11 Behaviors That Reveal a Passive-Aggressive Person

11 Behaviors That Reveal a Passive-Aggressive Person

passive-aggressiveBetter Life

Have you ever felt like you were being targeted or treated incredibly poorly by someone but without any explicit or obvious evidence of a problem? The chances are that this individual was a passive-aggressive person towards you.

Passive-aggression refers to behavior where an individual expresses anger or resentment towards others or situations indirectly. It can be a surprisingly harmful and very toxic trait to be around. So how can you spot someone who acts this way? Here are 11 behaviors that reveal a passive-aggressive person.

1.    They Give You Compliments That Aren’t Compliments

Compliments are great to receive, but they’re also easy to use as tools because they’re so universally understood and liked. Luckily, it’s usually relatively easy to tell when something’s just a little bit “off” about a specific compliment.


Passive-aggressive people often use back-handed compliments, or non-compliments, to get their message across. You’ll hear what sounds like nice words, but you’ll get the instinctual feeling that they aren’t actually nice.

passive-aggressive personFor example:

  • Excellent work out there for a woman.
  • Great pasta. I barely even tasted all that salt!
  • I love your shirt. I had one just like it in high school.
  • Your art is… interesting. I’m sure someone will like it.
  • It’s pretty good. I think my standards are just higher.

Studies have delved into the world of backhanded compliments and their delivery in the past, with the consensus being that non-compliments are most commonly delivered by those who want to state their case while sounding positive. They may:

  • Want to assert their superiority or authority
  • Reduce the motivation or ruin the mood of the recipient of the “compliment.”
  • Seek to insult you due to their grievances with you

No matter which way you look at it, though, backhanded compliments are always passive-aggressive. If your reaction to a compliment is adverse, you may have to examine the person’s words and determine if they’re kind or cruel.

2.    They Always Deny The Actual Problem

Passive-aggressive people are all about hiding true intentions and feelings. They resort to passive-aggression because they don’t know how or don’t want to address actual problems. They shy away from conflict and anger, so they seek to get their message across by vehemently insisting there’s nothing wrong.

Confusing? It certainly is, and that’s why passive-aggressive behavior is so frustrating to deal with. You can directly ask a person like this if something’s wrong, and they’ll always say “no.” You can even get very specific about what you think they’re upset about, and they’ll still deny it!

If someone keeps insisting that they’re fine when they obviously aren’t, don’t bother engaging with them further. It would be best if you didn’t coddle them as this will encourage them to repeat the behavior. Communicate with them that you need their positive honesty and leave the door open for them to be genuine, but don’t give them extra allowances or go the extra mile to read their mind.

3.    They Blame Others

Passive-aggressive people are reluctant to take any responsibility for anything negative, even when everyone knows they’re the ones responsible. They essentially seek to blame everyone around them for the actions they performed and may say things like:

  • You’re such a perfectionist. You’re never satisfied!
  • I would have done it differently if you’d just said something.
  • How was I supposed to know about that?
  • Everyone always expects the impossible out of me! It’s not fair!
  • I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you aren’t good at making jokes.

4.    They Leave Things Unfinished

Passive-aggressive people tend to procrastinate or leave things incomplete. This is their indirect way of telling you that they resent having to do this job at all and wish they didn’t need to. It’s a very commonly known passive-aggressive trait, according to studies. For example, they might:

  • Wash the dishes but never put them away
  • Do the laundry but not fold them or put them away
  • Build furniture but leave the last piece unassembled
  • Paint the walls but leave one area unpainted
  • Please take out the trash but leave it in front of the door instead of in the bin outside

The goal of a passive-aggressive person who does this is to make you so sick of it that you do it yourself. After all, if you were to question them, they’d be able to use the work they have done to prove their kind-heartedness.

5.    They Withdraw

A passive-aggressive person, as we’ve covered, doesn’t want to admit how they feel openly. Instead, they withdraw into themselves and sulk, often in pronounced ways, as though inviting others to gain insight into their true feelings.

This seems innocent at first, especially if you worry about them and see them behaving in this brooding way. But it’s actually a quiet manipulation tactic used to elicit a response from you. Passive-aggressive people want you to respond to them in a certain way, trying to gain your sympathy and attention while changing the room’s entire mood to suit their personal whims.

pop quotes6.    They Talk About Wishing For Things

Everyone has wishes, but passive-aggressive people will openly wish for everything. This is a form of hinting for them. They state their desires, often for ordinary things, instead of directly asking you for what they want.

Worse still, they always end on a dramatic note, saying they’re sure it won’t happen as they desire or that it’s just wishful thinking. For example:

  • “How I wish someone would help me finish all this! Too bad everyone’s so busy, they could never spare a moment to help someone like me.”
  • “I’m so hungry. I wish I’d bought lunch as nice as yours. Oh well, it’s too late for me to go back and change the past now, so it’s all wishful thinking…”
  • “It’d be excellent if you could finish it by two o’clock, but I guess I just don’t have any choice but to wait for the end of the day.”
  • “All I want is to be able to have someone cover my shift this weekend! But I guess that’s way too much to ask for.”
  • “I wish someone would donate their old computer to me! But that’d never happened, I suppose. Not to me.”

It can be very frustrating to hear these things, and you might even fall into the trap of giving in to their stated wishes. Hold your ground, and don’t engage! You want a passive-aggressive person to be forced to resort to proper, positive communication, not get what they want by dropping hints.


7.    They’re Always Late

Passive-aggressive people don’t usually respect anyone else’s time. They’re late to anything and everything and don’t care that they are. They’ll often even act surprised when they turn out to be the last one to arrive. But why do they do it? It may be because:

  • They have resentment for the people they’re meeting with
  • They don’t want to go to whatever plans they’ve made
  • They want to get some attention for something

8.    They Make Countless Excuses

Passive-aggressive people have to do all sorts of questionable things to get their messages across without saying their statements. Over time, someone will inevitably question their motives. When that time comes around, excuses spill forth from their mouths!

A passive-aggressive person will make a wide range of different excuses, sometimes clearly false, mostly meant to elicit sympathy. They may cite an ill relative, try to get sympathy by discussing poor mental health, or even blame others. Typically, their excuses will be difficult to question or contradict without coming across as mean, which is exactly why they use them.

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