Passive-Aggressive Communication

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Passive-aggressive communication is the pattern of behaviour wherein an individual swings between two completely different kinds of moods. At the surface level, he/she appears quite passive and indifferent but in reality acts out anger in a subtle or indirect way. When the communicator finds no way out to deal with overwhelming state of powerlessness, he/she usually acts in passive-aggressive ways. Prisoners of War (POWs) often act in this way by trying to secretly sabotage the prison, making fun of the enemy or quietly disrupt the system while smiling, and appearing cooperative. They feel incapable of dealing directly with the object of their resentments so express their anger by subtly undermining it (real or imagine).

A combination of passive-aggressive communication characteristically stems with outward passiveness but inward aggression, which leads to manipulation of situations in unpredictable ways. It is probably associated with psychological maladjustment deeply rooted within from years of perceived under-appreciation, and bitterness or is a character flaw brought on by an individual’s inability to deal effectively with his/her inner bitterness, resentment, or inadequacy in an assertive way.

Passive-aggressive communicators often:

  • Mutter to them but avoid direct confrontation to the problem.
  • Have difficulty in predicting their behaviour.
  • Wear expressions opposite to what they actually feel (i.e., smile when feel angry).
  • Use sarcasm as defence mechanism.
  • Are in state of denial to their problems.
  • Manipulate the situation according to their interests.
  • Use subtle ways of creating sabotage to breathe out their suppress resentments.
  • The impact of a pattern of passive-aggressive communication is that these individuals:
  • Become distant from those around them.
  • Remain stuck in the state of powerlessness.
  • Display resentment through temper tantrums to avoid addressing real life issues.
  • Forfeit their own rights initially but later followed by vengeance and manipulation.
  • Avoid conflicts and later on let other people think to their way.
  • Avoid risk initially, risk relationships for their interests, then act surprised as if do not know what is happening around.
  • Behave passively to people’s face but cunningly when they are not around.

Examples of passive-aggressive communication:

  • “Sure doctor, I’d be happy to write that verbal order,” but back on the unit the order is “forgotten.”
  • “I love your hair. Most people probably can’t even tell it’s a wig.”
  • “I hear what you’re saying, and I wouldn’t want to make waves, so I’ll do what you say even though someone will probably get sued.”
  • “I’m weak and resentful, so I sabotage, frustrate and, disrupt.”
  • “I’m powerless to deal with you head on so I must use guerrilla warfare.”
  • “I will appear cooperative but I’m not.”


There are various ways of dealing effectively with passive-aggressive communication:

  • Open-mindedness and coolness are prerequisite for dealing with such kind of behaviour as the individuals pertaining withdrawal attitude at the time of conflict, leaving others in the state of sheer responsibility of solving the given problem.
  • Such individuals need assurance in account of their importance in any matter otherwise they withhold what they think others need badly.
  • Passive-aggressive communication evokes from the environment, where healthy expression of anger is discouraged but if an appropriate context get associated with it which let the suppressed feelings out, then it may bear healthy turn outs.
  • Passive-aggressive communicators have no insight of their behaviour so don’t make them offensive but deal with extensive care.
  • Passive-aggressive communication should be psychologically dealt.

Assertive, Aggressive, Passive

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