We often assume that we know what somebody thinks of us, and the type of relationship we have with that person, based on what they say to us. However, our relationships are far more complex than that. The true state of our relationship with others isn’t always revealed in the things that they simply say out loud.

Unfortunately, there are times when we may need to read between the lines and understand what’s beyond their words, in order to get to the truth. Life would certainly be a whole lot easier if people said exactly what they mean, and by extension, truly mean what they say. However, that isn’t always the case, especially when it comes to passive-aggressive behavior.

Passive aggression is a covert way of showing resistance to a request, or a person. They are not ‘visibly’ being aggressive. Instead, even though they may feel angry, they simply cannot express it directly. So they may use other methods to get their anger or disappointment across.

At the apparent avoidance of any confrontation, it may be seen as the person just wanting to avoid trouble, but passive-aggressive behavior can turn out to be very destructive to relationships.

It also helps to note that passive aggression is a very common reaction or behavior to circumstances we encounter regularly. An occasional passive-aggressive action is not necessarily impactful as compared to passive-aggressive behavior that is demonstrated more consistently and regularly.

If passive-aggressive behavior becomes a pervasive pattern, it morphs into a personality disorder.

To shed more light on this destructive behavior, here are the most common signs of passive-aggressive behavior.

Giving Someone the Silent Treatment

One of the most common signs of passive-aggressive behavior is the ‘silent treatment’. It is when a person ignores somebody face-to-face while they are being approached or while talking to them. It also happens when somebody deliberately refuses to take calls, or reply to messages or emails.

This behavior is common and can be very hurtful to the other person. People who experience the silent treatment feel rejected and unacknowledged. It can be hurtful to the person who is deeply invested in the relationship. It can feel like a form of punishment. Instead of telling them what they think is wrong, they prefer to not say anything and remain silent.

Insulting Someone Indirectly through Backhanded Compliments

There are times when somebody compliments you by surprise, and you begin to ponder why they did it and what they mean by it. You begin to realize it was actually given as an insult. Backhanded compliments are targeted toward people’s weaknesses.

If somebody gives backhanded compliments, it’s usually out of a superiority complex or feelings of jealousy and insecurity. Backhanded compliments reveal the real hostility felt by a person more than anything.

Being Stubborn with Punishing Motivation

When stubbornness comes with the intent to punish someone, it’s due to feelings of aggression that are strongly felt but cannot be expressed explicitly, except through distinctly punishing means. The aggrieved party will fiercely and passionately defend themselves, for the sole intent of annoying and inconveniencing the other person.

You would like to think that this tactic is only employed by children, but it is a very common passive-aggressive behavior among adults.

Consistently Not Following Through on Tasks

Another sign of passive-aggressive behavior is when a person consistently procrastinates and fails to follow through on tasks assigned to them. They often make excuses about being unaware or completely forgetting what they were supposed to do. This may be a valid excuse on occasion, however, when it becomes a pattern of behavior, it’s considered to be a form of passive aggressiveness that is meant to communicate hostility.

Intentional Sabotage

One extreme way of exhibiting passive-aggressive behavior is deliberately sabotaging a person so they either fail or be subjected to failure through another person’s efforts. Sabotaging a person can range from deliberately leaving someone out of a situation, to purposefully misleading them to become trapped in an unfortunate situation.

It’s a manipulative and contemptible way of setting somebody up. As soon as the person uncovers the truth, they feel intensely betrayed and hurt. Intentional sabotage is one of the worst passive-aggressive behaviors.

Final Thoughts

All forms of passive-aggressive behavior communicate hostility towards another person, but its covert nature can be very damaging. Passive aggressiveness is sometimes the only comfortable way for some people, who are not used to expressing emotions healthily, to communicate their true emotions.

The truth is, expressing yourself through passive-aggressive means is neither healthy nor emotionally mature. People who resort to this only further shut themselves out and fail to grow emotionally in their refusal to learn how to communicate their emotions in a safe, non-toxic manner.