top of page

Why You Mad Bro? Understanding Passive-Aggressive Behavior

by Melanie Gallo, PhD

We all know someone who "is passive-aggressive", or mean in a way that is subtle... but oh so shady! You may not blame them, or even want to judge them... well maybe sometimes you want to judge. It can be annoying! But you recognize it and that’s just who they are, right?

Or… maybe your social media posts get random negative comments that come from an account with no photo. Mmmm hmmm… you’ve seen them.

Or…maybe sometimes these types of behaviors describe you too. But what does it actually say about you? HINT: It’s probably more common than you think.

Let’s first talk about the different communication styles and differentiate one from the other.

4 Styles Of Communication

Passive communicators typically avoid expressing their true emotions or feelings as not to engage in confrontational conversations.

It’s an excellent method for not hurting someone's feelings, but there is always a chance you will fall into a pit.

Many people that express themselves passively fall into depressive moods, feel anxious, and can’t get a grip on real emotions.

Aggressive communicators are mainly focused on the Ego and step into a conversation thinking not for the other person’s emotions or thoughts.

People that communicate like this often leave others to feel afraid, insecure, intimidated, and in general discomfort.

Passive-aggressive communicators are the ones that present themselves as passive, but are really acting out anger subtly, indirectly, and often behind the scenes.

Many times people communicate like this because they feel powerless, weak, or resentful so they choose to sabotage, frustrate, and be disruptive.

Assertive communicators are the healthiest communicators of them all. They clearly state their attitude and feelings while keeping in mind other people's thoughts and feelings.

Why the Passive-Aggressive Epidemic?

As we’ve concluded that passive aggression isn’t good for us, then comes the question - why are there so many people that communicate like that?

Think about It - in many cases of having to meet new people or engaging in conversations with people that you already know comes a moment when one of you becomes passive-aggressive.

There are a few reasons for that.

So, let’s start with...

Understanding Anger

One of the basic and most typical of human emotions is anger. We are taught that anger is bad in an early stage of our lives.

It’s either in school or at home we need to suppress the anger in order to be socially approved.

All this leads to hiding your anger and pushing it in the closet so as not to offend someone or seem not normal.

This kind of social pressure leads to an unhealthy emotional base for conversations.

You’re Sugarcoating It

Anger doesn't just vanish after you’ve suppressed it. It’s there, and it’s building up.

The result is you being confused as to how you are supposed to speak with others so you start to express yourself in alternative ways which leads to passive aggression.

It’s Just Easier

It is way easier to be passive-aggressive than assertive. Learning how to communicate is something that you build step-by-step in your younger years.

If it’s not taught at the right age, there are quite a few symptoms that can show later in life. Sulking, indirect communication, and emotional withdrawal are the results of the lack of social knowledge.

You Feel Like You Have To

At a certain point, you feel like in order to reach a specific stage in your professional growth you can’t be assertive because people see it as a weakness. In fact, assertive women in the workplace are often seen as b!+&#y or angry.

As a result, this becomes a model of approach in your life, and you cannot let yourself seem weak by being Mr. or Ms. goody-two-shoes.

It’s… Rational?

Often in our lives, we like to rationalize things that seem to be a part of us without thinking they actually may be bad.

In a scenario where we procrastinate, don’t feel like doing something or we’re overall lazy, we use passive aggression as a tool to seem like the victim.

This is a severely common practice in our modern society, and if not stopped at an early age, it becomes a life-altering behavior.

Nevertheless, Remember...

Though passive aggression is normal and in fact, quite common, it is a form of anger that people don't want to show outwardly.

They may not say anything at all, but they will get their revenge in other ways by doing things like withholding affection or refusing to help with tasks or work projects.

If you're feeling passive-aggressive and need some emotional balance, try these three quick tips:

1) take care of yourself (nourish your body and mind)

2) make time for self-care (take a bubble bath or read)

3) practice mindfulness meditation techniques such as deep breathing exercises when you feel the rage boiling up inside.

Hold on to your JOY and PEACE! Those are gifts and if you don’t protect them, they can be stolen.

What recent examples can you think of where someone acted passive-aggressively?

I’m Melanie Gallo, Ph.D., a behavioral health coach and writer specializing in personality and thinking habits. Through my fun and innovative app called Coach2GO, I help people define their WorkLifeJoy, then help them discover why they don't have it, why they need it, how to get it, and how to keep it. Get in touch directly or download my free Coach2GO app today.


bottom of page