Sunday, May 7, 2017

You keep using that term "passive aggression". I do not think you know what it means...

This sums it up better than my post does.

Not long ago, I ranted about people who misuse the term "projection".  It usually happens when someone has an opinion contrary to another person's and voices it somehow.  If they voice a contrary opinion in a way that hints of emotion, the other person might accuse them of "projection".  But most of the time, when people scream about projection, they don't know what they're talking about.

I have found that many people similarly lack an understanding of "passive aggression".  And sometimes, they will accuse a person of being passive aggressive when really, the person simply disagrees or does something the first person thinks is shitty.

Recently, in one of the local Facebook groups, there was a huge drama in a group where one would hope there wouldn't be much drama.  This particular group is a place where people share tips on vets, dog supplies, dog sitters, kennels, and the like.  Lately, dramas have been arising as some people have used the group as a forum for rehoming their animals.  A lot of people get very judgmental about people who rehome their pets, especially if they also ask for a "rehoming fee".

For the record, I try not to be too judgmental about people who feel the need to give up their animals. I would rather they try to find someone who wants the dog than dump the dog at a shelter or worse, simply turning it loose in a forest.  I figure if someone takes in a dog and can no longer take care of it, it's better to look for someone who wants the animal and can care for it.  I have two dogs that were failures in other people's homes.  I love them dearly and am grateful to have them.  I wouldn't have them if their original owners had kept them... and perhaps they wouldn't be as loved as they are.

That being said, I can see why some people are upset about exorbitant "rehoming fees".  I know why rescues do it.  They are trying to cover the expenses of rescuing the dogs and make sure that the dogs don't land in the hands of people who might use them for nefarious purposes like dog fighting or lab experiments.  Individuals who do it-- asking as much as $350 for their pet-- are really doing it to make money.  On the other hand, when I had a horse, I wouldn't expect to get him for free.  People sell their horses.  Why are dogs different?  I guess that's a topic for another blog post.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  After the dog rehoming posts, which got very heated and involved a lot of name calling, another person complained about someone leaving their pet husky's shedding dog hair at the dog park.  That thread blew up and devolved into name calling and fighting.  The admin of the group kicked out a bunch of people without bothering to warn them.  In retrospect, perhaps that was the wrong thing to do.  The mass bootings pissed off a bunch of people, though.  And when the group's creator came back and posted a list of rules, quite a few people got even more upset.  One person accused her of being "passive aggressive."

I can see why people were annoyed about the laundry list of new rules, but there was nothing passive aggressive about the admin's decision to post them.  In fact, I think the person accusing the admin of being passive aggressive lacks understanding of what passive aggression actually is.

A person who is passive aggressive lacks assertiveness.  He or she appears to be cooperative and supportive, but is actually being hostile and resistant.  A perfect example of passive aggressive behavior is when a person appears to be upset about something.  You ask what's wrong.  They say "Nothing.  I'm fine."  And then they smile at you, but you can tell they're being fake.  Or say you decide you want to go back to college.  Your partner acts like he or she is fine with the decision, but then does things to sabotage your success like bringing their buddies over and partying when you're trying to study.  Passive aggressive people drag their heels as they tell you they're in agreement.  

A passive aggressive person will feign shock when the object of their hostility finally blows up at them for being so indirectly nasty.  They will try to make their victims feel badly for reacting.  As a matter of fact, as I sit here writing this, it occurs to me that my former best friend, who is now permanently on my shit list, is a master of passive aggression.  When she'd make little digs at me that would eventually provoke a reaction, she'd act like I was being crazy or unreasonable.  I distinctly remember having chats with her on Facebook and being furious when our conversations ended.  She had a way of bringing out the worst in me, but I kept giving her the benefit of the doubt because we'd been friends for so long.  When I finally realized what a fucking asshole she really is, I had no problem dumping her.  And, in fact, I really don't miss her.  She was very good at being nasty without appearing to be nasty.  That shit drove me crazy and I don't miss it at all.

Passive aggressive people don't like confrontation, but they get something in their craw that makes them act out somehow.  So they act nice, but there's an undercurrent of tension or hostility that tells you something is wrong.  They won't tell you what the problem is, but you sense there is a problem.  If you are an empathetic person and also don't like confrontation, you might soon find yourself walking on eggshells.  That makes it uncomfortable to be around the other person who doesn't want to clear the air.

An admin in a Facebook group who posts a list of rules is not being passive aggressive.  He or she is confronting negative behavior with a set of rules.  You may not like the rules.  You may think she's overreacting and being a micromanager.  But that does not make her "passive aggressive".


  1. People love to throw around psychobabble terms. They're legitimate psychological terms, but when they're over-used with limited understanding by the masses, they become, in essence, psychobabble.

    A couple of my aunts were ranting about their brother's wife, who is battling colon cancer. Right now her primary caretaker is her son, who has always been close to her and is presently between college and employment and has graciously stepped up to the task. He maintains their probably five-acre estate while wearing a walkie-talkie so his mom can reach him at any time. My busy-body aunts feel that he's not the right person to be her caretaker because he's a co-dependent. Co-dependent on what? Cancer? My aunts haven't the foggiest notion what the hell they're talking about, and neither of them has offered to go to where my aunt is and to take care of her.

    In terms of passive aggression, one of my least favorite forms of it, which is frequently practiced by a cohort mate who gets under my skin consistently, is the practice of pretending to be joking about a matter when one actually has a serious ax to grind about it. She irks other people as well. When it's her way of handling her own issue, I can ignore it. She sometimes chooses, however, to handle matters for an entire group using her passive-aggressive faux humor. The last time something came up, she said, "I'll take care of it; I'll just make a joke, but he'll get the point." I called her on it -- told her that it was passive-aggressive behavior, and that she could handle personal disputes in that way, but I for one didn't wish to be spoken for in that manner. The other members of the group echoed me, telling her that if she had something to say, she should say it, but making a joke that wasn't really a joke was a lame way of dealing with conflict. Straight talk is fine, and jokes can be very funny, but it doesn't work well to try to joke about things as a way of making a point with someone about how his or her behavior needs to change. It usually results in more hard feelings than if the subject were approached more directly.

    1. Yes, you have captured my point very well. Your aunts sound like they've read too many self help books or watched too much Dr. Phil.

      And you're right about your cohort mate, too. People need to learn how to handle conflict in a straightforward manner. It wastes less time and causes less angst.


Comments on older posts will be moderated until further notice.