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Types of Passive-Aggressive Behavior

5 Types of Passive-Aggressive Behavior

With whole websites dedicated to passive-aggressive notes, the phrase has been thrown around enough to be part of our everyday language. And while we all seem to know it when we see it, it's hard to define.

Passive aggressiveness is marked by a resistance to follow social expectations. It's subtle, but insanely annoying. It usually causes those on the receiving end to lash out, giving the instigator exactly what he wants.

So if you really want to annoy the passive aggressor in your life (that's not PA at all, right?), you need to know what you're dealing with. Here are five behaviors that say passive aggressiveness loud and clear.


  1. Backhanded compliments: Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is the latest person to be accused of the backhanded compliment. After meeting the wife of Britain's new prime minister, Samantha Cameron, Carla said the Brit was "kind of" a fashion icon. Hardly the worst backhanded compliment I've heard, but it's definitely one.
  2. Silent treatment: The silent treatment is exactly what it sounds like — nothing. It's horrible to experience and hard not to blame yourself for, but if someone cuts communication off it really is him, not you.
  3. Sabotage in the form of compliance: "Just doing what I was told!" is what passive aggressors will say after sabotaging a situation. They follow the rules rigidly and blindly, and don't revise when circumstance calls for new rules.

Read the rest below.

  1. Procrastination: We all procrastinate when we don't want to do something, but usually the potential of affecting another will motivate us into action. Not the passive aggressor! For him, it will do the opposite.
  2. Forgetfulness: You'll know a passive-aggressive person by his inability to remember something he said, did, or didn't do — chronically.

I'm sure these all can be mere mistakes at some point, but not likely.

