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Passive Aggression- The Sneaky Anger

When someone is angry, they may be upfront with you and tell you that they are upset with you. Then there is another type of anger where someone could act like everything is fine, but use subtle tactics to avoid having to confront you about their anger. It is always important to be upfront about your anger to avoid any pent up anger or confusion if the person you are angry at cannot pick up on your signals.

Not Looking In the Eye

One form of passive aggression is when you do not look at the person you are mad at. You know that if you look at the person you are mad at for too long, your anger can come out. You would rather distance yourself from that person. Maybe you could be dealing with problems that have nothing to do with that person, but you do not want to look at them because you are afraid if you do, you are inviting them to ask you what is wrong. The truth is that a person, especially a good friend, will know that something is wrong if you look like you are avoiding looking at them. It will make them feel ignored.

Ignoring Someone in a Group Setting

You could be in a group setting and have a problem with one person in the group. This can mean that when the person you do not like is speaking, you could be ignoring them and speaking to everyone else. The person you do not like will catch on when they realize you are not answering them when they speak or if they are trying to bring a good idea into the discussion and you are just passing it off.

Your Actions Do Not Match Your Words

The whole point of passive aggression is that you are nice to that person to their face, only to speak harshly about them behind their back. One example is that you may over compliment that person and they do not know you are mad at them. That person may have no idea that anything is wrong and that you are just being genuinely nice. Or that person may find it odd that you are being too nice. It may come as a shock to them when they find out how you really feel.

Being Critical

If you do not like someone, you may be using your tone of voice as a way of conveying your dislike towards someone. An example can be that you are to train someone at work that you do not like. Whenever that person makes a mistake, you are rudely criticizing that person for every mistake instead of comforting them. This is a way of establishing dominance and seniority by making that person feel useless to feel smarter. All this is telling the other person is that you are insecure about yourself and tearing the other person down to feel on top.

Making Fun of Someone

Passive aggression is using subtle signs in regular action. This can mean that you are constantly mocking the person you do not like. You could be making fun of the way they walk, talk, or certain quirks of theirs. You could be lying to them and saying that you are joking, making them feel like they are being too serious. In reality, you mocking that person is your own subtle way of telling that person how you think of them. You are pointing out what you think are flaws that you cannot ignore about that person.


One of the biggest signs of passive aggression is when you will absolutely not admit you have a problem with that person. You do not want to have to confront that person about your dislike towards them, so you would rather take the subtle approach to avoid a fight. You will still tell that person that everything is fine even when they clearly see that it is not. You may even respond to that person in anger when they ask you how you are feeling. If you do not confront that person on your feelings towards them, that anger will not go away.

Unsatisfied Resolution

You may have tried to resolve things with this person because they see all of the red flags you are sending them. Even when it seems you have come up with a solution, you are still not satisfied. The problem is that the other person has no idea that you are still not happy. On their end, everything seems fine because you gave off that impression that it is. With no resolution means more pent up anger and frustration. 

How You Can Change

Remember that being passive-aggressive is a choice you made instead of being confrontational. This may be who you have always been, but there is room for change. Learn to direct your communication to that person who is angering you instead of your subtle approaches. Think of the subtle choices that you have made in the past when you were passive-aggressive and how you can change them. For example, if this person offers a conflict resolution you are not happy with, tell that person and come up with a solution you are both happy with. Let others know that you are trying your best to change. Confronting your passive-aggressive anger will help resolve it and move past it. 

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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