Signs You’re Passive-Aggressive & Lack Communication Skills

Signs You’re Passive-Aggressive & Lack Communication Skills

Good communication skills don’t come naturally to everyone. If you’ve been punished for expressing your needs in the past or just hate confrontation, you might have become a passive-aggressive communicator. To be blunt, you won’t get your needs met using this approach because other people won’t be able to decipher what you mean. Here are some signs you’re guilty of beating around the bush and some suggestions for being more direct.

1. You play criticism off as a joke (but you’re not really joking).

If someone does something you dislike — for example, a friend smokes in your apartment without asking for permission — you might crack a joke about how your roommates can always tell when you’ve had them over because of the smell. Sure, what your friend did was rude, but they might not take the hint. In a scenario like this where you know someone will do something before it happens, it’s easier to give them a heads-up than to call them out in the moment. A casual, “Hey, I’d appreciate it if you smoke outside,” is all you need to say.

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2. You give people dirty looks.

When you’re in a group setting and someone makes a joke that hurts you, you handle it by shooting them a dirty look. It’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to interrupt the conversation and embarrass the other person or show vulnerability. However, they might not have seen your dirty look, and some people can’t pick up on non-verbal communication. You’re going to have to pull them aside later and speak privately. If you really can’t bring yourself to say it to their face, yet, you can have a phone call or say how you feel in a message. However, consider that approach to be a stepping stone to becoming more assertive. These kinds of conversations are more likely to escalate over text because tone is harder to interpret, The New York Times points out.

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3. You dance around the topic.

When you do try to say something to someone’s face, you skirt around the issue because you don’t want to be considered hostile. There’s a difference between being direct and saying how you feel and yelling at someone or insulting them. If you go on a long-winded spiel, you’re just going to leave the other person confused. Instead, write down what you want to say before you meet up. Write down exactly what they did that upset you in a factual way without any jabs. Rehearse what you’ve written so you know exactly what to say. For the first few times you do this, it’s okay to refer to the notes so you don’t get flustered.

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4. You use other people’s behavior as a way of communicating.

If a friend is doing something you don’t agree with, rather than tell them, you speak poorly of someone else doing the same thing in the hopes they’ll make the connection and stop. If they do take the hint, this is a cruel way to get your point across. Just say upfront how you’re feeling and stop dropping hints!

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5. You sigh all the time.

When you’re peeved, you bring the mood down by sighing at regular intervals during a conversation, hoping someone will ask you what’s up. If they do ask, you then hum and haw over it and still don’t give them a straightforward answer. If you’re upset and need to leave the conversation for a moment to take a breather, politely excuse yourself. This is a petty way to communicate and puts everyone in a bad mood. Either remove yourself from the situation and address it later, or say how you really feel.

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6. You roll your eyes.

Like sighing, this isn’t a good way to communicate. It’s rude and comes off as judgmental. Again, if you’re in public and don’t want to have a tough conversation, you’re going to have to excuse yourself or put on a brave face. Then, message whoever you’re upset with later or grab them on the way out so you can talk privately.

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7. You say things are fine when they’re clearly not.

When someone asks you if you have a problem, you insist that they’re not, even though you’re clearly upset. This leaves everyone walking on eggshells. If you don’t want to talk about it at the moment, that’s fine, but you have to tell people that. Then, bring up what your issue was when you can think clearly.

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8. You keep score.

While relationships are a two-way street, that doesn’t mean it will be a 50/50 division of effort all the time. You’ll grow resentful if all you can think when hanging out with friends is that you organized the outing the past two times, so it’s about time they pull their weight. If you won’t initiate a conversation because you did last time, you won’t hold on to your friends. If there really is no effort whatsoever from the other side, you have to tell them that while you understand that they have things going on, you’re feeling underappreciated. A good friend will appreciate the honesty and step up.

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9. You assume the worst.

It may very well be true that some of the people in your life are mean. In that case, you have to ask yourself why you still associate with them. With that said, not everything someone does to hurt you is intentional. Since you never address anything, you don’t actually understand why someone did what they did, you just made an assumption. For all you know, they might not realize you took an absent-minded comment they don’t even remember making personally. There’s no getting around it; you’re going to have to ask to have a private conversation with this person and tell them what happened and how you feel.

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10. You give backhanded compliments.

Let’s say a friend left the house with the tracks of her hair extensions showing. Rather than telling her so she can fix it, you make a shady comment like, “Wow, you’re so brave to go out looking like that.” This is just mean. Unless you want to let someone know about something that can be fixed, like poorly blended extensions or smudged lipstick, there are some things you should keep to yourself.

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11. You give the silent treatment.

When someone upsets you, you give them the silent treatment and won’t budge when they ask you what’s wrong. While being upset is valid, this is a cruel way to handle conflict. Tell them you need time to compose yourself if you truly can’t stand to look at them but will talk about it when you’ve calmed down. The main thing here is you actually do need to talk about it with them later. If you need to write down how you feel and read it to them (don’t just pass them a note) then do that.

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12. You’re intimidated by people who are direct.

Passive-aggressive communicators don’t like to surround themselves with direct people because it reminds them of what they can’t do. Instead of trying to make yourself feel better by convincing yourself direct people are just rude, use them as inspiration to better yourself. Not everyone is direct was always like that, communication is a skill you can improve.

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13. You expect people to read your mind.

serious blonde woman sitting on bed

When someone says or does something to upset you, you assume they must know what they did and if they love you, they’ll beg for forgiveness. If they’re a malicious person, then sure, they probably do know what they did and don’t care, but good people make mistakes. To you, it might be obvious because the thing that upset you was a huge deal, to the other person, it was a random Tuesday. If someone asks you what’s wrong, don’t say, “You know what you did.” They probably won’t figure it out, so you’re going to have to force yourself to tell them. While it’s a scary conversation to have, you could lose the friendship to something that could have been resolved by refusing to communicate.

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14. You gossip.

serious man making business speech

You never tell the people you have a problem that you have a problem. Instead, you gossip about it with everyone else. This won’t accomplish anything. Not to mention, if your loved one finds out you were trash-talking them, it could end the relationship. You’re allowed to be upset and frustrated, but it’s a lot less messy to put those feelings into a journal than dumping it on your acquaintances. As mentioned earlier, create a script of what you want to say so you can get everything off your chest in a clear but respectful manner.

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15. You punish people.

Young hispanic girl looking at camera outdoor - Focus on face

One of the ways you communicate is by punishing your loved ones, but never telling them why, PsychCentral notes. Let’s say one of your friends took longer than you would have liked to reply to a message because they were busy, so you intentionally left them on read for a week when they finally replied. If you need to find something out urgently from your friend, then send a follow-up message explaining that you need an answer sooner rather than later. If they’re really that unreachable, make a phone call. You can’t force other people to have good communication skills, but you can ensure you do. Punishing them is immature and won’t accomplish anything.

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Aisling is a 20-something year old Irish writer who is the life and relationship guru of her social circle. She loves music, movies, and coffee.