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How To Enjoy a Low Passive Aggression Diet

Passive aggression is something that has come up a lot with people pleasing and it’s because it becomes a way of quietly ‘asserting’ ourselves without making waves. We can mask our feelings of anger and resentment with the pleasing and then make our feelings known in what we feel are subtle ways. Often we’re not aware of it so we have to become attuned to where we are more resistant. For instance, I tend to raise more objections but then will still say that I’m on board when really, I’m masking irritation that someone else is ‘taking over’. Now that I know this, I’m more aware of IT and rein myself in. Often they’re not ‘taking over’ and if they are, I say so. This is better than ‘rebelling’ and winding them up with my reticence about being honest.

Get a sense of when you’re suppressing irritation, annoyance, and anger.

This is where a lot of passive aggression stems from and so understanding how your body feels, what type of stuff tends to go through your mind and the type of behaviour you engage in will help you to understand your typical passive aggressive behaviour.

  • Do you call them names in your mind?
  • Is your mind rumbling with what you would say if only you weren’t holding back?
  • Are you huffing, puffing, and sighing?
  • Do you say YES and then go through a load of angst about how to say NO?
  • Do you keep throwing out excuses and objections but then when asked if there is an issue, say that there isn’t?
  • Are you rolling your eyes, clenching your fists or digging your nails into your hands?
  • Do you feel resentful?
  • Are you in a 'child role' or being reminded of childhood? Watch out because passive aggression invariably shows itself in some form.


Resist the urge to ‘hold back’. I’m not suggesting that you be rude but it is time to speak up. It’s the put up, or let it go. Instead of holding back, not letting it go, and showing how you feel in other ways and sabotaging while no doubt not feeling too good about you either.

If there are people in your life who you can be honest with, be honest instead of blanket passive aggression. Don’t overcompensate for the people who are more ‘difficult’ by being rude to people who you are less afraid of. Practice everything here with whoever you can in your life and as you see that 1) the sky doesn’t fall down and that 2) you also gradually start to feel better, you will begin to feel more confident about dealing with the trickier people in your life. I personally found that when I was more assertive with friends, at work, and then with men, I also became ‘braver’ with family as it seemed silly to turn it off for fear of negative consequences.

You don’t have to attend every argument that you’re invited to but silent and stewing isn’t an alternative. Try to attend discussions as there may not even be a conflict in store.

Be a person of your word who says what they mean, means what they say and has matching actions. Anything else is passive aggression and disingenuous.

If you don’t mean it, don’t say it.
Whatever you say that you’re going to do, come hell or high water, do it short of a genuine unavoidable emergency. This will stop you from being so quick to say yes or fabricating excuses and catastrophes to get out of things, or even worse, letting down people at the last moment or doing things to sabotage what you’ve agreed to. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. Don’t say what you think people want to hear; say what you mean.

  • If you aren’t OK, don’t say that you’re OK.
  • If you are mad at them, don’t say that you’re not.
  • If you don’t feel that an apology is appropriate, don’t apologise especially as an insincere apology is very grating and obvious.
  • If you’re not ready to accept an apology and move on, then don’t. Saying you will and then showing that you haven’t will just create confusing mixed messages.

If you say that you’re going to be somewhere, be there. I’ve stuck to this rule now for a few years as I’ve been guilty of saying YES too quickly and then backtracking. Now if I say I’m going somewhere, I go and it’s taught me some good lessons. I’ve also had some great opportunities as a result of showing up even when I really wanted to stay home plus I’m not a flakey friend.

Don’t delay what you’ve agreed to do. If you know that you cannot do it by a certain time, say so instead of saying that you will and then sticking to the timeframe that you knew that you could do it in.

Don’t do a shite job. The stock and trade of the passive aggressive is to do things to such a low standard that they’re not asked or expectations are lowered. Give it a good effort and where appropriate, your best effort, or let someone else do it.

No hinting. Unless you are doing hints for the likes of a surprise party or trip, steer clear of hinting. Learn to be direct and stop expecting people to figure out your vagueness. If you needed, wanted or expected something or wanted to communicate a message and hinted instead, it means that you didn’t say it, it wasn’t said and you are responsible for the content and delivery of your message.

If you’re pissed off, again, be direct, don’t insinuate. If you’re going to insult someone or call them out on something, come out straight and say it because I assure you that you will wind up people far more by not being direct but insinuating something and then when called on it doing the usual “That’s not what I said.” No hinting and no insinuating. People feel very manipulated when on the receiving end of this type of behaviour. Speaking of which…

Don’t go around the houses with your actions. There are many ways to skin a cat. It’s all very well saying “I’m in” but if your actions say “I’m out”, something is wrong. Passive aggression also comes in the form of knowing exactly what the outcome is that you want to obtain and influencing and steering things in that direction. Example: You want to be break up but you want them to do it so you behave in ways to take it in that direction. Yes, still no more hinting and manipulating.

Remember that conflict is totally OK and actually unavoidable so don’t even waste your time trying to avoid conflict especially because passive aggressive’s create a hell of a lot more conflict than they would do if they just faced situations and were more honest.

People will always respect you for being honest which is the truth with respect. There is no need to be blunt or rude but there is a need to speak up for yourself instead of using backhanded methods of communicating a conflicting message to what has come out of your mouth and what you’ve agreed to.

Have an opinion – you won’t come across as sincere if you keep making out like you agree with ‘everything’. You don’t. Having an opinion and asserting it takes you into the assertive zone.

Quit the sarcasm because put-downs and so-called wit can actually be perceived as abusive and ‘chopping’ by some depending on what level you’re going to. Humour and sarcasm don’t hide a put-down or your discontent with something but what they can do is cause a great deal of discomfort for the other party or even have them doubting themselves especially if they’re not the most confident of people.

Don’t chat about people behind their backs and then grin to their faces. I have a rule that keeps me out of a lot of trouble. If I wouldn’t say it to the person's face and I wouldn’t be OK with dealing with the consequences if they heard it back, I do not write it or say it. It’s very disingenuous to smile to people’s faces and act like you’re all cool and then chat about them and then even deny it when the person finds out. You will be known as untrustworthy even if you didn’t think that what you said was a big deal.

Don’t treat people like mugs for expecting what you’ve led them to believe that they could expect from you, which in turn you’ve for whatever reason chosen not to meet those expectations. I see this time and again around relationships where the person talks a good game, does certain things and then after saying “I love you” or “Let’s be in a relationship” they start doing the opposite. If and when they’re called on it, they act like it’s the other person that has an issue.

If you agree to work on improving a relationship with someone, don’t sit back and expect the other person to do all of the running. It’s a rather passive aggressive message that you for whatever reason don’t feel like you need to step up and contribute. In that message will be this perception that you’re holding back your true feelings and possibly still pissed off. At its worst, it looks like you don’t actually want to try and are waiting for them to get frustrated with you and finish it.

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