Let’s not beat around the bush. Dealing with passive-aggressive people can be REALLY tricky. I know because I grew up with some, and I have been one at different times in my life.
When someone is being passive-aggressive, they are being hostile towards you and avoiding an assertive conversation. They might do this because they are afraid of rejection, upsetting you, or potential conflict, to name a few.
Rather than have an assertive conversation, they will sulk, give you the silent treatment, be critical of you, or gossip about you. They will withdraw their energy from you and attempt to hurt you in underhand ways.
One of the most effective ways to work with passive-aggressive people is to call them out on the behaviour. In a non-judgmental way, share your experience of what is happening. For example, “Since we had that conversation about sharing chores, you seem angry with me.”
Of course, we can’t control their response. They may deny it is happening or become aggressive, or they may be open to talking about it. If they become aggressive, it is important to put boundaries in place.
If you have passive-aggressive tendencies in your behaviour and you would like to work on this, know you CAN change this habit. Communication is key; this sometimes means being vulnerable as we discuss our pain or hurt.
I hope this was helpful.