‘Passive-competitive’ is a term I must have invented as I have not been able to find in the text books, and not even on Mr Google. ‘Passive-aggressive’ is a common and well known term written up on Mr Google and in many text books, and if you have ever had anyone in your life who is passive-aggressive, it is a very challenging trait to live or work with. ‘Passive-aggressive’ can simply be termed as a person who can generally be described as a person with non-verbal aggression that manifests in negative behavior. It is where someone is angry with someone else, but will not or cannot tell them. Instead of communicating honestly when they feel upset, annoyed, irritated or disappointed they may instead bottle the feelings up, shut off verbally, give angry looks, make obvious changes in behaviour, be obstructive, sulky or put up a stone wall. A person who is ‘Passive aggressive’ might not always show that they are angry or resentful, but appear in agreement, polite, friendly, down-to-earth, kind and well-meaning. However, underneath there may be manipulation going on – hence the term ‘Passive-aggressive’. Behaviours such as manipulation, obstructing, avoiding, always being late, or critical, or self-pitying, casually demeaning or criticising, always suggesting someone’s work is good, that if they did this or that, it could be better, and many other types of behaviour can be part of the passive-aggressive personality. Even learned helplessness and withholding behaviour (e.g. sex) can be signs of a passive-aggressive. It is a destructive pattern of behaviour that can be seen as a form of emotional abuse in relationships that not only bites away at trust between people, but is a form of emotional abuse. So after defining Passive-aggressive, and not being able to even find the term Passive-competitive, I decided to look up the meaning of competitive.

One online dictionary defines competitive:


1. cut-throat, aggressive, fierce, ruthless, relentless, antagonistic, carnivorous, dog-eat-dog (informal).

2. ambitious, pushing, opposing, aggressive, vying, contentious, combative (informal).

It would seem clear competitive behaviour is where someone is always competing with their colleagues or classmates, or where there is a direct struggle between individuals for environmental necessities or for a common goal, which could be an award, a raise in salary or position at work, or in the case of a blogger, more accolades or followers. When wondering if you or someone you know is competitive, ask yourself if you or they have the following traits;

  • Always competing with your family, friends, colleagues and staff?
  • Feel the need to always go one up on others?
  • Envy others (in a more than ‘happy for them’ way) if they receive praise or are recognised for their work?

And so, I have been wondering if there is such a thing as ‘Passive-competitive’ where a person is very competitive, but remains unwilling to acknowledge their competitiveness either to themselves or publicly. These types of people might be unduly critical or your work if you receive praise either at work (if you work together), or publicly, if you display your work publicly. They might be the people who are generous or just stay quiet about your work when they are with you, but criticise it publicly or behind your back. They may justify their willingness to criticise based on their right to have another opinion, or to have interpreted it in another way. I watched a crime show on television recently, based around the musical competition of young students vying for a tutoring place with one of the Great Masters. Their competitiveness (especially their parents!!), was tangible and very obvious, to the point of a student being murdered. Of course it was a television program, but I’m sure there are cases of this happening in real life, and am starting to wonder if the more subtle forms of this should be termed ‘passive-competitive’. The concept of dominance has contributed greatly to our understanding of social structure in animals, of which humans are one type. Existing definitions of dominance can refer to roles or to antagonistic behaviour, and can regard dominance as a property of individuals or as an attribute of duel encounters, concentrating on aggression or on the lack of it in individuals. Maybe it is the desire for dominance rather than competitiveness that leads to what I have started to term Passive-competitive? I’m not sure! There is so much more to review and think about on this topic, and my introduction of what could just be a new term!

8 thoughts on “Passive-competitive?

  1. I was looking up what I’ve always called myself and found this. I would describe myself as Passive Competitive. I don’t actively compete with people. I was on teams and in group activities with people in school. I have always wanted to put in more effort if there was another person doing the same as me especially if we were on the same team. If I lost it’s no big deal; I know that I just need to try harder or that I understand my level. Working out with a friend I will try to push out that last bit of energy and if I just cannot do any more of an exercise I know that that was my current limit. I don’t resent them for it. In fact, I think they are awesome and I can try again next time.


  2. I like the term Passive Competitive and it certainly should have a place in the vocabulary. It doesn’t have to be aggressive but I have known people and/or be in relationships with people with whom I feel are always competing with me when if effect, there is no contest the the competition is not necessary and I certain do not feel “the need to win” but they seem to. But they must one up! You should also look into the noun “competition” to see how that adds to your concept.


  3. Pingback: Passive competitive behaviour? | Creating life with words: Inspiration, love and truth

  4. I am fifteen years old and this perfectly describes one of my close friends behaviour. I constantly feel like we are in some sort of competition and some of the things she does truly hurt me. If I ever call her out on them though she plays dumb like she forgot or just wasnt thinking.


  5. Thanks for inventing the term, and not the behavior!!
    Passive aggressives are bad enough (I like my “aggressives” aggressive), by adding ‘competitive’, it extenuates the nature of the beast


    • I was talking to someone earlier today who thought someone must have upset me, which was not the case or the reason for my conversation about this ‘new’ term, just something I have been thinking about for a while. An interesting idea I think, and I have had many agree this new term has a place. Not sure if one can patent or copyright a term or not??!! My husband who knows about these things just said no, because it is a ‘word’. So ‘inventor of’ the term, I might be!


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