A passive-aggressive communication style is used by individuals who express their anger or unhappiness in subtle, indirect ways. They may even smile and try to convince the other person that everything is fine but are unhappy under the surface.

Why Is Passive-Aggressive Behavior Harmful?

Passive-aggressive behavior is a tool to manipulate or control someone else. Individuals with passive-aggressive tendencies use a variety of techniques to express their anger. 

They might use sarcasm and backhanded compliments, which appear to be positive but they carry negative undertones. For example, a passive-aggressive person may say to their partner: "Oh, I just love it when you leave your clothes all over the floor."

An individual acting passive-aggressively can appear to cooperate while secretly doing things to annoy and disrupt a relationship. For example, they may intentionally make mistakes or deliberately procrastinate and then pretend to be surprised at the outcome. 

Instead of saying what's on their mind, a passive-aggressive communicator may prefer to sulk in silence. Instead of having difficult conversations, they opt to give the other person the silent treatment. Their indirect behavior can make it challenging to resolve problems in the relationship. 

Why Do Passive Aggressive People Act the Way They Do? 

People who communicate in a passive-aggressive way can feel powerless to express their feelings.  Passive-aggressive behaviors could be how they learned to communicate while growing up. 

Passive-aggressive people may use indirect behavior to avoid responsibility for their actions. However, since they don't speak openly, they feel resentment. 

What Is the Result of Passive-Aggressive Behavior?

Acting in a passive-aggressive way can have a serious negative impact on everyone involved. It can destroy relationships with partners, friends, and family. It can make it challenging to grow and move forward. When someone in a relationship is acting passive-aggressively, it can be difficult to get at the root of problems and find mutually-beneficial solutions.