“There is a land called Passive Aggresiva and I am their queen.” – Addison Shepard, Grey’s Anatomy
Generally passive aggressive isn’t my thing. I’m more just, well, aggressive.
Okay, so I’m not actually aggressive but I do like to be direct. I like to talk problems through. I like to get to the point. And I like to make my own. Often. Many of my own – but that’s a whole other story.
In my personal life though – as any boyfriend I have ever had can attest – I am the consummate passive aggressor. I have a finely honed sense of passive aggression and I practice it with precision.
Like Da Vinci with a lead pencil, like Anna Pavlova and a pair of pointe shoes, like that dude from Shine playing the piano – I am basically a passive aggressive professional.
My unrivaled accomplishment in the field of romantic passive aggression was confirmed when I came across this excellent article in Psychology Today, which lists the most commonly used phrases and advises the reader to avoid them.
Here are a few of my personal favourites:
1. “I’m Not Mad.”
Denying feelings of anger is classic passive aggressive behavior. Rather than being upfront and honest when questioned about his feelings, the passive aggressive person insists, “I’m not mad” even when he is seething on the inside.
Any decent practitioner of passive aggression knows that you are NEVER mad. At least, you’re not mad until you’ve been asked if you ARE mad four or five times. The key is waiting for exasperation point. You need to push your questioner right up to the moment they’re about to stop asking and storm out of the room – that’s when you give in and explain what they did wrong. It’s a finesse game.
2. “Fine.” “Whatever.”
Sulking and withdrawing from arguments are primary strategies of the passive aggressive person. Since passive aggression is motivated by a person’s belief that expressing anger directly will only make his life worse (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008), the passive aggressive person uses phrases like “Fine” and “Whatever” to express anger indirectly and to shut down direct, emotionally honest communication.
I’m not a big fan of ‘whatever’ but ‘sure’ makes a regular appearance in my passive aggressive vocabulary. It’s helpful on occasions where you’re clearly being expected or assumed to condone a behaviour, which is completely and utterly ridiculous.
For (technically hypothetical but certainly possible) example, this from my boyfriend “I’ll be maybe half an hour late to lunch with your friends but I’ll be there as soon as the Carlton game is finished, okay?” Sure.