The Plight Of The Passive-Aggressie


Be aggressive, be passive – those are both legit behaviors. But when a person paradoxically combines passivity with aggression, it makes me want to gouge my brain out with a rusty pencil and then chug a gallon of expired Windex.

Indirect and underhanded hostility. I feel cold just thinking about it.

Personally, I go to great lengths to avoid passive-aggression. Some people are non-confrontational; I am non-passive-aggressional.

Passive-aggression is offensive for many reasons, but I would say mostly because of its oxymoronic qualities. Passivity and aggression are opposing forces, like me and Mondays. Or Chris Hemsworth and ugliness. Or exercise and hangovers – opposites.

The inconsistency is frustrating. It’s like being happy-sad. It’s insincere, unnatural and deeply unsettling. When is the last time you saw someone walking delightedly down the road, on a warm summer day – but wait, also in a maniacal rage? Never. The answer is never. Have you ever witnessed a person being hilarious, but also throwing up all over their friends? No. It’s erratic and uncomfortable and it makes no sense. You can’t be two things at once.

Okay, pump the brakes. If passive-aggression is so illogical, then why does it exist?

I don’t know. Are you implying I’m a liar? (I’m sorry, that was a little passive-aggressive.) But for real, consider the gross tension between passivity and aggression…

Passive-aggression (PA) is a character flaw brought on by a person’s inability to deal with their own crippling bitterness. They are uncomfortable being openly aggressive and “get ahead” under the guise of pleasing others.

PA can be so subtle that it’s only heard by small dogs and sensed by wild horses.

Other forms are more obvious, like when you’ve met someone a handful of times, and they avoid eye contact at a gathering. When dodging you becomes futile, they might say, “Oh hi, I don’t think we’ve met, I’m Regina Philangee.” Regina is being PA because she is insecure about her weird name. PA can also stand for “Pure Asshole.”

Other vaguely belligerent PA comments:

  • “I’m not mad – whatever” (A Basic B fave, on the regular)
  • “That’s an interesting outfit”
  • “You’re overreacting – relax”
  • “No one will ever love you as much as I do”
  • “You don’t look like you’re taking care of yourself, I’m just looking out for your health”
  • “Do you own a hairbrush?”
  • “I’d say you’re progressing, but not to where you should be. I’ll get back to you”

The PA in our lives is ubiquitous and tough to ignore. Maybe it’s your pedo neighbor who leaves an empty candy dish outside on Halloween. Or the “bro” who insists that you’d look better blonde. Perhaps it’s the family member who guilt trips, “People used to have time for each other; I guess things are just different now.”

The lesson here? You can’t really compare one person’s suffering to another’s. Obviously the PA people in your life are unhappy. Choose to be grateful that your biggest burden is dealing with their PA instead of being them, and having to live with whatever made them resentful. Reminder: we all behave this way sometimes. Everyone has anger and pain, hiding somewhere under the hood.

I think the secret to not ending up with the Passive-Aggressies is to be mindful. Pay attention to yourself. Identify when you’re disconnecting your actions from how you actually feel. Let’s recognize that our PA is self-sabotaging and work on not being a dick to others.