Passive Aggressive Diaries

Understanding passive aggressive behavior in families, schools, and workplaces

Passive Aggressive Minds Think Alike

Siblings without rivalry are like thunder without lightening

Siblings without rivalry are like thunder without lightening. The two just go together, although some storms are more damaging than others. One of the most common sources of family conflict has to do with sibling jealousies and all of the ways that envy rears its ugly head-from physical aggression that pelts like hail to passive aggressive acts that mimic the wind, imperceptible to the eye but obvious in their impact.


Hidden but Conscious Revenge

Here are two classic examples of passive aggressive sibling jealousy:

The first involves two families, four girls, and one sleepover. "Jesse and Hailey" are 7-year old best friends. Their families get together often and all of the siblings have become playmates. When Jesse and Hailey planned a sleepover, both Jesse's 9-year old big sister and Hailey's 4-year old little sister were filled with jealousy. Though the big and little sister pair understood that they were a mismatch for their own sleepover, they both decided on a little passive aggressive revenge to act out their feelings of anger and jealousy.

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To the parents' best knowledge, there was no conspiracy or planning on the parts of the left-out sisters-which is what makes the story so hilarious-but when Jesse and Hailey settled down to sleep at about midnight on the night of their sleepover, they both realized that their favorite stuffed animals were missing! Neither girl could sleep without their animal, a commonly known fact among all family members. Jesse knew she had packed her stuffed cat and Hailey kept her Panda bear on the same pillow every single day. How could they both have gone missing?

After hours of late-night searching and little sleep for anyone, both Jesse and Hailey's sisters miraculously "found" their sisters' respective stuffed animals. Coincidence? It seems as though passive aggressive minds think alike!

 

The second example shared with me centers around cool shoes, trendy outfits, special dresses, and all of the clothing battles that are a source of many fights among close-in-age siblings.

Kelly looks up to her older sister, Sally and wants to be just like her (even dress like her). Kelly asked Sally if she could wear the pettiskirt that Sally had just brought home from the store. Since Sally wanted to be the first one to wear it, she said no. Kelly didn't protest much at the time, but she did sneak into Sally's closet and take the skirt. Knowing she couldn't let Sally see her wearing it, she hid it in her backpack. The next morning Sally looked everywhere for her skirt, but couldn't find it of course. When she got to school, she saw Kelly coming out of the girl's locker room, wearing a pettiskirt. HMMMM!!

 

Letting a Problem Escalate

Teenage twin brothers Todd and Kevin got along great most of the time. They were soccer team mates who spent most of their time together. When Kevin began dating Courtney, Todd felt left out of his brother's life. One Friday night, when Courtney called with an apology about having to cancel their plans, Todd took the phone message, but "forgot" to pass it on to Kevin.

To ensure the information would not be relayed, Todd also hid Kevin's cell phone and stayed on the computer, blocking e-mails and instant messages. Kevin left for his date unaware of anything unusual and came home bewildered, hurt, confused and angry at being stood up. Before he could pick up the house phone and call Courtney, Todd confessed with an, "Oh! I meant to tell you, but you left the house in such a hurry. Courtney called and said she couldn't go out tonight. I tried to call you, but you didn't answer your cell."

 

Intentional Inefficiency

Ellie was invited to go to Six Flags with a friend from school. She knew she couldn't go unless her Science Fair project was complete, since the event was to be held at school the following day. Ellie begged her sister, Maddie, to print out the already-complete Data & Results pages from her computer and affix them to her display. Maddie agreed to do so, but in her jealousy over not being included in the amusement park trip, she added a little something to the data. At the science fair, Ellie was confused at first-then humiliated-when her teacher pointed out the errors in her calculations and disqualified her project from the Science Fair.

 

How do the winds of passive aggressive behavior blow in your household? Please share your stories of sibling jealousies and stormy revenge here.

Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker and co-author of The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed.

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