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What is Passive Aggression?

What is passive aggression?

Maybe you don’t know the meaning of the words 'passive aggression', but you will be surprised to learn that you have used or experienced passive aggression at least once before. We all know passive means not being fully engaged or being partially engaged in something. Aggression refers to negative feelings or actions; aggression could also mean hostility. Therefore what could be the meaning of a combination of these two slightly contradicting words? Let’s find out.

The definition of passive aggression

Passive aggression refers to the act of showing or implying negativity about a particular subject indirectly. The person showing or using passive aggression may sound optimistic and enthusiastic about the subject of concern when in reality he or she intends to be or is pessimistic. The writer can use passive aggression as a type of sarcasm in their work. When passive aggression is used in this form, the desired effect is usually humorous.

How to use passive aggression as a type of sarcasm

Combine a positive word and a negative word

In this case, when I say negative, I mean that you should use a word that contradicts the meaning of the first word. The negative word should not be offensive. For example:

You know what I like about this school? It’s that I like nothing about it.

Be brief

When using passive aggression, do not use very long sentences. This will make it hard for the reader to get the intended meaning. The shorter your sentences, the clearer and more effective your use of passive aggression. In cases where you have to use long sentences, ensure the reader can clearly see the optimistic part and the pessimistic part.

Add some humor or wit to your words

Since we are using passive aggression as a type of sarcasm, you should make your words humorous. This way your audience will be entertained and get your message at the same time.

Do not use offensive words

Some writers may think that because it is called passive “aggression”, then they are allowed to use aggressive or offensive words. Use words that are less hostile or offensive.

The uses of passive aggression as a type of sarcasm

Passive aggression is used to expose a person’s lack of tolerance or disagreement with another person in a polite manner. Instead of the writer directly saying that his or her character disagreed with another character, passive aggression will come in handy.

Passive aggression can also be used to add humor to a writer’s work. When used appropriately and in the right context, passive aggression produces a humorous effect.

Example of sentences with the use of passive aggression

Joan has just been employed as a secretary at a leading business company in town. However, barely two weeks after being employed her manager is already complaining about her incompetence. Joan tries so hard to match her manager's expectations but then something is always wrong with her work. The manager calls her into his office one morning and says, “Your qualifications and services are really good Joan, but not to our company.” He then hands her a resignation letter.


Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Keith Mbuya