While approaching the departure gate at the airport on a recent trip, I was feeling the anxiety of finding a place for us to sit as we waited for our boarding time. The anxiety was due to the fact that so many people place their backside in one chair and their belongings in the seats next to them.
They totally ignore that many people are standing because of the many seats holding luggage. One guy had the remains of his plastic sandwich holder and empty soda container in the seat next to him.
I wondered if these people are just uncaring of others. Maybe they are just plain rude. Maybe they are just not very aware of their surroundings. Maybe they are demonstrating passive aggression. This, of course, got me started on a quest to learn more about passive aggression. Internet here I come.
It seems that passive aggression is a habitual pattern of resistance to expected behavior. Apparently there are degrees of this behavior from non-assertive to deliberate. It can take many forms from conflict avoidance to outright maliciousness.
Sometimes people engage in passive aggression and don’t consciously realize it. It can be in the form of body language incongruence with the spoken words. It can be what the speaker perceives as innocent comments that express true feelings of hostility.
The main point is that passive aggression is a means for attempting to disguise an emotion while still providing a small attack. The emotion can be many things including anxiety, fear of conflict, jealousy, guilt, etc. It is often a strategy used when we are afraid to be open and honest. The emotional stress we feel makes us pacify ourselves with passive aggression. We need to point out here that intent is an important consideration. If you truly mean no harm, then it should not be considered passive aggression.
Yeah, I know, some examples are needed here.
A friend visits your new house and says, “You did a great job decorating. It makes the house look bigger.” A friend gets new expensive shoes. You say, “I wish I could afford a pair but all my money is spent on necessities.” A business associate is telling you about his new profitable client. You begin checking your phone. You leave co-workers off important communication. You “forget” to invite a co-worker to the officewide event. You form cliques and leave others out.
Passive aggression is present every day, all day long. You see it and participate in it at industry shows and conferences especially. Since the shows are neutral territory, people engage in passive aggression to exert their power, hide their jealousies, cause guilt, disguise insults and much more.
As I write this, I am engaging in passive aggression. I am ignoring a text from an individual that caused me some aggravation and anxiety. He wants to continue the discussion and I know that there will be conflict. Since I am the amiable personality type, I dislike conflict. By ignoring his request for now, I am being passive aggressive and I know it.
Interestingly, as I finished writing the last sentence, I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms in a defensive gesture. That is a body language issue and will be saved for a future article. By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, this whole article is passive aggressive.
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