Secret anger: what are the characteristics of passive aggressiveness – and how you can defend yourself against it

Your partner has a dog.

Secret anger: what are the characteristics of passive aggressiveness – and how you can defend yourself against it

Your partner has a dog. You don't like this one very much. He leaves hair everywhere, stinks when he gets wet and barks at everything in front of him. Nevertheless, you are of course invited to accompany the animal to the meadow at any time if the bladder is pressed again. At best, you'll be able to clearly say that you don't want that. But what if you can't bring yourself to do it? People who find it difficult to formulate their own needs sometimes drift into passive-aggressive behavior patterns. Then people sulk and the answers get snotty - if one comes at all.

Passive-aggressive people are adept at portraying themselves as victims who are being wronged. Rainer Sachse is a professor of clinical psychology and psychotherapy. In an interview with "Spektrum" he explains: "It is important to these people to protect their own limits. They quickly feel patronized and have a problem with authorities." The problem: You are not able to protect these very borders. Instead, according to Sachse, they choose "passive sabotage techniques." Above all, it is the people who are particularly in need of harmony who find it difficult to talk nonsense and instead manage with reactions such as withdrawal of love and silence. A research team from the University of California at Berkeley found this out almost 20 years ago.

British therapist Abby Rawlinson shared classic passive-aggressive behaviors on her Instagram page. In the post, she explains that being passive-aggressive doesn't mean being malicious. Instead, there is often a strategy "that people use when they think they don't deserve to speak their mind or when they are afraid to express their anger".

1. Pseudohumor: Hurtful taunts disguised as a joke

The other person is angry, but doesn't want to show it openly. The resentment is then often expressed in a sense of humor that only one side finds funny. A nudge in the stomach might then be garnished with the words "Well, darling, the cake tastes particularly good at the moment, doesn't it?! Höhö".

2. Compliments that aren't really compliments

A concept that is also popular with so-called pickup artists: compliments that are actually insults, such as: "It's great that you show your big ears so self-confidently. Not everyone dares to do that."

3. Deliberately not giving positive feedback

Instead of addressing what has spoiled his mood, the passive-aggressive one practices punishing the other person, conversely not making positive things an issue either. So if a dinner has tasted particularly good, the chef will not hear any praise if he has previously fallen out of favor.

4. Not listening properly

Punishing with ignorance rarely helps to solve a conflict - this also includes not listening to the other person properly and thereby suggesting that you don't care (anymore) about what the other person has to say.

5. Not replying to text messages or phone calls

No reaction is also a reaction. Classics of non-response include unanswered text messages and phone calls. A power play, because the other person has no choice but to wait until the passive-aggressive person makes contact again. Silence is used as punishment or to unsettle the other.

6. Inconsistent silence

The inconsistent silence is a gradation of not answering at all, there is an arbitrariness in it that leaves confusion. Sometimes you get an answer, sometimes not and the other person can never be quite sure whether the incomplete communication is intentional or not.

7. Chronic lateness

Keeping the other person waiting is also not the fine English way. If the other person is constantly late, this can be an indication that the person waiting should be punished indirectly passive-aggressively for an alleged misconduct.

8. Breaking promises and playing dumb

If you are repeatedly left out in the rain because the other person does not keep to agreements, promises are not kept, this can also be a sign of passive-aggressive behavior. This also includes "playing dumb" when the question is asked.

People who deal with passive-aggressive behavior have a problem. They are unable to speak openly about their needs, what they lack or do not like. And they tend to project their anger onto others. The worst mistake, therefore, is to react to secret anger with open anger. Do not respond to any provocations. Remain calm and argue objectively is the motto. Psychologist Sachse advises addressing the passive-aggressive person directly but empathetically about his behavior and clearly pointing out boundaries: "I have the feeling that you don't want that. If that's the case, you can tell me. But I don't do that crap more with!" It is important that you do not look for faults in yourself in such a situation. For example, if someone is always late and reacts sensitively when you mention it, perhaps even portraying them as inflexible and strenuous, then don't take it to heart. Passive-aggressives tend to portray themselves as victims.

Source: Spectrum, Sage Journals, Psychology Today, Daily Mirror, Instagram