Why People Remain Quiet, Shy, and Non-Assertive: The Benefits of Passive Behavior and Communication

I suffered from severe passive behavior and communication. I would not say what I wanted, avoid confrontation, and dodge responsibility to not get blamed. This compromised my character. People interacted with a mask that protected my vulnerable self.

Passiveness, otherwise known as submissiveness, is the opposite to aggression. Passiveness literally means detachment and acceptance. It is acted upon rather than acts on something. Passive communication involves “keeping under the radar”, “not sticking up for yourself”, saying yes when you really want to say no, and overly “selfless behaviors”. While passiveness is different to being shy or quiet, shy or quiet individuals are often passive.

There are benefits to passive behavior and communication that make it a problem in families, the workplace, and other interactions. I want to share with you the deep reasons behind why people avoid “sticking up for themselves” and many other passive behaviors in this article. Once you understand this behavior, a powerful world is revealed before your eyes that would otherwise have remained hidden. Like all the communication secrets in my “Communication Secrets of Powerful People Program”, the things once hidden become visible to empower you to communicate powerfully with people.

Adult Contribution to Weak Behavior

Parents, teachers, and adults in general are partly responsible for passive behavior and communication in children. At a young age and continually in life, adults condition passive people to continue submissive behavior through verbal rewards. Passive individuals receive praise for their selfless actions, keeping quiet, and not voicing their concerns.

Passiveness literally means detachment and acceptance. It is acted upon rather than acts on something.

A bully steals a toy from a young girl who does nothing about it. An adult observing the girl tells her she is nice for not doing anything and making the bully angry. A student sits in the classroom, not answering any questions. The teacher at a parent-teacher interview says to the child’s parents that the child is nice and quiet. A young boy is asked what he wants for dinner, but his brothers and sisters interrupt him by saying what they want. The young boy then says, “I’m happy with what the others want” to which his parent praise him for compliance and selfless.

These three examples demonstrate how people are trained to continue passive behavior. Overtime, occasional passive behavior shapes into a stringent passive personality. Soon enough, the person does not defend his space, participate in decision-making, or state his desires. What appears “nice” transforms into a habitual communication and behavioral problem that sucks the life from the person and his relationships. It’s no wonder people struggle to learn assertive communication skills.

Behaviors in Conflict

Conflict contains several reasons for passive behavior and communication. Passive individuals avoid conflict by remaining quiet as they avoid expressing their point of view.

A failure to express their point of view occurs outside of conflict – it is frequent in conversations and social interactions. When they are asked what they’d like, where they want to go, or what they want to do, they passively respond: “I’m happy with whatever you want”. Rarely are they truly happy with what the other person wants. While they say “I’m happy with whatever you want”, the truth of the matter is their decision (or indecision) comes from a fear of disapproval.

Passive individuals are praised for their selfless actions.

Are You a “People-Pleaser”?

Virgina Satir, the mother of family therapy, coined the term “People-Pleaser” to describe individuals obsessed with making others happy. People-pleasers have toxic amounts of shame covered by being well-liked. They do this so others cannot see their defects.

Kelly Bryson over at Nonviolent Communication has a superb article to help people-pleasers that you can read here. (It is in pdf format so you need Adobe Acrobat to view the document.)

Another reason passive behavior is beneficial for people who disconnect themselves from conflict and conversations is blame-avoidance. A person that says, “I’m fine with anything you decide”, puts the final decision on somebody else. The passive person leaves the other person to select an option. When the option is undesirable, the passive person can readily and easily blame the decision-maker for their choice.

Yet another reason someone can behave passively and avoid conflict is their protection from others. Other people fight for the person, which often gets them what they want. Some people laugh, get angry, or ignore an aggressive person, but when someone cries, most people stop what they’re doing to give the crying person what they want to wipe away their tears. A habitual crier can be more manipulative than an aggressor.

See the Price of Nice to Breaks Its Vice

So far you have seen the beneficial reasons for passive behavior and communication. Up until now, it seems to be an attractive way of behaving. Passiveness is not a nice way of living because of its many destructive outcomes. By learning the negatives of passive behavior, you can break free from submissiveness and become motivated to help other people assert themselves.

Common problems with passiveness include:

