10 Common Passive Aggressive Phrases to Avoid - Mom it Forward

 

10 Common Passive Aggressive Phrases to Avoid

merelationships

Is there someone in your life who consistently makes you feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster? Do you know a person who is friendly one day but sulks and withdraws the next? Does a family member or friend consistently procrastinate, postpone, stall, and shut down any emotionally-laden conversations? Are you sometimes that person? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, chances are you may be interacting with a passive aggressive person or showing signs of passive-aggressive behavior yourself.

Passive aggression is a deliberate and masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008). It involves a range of behaviors designed to get back at another person without him recognizing the underlying anger. These ten common passive aggressive phrases can serve as an early-warning system for you, helping you recognize hidden hostility when it is being directed your way:

1.     “I’m Not Mad.”

Denying feelings of anger is classic passive aggressive behavior.  Rather than being upfront and honest when questioned about his feelings, the passive aggressive person insists, “I’m not mad” even when he is seething on the inside.

2.    “Fine.”  “Whatever.”

Sulking and withdrawing from arguments are primary strategies of the passive aggressive person. Since passive aggression is motivated by a person’s belief that expressing anger directly will only make his life worse (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008), the passive aggressive person uses phrases like “Fine” and “Whatever” to express anger indirectly and to shut down direct, emotionally honest communication.

3.    “I’m Coming!”

Passive aggressive persons are known for verbally complying with a request, but behaviorally delaying its completion. If whenever you ask your child to clean his room, he cheerfully says, “Okay, I’m coming,” but then fails to show up to complete the chore, chances are he is practicing the fine passive aggressive art of temporary compliance.

4.    “I Didn’t Know You Meant Now.”

On a related note, passive aggressive persons are master procrastinators. While all of us like to put off unpleasant tasks from time to time, people with passive aggressive personalities rely on procrastination as a way of frustrating others and/or getting out of certain chores without having to directly refuse them.

5.    “You Just Want Everything to be Perfect.”

When procrastination is not an option, a more sophisticated passive aggressive strategy is to carry out tasks in a timely, but unacceptable manner. For example:

  • A student hands in sloppy homework
  • A husband prepares a well-done steak for his wife, though he knows she prefers to eat steak rare
  • An employee dramatically overspends his budget on an important project

In all of these instances, the passive aggressive person complies with a particular request, but carries it out in an intentionally inefficient way. When confronted, he defends his work, counter-accusing others of having rigid or perfectionist standards.

6.    “I Thought You Knew.”

Sometimes, the perfect passive aggressive crime has to do with omission. Passive aggressive persons may express their anger covertly by choosing not to share information when it could prevent a problem. By claiming ignorance, the person defends his inaction, while taking pleasure in his foe’s trouble and anguish.

7.    “Sure, I’d be Happy To.”

Have you ever been in a customer service situation where a seemingly concerned clerk or super-polite phone operator assures you that your problem will be solved. On the surface, the representative is cooperative, but beware of his angry smile; behind the scenes, he is filing your request in the trash and stamping your paperwork with “DENY.”

8.    “You’ve Done so Well for Someone with Your Education Level.”

The backhanded compliment is the ultimate socially acceptable means by which the passive aggressive person insults you to your core.  If anyone has ever told you, “Don’t worry—you can still get braces even at your age” or “There are a lot of men out there who like plump women,” chances are you know how much “joy” a passive aggressive compliment can bring.

9.    “I Was Only Joking”

Like backhanded compliments, sarcasm is a common tool of a passive aggressive person who expresses his hostility aloud, but in socially acceptable, indirect ways. If you show that you are offended by biting, passive aggressive sarcasm, the hostile joke teller plays up his role as victim, asking, “Can’t you take a joke?”

10.    “Why Are You Getting So Upset?”

The passive aggressive person is a master at maintaining his calm and feigning shock when others, worn down by his indirect hostility, blow up in anger. In fact, he takes pleasure out of setting others up to lose their cool and then questioning their “overreactions.”

What can you do this week to void passive-aggressive behavior?

Photo credit: repromedimages
X
Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker and co-author of The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed. Her blog, Passive Aggressive Diaries, was designed to take a light-hearted look at the hilariously conniving ways in which people encounter and exude passive aggressive behavior in their everyday lives.  She also serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the Life Space Crisis Intervention Institute.   Her work is brought to you by a baby clothes boutique in an effort give back to the parenting community.  Pay it forward - check out their adorable selection of baby accessories and shower gifts.

Comments

7 Responses to “10 Common Passive Aggressive Phrases to Avoid”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by MomItForward, Melissa Dawn Lierman, Moms Who Blog, Laurie Smith, Troy Pattee and others. Troy Pattee said: RT @MomItForward – 10 Common Passive Aggressive Phrases to Avoid: Is there someone in your life wh… http://bit.ly/9JgYlN [blog post - me] [...]

  2. Emily Pattee says:

    This was a very interesting and informative read. I hope we get a follow-up on how to help correct this behavior (especially in children?).

  3. But seriously, I’m really not mad!

  4. [...] Full story at; Passive-aggressive Behaviour [...]

  5. Serwaa Boakye says:

    This article is very interesting because I think sometimes people do not realize that they are in fact trapped in a passive aggressive situation. This article highlights signs to look for so that one can better be prepared for such situations in life. Sarcasm, revenge -seeking, back-hand compliments are just a few of the behaviors one may experience if they themselves become passive aggressive. It’s good to know so that you can find ways to avoid getting yourself to that level.

  6. Nadine Natafgi says:

    Possibly show my actual emotions during a fight instead of trying to avoid direct confrontations by saying some of the aforementioned phrases. “I’m not mad”, “Fine”, “Whatever” are a few of my favorites.

  7. Michelle says:

    Ok some of this is ok but if we are dealing with a passive aggressive SO or parent or whatever chances are you NEED TO DEVELOP A IDCA (I don’t care attitude) being polite may or may not work, same for communication and from the sounds of this article I’m not about to take everything my PA spouse say into consideration why? STRESS!!!
    IF I take every “fine” or “whatever” I might as well be as good as dead. They say communication is key but it also take two people. I tell you the truth you are better off single and alone than to be with a passive aggressive mate. Now consider them if you have patience, and are mature enough to handle it, other than that all the responsibilities are yours. For in laws you do not have to talk to them at all if your spouse wants to keep in contact with their PA parent then the spouse need to make it CLEAR that their parents should not in no way shape or form disrespect you, your family, and very much your spouse! (or bf,gf)

Leave a Reply


Web Statistics