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8 Keys to Eliminating Passive-Aggressiveness

If you find yourself making promises you are never able to keep, or agreeing to do things you really have no desire to do, passive-aggressiveness may have slowly insinuated itself into your life without your even being aware of it.

We have all heard of the term passive-aggressiveness, but sometimes it’s not that easy to recognize such behavior, especially when we are participating in it ourselves. Indirect expressions of hostility such as stubbornness, sullenness, resentment, or failure to own personal responsibilities can be damaging and frustrating — and, though it may not always be obvious, passive-aggression is intimately connected to feelings of self-worth.

For those who are struggling with some form of it, renowned psychotherapist and anger management expert Andrea Brandt has developed a reader-friendly, practical guide to recognizing and eliminating the behavior in yourself or within your relationships with others.

While many other authors have tended to take a more theoretical approach to the topic, Brandt offers easy-to-follow explanations and workable methods to combat this undesirable way of acting. Her eight “keys” include simple yet accurate tools to help you recognize hidden anger in your life, reconnect your thoughts and emotions, listen to your body, set healthy boundaries, communicate assertively, reframe conflict, interact using mindfulness, and disable the enabler.

Brandt also details how to overcome anger obstacles, one step at a time, in order to attain a more positive lifestyle. The book is interspersed with a number of real stories as well as personal growth exercises, such as “identifying my needs and meeting my partner’s needs.”

The first step, Brandt writes, is to recognize and eliminate faulty thinking patterns that are rooted in childhood. “When you allow these irrational beliefs formed in childhood to determine your behavior as an adult,” she explains, “your road through life will be unnecessarily rocky. Your relationships will be damaged and you will leave behind you a trail of frustrated and confused partners.”

Following on from this realization, the reader is encouraged to listen to their body and discover information about how and where anger is stored, triggered, and expressed — and then, to set healthier physical and emotional boundaries.

Emphasizing what many therapists have said, Brandt writes that it is “important to have your own boundaries clear in your mind so that you understand when they are being crossed.”

Perhaps one of the most valuable parts of the book is the set of guidelines on how to communicate assertively without being either aggressive or passive. What’s especially helpful is that it is applicable to both victims and instigators of passive-aggressiveness. The chapter is a good reminder that assertive communication works, and it helps the reader think about how to express empathy and listen carefully.

And for those in a relationship with someone passive-aggressive, Brandt offers tips to stop enabling them, and to identify which of your own personal traits reinforce your partner’s hostilities.

“The great challenge in dealing with people who use passive-aggressiveness is to speak to them honestly about their behavior without provoking defensiveness and denial,” she writes. This is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with the behavior, and Brandt seems to handle it well.

Indeed, the book highlighted areas in my own life where passive-aggressive behavior is present — places I had not been aware of previously. I now feel more equipped to recognize it in myself and in those around me and to replace it with more positive forms of expression.

8 Keys to Eliminating Passive-Aggressiveness

W. W. Norton & Company, October, 2013

Paperback, 224 pages


8 Keys to Eliminating Passive-Aggressiveness

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Corinna Underwood

APA Reference
Underwood, C. (2016). 8 Keys to Eliminating Passive-Aggressiveness. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 May 2016
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 May 2016
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