If someone uses these 10 phrases, they’re secretly angry with you

You just ended a conversation with someone. It went fine… or so you think. 

They didn’t say anything wrong, but you just can’t help but feel like there was something off. In fact, you probably feel like you did something wrong, and you just haven’t realized it.

They weren’t angry, no, but it felt like they were on the verge of bursting.

If so, then they were probably being passive-aggressive to you. Being passive-aggressive means showing aggression or hostility in a way that is subtle or covert. 

When people are being passive-aggressive, they tend to gravitate to using these 10 phrases (or some variation of it).

If you can familiarize yourself with them, you’ll be able to deduce how people really feel about you—then you can determine how to deal with it.

So…if someone uses these 10 phrases, they’re secretly angry with you.

1) Phrases that bring up your past mistakes

Often, passive-aggressive behaviors find their roots in unresolved resentment. So when someone is being passive-aggressive towards you, they probably feel wronged by something you did long ago.

The thing is, they know it can be a bit awkward to come to you with outright anger about something that happened in the past—something that they feel they should’ve moved on from but haven’t yet.

They just can’t let it go, and it’s preventing them from being sincerely kind to you. That’s why small hints of anger and hostility leak into their otherwise normal behavior.

For example, whenever my boyfriend and his sister fought, he sometimes mentioned how their parents couldn’t attend his high school graduation. (Because his college graduation was on the same day as hers, and their parents prioritized hers).

It’s not her fault per se, but it’s something that he still harbors against her.

2) Overly simplistic and judgemental phrases

“You just don’t care about me at all.”

In continuing from the example above, that’s also another phrase that his sister uses. As you can probably understand, while it definitely sucks that their parents missed his graduation, it’s also not that simple.

Unfortunately, the truth is that we tend to throw away all nuanced when we’re drowning in our emotions.

So when people are angry or passive-aggressive, they make overgeneralizations, all-or-nothing statements, or rush to conclusions.

I’m sure you’ve heard things like this before:

  • “You’re always late.”
  • “You’re so sensitive.”
  • “You don’t love me.”
  • “You only care about yourself.”

While these might be true to some extent, another person usually doesn’t do things we mention “all the time.” 

So, overgeneralizations don’t help, really.

3) Phrases that trigger you

Particularly sinister people (or people caught up in anger at that time) will say things that they know are deeply hurtful to you. They will push your buttons or remind you of your triggers or past trauma. 

I remember ranting to a friend about how I gained twenty pounds recently. She then told me: “Probably that’s why your ex broke up with you.”

I was dumbfounded. 

Not only was our breakup incredibly fresh (it was just weeks after), but she knew that I still wasn’t over him and our five-year relationship.

Now, to be fair, sometimes people do it accidentally. Sometimes, painful subjects can just naturally come up in conversation.

As with any passive-aggressive behavior, the act of mentioning something potentially triggering isn’t always and necessarily a result of passive-aggressiveness. The key is why they’re saying it, as well as the tone of their voice. 

My former best friend said it as a joke, but as the saying goes, her joke, at least at that time, was half-meant.

4) One-upping 

People who are secretly insecure often use these 12 words or phrases 1 If someone uses these 10 phrases, they’re secretly angry with you

One-upping is the act of trying to present oneself as better than another. 

It’s done by mentioning how they did or experienced something greater than what the other has just said.

So, let’s say you were sharing how you went on a trip to Italy. Then one of your friends mentioned that they went to Italy and France.

Or let’s say you were ranting about how exhausted you were after working overtime a few times this week. Then one of your friends just has to mention that they worked overtime the whole week. They are subtly implying that they’re a harder worker or that they have it worse.

Again, sometimes people don’t intend to one-up. Sometimes, they’re just sharing similar experiences in an attempt to sympathize with you.

So pay attention to how they say it!

5) Self-depreciating comments

On the other end of the spectrum, passive-aggressive people can alternatively make self-depreciating comments

They have three main goals by doing so:

  • Make you feel bad or guilty about your achievements;
  • Project their insecurity onto you;
  • Divert people’s attention to them and away from you.

It’s a way to attack you when you’re in a good place.

Let’s say you just recently found a romantic partner. Someone might say: “Good for you. And I’m just a little ugly, unloveable goblin.”

