Passive aggressive behavior occurs on a continuum, from everyday acts of procrastination, selective hearing, and convenient forgetting to extraordinarily destructive acts of personal vengeance and workplace sabotage. Truth be told, all passive aggression is damaging to relationships in the long run and most people who find themselves on the receiving end of this behavior style feel worn down by the pattern of covert hostility.
In the short writing that follows, a university-level student describes an incident of passive aggressive Hidden Revenge toward a classmate:
There was a girl in my class who enjoyed getting under my skin. It’s like pressing my buttons was a game she just had to win.
I swear I did nothing to her to deserve this kind of attention. I focused on my classwork and ignored the tension.
She enjoyed bragging about how her work was always done. I figured there would always be people like this in the world but sometimes it felt like she was the only one.
How could someone be so full of themselves when no one else cared? I wasn’t even rude to her, I didn’t even bother to glare.
Instead, I acted out my anger in silence, when I found her homework sitting on the desk. No one else was in the room yet and you can guess what happened next.
I took that piece of paper, ripped it, and threw it in the basket. I knew I had dug her a grave, I was just waiting on the casket.
I felt very satisfied when I sat back down in my seat. I watched the annoying girl cry in defeat.
I didn’t think it was a big deal, I mean it was just one missing assignment. But to her it was tragic, it’s like the stars were no longer in alignment.
She missed an assignment for the first time in her life and I was the reason. I convinced her that she must have forgot it at home although I was not the one to believe in.
The teacher began to collect homework in the aisles and I glanced over. Little Miss Perfect and Annoying stood out like a drunkard in a crowd of sobers.
Did I feel guilty for what I did? Not the slightest bit. Even the top boxers need to eat a few hits.
Right? Maybe I am wrong but I had no regrets. That day I ruined her reputation is a day to never forget.
I have never heard her sit so quietly with nothing to say. I know I could have handled that differently but I thought that was the best way.
One day karma might catch up to me, I’m already prepared. The best revenge is silent, the best pain is never shared.
Thanks to Samira Ashrafi for granting permission to share this story.
For more information on the five levels of Passive Aggressive Behavior, check out The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed or visit www.signewhitson.com for training inquiries and workshops on managing passive aggressive behavior.