Harvard psychologist: 7 things the most passive-aggressive people always do—and the No. 1 way to respond

Disagreeing with each other may help us study extra about ourselves. But it may be irritating when passive-aggressive behavior is concerned.

This is when somebody not directly expresses damaging emotions as an alternative of brazenly addressing what’s bothering them. We’ve all completed it, though it not often solves something.

As a Harvard-trained psychologist, I’ve seen how tough it’s for people to navigate interactions when the different particular person will not acknowledge their true emotions.

Here are seven things the most passive-aggressive people always do, and the way to respond:

1. “Everything is okay!”

This is a chief instance of what occurs when somebody’s nonverbal communication contradicts the message they’re delivering. They’re saying one factor, however it’s clear from their tone of voice, inflection or quantity of speech that they are upset. 

Similar indicators: Saying, “I’m not mad!” or “Whatever. It would not trouble me.”

2. Silence 

3. Sarcasm

A standard signal of passive-aggressive conduct is when somebody responds to you with an underlying tone of resentment, hostility or basic displeasure.

Similar indicators: Making a impolite remark or joke that’s not directly meant to offend.

4. Mumbling underneath their breath

Another way people talk in a passive-aggressive method is by persevering with to have a dialogue with themselves, underneath their breath, about what they’d truly like to let you know about their feelings. 

Similar indicators: Making dismissive or aggressive facial expressions at you or speaking to somebody behind your again, however inside earshot of you.

5. Withholding affection

Avoiding contact, for instance, whether or not it is holding arms or a pat on the shoulder, makes it clear that they are dissatisfied with you — even when they will not say it instantly to you.

Similar indicators: Not making eye contact or dismissing efforts to contact and reconnect.

6. Resentful settlement 

When somebody is upset, they could go together with one thing they do not need to do, however preserve a bitter perspective by means of the expertise.

Similar indicators: Saying, “Fine, you win” — and sulking after the reality.

7. Pretending to cooperate

Sometimes people will say they may do one thing, like clear the kitchen or assist pay the payments, however then intentionally not comply with by means of. Not complying with a request or following by means of in an incomplete or less-than-ideal way speaks volumes.

Similar indicators: Saying sure to one thing, however doing a poor job to spite you.

The No. 1 way to respond to passive-aggressive conduct

If you get any of those responses, I like to recommend respectfully speaking your expertise of being round them. 

You might say one thing like: “I do know you are telling me you are not upset, however it would not really feel that way to me.” Or, “I get the impression that you simply’re upset. Do you need to discuss it?”

Someone who’s performing in a passive-aggressive way is feeling a robust emotion that they are not admitting instantly, so they could react poorly, even to loving efforts to resolve it. If this occurs, keep impartial.

Remind them that you simply care and are keen to discuss if and after they’re prepared. In the meantime, stroll away and deal with what you do have management over: you.

Dr. Cortney S. Warren, PhD, is a board-certified psychologist and writer of “Letting Go of Your Ex.” She makes a speciality of marriages, love dependancy and breakups, and acquired her scientific coaching at Harvard Medical School. She has written practically 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and delivered greater than 75 shows on the psychology of relationships. Follow her on Twitter @DrCortneyWarren.

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