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Passive-aggressive behavior is when one person is subtly aggressive towards another. This behavior aims to punish or retaliate to a perceived slight. A person exhibiting this behavior will use passive-aggressive actions rather than communicating their dissatisfaction with words. When you have been the target of this behavior, you may not realize that a person’s hostility was purposeful. You may be left wondering why the person treated you poorly. Was it an accident? Are you being too sensitive?

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1. Why Do People Behave Passive-aggressively?

People use passive-aggressive behavior for different reasons. A person may not typically behave this way, but occasionally they will exhibit this behavior. According to licensed social worker Signe Whitson, there are seven reasons why people act this way.

  • We are taught showing anger is unacceptable
  • Sugarcoated angry responses are acceptable
  • Aggressiveness is more difficult
  • Easy to rationalize behavior
  • Revenge feels good
  • Convenient
  • Feel powerful
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