The secret to dealing with passive aggressive people.

It took me a while to understand what was happening.

His words had nothing to do with his tone. There would be this underlying current of negativity or blame, even when his words were saying “it’s fine, it’s okay”, “there’s not a problem” or (my favourite) “why are you getting upset?”

And, at first, I didn’t understand why I was getting so upset. If anyone else heard his words, or read his text messages, they’d call me crazy for feeling the way I did – there was nothing in them to complain about.

But that’s the point. There was nothing in them. Nothing real at least.

Instead of telling me straight up that he didn’t like something, or that he didn’t want to do something. He would tell me “it’s fine” and then fail to show up for a lunch date with friends we had arranged.

Or he would do the opposite behind my back.

Or be secretly brewing a storm of blame, irritation, anger, frustration in his head that I knew was there but couldn’t access past the “I’m not mad” denial, or the compliments-disguised-as-insults… Or those fucking simple smile emojis at the end of a friendly-though-threatening text message.

For example:

“It’s okay, I’m not mad, I just wasn’t expecting that from you. Have a great weekend and I’ll see you next week sometime. :)”


Why don’t we have an actual conversation, that talks about actual feelings, that skips the BS and feels real? Like real adults?

Maybe we can do that when we see each other next week.

Chandler Bing. The aficionado in passive aggression.

This example is testament to exactly how tough, unfair and absolutely mind-warping passive-aggressive behaviour can be.

If you're in a relationship - whether it's a romance, friendship, boss-employee relationship - with someone who's passive aggressive, it's likely they'll drive you crazy pretty quickly.

But, in a culture where manners are taught to be the pinnacle of politeness, it's seemingly unavoidable.

It is easier to apologise for moving your room-mate's laptop every single day and sticking it on the shelf under the TV because you don't like it on the kitchen bench, then it is to tell them directly to "stop leaving their laptop on the bench, because the kitchen is small and I need space, and how hard is it to moved the damn thing yourself?"

We can all relate...

I come home and make comments exclamations like 'wow it's hot in here, let's open some windows!' coz you are cooking up a storm and the whole house smells and we have bloody windows - DUH!! - Clare, 29.

I must admit, I was the passive aggressive house-mate in my old house, because the people I lived with were revolting. I shared a bathroom with a guy who had no concept of what "cleaning": was and made no effort to do so. He's leave his pubes EVERYWHERE. One day I had enough, so I marched out, bought a bottle of bleached, and splashed it over every surface in the room and walked out. - Amy, 32.

I am super passive aggressive. My sister's boyfriend is really messy and leaves his wet towels on the floor. Rather than talk to him about it, I called my mum and WHINGED about him within earshot... - Sam, 24.



Resentfulness, procrastination, indirect hostility, silent treatment, a massive chip-on-the-shoulder and criticisms cleverly disguised as compliments are all hallmarks of on-point passive aggressive behaviour. Not to mention an absolute dedication to always having the last word. Always. No, always. 

So how is it best to deal with someone who indirectly insults you; avoids talking about the real issue; and covers every behaviour with a smile?

Honesty. Assertiveness. Humour. Don't take the bait, and make note of the different triggers. It's important to realise passive aggressive behaviour for what it is, and then decide if still want to be in a relationship with that person.

It's best to take action, and be clear in your own intentions - because you cannot rely on the other individual to do so. Refuse to engage in power play, decide on your own limits - what you will and will not accept - and try to keep calm.

Most importantly, don't be sucked into the never-ending rabbit hole that is a passive-aggressive 'argument' (it may not look or sound like an argument - because those silent 'f**k yous' are hidden beneath sweet smiles and diplomatic language - but it will certainly feel like an argument). By meeting passive aggression with more passive aggression, you are not going to achieve anything (except maybe an Oscar for 'Best Performance') and you won't get any closer to solving the problem.

Keep your distance, maintain your perspective and uphold your own integrity. They're smiling either way, right?

Flat-shares are a hot bed for passive aggressive behaviour. Watch our MM Confessions: Worst things housemates do.