People who avoid confrontation but become passive-aggressive usually have these 6 character traits

Ever heard the saying, “Silence is golden”?

Well, sometimes it’s not—particularly when it comes to avoiding confrontations.

Unfortunately, avoidance of conflict is a common trait among many people. They steer clear of direct conflict, but then their pent-up frustration seeps out in subtle, often in passive-aggressive ways.

But what makes them act this way?

If you’re asking the same thing, I’ve got some insights to share.

Below, we’re going to discuss the traits of passive-aggressive people—some of which might surprise you.

1) Fear of conflict

People who avoid confrontation often have an intense fear of conflict.

This fear can stem from various sources:

Maybe they grew up in a volatile home where arguments were commonplace. Or perhaps they’ve had past experiences that left them scarred.

For instance, if a child grows up in a home where disagreements are handled in hushed whispers or cold silences, they may carry this pattern into adulthood. They learn to associate conflict with discomfort and choose to avoid it.

Whatever the root cause may be, this fear can make them choose silence over voicing their feelings or opinions.

But remember, just because they’re silent doesn’t mean they’re at peace. Their feelings might just be simmering beneath the surface, ready to bubble over in passive-aggressive ways.

Instead of voicing their concerns or disagreements openly, they might resort to passive-aggressive behaviors. It’s their way of dealing with conflict without having to face it head-on.

It’s like a ripple effect from childhood to adulthood. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

2) Difficulty expressing emotions

I had a close friend once who was always the life of the party

He was known for his cheerful demeanor and his ability to make everyone laugh. But when it came to expressing more complex, negative emotions? That’s where he struggled.

I remember a time when I unintentionally hurt his feelings. Instead of talking about it, he gave me the cold shoulder. His cheerful demeanor turned frosty overnight, but he never explained why.

Later, I discovered that he had been upset but didn’t know how to express it. He avoided confrontation at all costs and ended up being passive-aggressive.

People like him find it challenging to express emotions directly. They fear being misunderstood or rejected.

So instead, they choose indirect ways to let out their feelings.

3) Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem. It’s a term we throw around a lot, but what does it really mean? And how does it manifest?

Well, imagine feeling like you’re always on the losing end. That your opinions don’t count or that you’re not worthy of being heard.

That’s low self-esteem for you.

People with low self-esteem often struggle with confrontation.


Because they already feel less than others. The idea of standing up for themselves or challenging someone else’s opinion is daunting.

They fear the confrontation will only confirm their insecurities—that they aren’t smart enough, good enough, or deserving enough.

But remember, emotions bottled up have a way of trickling out. They might not shout or argue, but their pent-up feelings might show up in sarcastic comments, cynical jokes, or petty acts.

That’s the sad reality of low self-esteem and its link to passive-aggression. But understanding this can help us empathize more with such individuals and hopefully guide them towards healthier ways of communication.

4) Desire for control

We all like to be in control of our lives. But for some people, this desire extends to the people and situations around them.

Take a moment and think of someone you know who avoids confrontations but tends to be passive-aggressive. Do they also show signs of wanting to control situations or people?

It’s quite common.

Instead of engaging in open dialogue or arguments, they use passive-aggressiveness as a tool for exerting control.

It might be through backhanded compliments, snide remarks, or even intentional procrastination.

They avoid direct conflict, yet they subtly manipulate the situation in their favor. It’s their way of having the last word without saying it out loud.

5) A yearning to be accepted

We’re all social beings, aren’t we?

That’s why, at the core of our existence, there’s a deep-seated desire to belong, to be understood, and to be accepted by those around us.

It’s no different for individuals who avoid confrontation and lean towards passive-aggressive behavior.

Often, they are just looking for acceptance. They don’t want to rock the boat or risk being ostracized for their opinions.

So they stay quiet. But their feelings don’t just disappear; they find other ways to surface.

6) Deep-rooted insecurity

People who avoid confrontation but display passive-aggressive tendencies often harbor deep-seated insecurities.

They doubt their worth, their abilities, and their place in social circles.

These insecurities create a fear of exposing their true selves, leading to the avoidance of direct conflict.

But those same insecurities also fuel passive-aggressive behavior, a silent cry for validation and assurance.

Understanding this can unlock a new perspective on their actions and provide a path to more open, honest communication.

After all, everyone deserves to be heard and understood, right?

Final thoughts

Recognize any of these traits in yourself or someone you know? It’s okay. We all have our ways of dealing with conflict and expressing our feelings.

The beauty of being human lies in our capacity for growth and change.

So if you’ve identified with some of these characteristics, don’t see it as a life sentence. Rather, view it as an opportunity for self-improvement.

Remember, healthy communication is a skill that can be learned and honed. It starts with acknowledging your fears, insecurities, and patterns.

Remember, we’re all works in progress, continually learning and growing.

So, here’s to better communication, healthier relationships, and an improved understanding of ourselves and others.

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

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