Passive aggressive

How we come through our childhood is very much our responsibility. Childhood can impact our adult lives, particularly in the way we communicate as adults.

The most common form of communication we might struggle with is passive aggressive behaviour. Passive aggressive behaviour is indirectly an expression of hostility, brought about through stubborn tendencies, procrastination and resentment and by our inability to accomplish a task, which we are responsible for.

Unfortunately, anyone who uses this behaviour will follow a pattern of negative attitudes, resisting to the demands of others to follow a task given to them, either in a social setting, through personal circumstances or work situations. Although this behaviour is not specifically linked to childhood, this behaviour is more likely to replicate from childhood.

As a child growing up, I knew not to express my feelings but unfortunately that comes with consequences, as we slowly learn to repress and deny what we feel. Using other channels to express our frustrations may bring about passive aggressive behaviour.

Other traits to this behaviour include our inability to analyse problems, blaming others for our misery, lacking compassion and empathy and using anger instead of communicating appropriately to get our point across. Negative self-talk is also another trait. I’m not sure how much of this we are consciously aware of.

I know that unless we begin to recognise any or all of these traits, it’s not something we change. Through a better understanding of our lives and we have to want to change it, consciously we can choose to do things differently.

The good news is that as it’s us who have chosen to behave in this way, we can re-choose to behave differently if we want to. Any choice we make is ours. We just have to want to change.


2 Dec, 2013

10 thoughts on “Passive aggressive

  1. I have heard of this personality description before, but never really fully understood it until I read your post today and I can now see how this fits a number of people that I know. It’s interesting that you’re able to look back now and recognise those traits and well done for doing that.

    I doubt the people I know who fit this description would ever recognise that in themselves either today or ever!

    1. I’m not sure how many people would be interested to change or look back and I say that with the utmost respect. We have to want to change first, then explore the possibilities of how.

      People tend to see others who are at fault and as you say would never recognise these character traits in themselves. It’s not that they’re not capable, everyone is they’re just not interested. They know what they know. It’s that I find very sad.

  2. I agree with your post. I don’t know too many people that fit this description because I don’t get out and socialize like I used to.

    Most of the people I know are family members and the only one I know that fits this description is my daughter but she is Bipolar and that explains a lot of her behavior.

    I may have been passive aggressive earlier in my life but not now. I just take things as they come and live my life with as little conflict as possible.

    1. Thanks Lisa! From my experience there will be a lot more people than we think who carry some of these traits. I know quite a few. Unless we’ve had a stress free childhood, I am sure many of us will have carried some of these traits at some point in our lives.

      As you say in your response, ‘you may have been passive aggressive earlier in your life’ but I’m sure there must have been a reason. I am sure a family member will have been primarily responsible for your behaviour. I know my behaviour as a child was a consequence of what was going on for me at that time and what I had to deal with.

      We tend to behave in such a way because of other people’s behaviour, not generally because we feel like it.

  3. Over the years I have witnessed passive aggressive behavior many times, particularly in the work place. It’s especially worrisome to know that this behavior manifests itself from childhood experiences.

    I’ve always wondered why some people have little or no compassion, empathy and respect for others like I do. Some passive aggressive traits can be felt just by standing next to a person, negative energy radiates from their person so easily.

    Like Brad, I am more informed about this behavior after reading your post and I find the information useful.

    1. Thanks Tim. Unfortunately most or all of what we deal with stems from our childhood.

      I completely agree with your own thoughts on this and am pleased you find my blog helpful.

  4. Yes, I know this term all too well from the many self help books that I read over the years! My mother trained me very well on how to do this, which is pretty much beating around the bush. She couldn’t seem to just come out and say what she wanted to say in a normal manner.

    It just dawned on me that my grandparents weren’t very pleasant so she never really learned it was okay to speak your mind. I think she may have been born late in their lives and was mentally challenged, which wasn’t dealt with very well back then.

    My grandfather was probably away at war when she was young, so my grandmother would have been the one mostly raising her. Very early on I learned to suppress any of my feelings like you said, so I never really figured out how to express them properly.

    Most parents would have wanted their children to get counseling for the behaviors I was exhibiting but that would have cost SO much money. What it comes down to is that due to so much shame, guilt and remorse, I made the choice to not get the help I needed to when I should have.

    I made so very many negative life choices which I can’t change as much as I want to! I can only work on changing what I can now so that my life will become at least bearable for what time I have left!

    1. Thanks Randy. It’s good you have explanations. I tend to use explanations as a way to to change issues I have to change.

      Although issues usually stem from our parents’ it’s something we can change. With explanations we have understanding and with understanding we can learn to turn things around.

      As I mentioned in my blog on passive aggressive, these were some of my own character traits as a child. I know I was a complete nightmare, but I also know if I had have had the support I would have turned things around a lot sooner.

      As an adult we have to support ourselves and are still expected to turn things around… turning things is always the best way but can seem very hard at the time.

  5. Unfortunately, my husband accuses me of being passive aggressive quite frequently.

    I have a hard time expressing my feelings, as I do not want to hurt them by being frank. Sometimes I have that roundabout way of telling things and he wishes I would just come out and say it.

    I would say that this is something I will be discussing with my therapist. God knows, I need something substantial to talk about, (sometimes you get tired about complaining).

    1. Thanks Maria. I have grown up around others who are more than frank, don’t get what they say right, far from it… but believe there is a balance to be achieved.

      Everyone has a right to say what they feel. The hard part is directing what we feel so that it comes across in a way that is appropriate. As a child I was ten times worse than what you’re describing here Maria, but as a young adult I learned how to change things.

      I learned by asking myself before I spoke was what I was about to say going to get me into trouble. If the answer was yes, I was getting it wrong, if the answer was no, I was getting it right. I also followed this thought process through with my children from an early age.

      I don’t think any of us, our parents, spouses or siblings will get everything right all of the time. It’s something we all have to constantly work on.

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