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6 Of The Most Passive-Aggressive Phrases You’re Probably Using (But Shouldn’t Be)

Passive-aggressive behavior occurs frequently in everyday interactions with our friends, romantic partners, family members and co-workers. But because it can be insidious, you may not always recognize when it’s happening to you — or when you’re guilty of doing it yourself.

What does being “passive-aggressive” mean, exactly? It’s when you express negative emotions, such as anger or hostility, in an indirect (or passive) manner, explained Los Angeles clinical psychologist Ryan Howes — “particularly in a way that is easily deniable or not directly linked to the aggressor.”

He offered an example: Say you were frustrated with a loved one. Instead of telling them how you feel, you just “forget” to pick them up from the train station that day.

“This is easily deniable as a simple brain fart, but deep down you know you didn’t pick them up because you wanted payback for whatever they did to anger you,” Howes explained. “It’s classified as a defense mechanism because you are defending yourself from the potential pain of expressing your pain or anger directly and reaping their response, which might hurt.”

When you’re being passive-aggressive, you’re attempting to convey your feelings about something withoutactually saying what you want to say, Toronto-based relationship expert and sexologist Jess O’Reilly told HuffPost.

“It can be confusing, annoying and harmful to relationships,” said O’Reilly, founder of Happier Couples Inc. “And you’re less likely to get what you want if you’re unclear in the first place.”

Though we all engage in passive-aggressive behavior now and then, this type of communication tends to be more habitual among people who are avoidant and conflict-averse, as well as those lacking self-esteem.

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