September 6, 2013 by phicks2012
I’d like to go on record here as saying that I really HATE the Passive-Aggressive approach that some people have to life. I’ve had a number of friends — some of them house-mates and most of them now LONG downgraded to acquaintances — who made a habit of behaving in this fashion, getting mad (usually over minor incidents and/or unintentional or non-existent slights) and then, instead of verbalizing their pique in an adult manner, setting out to make the supposed villain (me or someone else) pay the price by withholding friendship and affection, or by otherwise behaving in a manner designed to annoy, or even to harm. These people always seemed to believe that their victims deserved this sort of treatment and should know why, but in my personal experience this has seldom if ever been the case. Other friends with whom I’ve discussed this over the years agree, so I don’t think I’m too far off base in this assessment. Do you?
The reactions of passive-aggressive people are generally all out of proportion to anything supposedly done to them by their unwitting friends or acquaintances, and if they were treated even marginally as they treat other people they themselves would be in a constant state of outrage. The other people generally do figure out — at some point — that their friend is “MAD” at them about something, but often they have no earthly idea what that might be, and after dealing with this sort of behavior over and over again they may well do what I’ve sometimes found myself doing. They’ll begin to respond by throwing up their hands and saying “Okay, enough is enough!”
When a supposed friend suddenly stops answering or returning phone calls, stops responding to emails — or responding in a curt, barely civil or overly formal manner — deliberately inviting people they know their target doesn’t like or get along with into proximity when the victim tries to initiate a private conversation, backing out on long-standing plans (aka plans made before they decided to “be MAD”) with little or no warning or apology, and generally behaving badly then they themselves are not being friends, and unless there is some “clinical excuse” the people they are letting down have every right to be annoyed.
I’ve had a number of such people in my life over the years whose method of handling anger — either merited or totally without any basis in reality — has been to behave in a passive-aggressive manner. The first few times it has happened with an individual I’ve always felt hurt and disappointment — especially when the person has denied being mad but then has continued to act in a thoughtless and inconsiderate manner. But, eventually, I’ve just stopped reacting. I’ve had to tell myself that either the person would get over being angry, or they wouldn’t, and that in the meanwhile I just had to go on with my life and ignore the continued slights.
But unfortunately, that’s how some people eventually go from being friends to being acquaintances. They make friendship too conditional, and put the burden of maintaining that relationship too much upon the shoulders of other people. Rather than being honest and adult, they behave like petulant children — taking offense at nothing and then expecting somehow to be placated by people who have no idea what offense they might or might not actually have given — and eventually they kill the essence of the friendship because their friendship cannot be relied upon.
So here’s my “Ode to the Passive-Aggressive”!!! It was actually written nearly a year ago, but still holds.
“Ode to the Passive-Aggressive”
When anger arises, and thoughts are unkind, and fester neath charity’s guise
The passive-aggressive do not speak their mind, but bitterness shines in their eyes.
They do not admit that their hearts have grown cold, nor own their reproach nor their blame,
But others must suffer for fury they hold, as parcel and part of their game.
Withholding affection to punish and harm; acknowledging nothing of fault,
And though they are angry they raise no alarm to warn of impending assault.
They wound by allowing that tasks go undone, and promises falter and fail.
Believing they’re never the culpable one, nor guilty of causing travail.
The damage they do it is never forthright, but as from a serpentine blade.
It comes unexpected like daggers by night, with wounds quite deliberately made.
Envisioning insult where none e’er was meant, and sulking neath smiles falsely worn,
The passive-aggressive lets anger ferment, and wallows in visions of scorn.
Their friends and their families so rarely know aught of what they have done to offend,
And wander in ignorance of vengeance sought, perceiving no cause to defend.
But insult unspoken is withal unkind, denying the right of defense,
And those who too oft by such acts are defined will do so at friendship’s expense.
[29 December 2012]