  • Unsatisfying relationships. Passive individuals are detached from their communication and relationships. They are completely disengaged from intimacy. They avoid intimacy because their authentic self is protected with the “nice guy” or “nice girl” mask.
  • Growth is thwarted. Passive individuals create an environment where authentic feedback is not given or received. To critique a “nice person” makes the criticizer a guilt-ridden, bad person. Similarly, the nice person does not give feedback to other people.
  • Induces shame in others. Nice guys and girls manipulate others with guilt and shame. They avoid responsibility and giving feedback, making others feel shameful for their feelings towards the nice person. For example, the would-be receiver of a nice person’s feedback feels angry for not getting feedback then becomes shameful for feeling angry at the nice person. (The person is nice after all and it’s wrong to be mad at nice people.)
  • Others get irritated. A guy forgoes his needs by molding himself into his lover’s ideal image. He thinks focusing on his partner is the relationship-healthy thing to do. The passive individual overtime frustrates his partner with high compliance. His overt agreeableness leads to pity and irritation. It is frustrating to be with someone who does not tell you what he feels and wants.
  • Selfishness. Selflessness is selfish because the “selfless person” doesn’t have the capacity to act beyond oneself. It may sound contradictory to passive behavior, but the passive individual who lets others have their way robs himself of happiness and love. The person is unable to love others because he holds resentment and frustration against those he is selfless towards. People who give up their own lives to be loved by someone are often shocked when they discover the other person dislikes them for their plasticity approach to life.
  • Volcanic build up of resentment. Forgo your own needs, avoid voicing your concerns, do not talk about yourself, and dodge confrontation – that’s a potent recipe for a life filled with resentment. All that pressure inside of you cannot remain hidden. Emotional eruptions eventually burst forth as seen in passive-aggressive behavior.
  • Passive-aggressive behavior. I’ve heard marriage counselors incorrectly refer to passive-aggressive behavior as passive behavior, but behaviors like resentment and secret sabotaging can manifest from passiveness. Passive-aggressive behaviors include sarcasm, lying, and blaming. These behaviors are often expressed in sporadic outbursts to temporarily release the frustration of bottled emotions. Passive individuals are prone to flares of aggression. Momentary aggressive outbursts can occur because suppressed emotions suddenly gush to the surface. When I was overly passive, sarcasm was my common way of releasing anger from an inability to assert myself and express my feelings.
  • Lack of emotional control. This is another paradoxical effect of passive behavior. Passive individuals think they manage their emotions through suppression, but the opposite results. Suppressed anger shows in many ways more harmful than if the person dealt with the emotion upfront. Suicide is the ultimate outcome of emotional suppression.
Passive individuals are prone to flares of aggression. Momentary aggressive outbursts can occur because suppressed emotions suddenly gush to the surface.

As you can see, there are many negative outcomes for passive behavior. While it can feel like an attractive behavior, it is very destructive for relationships and makes the passive person miserable. Passive behavior like aggression creates a win-loss or loss-loss outcome.

The powerful person, as outlined in my “Communication Secrets of Powerful People Program” is not passive nor aggressive. The powerful person is assertive. The powerful person does not need to get his way on every occasion. He is occasionally aggressive and occasionally lets others have their own way, but when his personal space is trampled on, he does something to regain his space. While passive individuals do not protect themselves, their possessions, or other people, the powerful person protects. A powerful person knows how to get what he wants while giving others what they want – and this attracts people into his life.

You can become powerful instead of living at the helms of jerks, loud-mouths, and others who talk better than you. If you want to break through passive behavior, I encourage you to get my “Communication Secrets of Powerful People Program”. I have overcome the same problem of submissiveness, shyness, and quietness you’re trying to defeat. You can gain the respect you want by learning more about the program here. If you want to defeat shyness forever, learn about my Big Talk course here.

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Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"

Joshua Uebergang, aka "Tower of Power", teaches social skills to help shy guys build friends and influence people. Visit his blog and sign-up free to get communication techniques, relationship-boosting strategies, and life-building tips by email, along with blog updates, and more! Go now to http://www.towerofpower.com.au/free/


Arun Kumar William

I have never thought about this angle of behaviour although it is so important.

TO maintain good relations I am often submissive and get hurted later on.

Your books are too costly? At least for me.

I want to improve my public relations.
How to go about it?

Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"

Just stick around to my newsletter and read articles. While you do miss out on a lot of extra skills, deeper understandings, and more “ah ha!” moments, it’s a good source for developing your communication skills. When you can afford the program, I know you’ll get x100 returns in increased happiness, better relationships, and feel in control of your communication. I don’t think you can put a price on that.

Catherine Ndolo

🙂 Hi Joshua, your book will terribly help me coz i do suffer from rejection and because of this I most of the time let people take advantage of me. I really want to be a person who knows her rights and can fight for them while still being attractive to people.
You’ve done me good Josh, I am planning to purchase your book.


Really Intersting. I particularly liked the analysis of teachers’ attitude towards the ‘calm’ children. Very useful for one’s development.


U have typically described me i use to think i was the only one with such kind of behaviour.
I am ready and really want to change for it is harming my career
Kindly assist me

Maxwell Mjathu

What a down-to earth article tackling real issues of my life. I love it and could not reading it again and again.Pliz keep sending more and more of such articles.



the best vision is insight.this particular article is a mind reader.Merci.

Otieno Stephen

Your articles are a reciprocation of reality. Thank you for them because they offer true direction.


Joshua, am amazed at your thoughts. Just like your other articles you ve quite simply picked on some very crucial aspect of life:passive behaviour.Its interesting how without knowing parents, teachers etc contibute in this very destroying behaviour.
Keep up the good work!




this is brilliant! I was once married to a passive individual and it drove me mad. Now I can understand that they secretly sabotage relationships and connive to
actually get their own way in the end…thanks for making things clearer


💡 this is just what i needed to be able to relate to my friend whose passive behaviour puts me off sometimes. the essentials of what i need to understand hhis behaviour are contained in this article and i find it really helpful.
best wishes,
kaba 🙂


I feel you are speaking to me, but thanks for the eye opener, am now beginning to feel good about myself. Thanks for the good article. I always enjoy reading and rereading it.




