Most of us, if not all, know someone who is passive aggressive in their words and/or behavior. It may take some time for us to recognize that this is what is even happening, when we are dealing with a person who has traits of being passive aggressive, because it can all sound or seem nice for a time. Then, you reflect back on it later and feel confused. Was that really an insult in disguise? Was that action that seemed kind done with a hidden message behind it? Passive aggressive people can be extremely difficult to understand and figure out, especially if you aren't one yourself.
A passive aggressive person might say something, such as, "Can you watch my son for a day?" and when you explain that you won't be able to this time, their response might be, "Oh, I understand that you have better things to do.", or something similar to this. Passive aggressive people are masters of guilt trips. While they are saying that they understand, they are immediately following it up with something that implies that you could do them the favor and just don't want to. Whether that's the fact or not, there is no reason for the person to say it just to make you feel like you're doing something wrong.
When a passive aggressive person is in an argument, you may or may not know it initially, even when you are the one at the other end of it. They can fight with a smile and say things that are actually quite offensive, yet you can't always pinpoint quite what it was that they said or did to upset you. If you try to point it out, after you understand what happened, the person will be very adept at making it your fault rather than taking the blame themselves.
Passive aggressive people are very difficult to deal with, because they are so incredibly confusing and manipulative. If you know people who lean towards being passive aggressive, you should exhibit a good amount of caution when dealing with them. For one thing, they can be exceedingly hurtful and for another, they can always seem to make it look like you're the "bad guy", even to other people. This can cause you to lose true friends who don't yet understand this person for what he or she really is. You must be on the watch for this happening.
The best approach is to avoid passive aggressive people, but this is not always possible. Sometimes, they are co-workers or family members, so obviously, there is going to be contact in these situations. Using caution in what you say and do around these people is important, though. Do not allow yourself to be manipulated and hurt by them.