Are You Passive-Aggressive? 14 Behaviors That Are Serious Red Flags

Are You Passive-Aggressive? 14 Behaviors That Are Serious Red Flags

Ever wonder if you’re the passive-aggressive one in your group? It’s a tough pill to swallow, but recognizing it is the first step to changing it. Here are 15 behaviors that might be screaming “passive-aggressive” louder than your last eye roll. It’s all about growing and getting better, right?

1. You give the silent treatment.

When you’re upset and instead of talking about it, you go completely silent, that’s passive-aggression. It’s like you’re building a wall with your silence, hoping the other person cracks the code of your displeasure. This method of non-communication can leave the other person feeling confused and frustrated, guessing at what they did wrong. It creates a toxic atmosphere where issues never get resolved because they’re never actually discussed.

2. Sarcasm is your middle name.

If your go-to response is sarcasm, especially when you’re miffed, it’s a passive-aggressive move. Those little digs disguised as jokes are actually your way of expressing dissatisfaction without being direct. It’s like wrapping your true feelings in a sarcastic package, often leaving the other person uncertain about your genuine intentions. Over time, this can erode trust and create a hostile environment where honest communication feels impossible.

3. You play the victim.

Playing the victim, particularly when it’s clear that you’re not, is a passive-aggressive way to gain sympathy and manipulate situations without addressing the actual problems. This behavior can be frustrating for others, as it shifts the focus away from the real issues and onto your perceived grievances, often exaggerating or fabricating them for effect.

4. You procrastinate on purpose.

two female friends drinking from coffee mugs

When you agree to do something but then intentionally drag your feet because you’re annoyed, that’s a classic passive-aggressive behavior. It’s an indirect way of showing your reluctance or disapproval. This can be incredibly frustrating for others who are relying on you. It sends a message that you’re not willing to address the real issue, preferring to express your feelings through inaction.

5. You often resort to eye rolls and sighs.

two friends chatting in a kitchen

Your body language can be passive-aggressive too. When you frequently roll your eyes or sigh heavily, you’re non-verbally expressing your annoyance or disapproval. It’s a silent way of showing contempt or disdain without actually voicing your feelings. This can make others feel belittled or disrespected, as it shows a lack of willingness to engage in a respectful and open dialogue.

6. You leave snide notes.

woman giving someone a dirty look

Instead of addressing issues directly, you leave notes. This is a passive-aggressive way of expressing your annoyance without facing the potential conflict of a direct conversation. These notes can often come across as petty or childish, creating more resentment than resolution. It shows a reluctance to handle disagreements in a mature, face-to-face manner.

7. You avoid direct confrontation.

If you tend to avoid addressing problems openly and prefer to beat around the bush, you’re being passive-aggressive. It’s a way of dodging direct conflict while still expressing your displeasure. This avoidance can lead to unresolved issues and a build-up of tension, as problems are never truly confronted and worked through.

8. You’re intentionally misunderstand people.

male and female friend walking down the street

Pretending not to understand someone as a way to frustrate them is passive-aggressive. It’s a mind game where you act clueless to avoid dealing with the real issue. This behavior can be exasperating for others, as it forces them into a position of unnecessary repetition or explanation, all while you dodge accountability or responsibility.

9. You give compliments with a twist.

woman telling female friends a storyiStock

When your compliments are always laced with a subtle dig, it’s a passive-aggressive way of critiquing someone under the guise of being nice. It’s like delivering a blow with a smile, leaving the recipient feeling confused and hurt. These backhanded compliments can strain relationships, as they are often perceived as insincere or manipulative.

10. You withhold praise or affection.

If you withhold praise or affection to express your disapproval or as a form of control, that’s a passive-aggressive behavior. It’s a non-verbal way of expressing your dissatisfaction, using emotional withdrawal as a weapon. This can be especially damaging in close relationships, as it creates an environment of emotional insecurity and manipulation.

11. You’re overly critical.

man and woman looking at each other with skepticism

When you’re overly critical about small things, it’s often a passive-aggressive expression of a deeper dissatisfaction that you’re not openly addressing. This nitpicking can make others feel constantly under attack and never good enough, leading to a breakdown in communication and mutual respect.

12. You deliberately “forget” things.

Female friends in casual wearing chatting with each other while sitting on sofa and drinking coffee in cozy living room at home

If you ‘forget’ to do things as a form of silent protest or because you’re resentful, it’s passive-aggressive. It’s an indirect way of showing your displeasure, forcing others to deal with the consequences of your inaction. This behavior can be particularly harmful as it often leads to additional stress and strain on others who rely on your responsibilities being fulfilled.

13. You’re extremely stubborn.

When you’re unreasonably stubborn, often it’s a passive-aggressive way of standing your ground without openly discussing the real issue behind your stubbornness. This can create a stalemate situation where no progress is made, as you refuse to budge or consider alternative viewpoints, even when it’s to your own detriment.

14. You purposely avoid making decisions.

Being intentionally indecisive, especially to frustrate others, is a passive-aggressive tactic. It’s like being in control but refusing to steer, just to create confusion or delay. This can be maddening for others who are trying to make plans or decisions, as it puts unnecessary obstacles in the way of progress.

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Harper Stanley graduated from Eugene Lang College at The New School in NYC in 2006 with a degree in Media Studies and Literature and Critical Analysis. After graduating, she worked as an editorial assistant at The Atlantic before moving to the UK to work for the London Review of Books.

When she's not waxing poetic about literature, she's writing articles about dating, relationships, and other women's lifestyle topics to help make their lives better. While shocking, she really has somehow managed to avoid joining any social media apps — a fact she's slightly smug about.