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Submissive Behavior


Techniques Assertiveness > Submissive Behavior

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



submissive (or passive) behavior means shying away from saying what you really mean and not seeking to achieve your needs, particularly when someone else has conflicting needs. A submissive person is a shrinking violet, avoiding upsetting others either because they fear them or they fear to hurt their feelings.

When things go wrong, the submissive person is likely to assume that they are to blame in some way, and accept culpability when singled out by other people.

You can often see submissiveness in the use of such as floppy language, qualifiers and submissive body language, although these do not always indicate submissive behavior.


A child is bullied at school but neither fights back nor tells the teachers. They may wish they could be stronger, like the bully.

A manager tends to avoid giving complex work to one of their subordinates who complains whenever something becomes difficult.

Sorry, I didn't mean to say that. I should have realized that you wanted to go elsewhere.


The core assumption of submissive behavior is that you are inferior to others in some way, and hence that other people have greater rights and more valid truths than you.

In Transactional Analysis, the adaptive child may become submissive when coping with the controlling parent.

The submissive person will typically suppress their feelings and repress memories of being dominated, particularly early triggers that led them to their submissive state. They may also cope with the disappointment of not getting what they want by trivializing.

The result of submissive behavior is that you get little of what you want whilst losing the respect of other people. You are also likely to fall into a spiral of failing self-esteem, internal anger and psychosomatic problems.

See also

Floppy language, Qualifiers, Submissive body language, Coping Mechanisms, Fear, Distress


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