Hilber Psychological Services
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Hilber Psychological Services

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Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Have you been accused of being passive-aggressive? Have you told someone else that they're being passive-aggressive? We hear these terms quite frequently. Some of the time they are often right on the mark and other times this term just does not fit. What is Passive-Aggressive Behavior?

Passive-aggressive behavior is indirectly being aggressive to get what you want or don't want, while still appearing like you're easy-going and trying to please others. Using passive-aggressive statements is seen as a way to resist and still appear like you're complying. Passive-aggressive behavior can also be defined as a "deliberate and masked way to express covert feelings of anger" as stated by Whitson in Passive Aggressive Diaries. Many times people may want to appear likable, easy-going and happy, yet they are actually angry or resistant. These people may believe that they're not allowed to have or show their feeling.

What can I do instead? 

As the term states, this is a combination of two extremes: Passive behavior and aggressive behavior. Passive behavior and communication tends to be wishy-washy, indirect, and hints at the point we want to make. Aggressive behavior is typically attacking, mean, and hurting someone else to get what we want. Neither extreme helps you achieve what you want to accomplish.

Instead of passive-aggressive behavior, we can be assertive. Assertiveness is being firm but friendly and using our words to mean exactly what we want to say. To be assertive, you can state the exact message you want to get across without hiding your emotions or being hurtful. For example, instead of saying, "Fine, whatever. I don't want to finish this anyways." You could say, "Can we stay for 10 more minutes? I just want to finish this first." By using this assertive statement, the other person is unlikely to feel bad, hurt, or angry, and you get to finish your task. Being assertive still means you both "win" and you still get to have your feelings and be friendly.

You can also talk to a professional to help guide you through these behaviors and be more assertive. This can help you feel better about yourself and increase the connection in relationships.

To discuss this and other behaviors in detail, contact us at Hilber Psychological Services.