If you notice these 8 signs, you’re dealing with a passive-aggressive person

Ever met someone who says one thing but acts differently?

That’s passive-aggressiveness for you.

It’s when someone doesn’t show their annoyance openly but finds sneaky ways to express it.

It can be tricky to spot, but it’s important to recognize if you want to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts.

In this article, we’ll break down eight clear signs that someone is being passive-aggressive.

1. They say “yes” but their actions say “no”

Okay, so here’s the thing.

I once knew someone who would always nod and agree to plans, but when it came time to actually do them?

They’d find ways to dodge it or make it difficult for everyone involved.

For example, I’d ask, “Are you okay helping with the event this weekend?” They’d say, “Of course!”

But then, come the weekend, they’d either show up super late or come up with a last-minute excuse.

It felt like they were playing games, saying yes with their words but no with their actions.

If this sounds familiar, you might be dealing with a passive-aggressive person.

2. Compliments that don’t feel right

So, here’s another story.

I once had a friend who’d often say things like, “That dress is so bold for someone like you!” or “You did well, especially considering your experience.”

At first, it sounded like a compliment, but the more I thought about it, the more it felt like a dig.

It’s like they were trying to praise me, but there was always a hidden sting.

It’s tricky, right?

When someone gives you a compliment that’s wrapped in a slight, it’s passive-aggressiveness at play.

They’re kind of saying something nice, but there’s a hint of criticism lurking underneath.

If you’re getting ‘compliments’ that leave you scratching your head or feeling a bit off, you’re likely encountering passive-aggressive behavior.

3. The silent treatment

We’ve all been there, right? Someone gets upset, and instead of talking it out, they go completely silent on you.

It’s like trying to get through to a brick wall.

Everyone knows the dreaded silent treatment. They won’t answer your calls, reply to your texts, or they might just physically turn away when you’re in the same room. They’re clearly upset, but instead of openly discussing what’s bothering them, they choose to shut down and exclude you.

It’s frustrating because you know something’s wrong, but they won’t say what. This silent act is a classic move by passive-aggressive people who might be trying to punish you without having an open confrontation.

If someone’s suddenly gone cold and quiet, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing this well-known passive-aggressive tactic.

4. Sarcasm overload

We all enjoy a bit of sarcasm now and then; it can be fun and witty. But ever met someone who uses it like it’s their second language? I’m talking about those times when you can’t tell if they’re joking or if they’re genuinely being mean.

Like when you share a new idea at work, and they say, “Oh, that’s such a novel concept,” with a smirk.

Or when you make a minor mistake and get a sarcastic, “Well, that was genius.” Constant, biting sarcasm, especially when it feels like it’s at your expense, is a classic sign of passive-aggressiveness.

They’re hiding their criticism behind a veil of humor, making it hard for you to call them out without looking like you can’t take a joke.

5. Backhanded brags

This one’s interesting.

Have you ever heard someone brag about themselves, but in a way that subtly puts you or others down? Like when someone says, “I can’t believe I managed to finish that project in just a day. I guess not everyone works at the same pace.”

Or, “I’m so lucky I can eat anything and not gain weight, not everyone has that luxury.” It’s like they’re praising themselves but, at the same time, throwing shade at you.

This kind of boastful yet undermining comment is another hallmark of passive-aggressive behavior. They’re boosting their own ego while sneakily taking a jab at yours. If you notice this pattern, be wary—you’re likely dealing with someone who’s got passive-aggressive tendencies.

6. Constant procrastination on specific tasks

Ever noticed someone always dragging their feet on particular tasks or requests?

Let me explain:

You ask a colleague to get something done, and they always say, “Sure, I’ll get to it.”

But days, maybe even weeks, pass, and it’s still not done.

Every time you follow up, there’s a new excuse.

This isn’t just regular procrastination. When someone consistently delays or puts off things, especially if it affects you directly, it can be a passive-aggressive way of resisting without openly refusing.

7. Playing the victim card

This one’s a classic.

Have you ever come across someone who always seems to turn things around to make themselves the victim, even when they’re clearly in the wrong?

For instance, you might confront them about something they did that upset you.

Instead of addressing the issue, they might respond with, “I can’t believe you’re attacking me like this” or “You always find a way to make things my fault.”

By doing this, they’re deflecting responsibility and trying to make you feel guilty for even bringing it up.

It’s a passive-aggressive move aimed at diverting the focus from their actions to your supposed ‘aggressiveness’. If the conversation always twists to make them the ‘victim’, you’re definitely dealing with passive-aggressive behavior.

8. Vague and ambiguous communication

You’ve probably encountered this before—asking a simple question and getting a super vague response in return.

Like when you ask if there’s an issue and they reply with, “It’s fine” even when their tone clearly suggests it isn’t.

Or when trying to make plans, and all they say is “Maybe” or “We’ll see,” leaving you hanging in uncertainty.

This kind of evasive communication is a tactic passive-aggressive people use to maintain control and avoid direct confrontation.

They’re essentially keeping you in the dark, forcing you to guess or pry more, while they stay comfortably non-committal.

If you find yourself constantly trying to decode or interpret someone’s responses, there’s a good chance you’re up against some classic passive-aggressive behavior.

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Picture of Justin Brown

Justin Brown

I'm Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod. I've overseen the evolution of Ideapod from a social network for ideas into a publishing and education platform with millions of monthly readers and multiple products helping people to think critically, see issues clearly and engage with the world responsibly.

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