passive aggressive conflict cycle

The Angry Smile Online Training Teaches People How to Manage Passive Aggressive Behavior


The Angry Smile ONLINE course is NOW AVAILABLE via the Life Space Crisis Intervention Institute’s website!  See below for a very special offer…


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Is there a person in your life who procrastinates, carries out tasks in intentionally inefficient ways, is quietly manipulative, creates minor but chronic irritation in others, and makes you feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster? If so, you may be working or living with a PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE person.



REGISTER TODAY FOR THE ANGRY SMILE ONLINE TRAINING to discover how to stop frustrating arguments, endless conflict cycles, and relationship-damaging wars of words.



10% DISCOUNT: All participants who register for The Angry Smile Online course during the month of August 2013 will receive a 10% discount on the course fee! Simply enter the code FACEBOOK at checkout and the discount will be applied upon checkout. 




When Passive Aggressive Conflict Spirals


If you have ever become embroiled in a conflict with a passive aggressive person, you know firsthand how abruptly intense your own emotional response can be.  The Passive Aggressive Conflict Cycle explains how rational, straightforward, assertive adults can momentarily and unexpectedly depart from their typical personas and take on inappropriate, childlike, and unprofessional behaviors (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008). It describes and predicts the endless, repetitive cycles of conflict that occur when a passive aggressive individual succeeds in getting someone else to act out their anger for them.

In this article I recently posted on Psychology Today, I explain the psychology of the Passive Aggressive Conflict Cycle, so that adults disengage from destructive conflicts and choose relationship-building responses.

Fine! Whatever! 8 Passive Aggressive Phrases Everyone Should Know


Do you ever feel like you are riding on an emotional roller coaster with your child? Is your little one friendly and sweet one day, then sulky and withdrawn the next? Does your teenager consistently procrastinate, postpone, stall and shut down any emotionally-charged conversation? Do you, as a parent, ever resemble that same portrait? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, chances are good that passive aggressive behavior has found a way into your home and family.


Check out my article in the Huffington Post Parents section to learn about eight of the most common passive aggressive phrases and to figure out if “sugarcoated hostility” exists in your home and family.

Training on How to Manage Passive Aggressive Behavior


This November 18th, the New Hampshire Center for Effective Behavioral Interventions and Supports (NH CEBIS) will host a one-day training on The Angry Smile (see Workshops & Speaking Page for full details).

Do you live or work with someone who:

  • Denies or represses feelings of anger
  •  Withdraws and sulks
  • Sends hidden, coded and confusing messages when frustrated
  • Procrastinates or carries out tasks inefficiently
  • Is quietly manipulative and controlling
  • Makes endless promises to change
  • Creates a feeling in others of being on an emotional roller coater

This workshop takes an in-depth look at the roots of passive aggression, exploring the behavior at five distinct and (more…)

Passive Aggressive Behavior in Schools: One Teacher’s Learning Experience


I just received this great bit of feedback from a teacher in Alaska who recently completed the one-day training on The Angry Smile.  The feedback I’d like to return to her: don’t beat yourself up about the “could’ve, should’ve, and would’ve.”  We all make mistakes with the kids we are trying to help and we all wish we could do even more for them.  It’s an incredibly difficult profession!

Learning new strategies and applying them is something to feel proud of and excited about.  So, no more “Shame on me’s!”  Feel good about all of your hard work–it’s tiring and often thankless, but the rewards in lives-changed and hearts-touched are endless.

Participant’s Feedback:


For years I’ve referred to many of the behaviors on the

“Recognizing the Warning Signs” page as self-destructive. I suppose they are, but I had never viewed

them from the viewpoint of how they might be symptoms of passive-aggressive

patterns. Often knowing why a student is

acting a particular way is the one piece of information we lack, yet it’s the

most crucial one. Now I understand that

Elijah turned in poor quality work with appalling penmanship as a strategy to

deal with his anger. I can even begin to

formulate a theory as to what his anger might be about, but alas this student

has moved on from my class. I think I

will forever remember him as the student I was able to help too late. For future students, however, the Angry Smile

class has provided me with a great introduction to what I would like to learn

about passive-aggressive behavior.

I wish I could go back and say to this student, “I’m

thinking you must find this work to be a waste of your time. I think we should forget about this

assignment and work together to find some tasks that you will feel good about

doing.” Or, “I see that you might have

completed your work, but once again I am not able to clearly read your

handwriting. I really wish I could

accurately read your story, because I know you have a vivid imagination. I sometimes feel like I might be missing the

most important parts.” Did I ever tell

him in a positive way that his handwriting stunk? Never, not once in three years. Shame on me!