I always feelgood each time i read your article.Thanks for helping me out. God will continue to guid you and give you more knowlage.


Joshua, your article about people with a passive behavior has been a great encouragement for me and everything you have said truly does reflect my behavior,and sometime i really don’t like myself behaving that way but i don’t know why i keep up with such an attitude though i don’t like to be that kind of person,on the other hand i like depending on my best friend to always break the eye on my part.your article is really a help for me.Thank you


It is a very insightful article. Thanks. Now I know why some people were annoyed of me inspite of my always going out of the way to help and care for them..the plasticity approach towards my life just because of someone. Actually it was not for that someone…it was for my own need to fullfill the relational void in my life.

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[…] Passive people surpress their own needs and get dominated by others. They live in frustration as their anger is bottled inside. They lack the communication skills to address the problem and hope the abusive person stops bullying out of goodwill. The end result is a win for the bully and a loss for the passive person. […]

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[…] regrets, poor quality relationships. Frequent assertion can be inappropriate, but most people are too passive and don’t need to worry about this […]


Yo! what up dudes. I just got finished with this article and found it very interesting. One thing that stood out to me the most was how passiveness is looked upon as a weak form of personality and needs to be changed by going to classes or reading an inspiring book. Really? I have been around these people my whole life. the world is based on passive behaviors, reacting to someone who cuts you off and not finishing off your thought of stepping out of the car and beating them senseless. Or instead of telling your in-laws they smell like cabbage you put on a fake smile, or just don’t show up. Letting the president of the U.S. take control of the states and ruin everything without an impeachment or a simple hanging. people are weak and won’t move forward as a whole.

leaning on some a-hole to tell them that they are a weak version of whats healthy and that they can help them kinda defeats the purpose, a kind of oxymoron……

My sister I love very much sent me to this site because of her boyfriend of many years is extremely passive. I can see where she could sense a level of comfort and understanding from this article, but I truly feel that we could really benefit from just giving these passive people a swift kick in the balls and leave them to find out that WE as a whole can work around them without missing a beat. no reason to pity them, just let them live in there own wollow until they figure out that there 4th grade mentality in life doesn’t work anymore.

I know it sounds harsh but really, my sister too is passive, her boyfriend…. MY best friend through school.

I just don’t take either of their crap, when the’re passive I just look at the situation and say “well, you won’t make a decision so I will, and you have to live with it” they can feel crappy on ther own! 😉

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😕 i always thought my passive nature is really not helpfull. but thanx to u! actually i was trying to find what kind of person i am! cause i always have really hard time telling me who i am. 😐 i always related dat to “identity cricis” (i heard about it in class!) 🙄 lol n so much more!
well anyway the thing is ur article helps! 😀 thnx :mrgreen: 😉

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[…] from geek to woman-magnet. You follow his exciting tales as he starts out as not confident, shy, passive, and an introverted writer for The New York Times who within two years becomes one of the […]


Your article describes a lot of my life. This behavior has harmed myself, my relationships (I am currently seperated from my wife), and I want to change immediately.


😐 I need your info ASAP… my passive aggressive behavior has cost me my job, my wife, my friends, and I have to make a change immediately…

David William Peace

You hit on a key note near the beginning, which is the aim to keep from blame. I had a hard time with receiving blame and did not want further attention from this. There were several reasons for this, but the main thing was getting humiliated for making mistakes when I was a kid. It was sort of a bastard step-child kind of thing. When a person becomes aware of this, it is easier to overcome and get on with life and stop the cycle of passivity. I could care less about being blamed for whatever now.


Thanks a lot for bringing attention this way.
I have been through this condition from last 12 yrs but nvr consider to notice it. Your article helped.

Thanks again buddy


I have to say, this article describes me and am trying to change. I was thinking about when i was younger my teacher and parents did say those things to me. Being passive has made being in realations a bit hard for me as i usually dont have any ideas on what to really do with the person am in a realationship with. always relying on them to think of something, ( am a male ) really feel i should be more dominant. any tips to that

[…] than any action at all. This is a really interesting article about passive conditioning: Why People Remain Quiet, Shy, and Non-Assertive: The Benefits of Passive Behavior and Communication I had definitely always been told that my passive behaviour was better than my […]

Puleng Mabe

Wow!dat person is me i also use to think i was the only one with such behaviour and its bcoz m stupid.M really up 4 change bcoz dis has been hurting me.realy need ur help pls keep sendig more info and wre can i get hold of ur books.




What do you say about kids who suffer with selective mutism? What contributes to this condition? It is like being paralyzed within yourself. Almost impossible to respond in a classroom setting or socially. My parents were always told, “she’ll grow out of it.” Really? I’m 55 now. Oh, my God. What this has done to me.

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