Thursday, November 11, 2010

Passive Aggressive Person Is Passive Aggressive (and supremely annoying)

Is it really all that hard to say what you mean? And if you just cannot bring yourself to say what you mean, to shut up?

I hate passive aggression. So I am completely annoyed to be hit with it twice in one day, one in real life, once in my google reader.

In real life:

(My cubicle is entirely decorated in pictures from video game magazines. It has been so for the entire time I have worked here. My bosses think it's funny and clients, if they ever even see my cubicle, either don't notice or don't care.)

Office Manager: What are those?
Me: The pictures?
Office Manager: Why are they up there?
Me: Because I like them.
Office Manager: Do you think they are appropriate?
Me: Do you want me to take them down?
Office Manager: I'm just asking if you think they are appropriate.
Me: Well, I did put them up there.
Office Manager: This is a law office.
Me: They've been up there the entire time I've worked here, and I've never had a complaint.
Office Manager: Are those from video games?
Me: If you want me to take them down, just let me know.
Office Manager: Well, I'm just asking if you think they are appropriate.
Me: Apparently, I do.
Office Manager: *walks off in a huff*
I have no problem with my boss telling me to remove decorations from my cubicle. It's not my property, I have no right to say how it is decorated. What I have a problem with is this hinting around that the pictures should be removed. Honestly, I think my office manager knows the bosses don't care and won't support her in this, so she's reduced to either (a) passive aggressively getting me to do what she wants, or (b) keeping her mouth shut. Well, she may as well have picked (b), because I'm not taking shit down until I am directly told to.

It's even worse in personal relationships. Just say what you need to say. Or don't. Passive aggression is nonsense, and very damaging to relationships. You do not want to force someone to have to decode the secret meaning behind your every action and phrase. It's borderline abusive. Just say it already. Or swallow it, I don't care. (If you want to see me foam at the mouth, ask me how I feel about The Rules. Not in the comments, you can't see me.)

This is advice on how to break up with a person that is not objectionable in any real way, but just not whom you want to spend the rest of your life with. My advice? Just say it. Yes, that's hurtful. Yes, that person will be, justifiably, angry and hurt. Actions have consequences, deal with it. Or just stay with the "not quite whom you want to with" forever. It's up to you.

Do not do what this guy suggests.

Now, you can scare him off, tell him off, or send him off. A better way exists: Let him conclude you’re not Mrs. Right, so he can walk off with dignity. Whatever he concludes registers better than whatever you say or do. Get your act together and display it proudly as a woman he’s never known. Then watch him run from it.

Just tell him the truth. Seriously, respect him and yourself and tell him the truth. That is ridiculous.

Okay, I'll go back to killing entire forests now. (I'm printing out an enormous file right now. I'm on my second toner cartridge and my 8th ream of paper. Today.)


  1. Hear hear. Don't waste my fucking time by trying to encourage me to break up with you (which seems to be the thrust behind "let him conclude you're not Mrs. Right")

    I can't say I'm completely innocent of passive-aggressiveness. (Who isn't, these days?) But I can say that I prefer not to have to deal with it, and prefer not to do it, either.

  2. I enjoy my husband's "helpful" comments that start with "Don't you think you should ......turn the radio station? ...wear something different? ...clean the cat box?" My response is always, "No, I don't think that. Are you asking me to...(whatever)?"

    #2 on the PA hit parade is "If you're going to the store on your way home from work, I'm out of my cereal." (This is while he's driving home from work, passing dozens of stores on the way.) My response is "So, if I'm NOT going to the store, you're NOT out of cereal? Problem solved!" Eventually, after 33 years, he's learning to ASK a direct question, like "Will you stop and get me some cereal?"

  3. Agree. I'm the b) "or not" guy: I only ask for things if I'm sure they won't be too much hassle or pain for someone else. I'd probably be very easy to take advantage of [i]if you were direct[/i]. If a partner asked me to take a week off work and drive them across the country, I'd probably meekly say "okay". But if they gave me passive agressive bullshit to get me to drive them to the corner store, I'd ignore them (admittedly I'd feel guilty about it, but that's what passive aggression is designed to do: guilt me into doing what they want. So despite the guilt, I'd keep ignoring until they ask directly).

    I'd say that's the major flaw in the PA approach: the fact that it relies on guilt. It shares that with Living Waters-style evangelism. And as Fred Clark once wrote: "guilt is a terrible motivator."

  4. oh, that standby of mothers and religion, everywhere.

    'course, my bigger problem with that piece is the assumption that ALL women want a husband, and want said husband to be "bread winner" and "head of the house" and other BS "i'm a woman so i HAVE to have a man command me in my life, but i have to MAKE the man command me, so if you aren't going to treat me like a child you aren't good enough for me" shit.

    i work HARD to not be passive aggressive - what *I* hate is people ascribing things i do/say to being passive aggressive when they are merely AGGRESSIVE. gods, that pisses me off.

    some examples: telling boss that i'm making almost a dollar less than everyone else, doing the same job and better. THEN saying "so i'd appreciate it if you'd see your way to paying me what i'm worth - or, at least, what you pay everyone else." it starts off APPEARING PA - and would be, if i hadn't followed with a *VERY* direct and aggressive demand.

    andother is: standing up in a Poli-sci class, where i was the ONLY female present and paying for it, and calling the rest of the class on the BS. i said "Guys, look - i have the ONLY A in this class. there's a *reason* for that - i READ what i'm supposed to read and i know what i'm fucking talking about. the next asshole who DARES to say anything along the lines of "why would *YOU* know that" is going to get the crap beat out of him. Defenstration isn't out of the question. oh, you don't know what that is? and you question *MY* competence to discuss historical political actions?"

    HOW are EITHER of those "PASSIVE Agressive"??? aggressive, yes, bitchy, yes. possible even pushy. not a fucking thing "passive" about when.

  5. I grew up and live in the South. My mother, aunts, cousins and grandmothers were Southern Belles and my sisters are currently Southern Belles. I am immune to passive aggression.


Comments are for you guys, not for me. Say what you will. Don't feel compelled to stay on topic, I enjoy it when comments enter Tangentville or veer off into Non Sequitur Town. Just keep it polite, okay?

I am attempting to use blogger's new comment spam feature. If you don't immediately see your comment, it is being held in spam, I will get it out next time I check the filter. Unless you are Dennis Markuze, in which case you're never seeing your comment.

Creative Commons License
Forever in Hell by Personal Failure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at