Here is a headline I came across a couple of days ago:

Sorry you feel that way: why passive aggression took over the world:
From Slack to the dinner table, honesty really is the best policy.

Unfortunately the article was “paywalled” (available only to paid subscribers) and therefore remains unread by me. But the headline is still interesting.

Passive Aggression

The main headline is about passive aggressive behavior. Apparently it is on the rise. Maybe it is far beyond merely rising, because the headline says it has “taken over the world.” Personally I hadn’t noticed that, but maybe you have.

Allow me to explain passive aggressive behavior as I understand it, then you let me know whether or not it is part of your life.

My online dictionary has “passive aggression” as the expression of anger, hostility, or resentment through indirect means, especially obstructive or uncooperative behavior.

Yep, you probably know someone who does that. In fact you might say it is their go-to behavior, at least when they are around you.

Once upon a time a member of my family was a master of passive aggression. A single example will suffice to illustrate. My wife and I drove to her house to deliver Christmas presents for the adults and children who lived there. When she looked out the window and saw it was us and that we were bringing Christmas presents, she did not come to the door. In fact she left the front room of the house and went elsewhere, leaving her young children to answer the door, accept the gifts, and entertain us.

There was much to love about this woman. You might say the same for those in your circle who are passive aggressive. Ah, but that behavior often makes them hard to like!

What to do?

Has passive aggression taken over the world, as the headline says? I don’t necessarily see it because my default — and perhaps yours — is to simply avoid passive aggressive people.

Of course you can’t always avoid them. You might be married to him or her, after all, making avoidance challenging. Dealing with them isn’t easy either, though, and as a consequence passive aggressive people appear to “get their way” a lot, and that only adds to the challenge of dealing with them in the future.

They are, by definition, emotionally closed. It is part of the reason they use “the silent treatment” so often and so well. They are either uncomfortable with, afraid to, or incapable of expressing their emotions, and that comes out as, “I’m fine.” If they speak at all.

I wish I’d understood all this better when I first encountered passive aggression, but I didn’t. Consequently I dealt with it by being frustrated, upset, and believing that I was the problem. I wasn’t the problem, but I also wasn’t a very useful part of any solution.

Cancel that thought — or the thinker

I now have another chance to be part of a solution, and so do you.

Passive aggression takes place not just in a personal milieu, but all over social media. In other words, if your family is currently bereft of anyone practicing passive aggression you can just go online and get your fix.

Often the behavior is easier to identify on social media, because real names are withheld. Talk about passive! I may rant and rage and say all sorts of negative things about your opinions and never reveal my identity.

Like personal passive aggression, this is not a fair fight. And by the way, if you don’t like what I have to say I will cancel you and ruin your life and business. You still won’t know who I am.

Yes, individual practitioners of passive aggression also cancel you. They won’t come over for your birthday and they won’t thank you if you come over for theirs. It’s cancel culture on a small scale.

On social media it is fairly simple to deal with. Ignore it. Let them cancel you and see what happens. Probably nothing.

The most famous cancellation in all of history, at least from my perspective, was when Jesus was crucified by the Jewish leaders with the tacit approval of many Jews.

“I guess that will teach him,” some must have said. But the Teacher didn’t need to be taught, they did.

Passive aggression (they had the Romans do the real aggression) didn’t work on Jesus, and it should not work on you. Have confidence in who you are.


Is there a climate crisis? No. But some reading this believe there is, and that’s fine. The next step should be discussion or debate. Sadly, these days, the next step is to unsubscribe. Passive aggression is simpler than an honest conversation, after all, and never reveals that I might be wrong.

Hamas and other terrorist organizations have discovered the benefit of AI for creating passive aggressive posts on social media. I witnessed a direct result of that when a white American woman said to the Oakland City Council that it wasn’t Hamas who killed the babies on October 7. She said, “Israel has already admitted that they were the ones who killed the babies and then blamed it on Hamas.”

No, they haven’t. And they didn’t.

Where is honesty in all of this? Absent in large quantities, and replaced with passive aggression.

I still haven’t read that paywalled article, but the final part of the headline is “From Slack to the dinner table, honesty really is the best policy.”

Slack is a popular business communication platform where you “talk” with your colleagues. The dinner table is a popular family platform where you dine with and talk with family.

In both places, and everywhere in between, be honest. Not only is it the best policy, it is the very best thing most of us can do to help eliminate passive aggression from our own behavior. And maybe from the behavior of others.

Honesty isn’t always easy, but it really is the best policy — and an outstanding way to do good.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hap Cobb

    Lewis, – a thought came to mind when someone close is hurt and/or angry at a family member who made insulting or derogatory remarks. That hurtful feeling keeps popping up. My comment is “why make her problem yours”? In other words, accepting that negativity/feeling sucks you in… Better to accept it as their problem….🤪

    1. Lewis

      Well said, Hap. Negativity wants to spread (see Main Stream Media for an everyday illustration), and those who experience some hurt seem to want to share it as widely as possible. On the positive side, sharing pain for the purpose of getting past it or over it is good. Unfortunately most want to share it to get people “on their side” and vilify the person who hurt them.

      When I was in the Army we used to say, “Sounds like a personal problem — you should go see the Chaplain.” These days I say, “Sorry to hear you are hurt. Have you forgiven the person?”

      When they want you to join forces or take it on as their problem, they are being passive aggressive to the other person. Not good. Good for you for being honest with them about who owns that issue!

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