Sometimes we sense that a co-worker, a friend or a family member appears a little sullen, perhaps a bit stubborn or slow at performing tasks, and their communication seems to range from disinterested to cynical and hostile. Probing them typically results in denial. In cases like this, it’s most likely, you’re dealing with passive-aggressive type behaviour.

What is passive aggressive behaviour?

Passive-aggressive behaviour is a defence mechanism adopted by some people who wish to express their dissatisfaction while avoiding outright confrontation. It can occur in any situation, for all sexes and ages. The person often denies they are angry, even if they are seething with discontent. They tend to insist that they are “”fine””. They typically minimise communication and act as though they are emotionally closed, sometimes opting for the silent treatment. They avoid confrontation at all costs. The truly passive-aggressive person expresses their anger with feelings rather than words.

Passive-aggressive behaviour can be quite perverse. A person may send a thank you email for an event that you failed to acknowledge — e.g. “Thank you for the birthday wishes” to a friend who had forgotten their birthday. In a healthy situation, this can be a simple, ironic reminder. If coupled with other signs, including sarcasm, avoidance and insults, it can indicate underlying anger.

Passive-aggressive behaviour has become prevalent in social media. People posting embarrassing photos or videos, claiming they thought the material harmless and fun, but intending to hurt someone. Deliberately avoiding opportunities to counter damaging false gossip can be another popular approach over the web.

Passive-aggressive people tend to sabotage activities deliberately. Behaviour includes procrastination, purposely arriving late or not turning up at all, and pretending to forget. Another technique is to deliberately derail a situation, subsequently claiming it had all been a misunderstanding, often blaming others for lack of clarity or inadequate instructions.

What are the signs of Passive Aggressive Behaviour?

Passive-aggressive behaviour is a defensive response to a real or perceived issue. The signs and outcomes of passive-aggressive behaviour are indirect and can be hard to put your finger on. They can be very subtle. They include the following:

  • Resentment, opposition and bitterness to requests from others
  • Overt or subtle insults
  • Sullen, cynical or hostile demeanour
  • Denying that they are angry or upset
  • Complaining, especially about being under-appreciated
  • Procrastination and making excuses
  • Intentional errors, delays and blaming others
  • Generally negative, stubborn and pessimistic attitudes

How common is it?

Passive-aggressive behaviour is very common. In some people, it is a fleeting defence technique. In others it can be an entrenched pattern of behaviour, that can be very destructive. It frequently occurs in social and occupational situations, in all ages and sexes.

Social media provides a vast stage for this sort of behaviour. The relatively anonymous online profiles of aggressors makes it easy to damage other people while maintaining a position of innocence.

What causes Passive Aggressive Behaviour?

Passive-aggressive behaviour may result from a ‘person’s real or perceived negative situations, their desire to evade issues or fears in intimate relationships. The person often feels they are a victim or may play the victim. This behaviour may be the result of changes in the ‘person’s personal or work life and may be entrenched behaviour learned from their upbringing. A person may be reacting to a perceived threat such as competition, change or not getting their own way. Jealousy, envy and emotional sensitivity may contribute to a ‘person’s negative feelings, leading to passive-aggressive behaviour.

There may be situations caused by personality disorders and/or the effects of medications. Low self-esteem and resentment of others can lead to passive-aggressive behaviour.

How can Brain Training Australia help me?

At Brain Training Australia™, we use Neurofeedback Brain Training to help our clients struggling with Passive Aggressive Behaviour or clients suffering the consequences of Passive Aggressive Behaviour.

Work With a Certified Neurofeedback Practitioner.

Our team of Certified Neurofeedback Trainers at Brain Training Australia have a vast range of experience to call on when working with a client presenting with anger-related issues.  Using our natural, non-invasive and drug-free approach of Neurofeedback Brain Training, we can assist you in restoring healthy mental processes, achieving an overall better state of mental well-being and a higher quality of life.

We work with children, adolescents and adults of all ages, that need our assistance.  There is no referral required to begin working with the professional staff at Brain Training Australia™ , so contact us today. We want to help you get started on your road to recovery.

Let us help you. Here is how to get started.


Funding options available Private Health, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Medicare, Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA), to cover part of, if not all of your Brain Training Program with us (see our Fees Page).

The team at Brain Training Australia recognise the unique qualities of all our clients and will work closely with you to personalise your Brain Training Program so that you can achieve your goals of optimal mental processes.

We look forward to helping you live a much richer, happier and healthier life.