewarding them when they respond positively. It may be helpful to encourage them to communicate clearly and assertively, although this is probably best done in a therapeutic environment with a professional counselor.
Be direct and assertive about their actions. They often will not have a reaction to your feelings, Since they shut their own emotions off, how can they relate to what you are feeling? But if you set a model for expressions, they may follow your example. It is important to use ‘I feel...’ statements. If your comments place blame on them or accuse them, you have just made the communication with them counter productive.
It is important to refrain from getting into arguments with passive aggressive people. When they lure you into arguments, you give them an opportunity to let them feel like the victim, and they make you look like the bad guy. Walk away instead of arguing.
If you rely on a passive aggressive person, they will most likely not keep their word, which will cause you to feel frustrated and react. So if you are dealing with a passive aggressive person, it may be best to have no expectations. Relationships with passive aggressive people are often strained.
What You Can Do When Dealing with a Passive Aggressive Person
Because they have the habit of forgetting to do things or to follow through on promises, you might want them to put their agreement in writing. That way it is proof that they made a commitment and you can hold them accountable. This is especially helpful when dealing with passive aggressive co workers.
Getting them into therapy would more than likely be helpful. Through professional counseling, they may be able to learn to express their thoughts and feelings more openly, and feel safe dealing with their emotions. Most passive aggressive people will not go to therapy on their own. They usually don’t realize they have a problem.
Many people find that the only way to deal with a passive aggressive person is to just accept them. But relationships with these people are difficult, tumultuous, and burdensome. Their unhappiness will drag you down, and you may need to think about what you are sacrificing to coexist with this passive aggressive person. You are the one with insight. They are not.
They have no incentive to change because things are working for them, or so they think. But you, being more self aware become ensnared by their actions, false promises, and inconsistent behavior.
It is not a healthy way to have a relationship, but it is a personal decision, one that is best made with as much awareness as you possibly can have about the situation you are in with this person.
Jacque on March 22, 2019:
Thank you so much! Its like living with a tiger. he does wonderful things for you! But wow do you pay a huge price.... The silence the anger. Then that awful tone in his voice, the rage is almost unbearable. He is really nice around family and friends. No one really knows who he really is. May-be his siblings. His daughter is like him. She lost her mother and has been very angry. She doesn't fake it around me. But its very sad to be so angry most all of your life.
Elizabeth on November 17, 2018:
My advice is try and keep far away as possible from these idiots and if you really have to have some contact with them, do not be drawn in to their aggressive behaviour
jan on July 24, 2018:
This nailed it. I've been married to a person like this for 35 yrs, it will drive you nuts. It ruins your family and your life. This article summed it up so well I'm real close to giving it to my husband but I'm sure he turn it around and say that it was me.
Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on July 17, 2018:
Very informative and well-written hub about this personality disorder. I've had experience with people like this and it's very frustrating. Thanks for sharing.
Lara on June 17, 2018:
Toknowinfo, thank you so much for the great write up on this subject as I am a victim of PA Mother. To one of the commentators on this article, Mary Fitzpatrick, I wish to somehow give you a hug :'') It is never ever easy dealing with a Mother who actually supposed to be the main person who gives us, her children, protection and love :''(
Mary Fitzpatrick on June 04, 2017:
Thanks for the article. Wish I could have read it when I was 1 year old, would have helped me to deal with my mother, you have no idea how awful it is to be vilified when you are a child, or a baby. Thank you!
writehard on May 07, 2016:
ARTICLE SAYS IT ALL on November 18, 2015:
Passive aggressive people love the big drama and when it turns to drama they turn it into something hurtful being done to them. The best way to disarm it is not give them the blow up they seek. Always be calm. I do not agree with walking away because that is passive aggressive and hostile in itself, shows disrespect, and
Alastair McIver on May 20, 2015:
Codswallip. The majority of behaviours described above are perfectly normal things everyone does from time to time. All this article does is arm people to label other people who have pissed them off for one reason or another. I find this article, ironically enough, to be very passive-aggressive.
It also makes a lot of large assertions without one scrap of evidence. Voting down, and won't be buying the books plugged here, thanks.
Yves on April 26, 2015:
Pretty much, we're stuck between a rock and a hard place if we work with these people, and if we basically have to interact with them. I find that email is helpful---because that puts distance between us, and is also a way to get the date of your request in writing. My feeling is that the most benign way to "call them out" is to ask, What makes you say that?' This said, of course, in response to something they say that is hurtful---in that annoying passive-aggressive way they enjoy using.
Anyway, this is a good article. I really enjoyed it and it helped me to have a clearer definition of what passive-aggressive really means. Voting up.
Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on April 29, 2013:
This is an interesting explanation of passive aggressive behavior. It is a subject that once came up with my brother. However, he was discovered to have a brain tumor which had an effect on his memory and perceptions.
FyrFytr234 on April 29, 2013:
Wow. I've been told over the years by a few people that know me well that I'm p/a. I don't see it that way. Denial? lol. I do NOT think I'm an angry person. In fact, far from it. I also don't have parental issues nor authority issues. My childhood was pretty good. My career was in a para-military organization. I took orders from my superiors and gave orders to my subordinates. I preferred the latter...but who wouldn't? I've learned over the years to try to refrain from saying things in anger. That rarely works out well for anyone involved. I prefer to wait until I'm no longer upset to discuss things. I just want to go to my cave, calm down and process my thoughts and feelings. To me that seems to be a mature and realistic way to deal with an issue. Apparently there are no caves on Venus. Women want to discuss every problem at that exact moment. I do understand that. So...am I p/a because I'd prefer to have a more calm and reasonable discussion after a short visit to my cave to regroup, calm down and gather my thoughts? I honestly don't think so. Things said in the heat of the moment can not only be hurtful...the can never be taken back. I'm certainly not perfect. We all have issues. If you do not think you do...you have a BIG one! lol.
Barbara Badder from USA on April 29, 2013:
You helped better understand someone I know. Thanks for the good information.
Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on April 29, 2013:
Fortunately, I don't know anyone with this type of behavior. However, I am now "armed" with knowledge on how to handle them if I do come in contact with some with this type of personality. Great information! :)
Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on April 28, 2013:
Very good information and explanation on this disorder. For me, the best way to handle this type of behavior is to stay away from it altogether. Voted up and sharing. Thank you.
toknowinfo (author) on March 04, 2013:
Hi Pam, I am glad this hub was useful to you, and I appreciate your kind words and up votes. Thanks for stopping by.
toknowinfo (author) on March 04, 2013:
Hi Lovedoc, Thank you for your kind comments.
toknowinfo (author) on March 04, 2013:
Hi Carol, Thanks for sharing my hub. It is always nice when you stop by.
Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on March 04, 2013:
Loved this! This is awesome information...!
toknowinfo (author) on February 19, 2013:
Thanks Eddy for stopping by and commenting.
Eiddwen from Wales on February 19, 2013:
Very interesting with some very good points.
Have a wonderful day.
Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on February 18, 2013:
Interesting information. I had never really seen passive-aggresive under this light so I have been enlightened :) Not a great condition to have or have to deal with. Well written!
Pamela-anne from Miller Lake on February 18, 2013:
I have someone very close to me that seems to fit the bill of the passive aggressive person; thanks for the info I say this is getting voted up good work!
lovedoctor926 on February 18, 2013:
Useful information. Excellent hub!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 18, 2013:
Great suggestions my friend. I have found my own unique way of dealing with people like this.....I scratch them from the list of people that I see. No problem! :)
carol stanley from Arizona on February 18, 2013:
I find people like this really difficult to deal with as you never know how they feel.. Well done. Voting UP and sharing.