What Is The Behavior of a Passive-Aggressive Person?

Here are some of the obvious ways in which a person express anger or aggression passively. (Of course, a passive-aggressive person will display some of these behaviors only part of the time and some of them may not apply at all.)

Lateness and Forgetfulness: One of the traits of passive-aggressive behavior most difficult to tolerate is the person’s tendency to be late for appointments or other scheduled events. Being late may reflect both the person’s need to have the control in a situation and underlying feelings of inadequacy. And there is always an excuse…like, “I forgot what time it was”…When the person wants to explain away his or her actions or avoid an obligation.

Procrastination: The passive-aggressive person will commit to a project or deadline…and simply never get it done or else complete the task much too late. Other people who depend on the work being done, meanwhile, become infuriated.

Sending Mixed Messages: The person seldom communicates clearly and unambiguously, so that he or she can’t be pinned down. For example, “Maybe we can go out for dinner Friday night,” could be a plan or maybe just a suggestion or perhaps it’s just a way to keep you guessing. If you make a definite plan to go out, then the person can come back and say that he or she was just thinking out loud, and if you don’t make plans, then you are blamed for never coming though.

Pouting, Sulking and Lying: When the passive-aggressive person fails to keep promises and is confronted, a common response is to sigh, to withdraw from interacting, and to act as if they are being blamed unfairly. If they must give a response, there is often a fabrication of reality involved…and it is masterfully done. Open, constructive communication is virtually impossible when the other person is emotionally unavailable or deliberately distorting reality.

Feeling Victimized: When you finally put your foot down and expect a firm commitment, then you are the one to blame for trying to be controlling and demanding. The passive-aggressive person acts as if he or she is the helpless victim.

Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT