Experts say that 7 percent of human communication comes from words, while 38 percent is from a person's tone of the voice and a whopping 55 percent comes from his body language. I'm no math wiz, but those numbers tell me that when a passive aggressive person wants to mask his anger, sending an e-mail, text, or posting online can be the perfect way to do it! In a face-to-face or live telephone interaction, body language and tone of voice betray anger and hostility. When these interpersonal elements are absent, it is easy to mask a whole lot of hidden anger.
The Perfect Crime
- Have you ever received an e-mail from a boss or co-worker that was completely professionally appropriate, yet simmering with hostility?
- Has anyone ever Facebooked you with an embarrasing comment for all of your FB friends to read...couched in justifiable language ("What? It was only a joke! Don't be so sensitive")?
- Did you ever send a text brief enough to deny that any real thought went into it but long enough to tell a person what you are really thinking about her?
- How often have you held your breathe after dialing a phone number, hoping you'll get an answering machine that will allow you to leave the real message you would never leave in person?
When you receive a message that you KNOW was intended to insult you...and you know that the sender KNOWS he was intending to insult you, and he KNOWS THAT YOU KNOW...but you can't prove it just from his words...you've been the victim of the perfect passive aggressive crime!
Below, I'm sharing a few of the great examples of electonic passive aggression that I've read and/or that have been shared with me by others. I invite you to use the Comments section to share your stories of passive aggression in e-mails, texts, voice mails, online, etc here!
Here's an example of a passive aggressive phone message, found while I was reading Randolph Pausch's The Last Lecture. Pausch writes:
It's not a real vacation if you're reading e-mail or calling in for messages. When [my wife] and I went on our honeymoon, we wanted to be left alone. My boss, however, felt I needed to provide a way for people to contact me. So, I came up with the perfect phone message:
"Hi, this is Randy. I waited until I was thirty-nine to get married, so my wife and I are going away for a month. I hope you don't have a problem with that, but my boss does. Apparently, I have to be reachable." I then gave the names of my [my wife's] parents and the city where they live. "If you call directory assistance, you can get their number. And then, if you can convince my new in-laws that your emergency merits interrupting their only daughter's honeymoon, they have our number."
This story was shared with me by a group of students at the University of Maryland:
Sally and Beth are best friends and they both have boyfriends. About a month ago, the girls had a fight. Instead of calling or meeting to reconcile their differences, Beth and Sally began spreading rumors about each other. Unfortunately, Beth's rumor ended up costing Sally her relationship. Since the girls were roommates at school, Sally decided to change their answering machine message to the following:
"Hello you have reached Beth and Sally. Please leave a message, and we will get back to you ASAP. If this is Ben (Beth's boyfriend), in which case you should call Seth, Jason, Sean, Peter or Kyle. You would be better able to reach Beth at one of their rooms between the hours of 10am and 2am. Thank you and have a nice day."
This Facebook example was also shared by a college student:
Jane and John are dating. Jane is aware, via Facebook, that John and a classmate, Lucy, have exchanged very flirtatious Wall posts. Feeling very threatened by their budding relationship, Jane decides to post a Facebook Wall comment of her own on Johns wall, saying, "What did the doctor say about that rash? Can we still play this weekend..?"
Please share your stories of passive aggression at home, at work, or in relationships, via Facebook, voice mail, text, e-mail, or any other "unspoken," yet loud and clear format.