Have you ever had a friend who casually made a hurtful comment and joked about not being serious?
Or a co-worker who replied to your sincere apology with, "Fine.
In these kinds of scenarios, people express resentment or aggression - but in a passive way.
So why are people so passive-aggressive?
This is a Field Guide to Bad Behaviour.
Come along to explore the hostile wilderness of human nature.
But it's fine if you don't.
Honestly it's fine.
Passive-aggressive behavior is a kind of aggression that's expressed indirectly.
This behavior has likely been around as long as humans have.
But the term itself has a surprising origin: At the end of World War II, the US.
Department of War first used the term to define a personality disorder, describing soldiers who didn't comply with the commands of their superiors.
But by 1994, the American Psychological Association dropped it from their diagnosis manual - there wasn't enough scientific evidence to consider it a disorder.
Still, its existence in everyday human behavior is widely reported.
The behavior is spotted in the workplace quite frequently, where a disgruntled employee may show resistance through indirect behaviors such as procrastination, purposeful inefficiency and being late.
You may also find it in relationships.
To identify it, look for these signs: It may appear as sarcasm, silent treatment, subtle insults, and not delivering on promises.
You generally find a disconnect between what a passive-aggressive person says and what they do.
And you're probably wondering why people display these passive aggressive attitudes.
Well, it has do with how we experience and manage our emotions.
According to appraisal theory, we experience emotions based on our assessment of a situation.
We then experience another emotion based on how we assess our ability to cope with the initial event and the consequences of our response to it.
Sometimes passive-aggressive behavior is unintentional.
Say you get angry at a friend for stepping on your toe, but then you realise they were about to fall.
It's hard to quickly let go of the first emotion, so you bitterly excuse them.
It can also be a coping mechanism for helplessness.
Imagine your boss gives you an unfair criticism.
You're frustrated, but you can't really retaliate.
So you start answering emails late and don't show up to work on time.
People are also passive-aggressive as a strategy to avoid confrontation and prevent rejection.
In one 2004 study, researchers had 56 couples keep a diary and answer questionnaires for a few weeks.
They found people who were cautious and sensitive to rejection, were significantly more likely to respond to conflicts by ignoring or dismissing their partner.
But when people sugar-coat hostility instead of being clear about what they think, it doesn't really lead to change or a helpful outcome.
Here's how you can navigate this behaviour: Think of communication as a spectrum: On one extreme, there's just passive silence.
On the other end you voice all sentiments, no matter how negative.
When you need to resolve a conflict, aim to land somewhere in the middle, to express your thoughts and needs while remaining respectful of others.
To reach that sweet spot of assertiveness, you have to let go of fear of confrontation.
Assertiveness can also help you deal with others being passive-aggressive.
If you see this behaviour, try to tell them clearly and calmly that their behaviour is hurting you.
Focus on communicating your feelings respectfully.
Human communication is not always straightforward.
Try to constructively express yourself, and you'll help others along the way.
Until next time... You're welcome...