A new definition for passive aggressive

large forced smile

… and a big question

I have just noticed what this particular phrase has done over the last few years. Here are two examples of me getting accused of being ‘passive aggressive’.

Attempting to talk about women

In online conversations about GRA reform and how it impacts on women, every way I could think of of describing we people who are not male had been vetoed and – quite without thinking about it, I said something about ‘trans women and women women’ – and got accused of being passive-aggressive.

Asking for what you paid for

In an email exchange during lockdown, I described accurately and without judgement how the university I was attempting to study with had left me in an awkward situation, and asked for help – and got accused of being passive aggressive.

I showed the exchange to several colleagues, none of whom could identity any passive aggressive behaviour from me. When I told my daughter about it, she said “would they prefer outright aggression, then?”

That got me thinking.

Asking for a contracted service

Yesterday, I was writing an email to a distributor whose post-lockdown goings on have caused me considerable anxiety. I have stayed polite, but in one email, I did include this request: is there any way you could let me know of unfulfilled orders in the same year they were placed, so I can follow up what happened?

And I thought, this is where I get accused of being passive aggressive, isn’t it. (Does that sound passive aggressive?)

This week, I can see it coming again because we have Green councillors in my town now and, because Labour is no longer noticeably socialist and, nationally, not especially environmentalist, ex-Labour activists are thinking about voting Green. Our local Labour Party put out a leaflet letting people know that the local Green councillors were voting with the Tories. The Green councillors (who had been voting with the Tories) said it was a slander. I checked, and found they had been. I wrote a blog amplifying the message about Greens voting Tory, because I think it’s important for people to know what they are voting for.

I can see that accusation coming along again. I’ve already been accused of ‘tribalism’ which struck me as odd, because I wasn’t an uncritical Labour supporter even when I was a member – I certainly ampt uncritical now….

A new definition

So, here is my attempt to define how people are now using the phrase ‘passive aggressive’, and probably some of those other accusing words, because I think it probably applies to what I said about the Green councillors:

People accuse you of being passive aggressive when you point out to them what they have done, and its consequences, or why you don’t think it’s reasonable, or you ask them to put it right. It saves them having to change their minds about anything.

Passive aggressive = presenting unwelcome information.

And a big question

mouth stretched in forced smile

… and yet I feel a bit bitchy writing this – am I being passive aggressive? Do you think I should just start screaming at people? But I don’t like the idea of screaming at employees – generally, they can’t help it and anyway, mistakes happen — what if I screamed at the wrong people?


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