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Unmasking the Silent Killer: Understanding Passive-Aggressive Behavior

It's completely normal for us to experience a spectrum of emotions. Positive emotions, such as joy and happiness, are easy to communicate and share with others, and they often bring us a sense of pride. However, negative emotions, characterized by fear and negativity, are often much harder to express in a healthy way, especially when trying to resolve conflicts. To maintain peace, these emotions are often suppressed.

Yet, these suppressed negative emotions inevitably find a way to manifest and sometimes, they result in aggression. There are two main forms of aggression: passive aggression and active aggression. Each of these differs in their expression and their overall impact on the recipient.

Active Aggression

Active aggression is characterized by the overt expression of anger, disapproval, or hostility. This could take various forms such as intimidation, bullying (either verbally or non-verbally), coercion, or even attempts to tarnish a person's reputation with falsehoods.

Active aggression can occur in any setting, between family members, friends, or colleagues. It is evident when a person openly asserts their dominance, instilling fear and intimidation to achieve their own objectives.

Actively Aggressive Behaviors include:

  • Engaging in physical violence to cause harm.
  • Using hostile language and verbal abuse.
  • Threatening or blackmailing someone to compromise their safety.
  • Spreading false stories or rumors to damage someone's reputation.
  • Publicly ridiculing someone to humiliate them.

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Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Passive-aggressive behavior is driven by negative emotions like anger, disapproval, envy, or jealousy, similar to active aggression. However, the difference lies in the subtler, indirect manner of expression.

In passive-aggression, the perpetrator asserts their dominance covertly. This form of aggression is more manipulative and potentially more damaging due to its hidden nature. It's often considered as a means to save a relationship from total collapse while still allowing the perpetrator to express their hostile feelings.

Passive-Aggressive Behaviors include:

  • Ignoring someone or refusing to respond when addressed, making the person feel neglected.
  • Regularly procrastinating or failing to complete tasks, and providing excuses for their behavior.
  • Giving backhanded compliments as a form of indirect insult.
  • Intentionally setting up someone for failure or an unfortunate event.
  • Frequently complaining about being misunderstood, underappreciated, and being treated unfairly.


Regardless of the type of negative emotions we regularly encounter, it does not justify any form of hostility, whether active or passive. Acting on our anger in a way that could potentially hurt another person is not a desirable trait. There are always healthier ways to express negative emotions.

If you or someone you know struggle with expressing negative emotions in a healthy way, professional help is available. You don't have to live a life feeling unable to express your negative emotions in a healthy way.

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