How Passive Aggression Can Be Harmful For Your Personality And Relationships

Passive aggression

Aggression has been defined as a ‘hostile or violent behavior’ towards others and when it becomes passive, it is extremely detrimental because it does not manifest itself, it remains under the surface and the façade of goodness misleads us till the simmering emotions overflow into a big explosion.

Such a behavior can be quite confounding for a layman.

According to Kendra Cherry, a Psychology expert, “The phrase passive-aggressive is used to describe behavior or a personality trait that involves acting indirectly aggressive rather than directly aggressive. Passive-aggressive people regularly exhibit resistance to requests or demands from family and other individuals often by procrastinating, expressing sullenness, or acting stubborn.”

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has classified passive-aggressiveness as many things throughout the years. It’s been called a “personality style”, “hidden hostility”, a “defense mechanism”, a “personality disorder” and “negativistic.”

How do we recognize such persons who may be around us – in the form of our near and dear ones? Some of the obvious signs may be glaring at you.

Signs of Passive Aggressive Behavior:

  • They are non-communicative and avoid dialogue.
  • They lack assertiveness.
  • Silent hostility and emotional blackmail is their weapon.
  • They avoid confrontation but are good manipulators.
  • They conceal their true feelings for a long time.
  • They fail to see reason and logic, even when explained.
  • They have no respect for others’ emotions.
  • They can be quite self-centered and vindictive.

Kelly often talks about renouncing this world. She wants a simpler life; she wants to calm her mind down as peace of mind has always eluded her.

She has made every possible effort to attain it within the confines of her home and culture. A vivacious and beautiful woman, she possessed the most captivating smile and could charm anybody with her personality…a disposition, which had been nurtured by the values of care, love, loyalty and integrity, so rarely found in the modern era of self-love.

A victim of passive aggression for almost ten years in her own home, she has been making the best possible efforts to deal with it but it has affected her own psyche so deeply that she is at the brink of a breakdown.

That is how passive aggression hurts, not only one person but also all those around us.

It spreads negative energy:People

People who are passively aggressive hold a lot of negative energy within themselves and it molds their thoughts. Since they choose to withhold all those feelings of anger and resentment within their heart and carry themselves, wearing a mask of pretended goodness, it cannot reach anybody. Negative vibes are strong enough to filter through their persona and can be felt by friends, siblings, spouse etc.

It fails to address practical problems:

Passive aggressive people evade real life problems and procrastinate, which keeps on building. Any work, which needs immediate attention, is deliberately ignored to prove their imaginative point because nobody could know what is going on in their mind. They behave as if they are absolutely comfortable with people they dislike, as they believe that they can solve their problems in their own silent way but they fail miserably.

It blocks communication:

When interaction with each other falls apart, when feelings and emotions are not discussed with an open mind and heart and when others are expected to determine the reasons of passive aggression, an untold harm is caused to both who display this behavior and those who have to bear the brunt of their attitude. Lack of communication is very unhealthy for relationships.

It ruins relationships:

Happy relationships thrive on a good, honest and truthful demeanor, which is given a boot by passively aggressive people. Since they have the tendency to do everything secretly and could lie to cover up, it becomes extremely damaging for relationships. Their façade gets exposed sooner or later as it is impossible to befool the people around us with whom we spend a considerable period of time.

It creates distrust:

Such people lose the trust of their closest possible kin, as their fake nature can be well understood. Can you rely on such a person who hides his real feelings and emotions? Once the trust is lost, it is very difficult to restore it. Even the honest intentions of such a person can be doubted, thereby making him/her vulnerable.

Passive aggression is like a volcano, waiting to burst when the anger becomes unbearable. Such a person needs empathy and therapy albeit he may resist all your efforts.

How to help yourself:

  • Self- talk to build up your confidence, keep your thoughts positive and your hope alive.
  • Keep your emotions especially anger under control to deal with such people.
  • Share your thoughts and emotions with a trusted friend or sibling.
  • Discuss and try to make the passive aggressor aware of the harmful behavior.
  • Seek professional help and therapy to keep the relationship alive.

Nothing can change overnight. Patience and consistent efforts to deal with such behavior may bring some positive results.

It is very easy to abandon such persons, as they would never even ask you the reason. However if they happen to be important in your life, you are in for some tough challenges.

Do you know any such people? How do you react to them? Do you possess any traits of passive aggression? I would love to hear your views.

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Thank you for your support. Please add your valuable comments, they are much appreciated.

Balroop Singh.

15 thoughts on “How Passive Aggression Can Be Harmful For Your Personality And Relationships

  1. Hi Balroop,

    Absolutely! Aggression leads to harming yourself in the long run, more than anything else. I feel bad for Kelly, but nothing works better than moving away or trying to keep away from the aggressive lots.

    Yes, it is bound to hurt relationships and the trust is lost as well. I think when there is so much anger within it comes out in many forms, and perhaps passive aggression is one of them, unless it is directed towards your work, which makes it the ‘good’ aggression that we also need.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice week ahead 🙂

    1. Hi Harleena,

      My observation says that such people can never be happy because they are all the time stealing happiness of their own near and dear ones.

      Passive aggression is worst than anger and such behavior is quite difficult to improve as it is learnt over a period of time and becomes a part of their personality. Only those who have to face it can understand the importance of discussing it.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective. Have a blessed week!