Or let’s say you got promoted at work. A broke friend of yours might say: “Wel, at least one of us will have money now.”

What are you supposed to do about that, right?

6) The silent treatment

Oftentimes, silence can say more than any number of words do.

If someone you’re in an established relationship with suddenly gives you the cold shoulder, then they’re probably angry at you. 

The silent treatment is perhaps the perfect example of what it means to be passive-aggressive. 

People who give others passive-aggressive treatment are quite literally being passive by not doing anything, but they are trying to convey aggression and resentment towards you by doing so.

They can ignore or avoid you in many ways, like:

  • Not responding when talked to;
  • Ignore someone’s presence entirely by not even looking at them;
  • Not replying to texts, calls, and emails;
  • Pretending to be busy when you talk to them;
  • Pretending not to notice someone when you see them in passing.

The silent treatment is also sometimes called “stonewalling“. 

This is one of the most extreme forms of passive aggression that can seriously corrode your relationship.

It’s disrespectful, power-trippy, and completely brushes the issue under the rug, rendering it impossible to solve.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most common ways to be passive-aggressive.

7) Backhanded compliments

Backhanded compliments are phrases that initially sound like compliments but can often be interpreted as an insult. 

For example, someone might say: “You look gorgeous. I didn’t recognize you at first.”

Yes, they complimented you. But do they also mean that you look ugly the rest of the time because they didn’t recognize you at first?

The thing about backhanded compliments is that it’s genuinely confusing and difficult to determine whether one means it as an insult or as a genuine compliment. 

Sometimes, people give backhanded compliments knowingly but still as genuine compliments. 

They just want to be witty about it. But yeah, they don’t really succeed at that.

8) Sarcasm

People who are secretly insecure often use these 12 words or phrases 2 If someone uses these 10 phrases, they’re secretly angry with you

As I’ve said multiple times above, how people say things is just as important as what they say when determining if they’re passive-aggressive.

Are they being smug or sassy? Are they playing off insults as a joke? Are they being ironic or overdramatic?

If you could tell that their comments are dripping in sharp sarcasm, they’re probably being passive-aggressive. They’re using you as an object of ridicule, essentially. 

Then, if confronted, they’ll probably defend themselves by explaining that they were just joking. But then, if this explanation still sounds sarcastic, they’re definitely being passive-aggressive.

9) Criticism

Aggression can sometimes take the form of criticism—even constructive criticism. 

When someone is criticizing you, ask yourself:

  • Listen to the tone of their voice: are they being rude or sassy, or sarcastic about it?
  • Are they trying to imply that they’re better than you?
  • Are they overly focused on small details (i.e., nitpicking)?
  • Is their criticism or advice solicited?

If the answer is no, they are just using the guise of “constructive criticism” or “being real” to express the anger they have towards you.

10) Taunts

Some people express their anger by trying to make you angry as well. They do this by taunting you. They can taunt you in many ways:

  • By blaming you for something;
  • By criticizing;
  • By insulting you;
  • By making a joke out of you.

Essentially, they can taunt you in any way that can potentially provoke you. They simply want to make you respond aggressively. 

(Then they can feign innocence and ask you why you’re mad. Ugh.)

They can do this with their actions, too. 

Do they intentionally go in and out of the room as you try to get some sleep after a tiring day at work? Do they ignore you as you try to talk to them about something urgent?

That’ll definitely get you to raise your voice, no?

They just want you to feel and suffer from the frustration that they have for you. 

To sum up

Passive-aggressiveness is an unhealthy yet unfortunately common way for people to deal with their issues and emotions. 

The truth is that many people don’t know how to confront each other maturely and healthily. As a result, they resort to passive-aggressive behavior. 

Sometimes, it’s because they are unable to properly express their frustrations. Sometimes, it’s because they don’t want the difficulty of trying to resolve problems. Sometimes, they just want to get revenge.

If your relationships are suffering from passive-aggression (either from the other party or you yourself!— I know I’ve been guilty of being passive-aggressive, too), then you should do your best to stop.

And the first step is developing the ability to spot it in the first place! 

So the next time you find yourself or other people being passive-aggressive, talk to them kindly and ask if you could talk about the issue properly.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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