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If you sincerely believe that you are never angry, then the chances are high that the people around you have a completely different view of the matter. Passive-aggressive behavior occurs when someone uses an indirect or subtle way to express anger or hostility. 

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This is a bit complicated with emotions. Why else would psychology have arisen and gained as much ground in our culture as it has?  

And anger is at least a troubled feeling. For some, in fact, the feeling of anger is so frightening and taboo that they have become entangled in a belief that "I am never angry," or "it is dangerous to be angry."

But are these assumptions true?


Never angry?

To take it a little step by step: Yes, you're probably angry too. But you may not be very aware of it. Examples can be:


  1. A disagreement arises, but instead of showing anger and taking the fight, you become silent and sullen, and you stop communicating with the person you are angry with (but you are not angry, are you?)
  2. You disagree with a task you are required to do, but instead of having a real discussion, you reluctantly accept the task - and do it in a bad way (that is: you sabotage)
  3. You do not admit mistakes or shortcomings, but constantly put the blame on others around you when something did not go exactly according to plan
  4. In a situation that you are insecure / not in control, instead of expressing this clearly, you come up with cryptic and ambiguous statements, which results in others also becoming insecure.
  5. You have a hidden belief that you are entitled to the help and support of others, but you do not ask for it explicitely, and you end up getting very disappointed and bitter that the others fail you
  6. You have a low threshold for expressing dissatisfaction and disappointment, but not to the person concerned. Thus, you have aggression, but it is displaced.

As you can see, there are many ways to express anger, or rather to suppress and distort anger, that still "affect" the people around you.

However, it happens in an indirect, hidden or more subtle way than if anger was expressed in an outright confrontation.

And even if you believe you are never angry, there is a certain danger that the people around you experience you in quite oppositely.


Dangerous to be angry?

Maybe you have experience that the people around you could not control their anger? Or did you rarely see anyone in your family that anger or disagreement was clearly expressed? Maybe you yourself have been subjected to a lot of passive aggression? Or you may have experiences that someone's anger affected you in a particularly frightening way.

Then it is no wonder if you feel that anger is dangerous.

But on closer inspection: Anger in itself is not dangerous, is it? It is the behavior that some people show when angry that can be dangerous or that can seem threatening.

The question is whether anger can be resolved in a way that makes it not dangerous. There is a good basis for answering a clear and unequivocal yes to this. Properly handled, being angry and showing this may be necessary for problematic issues to be resolved and handled, and where one actually achieves to move forward.


10 tips for you who are passive-aggressive in style


  1. Take it seriously and acknowledge that you have your own needs, your own boundaries, and your own values.
  2. Practice expressing frustrations before they build up to anger and aggression.
  3. Stop thinking of yourself as a person who never gets angry. Rather, acknowledge that you may have an anger problem, that this is something that is entirely possible to work with, and that it is your responsibility to do so.
  4. Start practicing to find more direct, but at the same time friendly ways to express your own needs, desires, frustrations and opinions.
  5. Read about social skills and start practicing mechanically step-by-step.
  6. Think of yourself as an agent in your own life, and not as a helpless victim.
  7. Think of a person you know who can be an inner role model for you; a person who may well be both angry and assertive, but who does it in a good way. Start observing people you think can be angry in a way that does not make the world collapse. Is there anything there you can copy?
  8. Notice how often you express irritation or reproach through statements that begin with "you," "they," "he," "she." Practice replacing this with I-sentences, e.g. "I mean ...", "I like ...", "I do not like ..." Then both you and those around you will be more familiar with you as a person.
  9. Notice how often you add trivializing remarks to your own experiences, such as: "never mind", "I am fine ...", or "forget it ..." Practice trusting what you say, and that what you think and feel is okay.
  10. Consider whether you should seek psychological treatment, couples therapy, or other help for the difficulties you have. It's something you deserve to be helped with, because you're worth it.


3 tips for you who have to deal with a passive-aggressive behavior 

So, what about all of us that are affected by passive-aggressive behavior?

You may have noticed that your partner is full of anger towards you, but you do not know what is the reason for the great hostility. You have tried to ask if he / she is angry, but the partner's standard response is to deny such feelings, and at the same time just continue with the bad mood and the outright rejection of you. 

It can be demanding to deal with such a behavior, and you wish that the partner could only put into words what he / she is dissatisfied with, and thus make it possible to move on.

Here is a three-step piece of advice for you who live with a partner who has a passive-aggressive demeanor for how you can have a better communication with your partner.


  1. Confirm the emotions of your partner

    One of the most effective ways to improve communication in a relationship is to be willing to admit that you are angry when in fact you are. Anger should be mentioned by its proper name through factual, non-judgmental statements, such as:

    It seems to me that the problem is that you're mad at me right now.

    This simple and direct approach can be an absolutely necessary start in bringing to light what is actually going on.

  2. Deal with denial

    Even if you have now pointed out the anger towards your partner, it is likely that he / she will deny any feeling of anger. Then you do well to accept the defense in the first place, by saying something along the lines of:

    - It was just a thought I wanted to share with you.

    Your partner will probably still deny his anger, and you're now wise to take a step back - out of the discussion. Now your partner will already know that the emotional mask has been taken away from him / her, and this will open the door for you to talk further about the problem a little later.
  3. Keep exploring your partner's thoughts when he / she gets angry again

    Then just wait for the same thing to happen again (and it will). When your partner again turns his anger on you, in a hidden and veiled way (a passive-aggressive way), you can give another affirmative statement in the direction of:

    - Do you remember when I mentioned to you that I thought you were mad at me? Well, what just happened between us now seems very similar to what happened last week. Or what do you think?

    Again, it is important to avoid conflict or discussion (and that is usually what has been the pattern before), but now let your partner have time to reflect on this as you say. Now his or her hidden anger is no longer a secret - and you have now made it almost impossible for your partner not to communicate with you in a more emotionally honest way.


It is important to know that this is a pattern that will have to be experienced many times - and through repetition and repetition again - it will over time be possible to have the passive-aggressive behavior revealed and handled - so that you can actually talk about what is bothering your partner, and thus could move on.



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