  2. So true, Balroop! One of the most common symptoms is the ‘silent treatment’. It’s hard living with someone who does that. You’re left wondering at your own faults unable to clear the air with that person. I had a childhood friend. We grew up together and it wasn’t until we were in our 40’s that I realized, she really didn’t like me very much. Our friendship was long distance most of our adult lives and I hung onto her as to keep some of my past close to my heart. She did some very passive aggressive things and I finally saw that. I had to detach to lose the negative influence. When I did that the clouds cleared and sun came out! 🙂 Very intuitive post, Balroop.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      You are absolutely right. People who believe in silent treatment think they are smarter but they fail to understand that their body language and silence can speak most eloquently! You just need a discerning eye and intuition to pick up the vibes of such persons. Negative vibes are more powerful and reach us to reveal the reality of passive aggressors.

      Thanks for the kind words Lisa. Stay blessed!

  3. “Passive aggression is like a volcano” Perfectly said. Bottling negative emotions must be painful. The more we choose to keep quiet about something that is bothering us or not going our way, the more feel like we are losing a sense of control. There might come a point where we might feel like we are worthless – and I suppose that’s the ultimatum and the point that we crack.

    I haven’t met a good deal of passive aggressive people in my life. But sometimes I think I may be a passive aggressive person, possibly one of my short comings. When someone has angered me or even called me a name that is not nice, I usually don’t like to say anything…mainly because I go by the motto, “everyone is entitled to their own opinion”. Then again, I reckon there’s a fine line between speaking up and being passive aggressive…but the main difference between the two is that the latter does bode hostile feelings.

    Another thought-provoking piece, Balroop. Wonderful work as usual 🙂

    1. Hi Mabel,

      Thanks for speaking your mind about what such people feel…it didn’t cross my mind that they feel powerless and worthless. I wonder how can anybody keep quiet! Probably a person like me who is eager to share an opinion and react immediately can never comprehend how anybody can hide behind silence.

      I have always felt that silence is the weapon of the weak and the coward. I also feel such a behavior is picked up from the environment and the upbringing, which could compel or train you to maintain silence even in the face of crises.

      Thanks for sharing such a profound analysis Mabel, much appreciated.

      1. Ah, Balroop, you certainly know how to speak up for yourself and let yourself be heard. A wonderful trait to stand out. Although silence is a sign of respect to some, being silent all the time won’t get you far, which might result in some undesired ramifications down the track such as missing out opportunities or coming across as arrogant.

        Thank you for responding ever so graciously.

      2. Thanks Mabel, silence can be respectful only when it is really really required! A word of consent or dissent goes a long way to keep the relationships loving.
        Thanks for understanding both the aspects so well.

  4. Very interesting and very true Balroop. This kind of behaviour is difficult to understand and very damaging for the people around. In fact I did not know anything about it till my therapist a couple of years back told me that my ex husband behaviour looks like a passive agressive one. No dialog, many, too many silences. He would hide his emotions and would escape any conversation I may want to have. Everything was not worth a talk for him.

    It feels good to read your post after all I have been through. I can accept it better now.
    Take care Balroop and keep inspiring us.

  5. Hi Marie,

    Yes, some people are like that…turtles! They hide their real feelings and expect others to understand as if we would dream about their thoughts! They don’t realise that they too are the losers, I mean how long can the other person tolerate such behavior and a day comes when everything falls apart.

    I am glad you could figure out that such persons don’t deserve to rob our peace and happiness. Thanks for sharing your personal example. Stay blessed.

  6. Patience and consistency to deal with aggression, this is a great thought.Congratulations to this post, it is such a difficult topic, Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Cecilia! Welcome to my blog. Not only is the topic so difficult, passive aggressive behavior is way ahead, facing it is much more challenging than writing about it.

  7. Very insightful post.
    Passive aggression is not well understood and it is a subtle but a strong force. Allowing things to simmer within and accumulate for long does result in negative outburst. It indeed blocks the communication and spreads negative energy. Many times we just don’t realize the difference between passive and active aggression and the impact of passive is more deadly than the active and overt one.

  8. Very interesting article and dialogue in the comments, Balroop. So the question I have as I explore the question within myself is how much of being silent and quiet and not expressing your emotions, passive aggressive behavior and how much is it being a male? Both are not healthy I know but I wonder what the difference is?

    Also, I think I was just reading this morning about this exact issue and read that passive aggressive behavior develops in childhood in households where the child is not able to express anger or frustration with how things are going in their personal life. Maybe it’s ultimately a way to express anger in a very unhealthy way so other don’t even realize you’re angry but you’re boiling on the inside.

    Thank you for another insightful and interesting take of another emotion.

  9. Great post! I happen to respond late as I never see your posts on my WP Reader.

    I know many such people. They will never open up. One has to keep asking them same thing again and again before they will even give a hint of what’s in their mind. If they say something unpleasant and you ask them why they said such a thing, they will not bother to reply. Emotional blackmail is their weapon to demoralize the person they want to control.

    I feel it’s due to some insecurity that has been carried forward from one’s childhood. They are usually demure as a child. At some stage, they probably felt challenged and over-powered by very open and stronger personalities around them. It made them sulk till they became attention-seeking in their own way. Maybe they were hurt by some close family member’s indifference towards them, therefore they learnt this method of controlling others with extensive silence and deliberate indifference. At its worst, it can become sadism.

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