Why Are People So Passive-Aggressive?

Why Are People So Passive-Aggressive?


Have you ever had a friend who casually made
a hurtful comment and joked about not being serious? Or a co-worker who replied to your sincere
apology with, “Fine. Whatever…”? In these kinds of scenarios, people express
resentment or aggression – but in a passive way. So why are people so passive-aggressive? This is a Field Guide to Bad Behaviour. Come along to explore the hostile wilderness
of human nature. But it’s fine if you don’t. Honestly it’s fine. Whatever. Passive-aggressive behavior is a kind of aggression
that’s expressed indirectly. This behavior has likely been around as long
as humans have. But the term itself has a surprising origin:
At the end of World War II, the US. Department of War first used the term to define
a personality disorder, describing soldiers who didn’t comply with the commands of their
superiors. But by 1994, the American Psychological Association
dropped it from their diagnosis manual – there wasn’t enough scientific evidence to consider
it a disorder. Still, its existence in everyday human behavior
is widely reported. The behavior is spotted in the workplace quite
frequently, where a disgruntled employee may show resistance through indirect behaviors
such as procrastination, purposeful inefficiency and being late. You may also find it in relationships. To identify it, look for these signs: It may
appear as sarcasm, silent treatment, subtle insults, and not delivering on promises. You generally find a disconnect between what
a passive-aggressive person says and what they do. And you’re probably wondering why people
display these passive aggressive attitudes. Well, it has do with how we experience and
manage our emotions. According to appraisal theory, we experience
emotions based on our assessment of a situation. We then experience another emotion based on
how we assess our ability to cope with the initial event and the consequences of our
response to it. Sometimes passive-aggressive behavior is unintentional. Say you get angry at a friend for stepping
on your toe, but then you realise they were about to fall. It’s hard to quickly let go of the first
emotion, so you bitterly excuse them. It can also be a coping mechanism for helplessness. Imagine your boss gives you an unfair criticism. You’re frustrated, but you can’t really
retaliate. So you start answering emails late and don’t
show up to work on time. People are also passive-aggressive as a strategy
to avoid confrontation and prevent rejection. In one 2004 study, researchers had 56 couples
keep a diary and answer questionnaires for a few weeks. They found people who were cautious and sensitive
to rejection, were significantly more likely to respond to conflicts by ignoring or dismissing
their partner. But when people sugar-coat hostility instead
of being clear about what they think, it doesn’t really lead to change or a helpful outcome. Here’s how you can navigate this behaviour:
Think of communication as a spectrum: On one extreme, there’s just passive silence. On the other end you voice all sentiments,
no matter how negative. When you need to resolve a conflict, aim to
land somewhere in the middle, to express your thoughts and needs while remaining respectful
of others. To reach that sweet spot of assertiveness,
you have to let go of fear of confrontation. Assertiveness can also help you deal with
others being passive-aggressive. If you see this behaviour, try to tell them
clearly and calmly that their behaviour is hurting you. Focus on communicating your feelings respectfully. Human communication is not always straightforward. Try to constructively express yourself, and
you’ll help others along the way. Until next time… You’re welcome…

100 thoughts on “Why Are People So Passive-Aggressive?

  1. What if the fear of confrontation is real and warranted? Another person mentioned how sensitive and PC our culture is becoming lately. Being direct and assertive can be extremely risky if another person is likely to go off the deep end over whatever you say, regardless of how true it may be.

  2. The presentation and advice at the end was great….but it's appliable only to neurotypical people imho. What about for example communication with Aspie? After years of involuntary practice, I found out that there's roughly no difference if I react assertively or with silence or with something else to this person – I just need to wait some time until the…"event" ends and we can speak without drama again :-)) Any advices for this?

    It's fine if nobody answers me, I guess. Whatever, I'll be fine. (sorry, I had to try it too :-)) )

  3. Because for whatever reason people don't like it when you actively punch them in the face.

  4. I mean, yeah, sure, okay, i'll hit that like button and write a comment or whatever, if it's soooo impotant.

  5. If you are honest & straightforward with people who are acting to hurt you, they might just use that information to hurt you more. Therein lies the problem which inspires much passive aggressive behavior.

  6. This one seemed a bit too broad for me, picking up passive-aggressiveness I've found is not always an easy one to put your finger on for me.

    Being late for example, I've never done so to intentionally be passive-aggressive and have often found being late is more likely to have people react passive-aggressively…

    It could just be I'm a passive-aggressive prick and I just haven't realised yet I suppose.

