10 passive-aggressive things you should stop saying


Hidden messages and meanings are being communicated to others in everything you say, without you even knowing.

And, while you could be trying to say something honest and up front, instead you could come across as passive-aggressive – showing indirect resistance to others, and their ideas or diretions. You may not mean it that way, but it can sound insulting, dismissive or undermining. So keep a careful watch for these bad conversation habits, and avoid dropping them into your discussions.


“Oh, I Thought You Understood…”

Misunderstandings happen all the time and ultimately come down to a lack of proper communication between you and others.

And while someone can come to you to clarify details of work, that doesn’t mean you need to be passive-aggressive or sarcastic when responding to them and their queries about work— which could make them feel stupid.

Saying this also makes you sound passive-aggressive because it suggests that it’s the other persons’ fault they didn’t receive information or fully understand something, when it’s also possible something wasn’t correctly communicated.



Saying “actually” in a sentence, especially at the beginning, can make whatever you say next sound like an insult.It makes you sound like you already believe the other person doesn’t have your (superior) clear grasp of the situation.


“I’m Not Mad”

It’s unlikely that anyone believes someone when they say, “I’m not mad” — It only makes them think you are annoyed and think they have done something wrong. And sure, chances are you’re not mad, but only if someone really knows you.

This can make you sound passive-aggressive—and actually annoyed— because whoever you’re talking to may also think that you’re refusing to deal with your emotions and the situation at hand.



Saying things like “fine” or “whatever” are indirect ways of expressing anger or annoyance with someone or a situation and will make you sound passive-aggressive because it will seem like you’re sulking for not getting your way.


“I Was Only Joking”

Sometimes jokes don’t come across well in the business arena and aren’t received the way they were intended, which can make them come across as either sarcasm or passive-aggression. Saying you were ‘just kidding’ can also make you sound passive-aggressive because of the casual or patronizing tone you might say it in and may even hurt the other persons’ feelings.

Furthermore, saying other things like “Can’t you take a joke?” can be just as passive-aggressive as “I was only joking” and often puts the blame on the other person for “not having a sense of humor”, rather than it being something for you to reflect on if no-one laughs or if someone talks to you about it.


“I didn’t know you meant now

Saying this brushes off any sense of urgency someone may have had when asking you for help and suggests that you lean towards being a procrastinator. This makes you sound passive-aggressive to others because they won’t think you have the same sense of priority and respect for the work.


“I thought you knew”

If someone knew the information you thought they did, they wouldn’t have asked you to repeat it for them. Saying this can make you sound passive-aggressive because it will seem like you’re calling them an idiot for not knowing something and that they should have been paying better attention.

So, when in this situation, don’t jump to any conclusions about why someone doesn’t know something and have a think about why they may not know it because the reason may be as simple as they weren’t in a meeting or they just want to clarify a few details.


“Sure, I’d be happy to”

Depending on the tone of voice, saying “sure, I’d be happy to” can make you sound passive-aggressive because, while you may not be trying to say it, it suggests that you’re not really happy to do something for another person and that they are bothering you.

And, while it may not be the worst thing you can ever do, it can go a long way to damaging your relationships with co-workers because they’ll remember the time you seemed unwilling to help and not ask you for help again.

This can also make you sound passive-aggressive because, while you may want to appear helpful and pleasant, you’re really saying something like, “You’re bothering me. Why are you bothering me? Can’t you see I was in the middle of something, you annoying person?”

If you say you’re happy to do something, mean it – and sound like it.


“You’ve done so well for someone with your education level”

You may have meant this as a compliment, but it is downright insulting, because you are denigrating their education.


“Why are you getting so upset?”

This is dismissive of someone’s feelings because asking the question suggests that they are over-reacting to something you’ve said or done.

Asking this can also make you seem insensitive towards others if/when their emotions get the best of them and they express that due to your passive-aggression. This can be especially true if you have maintained your calmness and feigned shock on previous occasions when someone has expressed their emotions to you.

About Rowena Nagy

Rowena Nagy is a Journalist at The Business Woman Media. A graduate in Journalism, Media and Communications, she is passionate about in writing, travel journalism, video journalism and Public Relations.

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