Dear Dr. Shari,

I have been called Passive-Aggressive by multiple people and I challenge people to tell me what is wrong with it. They act like it is a huge problem but it is not. Aggressive is combative and hurtful. I am not that. I do not raise my voice, I do not purposely hurt people. People who are not passive aggressive are just aggressive and I find this much worse. — Pam


I am not reading a question in your letter. I am reading a challenge. And this challenge, I will gladly accept, as you are representing a personality type that I would like to expose to the readers.

Dear Readers,

Pam is defending a personality trait that others find noxious. She makes multiple statements about why she is right, and others are wrong. You can see that she is not looking for advice. So, most likely, this letter is merely designed to help her win an argument or defend a point by playing a well rehearsed word game. People like this often give the impression that they are reasonable and workable, but if you listen to the actual words, you can decipher the intention behind them

So, lets blow this up:

Back to you, Pam,

Lets start by defining the term: “Passive aggressive” is an underhanded way of saying a negative or hurtful thing, without really saying it. Passive aggressiveness is characterized by NOT saying what you really mean, and it is designed to affect a person’s thoughts or actions. It is, therefore, a form of manipulation.

Passive Aggressiveness is untrustworthy. This is one of the most illuminating realities of this personality type. If a person is willing to be passive aggressive, then their intentions cannot be trusted.

Passive Aggressiveness is Irritating. It brings an added level of negativity to an already contentious situation. Adding irritation is like adding insult to injury. It does not improve a situation, it worsens it.

Passive Aggressiveness is immature. It reduces an interaction to a low level and therefore renders it worthless. Once a partner in communication demonstrates Passive aggressiveness, the conversation is not worth continuing.

Passive Aggressiveness is inauthentic. Real relationships on any level, whether they are personal, intimate or professional with boundaries, benefit from authenticity and crumble when one party engages with inauthenticity.

Pam, you did not win this one, but you helped demonstrate a contrast between being powerful in communication and being weak. Rather than defending dishonest, negative behavior, I would recommend developing a more powerful form of communication. You will feel better about yourself and you won’t have to waste your time defending bad behavior.

My best,

Dr. Shari


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