  7. This was really good. You sure aren't passive-aggressive. You stood up for yourself when I made a comment you didn't exactly love. I admire you for that. I admire people who are upfront when they are hurt. I admire people who stand up for themselves without being caustic. It is probably because both my mother and father are that way.

    My respect for you increased after you stood up for yoursel in that (misunderstood) tiff.

    Sincerity

  8. I think passive-aggressive in many cases stems from lack of skill sets and/or vocabulary to handle the situation. Also frustration on not being able or allowed to get your point of view message across or understood.

  9. Passive Agressive is also a great label to put on someone you want to dislike. Almost anything the disliked does can be called PA and abusive and can be used to justify retaliation. Ignore something – PA. Roll the eyes – PA. Avoid a TV genre and that's PA.

    I'm never comfortable with nebulous labels so easily applied to a person.

  10. I can't stand those that act Passively Aggressive. but you know whom I really hate, those that act Aggressively Passive!

  11. Hi Vanessa, how normal do you think it is for a person to be passive aggressive for some topics but unfiltered sentiment for others?

  12. "Until next time; you're welcome." That took me a whole extra second longer than it should have to realise that you were being passive aggressive xD

  13. The School of Life has an acute lesson on "Emotional Translation" that I might propose others watch; every week or so. Inculcation through continued exposure: the theologian does have something – one thing – to teach us it seems.

  14. Deeply passive aggressive people don't like it when you are direct with communication and assertive with it. It makes them act out more passively.

    Telling them the behavior hurts doesn't work either. Walk away from them. The will alwats hurt and sabotage your efforts with a whatever to boot!

  15. DOES THIS APPLY TO OUR COUNTRY'S DISPLAY OF CHARACTER ON FOLLOWING THROUGH ON ENFORCING THE LAWS ON OUR POLITICIANS??????

  16. My passive aggressiveness comes from years of suppressed anger tempered by abuse throughout the years spent in school.
    That's probably why guilt-tripping others is a second nature to me.

    But hey, despite that, chronic depression and frequent suicidal thoughts there's noooooooo reason for me to get help, as judged by psychiatric professionals here in Sweden.

  17. Thanks for such a super topic to represent about, but dont ya think that the language was a lil bit difficult for the un-native english speakers?

  18. YouTube hates you in a passive aggressive way. They have shown me hardly any videos from your channel. Everything is about to change though, because I pressed the bell Icon.

  19. My favorite name for passive-aggression is "whoops, I accidentally broke everything you care about."

  20. I think it's simple. More than ever: IT'S ALL ABOUT ME!!!! If it doesn't please ME….look out!

  21. That was me for a long time, until I finally addressed it. I wasn't taught how to deal with emotional confrontation.
    Passive aggressiveness can be really damaging to relationships of any kind.
    Be straight forward, but kind and don't forget to listen. 😀

  22. I’m always late. I never knew other people considered this passive aggressive. It’s not meant like that at all! It just happens I’m sorry people I didn’t mean to..

  23. Passive-Aggression – is not as bad as Snoby-psychoanalysis syndrome, in my opinion. That's a disorder that psychologists get when they think they know better than the general population: then get on youtube and make ridiculous videos about a segment of the population. As if they are somehow better than others… (because of science).

  24. Passive-Aggression is the tool of the otherwise powerless, or less directly powerful. In today's victim culture, the passive-aggressive techniques are more "normal" than they were when people actually believed in earned status and basic dignity and integrity. Today, those words are considered a kind of code for their opposites (basic post-modernist, deconstructionist mind virus affliction, and yes, I will even say the result of third-wave feminism and the general feminization of the culture, which devalues the so-called "aggressive", calling it a "toxic" instead of healthy response, and which is seen as pretty much exclusively male).

    Psychologically, and by nature more than nurture, this is the feminine power of reputation savaging, character assassination and destruction, over the short, sharp shock of a masculine bark (or bite). We are denying half of our humanity, and it is literally making the culture incompetent and insane.

  25. In some jobs being purposefully inefficient is a necessary skill otherwise people start to take advantage of you.
    The work work you do, the less everyone else thinks THEY have to do.
    In physical jobs you burn out and break down and in sedentary jobs you will fry your brain from stress and have a meltdown.

  26. Its based on poor communication skills and lack of confidence often on how to respond in various situations.
    I actually think it's a learnt behaviour and you generally get it from your workmates but mostly from your parents.
    But I have to say you have one of the best channels on YouTube.

