Passive-Aggressive Behavior: How to Conquer your Passive-Aggression

By: Davine Holness

how to not be passive aggressive

Passive-aggression can hurt

On the surface, passive-aggression seems fairly harmless: we feel we have done something to get our point across, but we avoid overly offending others.  However, communicating in a passive aggressive manner (such as saying “yes” when we mean “no,” and later manifesting unspoken resentment) usually leads to increased frustration for both parties involved.  It often leads to miscommunication, and doesn’t satisfy our need to be heard.  Here are some ways you can learn to be assertive in order to communicate more efficiently.

  1. Don’t stifle your anger.  Anger is natural as a response to extremely aggravating circumstances, and mindfully allowing yourself to feel and process your anger is healthy.
  2. Make your needs clearly known.  Make requests in a straightforward but considerate manner.  Direct requests are more effective than the passive-aggressive roundabout requests accompanied by backhanded jabs at the other person.
  3. Understand where the other person is coming from.  You are not required to agree with someone else’s viewpoint, but a respectful and empathetic understanding of their feelings and why they have them will get you much farther than being passive-aggressive will.
  4. Listen attentively.  Indicate concern for what the other person has to say with cues such as eye contact and undivided attention.  This will allow you to keep your emotional reactions or defensiveness from turning into passive-aggressive remarks.
  5. Collaborate with the other person.  Passive-aggression leaves both parties mildly annoyed, while working together allows both parties to construct a way to satisfy the needs of both.

For help dealing with issues of confidence, assertion or passive-aggressive behavior, feel free to contact the Manhattan or Bergen County, New Jersey offices of Arista Counseling and Psychological Services to speak to a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist.  Call (201) 368-3700 or (212 722-1920) for information, or to set up an appointment.  More detailed information can be found at .


Tartakovsky, M. (2014). 5 Tips for Communicating Assertively without Being Passive-Aggressive. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 5, 2014


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