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Lenay Lenay 5 years
I think all men employ #4 and #5 (procrastination and "forgetfulness") to get out of doing their share of household chores. My 24 year old younger brother is my current roommate, and I have agreed to pay for all of his living expenses so that he can attend college full-time and not have a job to distract him from his studies. Yet the boy never washes a dish, won't take out the trash no matter how full it gets, and puts off the laundry until neither one of us has any clean underwear. He knows that I will usually give in and do these chores myself rather than live in filth. (Regardless of the fact that I don't get home from work until nearly 6PM.)
Lenay Lenay 5 years
I think all men employ #4 and #5 (procrastination and "forgetfulness") to get out of doing their share of household chores.My 24 year old younger brother is my current roommate, and I have agreed to pay for all of his living expenses so that he can attend college full-time and not have a job to distract him from his studies. Yet the boy never washes a dish, won't take out the trash no matter how full it gets, and puts off the laundry until neither one of us has any clean underwear. He knows that I will usually give in and do these chores myself rather than live in filth. (Regardless of the fact that I don't get home from work until nearly 6PM.)
Natalie-Love Natalie-Love 5 years
I'm not very passive-aggressive, but I've done the silent treatment before. I didn't do it in order to manipulate the person in any way, I just realized they were not healthy for me, and cut off all communication, and never resumed it. I don't see the point of confronting again and again if you know the person should be out of your life. My boyfriend jokingly says I'm pretty passive agressive, because I say things like "I'm cold" when I want him to raise the heating, or give me a blanket. But I was kind of raised that way, because well, if I ASK him to do it, I kinda am forcing him, I feel. But if he OFFERS to do something, then its ok. I think it's my Russian family ideology, they would find it rude to just outright ask someone to do something... I never do it with mean intentions, like sabotaging anyone or giving backhanded compliments or anything.
Natalie-Love Natalie-Love 5 years
I'm not very passive-aggressive, but I've done the silent treatment before. I didn't do it in order to manipulate the person in any way, I just realized they were not healthy for me, and cut off all communication, and never resumed it. I don't see the point of confronting again and again if you know the person should be out of your life.My boyfriend jokingly says I'm pretty passive agressive, because I say things like "I'm cold" when I want him to raise the heating, or give me a blanket. But I was kind of raised that way, because well, if I ASK him to do it, I kinda am forcing him, I feel. But if he OFFERS to do something, then its ok. I think it's my Russian family ideology, they would find it rude to just outright ask someone to do something...I never do it with mean intentions, like sabotaging anyone or giving backhanded compliments or anything.
gingirl gingirl 5 years
I'm not particularly a passive-aggressive person. If I have a problem, I say so. As tactfully as possible, mind you. But I don't have the patience for these games.
lickety-split lickety-split 5 years
how about this; "How about I take you out to dinner? would you like that?" then when you say "yes, how about Jake's". the response is, "No i want to go to El Indio". The whole pretending they are doing something FOR YOU, when its really FOR THEM, is super irritating. also, leaving a really high gas and electric bill out on the table for you to see. then when you don't respond, leaving it on your vanity. then when you STILL don't respond, lowering the thermostat to 60 degrees. passive aggressive drives me nuts. why is it so hard to say, "I feel like El Indio for dinner. Will you go with me?" or "The gas and electric bill is absurdly high. lets do what we can to lower it. i'm going to lower the thermostat by 3 degrees and see how that works for us, okay?" its not hard! its not :raspberry: (can you tell i've been dealing with this very issue recently???)
lickety-split lickety-split 5 years
how about this; "How about I take you out to dinner? would you like that?" then when you say "yes, how about Jake's". the response is, "No i want to go to El Indio". The whole pretending they are doing something FOR YOU, when its really FOR THEM, is super irritating.also, leaving a really high gas and electric bill out on the table for you to see. then when you don't respond, leaving it on your vanity. then when you STILL don't respond, lowering the thermostat to 60 degrees. passive aggressive drives me nuts. why is it so hard to say, "I feel like El Indio for dinner. Will you go with me?" or "The gas and electric bill is absurdly high. lets do what we can to lower it. i'm going to lower the thermostat by 3 degrees and see how that works for us, okay?" its not hard! its not :raspberry: (can you tell i've been dealing with this very issue recently???)
amber512 amber512 6 years
I always thought trying to guilt someone into doing something was passive agressive, but I don't really see where that'd fit in here. So maybe not!
Bettye-Wayne Bettye-Wayne 6 years
If I'm going to be aggressive, I prefer to be confrontational insane bitch from hell aggressive.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 6 years
Weffie - My old roommate, the queen of passive-aggressiveness, used to do the same thing with her facebook status! The funny thing is, passive-aggressive people think they're being so sly, like you don't notice that they're blatantly attacking you. When, in fact, it's obvious to all parties involved.
Studio16 Studio16 6 years
I am guilty of all of them. Everyone in my family is passive-aggressive. Granted, I am known around town as "fun, cheerful, and peppy," which I usually am. I am incredibly passive-aggressive when I'm angry, though.
skigurl skigurl 6 years
chloe, that is a much better explanation! agree, that makes sense.
skigurl skigurl 6 years
chloe, that is a much better explanation! agree, that makes sense.
weffie weffie 6 years
This is my roommate all over... except add "update your Facebook status with vague attacks on your friends then pretend it was about something random when they ask you about it to your face." To me, passive-aggressiveness is just a form of cowardice.
weffie weffie 6 years
This is my roommate all over... except add "update your Facebook status with vague attacks on your friends then pretend it was about something random when they ask you about it to your face." To me, passive-aggressiveness is just a form of cowardice.
leilani-s leilani-s 6 years
I would add chronic lateness to that list. I was late all the time meeting a boyfriend with whom I had a very contentious relationship. It was my way of taking the upper hand. Not very mature, I know, but now I recognize my behavior (and the relationship) for what it was.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 6 years
I must confess I am passive aggressive. That's my approach to dealing with difficult, dis-likable people, as I'm non-confrontational. Incidentally, I have an in-law who is particularly passive aggressive, too. She's more artful about it than me. :)
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 6 years
I must confess I am passive aggressive. That's my approach to dealing with difficult, dis-likable people, as I'm non-confrontational.Incidentally, I have an in-law who is particularly passive aggressive, too. She's more artful about it than me. :)
chloe-bella chloe-bella 6 years
^^Skigurl - I don't think that the list refers to genuine procrastination and forgetfulness, but rather to when people conveniently "forget" things. Like for example, if someone doesn't want to do something, instead of flat-out saying so, they might later apologize and pretend to have forgotten. I feel like the procrastination one comes up at work. I know someone who is notorious for putting off work on projects they don't want to do so that once the deadline approaches, someone else ends up taking over.
skigurl skigurl 6 years
I find procrastination and forgetfulness to be strange additions to this list...and would love if someone could clarify!Nothing worse than someone who is passive agressive all the time, but then again I guess everyone does it sometimes (I know I'm also guilty of 2 and 3 every once and awhile!)I used to always get super quiet when my boyfriend told me something I didn't want to hear, but I've tried to get better since it annoys the hell out of him.
skigurl skigurl 6 years
I find procrastination and forgetfulness to be strange additions to this list...and would love if someone could clarify! Nothing worse than someone who is passive agressive all the time, but then again I guess everyone does it sometimes (I know I'm also guilty of 2 and 3 every once and awhile!) I used to always get super quiet when my boyfriend told me something I didn't want to hear, but I've tried to get better since it annoys the hell out of him.
le-romantique le-romantique 6 years
I'm guilty of #2 and #3, but never the rest of them... Hmph. I think we all do te silent thing once in awhile though.
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