  27. I'm not passive aggressive! I'm actively aggressive. Um… wait… (hopefully it's obvious that I'm joking. It doesn't always work.)

  28. I was surprised not to see one of the reasons for passive aggressiveness listed as a manipulative tool to get others to do what you want. E.g. "No its fine!! We can do what you want to do!". An unassertive person is likely to feel guilty at this point and give in to the passive aggressive persons will. Passive aggressive people learn that this helps them get what they want and tend to use it more in the future, whether intentionally or not. Sadly, it builds resentment in the unassertive person.

  29. Most people are much too proud to admit when they've been hurt. Some snap at you when you ask about it.

    Personally, I'm in favor of unfiltered sentiment. Unfortunately, we have no business with each other if my opinion is made out to be problematic. The best part of being unfiltered is the amount of time and effort saved.

  30. It would be an unusual spouse that doesn't respond to the other's insistence with, at least, a little passive-resistance. I think we should move these shrubs over there, and those over here. 'Yeah, like I don't have better things to do than excavating and moving plants around like they were furniture?" , he thinks.

  31. The science and analisis is nice, but the common sense you're throwing in there kinda ruins it all. Nice video tho.

  32. I've never thought of somebody would talk about such a topic ! I thought like it was only me who got bothered by passive aggressive actions…
    Thank you ❤

  33. I think there's a potential positive feedback loop here. I cringe and grumble as much as anyone, when I find out or am told I'm wrong… But there's nothing like taking a deep breath, finding out how you went wrong and how to do it better. The situation improves, and the effect of being able to 'fix' something radiates outward. You seek out challenges, accept failure, mistakes.. as just normal steps to eventual success. People who are stuck in passive-aggression seem to never progress: you called it right at the start, "Fine" (you missed "I don't want to talk about it." Which they usually say just as soon as you begin your response to their long tirade about you.)
    Does communication always help? Communicating with a passive-aggressive person, a controller or abuser? How well does that work? The last two, almost never, but the first? A direction that's probably perpendicular to your Communication Spectrum is What can I do to fix an unfixable situation? People get passive-aggressive at work because they are often boxed in, no one is interested in anything except 'you're wrong, you're always wrong.' I had a boss who was just going to nail me every chance he got. It was some atavistic hazing nonsense. I thought, sure I can fight with this guy, but that would be playing his game…. And of course there were probably lots of other ways to address the situation. I had the notion: What if I just did something amazing every week? So that's exactly what I set out to do. He might still fire me, but it's just a job, and I didn't see any way to keep him from doing that, so why worry about something you can't change? Of course avoid him, follow all the rules, but if everyone else left early because 'it's okay' I shrugged, stayed and worked on my next amazing thing. I suppose this was a kind of passive-aggressive response. I haven't been in the situation that fostered my goofy response for years, but my fix is still working for me.

  34. How about their behaviour cant be changed? How about if they humilliate me then after I confront my dislike respectfully?

  35. My mother used to tell me im passive aggressive a lot growing up! I see now maaaybe just maybe there is a little truth to that😂

  36. I absolutely LOVE being passive-agressive to douches I'm addicted to it :DDDDDDDDD if I can make them wonder what happens then so be it. I don't give second chances.

  37. Passive aggressiveness just infuriates me and thus makes me more dangerous to those around me. People aren't mind readers, if something is wrong, just say it. Simple as that.

  38. as a former editor, i disagree.

    resisting and resentment are just that. they aren’t “aggression.” by definition, aggression must involve some element of crossing lines or stepping over boundaries to try, by force, to effect something.

    aggression isn’t “passive.” to say it is basically takes straightforward concepts—different concepts and words denoting specific, distinct things—and muddies them up. this is part of why “passive aggressive” was removed from the DSM.

    being reluctant, or feeling resentful, aren’t aggressive. yelling, punching, commanding, intimidation: those are aggressive. see the difference.

    i wasn’t just an editor, i did nonfiction books, specifically social sciences texts for ivy league universities (and yes, i do know how to write formal english, i simply choose not to bother in casual forums).

    regardless, this is a great series. thanks for doing it.

  39. So basically bad behavior is one of insubordination and being passive aggressive is a form of insubordination and therefore bad behavior.

  40. they drive me crazy, because they are so fake and can't be direct with me, hurt me. It makes me think they are either cowards or have past trauma.

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