15 Phrases Passive-Aggressive People Use to Get Under Your Skin

15 Phrases Passive-Aggressive People Use to Get Under Your Skin

Interactions with passive-aggressive people can be insidious because it’s often hard to detect when they’re taking digs at you or whittling your self-esteem and sense of security. This is due to their ability to bury their true intent behind seemingly harmless comments. So how can you tell when a passive-aggressive person is trying to get under your skin? Watch out for these phrases they use to get in your head and subtly undermine you.

1. “Sure, have it your way.”

It’s easy to interpret this as a statement of support, albeit offered reluctantly. But when coming from a passive-aggressive person, it’s typically laced with sarcasm and derision. The point is to convey that they don’t think very highly of your decision, but rather than object outrightly, they’ll wait for you to fail so they can say they told you so.

2. “I don’t know why you’re getting so upset.”

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It can be very disorienting and frustrating when someone does something offensive and acts like they’ve got no idea why you’re mad or emotional when you react to their behavior. Passive-aggressive people are aware of this so they might try to get under your skin by playing dumb or claiming you’re overreacting to evade accountability for what they’ve done.

3. “Fine. Whatever!”

couple in an argument shouting

Passive-aggressive people usually break this out in the middle of disagreements when they feel like you’re not making an effort to understand their point of view. Or when you’re making solid points that they can’t refute, so they dismiss your entire point or act indifferent.

4. “I’m not mad.”

A passive-aggressive person might swear with a perfect smile on their face that they’re fine. But then they’d display their frustration and annoyance in other ways like giving you the silent treatment or intentionally doing things to hurt you and even the score, then pretending it’s an accident.

5. “You always take things the wrong way.”

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You see, they’re really good at deflecting blame because it allows them to avoid confrontation and maintain a facade of innocence even if their intentions were far from harmless. If you get rightfully mad at them over something they’ve done or said, they’ll try to dismiss your feelings and make you doubt yourself with this phrase.

6. “I’m just being honest.”

Passive-aggressive people often hide behind this phrase to deliver cruel and hurtful criticisms—these opinions are meant to shake your self-esteem and demean you or your accomplishments. If you’re not careful, you may think they’re being genuinely helpful and allow their twisted brand of honesty to get to you.

7. “No offense, but…”

Saying “no offense” before you go ahead to say something rude or distasteful, doesn’t make your statement any less offensive. But that hasn’t stopped passive-aggressive people from using the phrase as a cover to hit you where it hurts while pretending they didn’t mean any harm.

8. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

Rather than taking accountability for how their words or actions may have impacted you and offering a genuine apology, they turn the tables, making it seem like it’s your feelings that are the problem. They’ll have you believe they’ve done nothing wrong, and it’s you who’s choosing to be hurt.

9. “That was surprisingly good.”

This is tantamount to a slap in the face. It’s disguised as a compliment but it subtly suggests that you have a track record of doing things poorly, so it’s remarkable that you managed to get it right this one time. If you’re not careful, this statement can chip away at your confidence and make you feel insecure long after the conversation has ended.

10. “If I were you, I would have…”

This phrase serves two purposes: to criticize your decision and to imply that they have better judgment than you. It causes you to question yourself by making it seem as though there’s a better, definite way of doing things that you failed to follow. But in reality, you made the choice that felt right to you at that moment, just like anyone else would have.

11. “I didn’t know you’d get offended.”

They may say or do something they know is very likely to spur a negative reaction. When it does, they might use a variation of this phrase to avoid accountability and place the blame on you, essentially claiming it’s not what they said but how you took it that’s causing the misunderstanding.

12. “It’s not that big a deal.”

They might attempt to gaslight you by suggesting that the issue in question is insignificant and not worth having strong feelings about. It doesn’t matter that you clearly think it’s important enough to address, they’ll break out this phrase to downplay your emotions and avoid engaging meaningfully.

13. “That’s an interesting choice.”

Delivered with a good hint of snark, this seemingly innocent remark can have you rethinking your decisions and actions. You’re left wondering what they mean by this and may even be manipulated into doing things their way instead.

14. “I was only joking.”

man and woman talking outside

Oftentimes, passive-aggressives will use jokes to express what they truly think or feel. This allows them to hide their hands and claim they never intended any ill-will or hurt if their “jokes” hit a nerve. Now, you’re the fragile person who can’t appreciate humor.

15. I guess that’s one way to do it.”

Instead of coming right out to say that they don’t believe in the strength of your idea or approve of your approach, they may try to use this phrase to get under your skin. It works by sowing seeds of doubt in your mind.

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A girl preoccupied with living her best life even when it's uncomfortable to do so. She spends a lot of time with her thoughts. She hopes you enjoy reading the results of those thoughts.