Some people are determined not to succumb to the temptation to be rageful with anger, but that doesn’t mean they are without anger. Rightly recognizing that open aggression creates an atmosphere of great disrespect, they refuse to explode loudly or get caught in games of verbal abuse. These people, however, can develop too strong of a determination to avoid ugly anger and in doing so, they become susceptible to passive aggression. True to the definition of aggressive anger, passive aggression involves preserving personal worth, needs, and convictions at someone else’s expense, but it differs in that it is accomplished in a more quiet manner, causing less personal vulnerability.

To get an idea of the nature of passive aggressive anger, look over the following statements. Do any of them seem familiar?

  • When I am frustrated I become silent, knowing it bothers other people.
  • I am prone to sulk or pout.
  • When I don’t want to do a project I will procrastinate. I can be lazy.
  • I do things in my own timing and if I am too slow or if I do things in a different manner, then others are just going to have to adjust to my way. If they don’t like it, that’s too bad.
  • There are times when I am deliberately evasive so others won’t bother me.
  • I sometimes approach work projects half-heartedly.
  • When someone talks to me about our problems, I’ll say what they want to hear then do what I want to do.
  • I complain about people behind their backs, but resist the opportunity to be open with them face to face.
  • Sometimes I become involved in hidden misbehaviors.
  • I may not follow through on the favors people want me to do as a way of letting them know I didn’t want to do them in the first place.

Passive aggression is usually caused by a need to have control with the least amount of accountability. This form of anger is different from suppressed anger because the person is deliberately doing something knowing it will agitate the other person involved. Also, when people use this form of anger, it represents a fear based manner of handling conflicts. Healthy relationships welcome openness, but passive-aggressives fear that openness will be accompanied by too high of an emotional price.

Dr. Les Carter