Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Passive Aggression. I Bet You Think This Blog is About You. Don't You Don't You?

Okay, so I'm thinking I might not have been as clear as I should have been. I'm afraid that I've upset some of my Southern Brethren. For that, I apologize.

Being passive aggressive doesn't have anything to do with being from the North or the South. (However I think the South it is more common.) Being passive aggressive doesn't have anything to do with being polite or grown-up or manners or any of that jazz. No, you shouldn't tell people that they offended you every time they look at you funny. That is not passive aggression.

Passive aggression is about aggression. A-gress-i-on. And purposefully and aggressively harming someone, is wrong. Period. Whether it is passive or not. I prefer the up-in-your-face aggression, myself. At least I know what I'm dealing with.

Passive aggression is a kind of aggression that does not confront. Instead it battles whatever it is that it is mad at or hates, by manipulation, procrastination, paying its employee late, or less, or never... or whatever.

Two examples. One is P.A. and one is not.

Non-passive-aggressive Jeff
1. Sally is mean to Jeff. Jeff blows it off because he knows Sally gets a little "funny" once a month or so, and Jeff goes about his business.

P.A. Jeff
2. Sally is mean to Jeff. Even though Jeff knows its something about a monthly cycle, Jeff decides to retaliate. But Jeff is a little too afraid of Sally to do it directly. So instead of attacking Sally to her face, Jeff gives her the silent treatment all afternoon, and then purposefully takes his time to get ready for Sally's business party and makes her late.

Example number 2.

Non P.A. Samuel

1. Samuel believes that his German language exam is stupidly difficult, considering he is a music DMA candidate. However, Samuel accepts the difficulty as one of life's pain-in-the-ass things and buckles down and studies as if he is about to be the U.N. translator for the German Chancellor.

P.A. Samuel
2. Samuel believes that his German language exam is stupidly difficult, considering he is a music DMA candidate. Samuel silently rebels by refusing to study and finally, Samuel is forced to cheat on his exam.

Example number 3.

Non-P.A. Daniel and Helen
1. Daniel hates it that his wife, Helen no longer wants to have hanky panky with him. Daniel sits Helen down and in a very nice and understanding way, expresses that his needs are not being met. Helen tells Daniel that she wishes Daniel was more romantic, like he used to be when they were dating. Daniel says he is sorry and starts bringing Helen flowers and other sweet things that he used to do. Daniel starts wearing cologne. Daniel stops wearing his favorite underoos every night, the ones that barely cover the essentials, and buys some J. Crew boxers. In no time-flat, Daniel and Helen are back doing the marital shigg-nasty and all is well.

P.A. Daniel (and probably Helen too)
2. Daniel hates it that his wife, Helen, no longer wants to have hanky panky. Instead of confronting his wife and communicating his feelings, Daniel first tries to accept things as they are and tries to bury his frustration and anger. Then, Daniel resorts to expressing his sexuality in other ways, justifying his actions by saying, "well, if she isn't going to help me out, I'm getting what I need elsewhere." Then ten years down the road, Daniel meets another woman that finds him attractive at a local work event. In two weeks, two months or a year, Daniel has left his wife and runnoft with his new happiness. Leaving the wife (and possibly kids) bewildered.

Now, that second scenario obviously is going to be much more complicated. And not all divorces happen that way. But my dad is a preacher, as many of you know, and he did his own dissertation on divorce and has counseled many-a-almost-divorced couple over their passive aggressive tendencies and some opened up the lines of communication and some didn't. Take a guess at the ones that end up staying together. I also have have many, many friends who have failed in their marriage because both couples never confronted each other, they simply let it build and retaliated passive aggressively. One couple got so bad that in the morning, the wife would make coffee, pour herself a cup and then pour out the rest before the husband could get a cup of his own. Sounds absurd, but that's what years and years of passive aggression will do to ya.

I hope I've done a better job this time around.

And I will say this a clearly as I can. If any of these events, (besides the coffee true story) resemble any of my readers, it was and is a complete coincidence. As the Lord of Hosts is my witness. I am not talking about anyone that I know. (Accept for the coffee couple and I don't really know them anymore.)


Fork said...

What about a passive aggressive Fork? You didn't mention a passive aggressive Fork!

Here's some interesting reading on passive aggression!


Popcorn said...

I am cackling at non PA Helen and what's his name. Seth that is hilarious.

Popcorn said...

OMG that hair picture is hysterical. : )

Bill Hensley said...

Thanks for the clarification Seth. Agression is the issue. I don't like aggression of either kind, passive or active. The key point is that retaliating in a manner intended to hurt someone is wrong no matter how you do it. And you can be just as wrong by being blunt or rude as you can by being deceptive or manipulative. The rude New Yorker wins no points compared to the deceptive Southerner.