Passive-Aggression & Misappropriated Terms

CW: Me being not my usual fuzzy-wuzzy self, and pissed off about it.

It often amazes me how people throw words around like they mean whatever they believe them to mean, and not what they actually, legitimately, lexicographically mean.  Maybe it’s because I’m pedantic as f*ck, I don’t know; but maybe if you’re going to use a word, make sure you are using it correctly so’s you don’t sound like an ass.  Given that you’ve got an actual smart phone in your real life hand with the Entire Internet on it, I feel like, hey maybe make sure you’re saying what you mean, especially when you’re criticising other human beings who have feelings and an internal life and their own sh*t with which they must deal.

A benign, but oft-corrected, example of this is sentient/sapient.  Sentient life includes all creatures or beings that can respond to stimuli, while Sapient (a la Homo sapien, kids) life includes all creatures capable of some degree of rational decision-making. Interestingly, a being need not have senses to be sapient, though most seem to do.  An advanced AI might, for example, not respond to sensory data, but show the ability to make sapient choices.   It’s a common mistake to use ‘sentient’ to refer to both sentient and sapient life forms.  Another benign example of the misappropriation of a commonly used term is ‘anti-social’.  Anti-social behavior is diagnosable.  So when someone says, “I just feel anti-social today,” I’m like, “Do you need to see someone about that?” because hey, Unabomber.  What the speaker almost always actually means is “I just feel asocial today,” in that they would prefer not to have the company of other people, and would like to remove themselves from social situations.  I CAN RELATE TO THAT, YO.  (Segue!)

Passive-Aggression is another one of those things where, judging from some conversations, if I were not so native and facile a speaker of the English language, I would believe it meant Just About Anything the Speaker Doesn’t Like.  I was talking to Amanda (one of my three readers) last night on the phone (like we do), and passive-aggression came up over the course of us talking a bunch of smack on people we don’t like, which is most people, honestly.  This activity is one of the major pillars of our friendship, and has been for the last seriously eighteen years.  We are adept as f*ck at judging. Accurately.  Here’s the thing.  Passive-Aggressive Behavior has an actual definition: “Passive-aggressive behavior is the indirect expression of hostility, such as through procrastination, sarcasm, hostile jokes, stubbornness, resentment, sullenness, or deliberate or repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible.” Thanks, Wikipedia.  You’re like, the total best.

If there is no hostility* on the part of the speaker/actor?  There is no passive aggression.  There might be some faux pas, or maybe an embarrassing social mistake of some other kind, or perhaps even just some folk saying some sh*t some other folk don’t like.  This got me thinking. (* NB: I interpret the violation of consent and reasonable preferences as hostile.  If someone says, “please don’t do that, it hurts,” or, “Could you please find another way to say that?” and you keep at it like it’s welcome, funny, or acceptable?  You’re being hostile, bro-scout.)

Most of the times I’ve seen people wrongly accused of passive aggression, it’s because what they’ve said or done has actually sparked hostility in the listener/receiver of their words/actions, and then that person projects that hostility outwards onto the speaker/actor.  Here’s the thing.  If I say something you don’t like, and I say it directly without hostile or mean-spirited motivations, and you get all bent out of shape about it?  That might be indicative of any number of things, but the speaker being passive-aggressive?  Ain’t one.  Being critical of another human being’s wrongdoing?  Not actually passive aggressive!  Correcting a mistake in someone else’s words or actions in an effort to problem solve?  Not actually passive aggressive.  Even if one does so as gently as one can.  Even if one comes to the table in the spirit of repair. Even if one hedges to preserve the feelings of one’s listener.  None of that sh*t is passive aggressive, because it is not done out of hostility.

You know what actually is passive aggressive, though?  Deliberately ignoring someone’s request to discontinue dialogue.  Demanding apologies from people after they have acted as you suggest they act.  Phrasing communication as though you intend it to be helpful, when it is clear that you actually intend to have the last word.  Trolling people into continuing dialogue with you after they have expressed that doing so does not make them happy or well.  Presenting someone with an annotated version of their own communications after they have specifically stated, “I do not intend to invite or respond to further dialogue or conversation in this matter.”  When these events or actions take place, my will is crystallized, and my mind firmly made.  

Protip: Just say, “I want this conversation to continue, and I intend to bully and batter you until you give me what I want or I get bored (whichever happens first).”  

Because let me tell you!  You’ll get bored.  So bored.  The Boredening will come for you.  Know why?   Because I will peace the f*ck out harder than I have ever peaced the f*ck out before now!  Lookit, B*tches: I abandoned my own parent, who aided in giving me life (and my good looks), whose approval I craved like it was crack cocaine coated in pixie sticks and coffee grounds for basically every formative year I had.  Serious actual radio silence and a restraining order for the last seventeen years and counting.  My children won’t even know his name.  Deathbed phonecall?  Sorry, busy painting my nails and being awesome.  I do not abide this bullsh*t.  Ever.  I have had enough of this behavior for an entire lifetime, and had it at the hands of people whose love and approval mattered infinitely more than your average person to whom I owe a sum total of Absolutely Nothing.  I know passive-aggression because it shaped my parents’ marriage, my relationship with both of them, and I’ve spent years (and thousands and thousands of dollars) weeding its vocabulary and gestures — including sarcasm and counter-signalling — out of my personal lexicon.  So if you ever want to really be sure I do an about-face and walk right the h*ll out of your life, permanent-like?  Doing any of the above is a great start.  

I’m going to go adjust my gmail filters some more.

Passive-Aggression & Misappropriated Terms

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