Is there a particular word or phrase for when you keep giving suggestions and advice to someone about a broad topic and that person keeps rejecting the ideas but won't specifically say what they want to hear?

Example: During a brainstorming session, I offered a couple of ideas, which were dismissed. Months later, it turned out the group leader only intended to pursue one avenue. (I wish he would have said so at the meeting.)

What do you call a person who is deliberating coy about something and allowes others continue to labor under the illusion that they're being productive when they are secretively not really interested in suggestions that don't align with his idea?

closed as primarily opinion-based by tchrist, anongoodnurse, Kit Z. Fox May 12 '14 at 23:41

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I disagree with the (very uninformative, by the way) title of the question: there isn’t, to my knowledge, an idiomatic expression for that particular notion. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 12 '14 at 22:38
  • This is my first time using this website and I do not know the proper way of titling questions. I'll try to be more informative next time shrugs – sparkledot May 12 '14 at 22:53
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    I don't think this question needs to be on hold, it can be answered as it is now. – dwjohnston May 12 '14 at 23:47
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    I thought the original question (before it was edited) was perfectly good. So was the title. I have no idea why so many people have been having a problem with it. Questions here seem to be prone to over-moderation, just because some users have the power to over-moderate. – Erik Kowal May 13 '14 at 0:33
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    @ErikKowal Where the line between moderation and over-moderation should be drawn is a subject for the meta - Perhaps raise a question there? – user867 May 13 '14 at 0:49

There isn't a single word term for how a person with a hidden agenda behaves. But your description was certainly informative and clear. We are all aware of how difficult it is to deal with people with hidden agendas.

They are difficult, confusing, frustrating, and at times quite discouraging. But so are a lot of other people for other reasons. Their motives may be complex, as well. So it cannot be that one word is set aside for this type or person.

However, you can describe the behavior. Off-putting. Discouraging. Confusing.

This kind of behavior is passive aggressive "often overtly ambivalent, wavering indecisively from one course of action to its opposite" but indirectly pushing for what they desire. Sometimes in the church, this is the only acceptable means of asserting oneself because of the self-denial that is expected. In these cases, the people are behaving passive-aggressively, not displaying a passive aggressive personality disorder.


Personally, I'd call him an asshole with a hidden agenda.

But that may not be what you're after, so as alternatives I suggest saboteur, sabotager, and underminer.

  • Isn't that what you call politicians too? – Edwin Ashworth May 12 '14 at 22:43
  • @EdwinAshworth - I'd call most of them by worse names than that, but then I'd probably get kicked off the site. :-) – Erik Kowal May 13 '14 at 0:36

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