Passive Aggressiveness & Why It’s Killing Relationships

rose-2Everyone’s guilty of passive aggressive behavior at some point – me, you, our mothers… It seems like it’s become a social norm, which is really very sad and disturbing. Who’s fault is it if we can’t say no? Certainly not the person requesting something from us.

And if we work in the service industry then it doesn’t matter if we want to help people or not. That’s what we get paid to do. Of course many customers use passive aggressive behavior as some kind of weapon of entitlement.

So what is passive aggressiveness and why should we care? I know it sounds like psychological hooey – yes, that’s the technical term. But until more people become aware of the behavior we will be stuck with entitled bullies no matter where we go. We may even be the bullies.

Remember, most bullies don’t just magically disappear after they graduate high school. They become professional bullies with a lot more power to destroy other people’s lives.

But I digress. Passive Aggressive behavior can be defined as follows according to

*denoting or pertaining to a personality type or behavior marked by the expression of negative emotions in passive, indirect ways, as through manipulation or non-cooperation*

There’s an underlying cause of this behavior that we may not at first recognize. We all want our way all of the time. It’s human nature. We were born that way. We’re trained to be that way every time we cried as a baby for a bottle, a diaper change, a soothing word.

If parents are truly looking out for their children they start weaning them from that behavior as soon as they’re able. But sometimes it’s just easier to give in to someone’s demands. Sometimes it’s even prudent because that person is your boss. After all they seemingly have a vice grip on your financial future.

But holy shit have you ever had a conversation with someone and been so confused afterward you have no idea what you agreed to do or if the person is really angry even though they were laughing. Who has time for that? Not me and I suspect you don’t either and yet we all do it to one degree or another.

Another underlying cause of passive aggressiveness is the fact that we all want everyone to like us all the time. It’s not possible, but we still want it. One of my favorite Golden Girls episode is when Rose starts a new job and one of her coworkers just wants to be left alone. She can’t understand why he doesn’t like her or want to be friends so she bakes him a cake and visits him at home.

– For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about think about all of those Facebook ‘friends’ who message you and then get mad at you and leave another message saying what a bad friend you are when you ignore them. –

He finally relents when she agrees that if they were friends then she would respect his wish to be left alone. It’s funny in the episode, but really how sad is it that some people are so needy that they have to become a nuisance or hostile.

So the next time a friend wants you to do something and your first response is:

‘Oh, okay, if that’s what you want…’


‘Are you sure? I mean, I only want to help, but…’

Think about your tone of voice and then check to see if there’s some internal hostility. If so, just say no. Be polite, kind, whatever, but say no. It doesn’t have to be a huge deal and if they have a problem with it then that’s on them.

Then on the flip side. If someone tells you no – and I want you to really get this – it’s perfectly okay.

I know, I know, everyone should do what we tell them, the way we want them to do it, all the time. I’ve fought this belief most of my life, but once I really got that not everyone is going to support me or even like me – even (especially) family – it made it easier when someone told me no directly.

I even prefer it now because once someone says no I can move on. There’s no games, no lingering doubt or hostility.

Not all confrontation is bad.

Being able to say and hear no once in a while gives us freedom and happiness.  Because when we do hear yes we know that the person is saying it because they want to and because they like and accept us. Not because of some twisted need to be liked themselves.

Hmmm, maybe it goes back to the world not revolving around me or you?

Definitely something to think about…



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