We tend to overuse the term passive aggressive. “Oh, he is so passive aggressive!” we’ll say about someone who annoys us.
Real passive aggressive behavior is more than that, though. Passive aggression is a coping mechanism we use when we are afraid of displaying anger, often when we feel powerless. You may have called partners, family members, coworkers, or friends “passive aggressive” when in conflict, but have you ever stopped to wonder if you yourself could be exhibiting passive aggressive behaviors, too?
Sometimes, those whose anger is expressed passive aggressively don’t even realize they have an issue with anger, so you may be a passive-aggressive person and not even know it. How can you tell if your anger style is passive aggressive—and, if it is, what can you do about it?
If you are a passive-aggressive person you are probably a master of avoidance.
You may act compliant and agreeable, you may shy away from giving a straight answer, and you may withhold information or even lie. This isn’t because you’re a bad person or intrinsically a liar, it’s because you were taught as a child that displaying or expressing anger is wrong and that anger should be suppressed. Passive-aggressive people have affairs and display other types of addiction – to food, alcohol, drugs, technology, etc. – because those are “easier” means to deal with feelings of anger than confronting the person or situation that is making you angry or resentful.