This is another class that I would love to explore in

greater depth. I can see myself in the fall better equipped to recognize those warning signs

and patterns, and I think that is a good first step.

>The Angry Smile at UMBC


>On Tuesday, I had the honor and pleasure of guest lecturing at the University of Maryland Baltimore County to a group of 20 students taking a freshman psychology seminar on passive aggressive behavior and using The Angry Smile as their textbook.  The students shared great examples of passive aggression and asked insightful questions about how this behavior shows up in familes and relationships.

One student asked me about the best way to prevent passive aggressive behavior from occuring.  Complex child-rearing and developmental conditions aside, the answer I gave was relatively simple: 

When family members, relatives, partners, spouses, co-workers, bosses, teachers, and anyone else who interacts with an angry person make it clear that they are open and willing to receive that person’s anger–that their honest and direct expression of anger will be tolerated, accepted, and even honored for its honesty–they provide the kind of environment in which indirect, passive aggressive communication styles are unnecessary.  

A baby clothes boutique is supporting my efforts to educate parents and professionals by providing articles like this one and many more to the community. Check them out when you need to find that perfect outfit for your little one, they have it all baby headbands, baby shoes, baby hats, and everything in between.

>Real World New Orleans | Ep. 10 | Getting Down, Blowing Up


>Real World New Orleans Ep. 10 Getting Down, Blowing Up: “The roommates might have finally had enough of Ryan’s inconsiderate behavior.”

Danielle or Ryan? Who is the better living example of passive aggressive behavior? They’re both so good at their backhanded rage and covert anger, it’s hard to pick a favorite! How would you weigh in?

In The Angry Smile, we explain the dynamics of the Passive Aggressive Conflict Cycle, a paradigm that describes why so many people who work or live with a passive aggressive person experience sudden and uncharacteristic emotional outbursts. In fact, most people involved in daily interactions with a passive aggressive individual are ultimately beaten down by the relationship.

This episode of The Real World features classic clips of how Ryan calmly discharges “drops” of his hidden rage on his roommates. In the “Confessional,” he admits his underlying anger to TV viewers but in person with his roommates, he is unable to be honest or direct about his feelings, choosing instead to “forget” where he parked the group’s car, fail to pick up after himself, and sabotage Erik’s romance (to name just this week’s antics).

The real dynamics of the Passive Aggressive Conflict Cycle come into play as we watch Erik’s middle-of-the-night confrontation of Ryan. Erik is the most level-headed of all the housemates, but this episode traces his slow, steady accumulation of rage and his eventual, uncharacteristic blow-up.

The confrontation can be found about 30 minutes into the episode, but if you have the time, the events leading up to it are key in understanding how Ryan inspires Erik to a roller coaster of emotions and an explosive confrontation.

If you are interested in reading more about passive aggressive behavior in families and friendships, please check out The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces. While you’re online, please also check out the adorable baby clothes and headbands at My Baby Clothes Boutique. My Baby Clothes Boutique has partnered with me to provide great parenting tips for their customers as a thank you for their loyalty. Check them out next time you need to get a baby gift!

>Sober House with Dr. Drew


>Whoever said Reality TV was a waste of time never tried to demonstrate a concept about passive aggression! The 3/25/10 episode of VH-1’s Sober House with Dr. Drew shows so many great concepts from The Angry Smile. Watch House Manager Jennifer Jimenez get caught up in Conflict Cyle after Conflict Cycle!

Here is the link to VH-1’s website. The clip I have in mind starts about 39 min into the show:

Watch former NBA star Dennis Rodman engage Jennifer in a passive aggressive showdown. She insists that he write a 150-word essay on why he (and other housemates) are sabotaging their recovery. His response: writing the word “why” on a piece of paper precisely 150 times. Intentional inefficiency in action!

When it is time for Jennifer to collect the essay, she comes at Dennis guns-blazing: yelling, threatening, dropping F-bombs, etc. Dennis remains calm throughout, clearly amused at her escalating anger…classic passive aggressive conflict brewing! As if to confirm, in the midst of her one-woman rant, Dennis says (with an angry smile), “I want to see how mad you really get!”

And that’s all just the icing on the cake. The preface to all of this is a passive aggressive war of words about Dennis giving his cell phone to Jennifer as a consequence for breaking curfew.

Check it out. It is Passive Aggressive Conflict Cycle 101. And by the way, when is Dr. Drew going to teach her how to get herself OUT of this kind of no-win battle??

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