Baby, Tell Me Like It Is: Passive Aggressive Behavior

One of my favorite put downs ( to receive) is when someone passive aggressively tells me that the reason he/she never answers my text, calls, smoke signals or other forms of contact is “I’m not a slave to my technology.” Oh, and I am? I don’t have a life outside my technology. Really?? This is a passive aggressive way of telling me “I still want you around, but your needs for connection are not important. You are expecting too much.”  So,  instead of telling me what you need or being open about an issue, you are a slave to your passive aggressive form of communication. Which, by the way, not answering calls, texts and other forms of communication is passive aggressive. You can always talk about the amount and type of communication you like in an open conversation. Or, if you’re busy, a quick text saying “Can I talk to you later?” will suffice.

What is passive aggressive? I’m not going to give you a clinical definition. I’m going to give you my own version. It’s  a form of communication (verbal, body language, way of being, etc.) that’s designed to give relevant information to the receiver in a way that is indirect, unclear, and often hurtful. I’ve certainly been passive aggressive myself at times. It’s a great way to avoid conflict, keep people guessing about what you really mean and keep people around without getting too close. The downside is it destroys relationships with healthy people because they see right through it.

How did I get over being passive aggressive? I don’t know that I ever will. But, the big thing I’ve done is to really discipline myself to:

  • Say what I mean, mean what I say and don’t say it mean.
  • Understand my own needs, accept them and ask for what I need.
  • Hit problems dead on and talk about the real issues even if means making myself vulnerable.
  • Deal with issues immediately when they come up.

A friend of mine and her husband were having an argument about her use of Facebook.

“You’re addicted to it,” he said.

“I’m not,” she said, “I’m just having fun and sharing stuff with my friends.”

“Everytime we do something you have to post it on there. You’re on it four hours a day.”

“No, I’m not. I only do it when I have downtime, and I enjoy it.”

At that point, I was tired of hearing this. This could go on for hours and down the rabbit hole talking about a nebulous thing like being addicted to Facebook and whether or not she was spending too much time on it. I’ve been married twice. I know exactly what these arguments look like. We’re dancing around the real issue, nothing ever gets resolved, nobody even talks about their needs and everybody says things they regret later.

“Time out.” I said. “If you want her to get off Facebook and spend more time with you, ask for it.”

They both looked at me like I was nuts. They were right. This was none of my business. I just have so little tolerance for it these days.

All of this negative Facebook posting is passive aggressive. I have people all the time that ask me, “Who was that directed at?” I will say that I have rarely if ever done that. (Okay…maybe a few times with my ex-husband, but he’s not a friend on Facebook.) But, I know I would have in the past. And, I know many people use that as a forum for blasting somebody or a group in an indirect way. All of this negative political and religious stuff that is posted is hurtful to YOUR FRIENDS. And, it makes YOU look like a jerk. People have committed suicide over Facebook posts. If you are my Facebook friend, and you are questioning whether something is about you, it’s not. That’s a boundary I’ve set on myself because I know the temptation, and, most of all, I know I’ll regret it later. If you are blocked, well, your ears might be burning.

I don’t hit on men’s profiles on that are negative or blasting women that they’ve dated previously. That also goes for those that say things like “if you are looking for money, I’m not sharing….if you are a serial dater, don’t contact me…if you haven’t gotten over your ex, pass on by.” I mean, these are all valid points, but erecting the barriers at this point is a signal to me that they are not very open. Number one, anybody with those issues that is out dating doesn’t know they have those issues. They are going to contact them anyway. I broke my rule awhile back and ended up dating a very passive aggressive guy that wasn’t ready for a relationship but wouldn’t take the risk of letting me go. We ended up ticked off at each other because he couldn’t understand his own needs and let himself be alone. That’s a big thing in ending passive aggressive behavior. You have to know your own needs and ACCEPT them. We can’t have everything all the time.

I truly believe that most people mean well. If you are uncomfortable managing conflict or of hurting someone’s feelings, you may think that a passive aggressive comment will get the point across. The problem is, it doesn’t. The other person is left wondering what was meant. It causes little breaks in relationships that eventually cause a major one or just a very fractured connection. I know how scary it is to talk about conflict. It used to terrify me. But, once I started practicing it and got great results, it has become much easier.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re reading this and you think its about you….it is….Sorry 🙂 Old habits die hard, and I can’t block you from a blog. 

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