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Relational Aggression: Silent Harm in Social Circles

Relational aggression is a term that refers to the behavior where individuals use discourteous conduct to harm or hurt others. They intentionally use indirect approaches like manipulation, oblique bullying, and throwing shades with the direct purpose of knocking down the self-esteem of others.

Relational aggression can be very damaging. It can have emotional as well as psychological impacts on the victims. It is mostly common among friendships, different relationships, and most of all, among teenagers.

Different Types of Relational Aggression

Relational aggression among friends

It is verily common among friends, where one might select their victim in a friend group and constantly try to belittle them whilst trying to ruin their reputation in front of others. Their actions Involve passing negative and hurtful comments, making them feel unwanted, excluded, consistently disrespectful, and manipulated.
For example, constantly mocking the target just because they don’t meet certain standards and expectations.

Relational Aggression

Relational Aggression in Romantic Relationships

In romantic relationships, relational aggression can lead to unnecessary complications. Victims face challenges like overburdening dominance, manipulation, emotional damage, guilt trips, immature communication, and blame games.

A person manipulating their partner in order to have good control over them and their relationship could be taken as an example of relational aggression. A person threatening their partner just because they refuse to do certain things and act in a desired manner is also a form of relational aggression.

Reactive Relational Aggression

Reactive relational aggression results in a reaction when someone is being provoked. It is often seen as a form of revenge. For instance, a person might be aggressive and inconsiderate in terms of their behavior, if they feel threatened by someone’s actions, or let’s say if they’re hurt by someone’s misconduct.

Proactive Relational Aggression

It is the complete opposite of reactive relational aggression. It involves intentionally putting someone down with a sheer agenda. For example, disliking someone to the point where you feel this urge to destroy their overall reputation is a sign of proactive relational aggression.

Overt vs covert relational aggression

Overt means obvious and direct actions like blatant verbal abuse or threats, physical abuse, and evident aggression. Whereas covert aggression involves hidden and indirect ways of inflicting damage on someone. It does not involve physical aspects.


Some common symptoms of relational aggression are

  • being snarky for no reason.
  • Manipulation.
  • Unnecessary negative criticism.
  • Going behind someone’s back.
  • Gossiping.
  • Spreading rumors.
  • Direct or indirect verbal assault.
  • Public humiliation.
  • Turning everyone against one specific person.
  • Damaging someone’s reputation.
  • Engaging in actions that are hurtful and disrespectful to someone intentionally.
  • Bullying/Cyberbullying.

Related Topic: Signs Of Covert Narcissism In Relationships

Why do people engage in relational aggression?

People might engage in relationally aggressive behavior because of multiple reasons. These reasons include

Jealousy factor

Jealousy can lead to relational aggression. Jealousy can give rise to negativism, hateful attitudes, and behaviors that can be extremely toxic. Individuals might try to make others feel left out and embarrass them just because they’re jealous. They also engage in hurtful activities like gossiping, spreading rumors, and other indirect attacks.


When someone is insecure about themselves, or their relationships, It triggers their aggressive attitude and their behavior becomes extremely offensive towards others. If people feel insecure about their relationships, this too can make them behave a certain way that can sabotage their relationships with others.

Poor communication skills

When you lack communication skills, you might end up saying things that can be very disturbing for others. Sometimes you don’t even have a bad intention but you still hurt others unknowingly. That is why it is very important to work on your communication skills. It plays a crucial role in self-development and other aspects of your life.

Relational Aggression

Relational aggression among adolescents

Adolescence is basically the stage of development that lies between childhood and adulthood. Adolescents are the people between ages of 10 to 19. Relational aggression is very common among these people. During the period of adolescence, the emotions of people are intensely heightened.

They might feel the weight of societal pressure and engage in activities like bullying, manipulation, spreading rumors, and demeaning other people. This gives them satisfaction and a feeling of superiority. Also, their constant struggle of trying to fit in and assert dominance can highly influence how they choose to behave.

Impacts of Relational Aggression

There can be several drastic consequences for people who involve themselves in relational aggression, as well as for the victims. The victims of relational aggression face many challenges. They suffer from low self-esteem, depressive episodes, feeling left out, and insecurities. They also face long-term emotional trauma. Overall relational aggression can be very toxic with prolonged impacts.

The people who engage in relational aggression also face several undesirable outcomes. They end up ruining their relationships, and they struggle with maintaining healthy bonding and connections.
People keep their distance after knowing their true intentions. Such people are hard to trust. It is important that people involved in such activities take accountability for their actions and fix their ways of dealing with people.

Overcoming Relational Aggression

Overcoming relational can be very important in order to maintain strong fulfilling connections and long-lasting relationships. Following are the strategies one can practice in order to avoid aggressive behaviors in relationships and other situations.

Learn About: Ethical Non Monogamy: Understanding Relationship Styles

Working on Communication Skills

When you know how to properly and openly communicate to someone about issues and you’re willing to have a healthy dialogue with the purpose of finding solutions to your problems, your relationships will flourish in a beautiful way.


In Order to understand yourself better, you need to self-analyze from time to time. It can help you identify the areas of your personality that need improvement. When you know what you’re doing wrong, you’ll definitely work on yourself and find ways to do it in the right way. The same goes for relational aggression. When you finally track down the pattern of your aggression, it will be easier to overcome it.

Conflict solving abilities

There are many ways to solve a conflict other than being aggressive and bitter about it. Once you learn how to skillfully handle conflicts to get better outcomes. Everything will work in your favor.

Seeking help

If one’s aggressive behavior gets way out of control and they’re aware of it. Maybe it’s time to seek medical and professional help. Remember it’s better to put a stop to it than continuing to harm yourself and others too.

2 thoughts on “Relational Aggression: Silent Harm in Social Circles”

  1. Pingback: Verbal Aggression Definition: Causes and Coping Strategies

  2. Pingback: 8 Traits of Toxic People - Working Mom Blog | Outside the Box Mom

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