Passive aggressiveness is something that our culture has overly normalized for a while now. While aggression is a normal human emotion, passive aggressiveness is not. Today, we’re diving into the 7 different passive aggressive behaviors.

Aggression is one of those emotions that’s easy to spot in another when they’re acting out. Passive aggressiveness on the other hand is a lot harder to notice, and for good reason.

People who are passive aggressive tend to leave you bewildered and lost and feeling extremely confused. On top of that, they often create confusion in the person they are being passive aggressive to. People who are passive aggressive lack the ability to express their anger and frustration through words. Since it’s a behavior that can be a challenge to notice in someone you love (or maybe yourself), we’ll go over the 7 signs to watch out for.

1. Bitterness or hostility

When a person is acting bitter towards you or towards a situation, chances are they are being passive aggressive. This is often shown by hostile behavior after you’ve made a simple request.  

2. Purposely delaying tasks

When someone intentionally and purposely delays a task they’ve been asked to do it’s a clear sign of passive aggressive behavior. The way this shows up is through “almost finished” projects, to-do lists, and work with no desire to finish the task at hand. Another example is showing up late without empathy for the other person’s time. 

3. Back-handed compliments

These are the types of compliments where at first, the wording may sound nice, but the intention behind the words are not. The end result? Is you (the receiver of the compliment) feeling bad and hurt. This type of behavior is a sign of the passive aggressive person claiming dominance over you. An example of that would be, “Wow! I did not expect that to work. Good for you.”  Suggesting that your win is a fluke or a result of good luck. 

4. Resentment of others

Constantly talking about other people and effortlessly gossiping is a form of passive aggressiveness. This is usually done to avoid confronting a fight and is a sign of low self esteem and confidence. When you encounter someone with this type of behavior, beware! They are most likely talking behind your back too!

5. Denying they’re upset

Someone saying the words, “I’m okay”  when really they aren’t. This is a behavior done to avoid resolving a problem. They are expressing their aggression through their behavior, or lack of in this case, instead of confronting the conflict. This is an unhealthy way to deal with the emotion.

6. Being extremely critical

This is shown by being overly critical towards you and not engaging with  what you have to say. When people show this type of behavior, they have a lack of respect for you and are unable to feel excited or happy for you.An example of this is, “Oh If I had x, then I could’ve done it too! You’re nothing special.”


“I could’ve done this better”

This overly critical behavior is a way of expressing their aggression through another method  instead of addressing the problem head-on.

7. Complaining and feel underappreciated

You know when you are dealing with somebody who is passive aggressive when they are constantly complaining and feeling underappreciated at every turn and are simultaneously making you feel ashamed. They express themselves as the underdog and expect you to feel bad for them.  

So…what’s next?

These behaviors of passive aggressiveness are more than anything, annoying to deal with. In certain cases however, they can be (or become) toxic to you and your relationship.  If you spot any of these signs, ask yourself how you can learn to work together and change the other person’s behavior. If that’s not possible, then it’s best to seek professional help. 

Other Services offered at The Relationship Therapy Center in California:

In addition to individual therapy,Our Sacramento area counseling clinics located in Roseville and Fair Oaks, CA are pleased to offer a variety of mental health services. Our couples services include: Couples Counseling, Counseling after infidelity, sex therapy, co-parent counseling, family therapy, divorce counseling, intensive couples retreats, and premarital counseling. Our individual therapy services include anxiety treatment, therapy for children, teen therapy, depression treatment, codependency counseling and individual relationship counseling. Our therapists offer online counseling in California to treat a variety of mental health concerns. Please reach out to our Sacramento area therapy office to learn more about the many ways we can help you or your loved ones.