Over the years I’ve learned to filter the thoughts traveling at the speed of light before they slip involuntarily out of my mouth. (Sometimes my thoughts have a mind of their own). While I have definitely grown in this area thanks to my mentor and am grateful I still have a job, a major struggle for me in the workplace is the passive aggressive personality. Interacting with them is like interacting with a foreigner, frustrating because we need to communicate but have no idea what the other person is saying.


I am so confused by this personality type that I had to complete research on how to interact with them as if it were a homework assignment.

Here’s what I found, and the corresponding link!

“Passive aggressive” has roots in psychology. The basic idea is that someone grows up with a parent who makes a lot of unreasonable demands. The child can’t resist openly, and so instead resists subtly.

It’s like that in life too.

“Passive aggressive” is about being passive, appearing to be “ok” with things, and saying “yes.” The passive aggressive will say “yes” to requests even if they don’t want to do them. They don’t have the strength to stand up for themselves and just say no assertively.

So a passive aggressive is someone who just gets pushed about throughout life simply because they can’t say no. In their world, there are a lot of demands placed upon them at any given time. Since they can’t say “no,” instead they resist very subtly. They cause problems.

To use slightly different words, a passive aggressive appears to accept most requests made of them, but inside may dislike those requests, and will fight against them subtly. They lack the strength and confidence to openly refuse or object. Passive aggressive people appear to accept a situation – or pretty much anything – when underneath the are uncomfortable with the idea so they fight against it subtly.

As this site says, passive aggressive is:

A defense mechanism that allows people who aren’t comfortable being openly aggressive get what they want under the guise of still trying to please others. They want their way, but they also want everyone to still like them.[2]

Here’s another great definition:

indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them. There’s a disconnect between what a passive-aggressive person says and what he or she does. For a passive-aggressive person, true feelings are shared through actions, not words.[3]

Passive aggressives use tools to achieve their objectives : masked feelings, feigned ignorance, avoidance, feigned forgetfulness, subtle sabotage, procrastination, and flaking.

I struggle with this personality type because I am the total opposite. I have no problem speaking my mind and am unconcerned with whether someone will like me or not based on my feedback. My experience has been that it takes more energy and is more stressful (for me) to stew in silence than it is to just state my opinion and move on.

Even so, I still have guidelines to follow before voicing my opinion (in a respectful way).

  1. Is what I want to say, something that needs to be said
  2. Do I need to be the one to say it

Barrier To Effective Communication


Barriers to Effective Communication

Communicating can be more of a challenge than you think, when you realize the many things that can stand in the way of effective communication. These include filtering, selective perception, information overload, emotional disconnects, lack of source familiarity or credibility, workplace gossip, semantics, gender differences, differences in meaning between Sender and Receiver, and biased language.

Filtering is the distortion or withholding of information to manage a person’s reactions. Some examples of filtering include a manager who keeps her division’s poor sales figures from her boss, the vice president, fearing that the bad news will make him angry. The old saying, “Don’t shoot the messenger!” illustrates the tendency of Receivers (in this case, the vice president) to vent their negative response to unwanted Messages on the Sender. A gatekeeper (the vice president’s assistant, perhaps) who doesn’t pass along a complete Message is also filtering. The vice president may delete the e-mail announcing the quarter’s sales figures before reading it, blocking the Message before it arrives.

As you can see, filtering prevents members of an organization from getting a complete picture of the way things are. To maximize your chances of sending and receiving effective communications, it’s helpful to deliver a Message in multiple ways and to seek information from multiple sources. In this way, the effect of any one person’s filtering the Message will be diminished.

Since people tend to filter bad news more during upward communication, it is also helpful to remember that those below you in an organization may be wary of sharing bad news. One way to defuse the tendency to filter is to reward employees who clearly convey information upward, regardless of whether the news is good and bad.


Here are some of the criteria that individuals may use when deciding whether to filter a Message or pass it on:

Past experience: Was the Sender rewarded for passing along news of this kind in the past, or was she criticized?
Knowledge, perception of the speaker: Has the Receiver’s direct superior made it clear that “no news is good news?”

Emotional state, involvement with the topic, level of attention: Does the Sender’s fear of failure or criticism prevent him from conveying the Message? Is the topic within his realm of expertise, increasing his confidence in his ability to decode it, or is he out of his comfort zone when it comes to evaluating the Message’s significance? Are personal concerns impacting his ability to judge the Message’s value?

Once again, filtering can lead to miscommunications in business. Each listener translates the Message into his or her own words, creating his or her own version of what was said.

I only focused on Filtering as one of the barriers to effective communication because I experience it the most. To review the research on the other barriers, please click on the following link: