I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single person defend being passive-aggressive over being assertive. ERR’BODY is on assertive’s jock. ERR’BODY hates on passive-aggressive.
On one hand, I get it. People love movie characters or book characters or tv characters that are direct and more honest than the average bear. It’s so easy to write a character that is beloved. All you have to do is make the character honest. An assertive and honest person is like a unicorn. You can visualize what a unicorn looks like but that doesn’t mean any exist. You can also say that being assertive nips unhealthy situations in the bud. It’s confrontational and it’s hard and it’s rare but it is definitely faster and more efficient and it doesn’t let angry feelings build up. And haven’t we all heard the old saying that honesty is the best policy? Whoever said that never lived among human beings. But if we do, as a culture, assign a positive value to honesty, then if we choose to honest and assertive I guess we are striving to be better people. That’s a good thing.
But if you’re completely honest you lose tact, kindness, courtesy and appropriate conversation topics in various areas in life.
Tact: your aunt makes a goulash. It’s terrible. She asks what you think.
Tactful response: it’s very interesting!
Kind response: very yummy!
Courteous response: thank you so much for making this!
Honest response: you should never make this dish again. It is awful.
Obviously, in that particular scenario, the honest response is just not the best. And you can probably think of countless other similar examples.
And let’s look at the esteemed value of directness. If you’re an intake professional at a rehab facility, that’s a good time to be direct. But what about if you are desperately and uncontrollably in love with your brother’s wife? I mean being assertive and direct there probably wouldn’t be great for future family get together.
Yeah I know I’m being a dick.
Now that I’m done attacking (with tongue firmly in cheek) assertiveness, I’m going to try and sell you on why being passive-aggressive is the better way to go.
Being direct with negative feedback towards another individual can result in physical violence, the creation of a nemesis, a lawsuit, potential criminal charges, loss of employment, retaliation in verbal form, just to name a few.
But if I leave a passive-aggressive note on some douchebag’s car because he parked across two spots, as long as I looked around to make sure the coast was clear, there really shouldn’t be any of those immediate consequences. You could argue that it might have mental health consequences because I would be admitting I’m a giant pussy who is too scared to confront people. But I’m good with being a giant pussy so for me, it’s all good! Maybe the douchebag Parker will find me eventually and beat me up. Who knows. All I know is that I’m a giant wimp and I don’t want to get my ass kicked, which I presume most people can do to me. I’m comfortable being a coward. As long as it keeps me unbruised I’ll keep striking from the shadows. Shit, the continental army conducted guerilla warfare and didn’t “honorably” face the red coats head-on. No one says that was a bad move.
On top of it being safer (physically, financially, emotionally, etc) it is also more creative! Just walking up to an asshole and telling him he is an asshole isn’t creative at all! Is it cool and strong? Yes, I think so. But I’m neither now, nor have I ever been, cool or strong. So you gotta play to your strengths!
I happen to be a chickenshit physical coward. I got my own ethical code but I’ve no desire to be an ethical paragon. I obey the laws of my community and I am nice to all service industry workers (because I spent many years in those trenches) and I’ve never told a woman I loved her to get laid. I’ve done a shit ton of other grey area things to women (nothing violent or in any way approaching any kind of disrespect for their unassailable right of consent – just wanna make that clear) but that’s a whole other post!
Point is, ethically, I ain’t nothing to write home about. But I think I try to mostly leave people alone. Cross me and I’ll definitely put my passive-aggressive powers to use but otherwise, I’ll just ignore you and go about my morally ambiguous lifestyle.
So I hope I’ve convinced you that being passive-aggressive deserves a better rep. If not, fuck you.