The passive aggressive behaviours can be difficult to recognize at first. In fact you will think someone is completely normal but if you have knowledge of what constitutes this behaviour over time you will see the disconnect between you and the person, they seldom do as they say.
These people tend to express their negative feelings in an indirect manner, rather than state their disapproval directly to the person concerned. There tends to be a great deal of hostility associated with passive aggressive behaviours and a great deal of this tends to be derived from miscommunication, failure to communicate or the assumption that the other person knows what they are thinking or feeling. From a relationship perspective, these behaviours can be the most difficult communication style to deal with as you are not quite sure what you are dealing with.
The silent treatment
The most commonly used is the silent treatment. As was mentioned in my introduction passive aggressive behaviour is recognisable by what is being said and what is being done. Nothing highlights this more than the famous silent treatment. Silence generally signifies agreement but not in this case. When you are on the receiving end of the silent treatment, you realise that the other person is far from agreeable. They have a big problem with you and just to allow themselves the Pyrrhic victory, they have no intention of telling you what that is.
There are 2 other common versions of the silent treatment. One is to answer the question ‘What’s wrong?’ with ‘nothing’, when there certainly is something wrong. The other, which sadly was used by my ex, is to answer any question with just one word. This is intended to signal that there is a problem, without her having to say it. She would cry before getting her thoughts out, it was also a control mechanism, you cannot make me say what I do not want to say.
Resenting the demands of others
When others make requests or demands of them, passive aggressive people will often view them as unfair or unjust. Rather than express their feelings, they will bottle them up and resent the other person for making the demands. They quickly forget that they did not have to agree to the demand, or that they could just voice their feelings, no one would take offense.
As they often assume that others know how they feel, passive aggressive people tend to immediately assume that anything they do not approve of was an intended to be a jibe at them. For example, they may assume that their boss knows that they have a full workload. When the boss makes a request of them, they assume that the boss has something against them and wants to put excessive pressure on them. It never crosses their mind that they could point out to their boss that they have a full schedule and he would then ask somebody else to help. Simple conversations that can alter or defuse a situation is blown up out of proportion.
Disguising criticism with compliments
At first, passive aggressive people may seem pleasant and warm. They often appear to be complimentary. It is only after they have left that you realise that the compliment was actually disguising a cheap jibe. If you pay attention you will see that their lack of sincerity goes so far, there is usually no follow through.
Procrastination, the act of putting off that which needs to be done, is often a subconscious decision. With passive aggressive people, however, it is often a conscious decision. Rather than tell the other person that they cannot agree to their request, these persons will delay completing the request until the very last moment, or later. This is aimed at punishing the other person for having the audacity to make the request.
The passive aggressor instead of saying I am unable to do this task will not say anything, however they will accept doing the task and then intentionally will do a poor job with the hope that they are not considered doing the task again.
Many times we do not notice them until a dispute arises. It is then that we really see the style which people are most comfortable with. In many ways, this behaviour can be the most difficult to deal with as it is not always immediately recognisable. Also, these persons can be quite childlike (I say this as I was married to one and my dad is one) and demonstrate an unwillingness to resolve any dispute. It is important to the passive aggressive person that they have the upper hand and they will use some ridiculous tactics to achieve this. The signs of this behaviour, listed above, will help you see where you or somebody you know is behaving in a dysfunctional manner. This will allow you to adapt your approach in an attempt to resolve the issue.