Re the use of the expression passive-aggressive

(78 Posts)

MNHQ have commented on this thread.

Vintagejazz Fri 22-Aug-14 16:27:24

Just seen it being used totally inappropriately on yet another thread. Is this just some kind of buzz wordy/catch all phrase on Mumsnet that is no longer expected to adhere to its original meaning?

sillystring Fri 22-Aug-14 16:30:06

In what way was it used totally inappropriately?

MsAstronaut Fri 22-Aug-14 16:30:13

To mean it means trying to be hurtful, controlling or manipulative, while pretending you're being nice. I think it's very common, and usually when people use it on here they use it correctly. Also someone would be sure to point it out if they thought it was being used wrongly.

hmc Fri 22-Aug-14 16:30:56

Oh go on, give us the example

sillystring Fri 22-Aug-14 16:32:34

I think "arsey" covers it quite well. Also, huffing and mumping a lot then being asked "is something the matter" to get the response "humph, no nothing's the matter when it patently is.

Vintagejazz Fri 22-Aug-14 16:35:33

Someone on another thread was complaining that when she takes her toddler to the park with friends she feels the friends expect her to keep tabs on their children by constantly asking 'have you seen Sam' etc and that if she hasn't seen them she feels obliged to go and look for them.

Other posters were saying that there was no obligation to look for them she could just say 'no sorry, I haven't see him'. But one poster said it was passive aggressive to go and look for them and then complain on mumsnet. To me passive agressive is exactly as MsAstronaut described, so I can't see how it matches the OP's behaviour. It's just the most recent example but I've seen it several times.

hmc Fri 22-Aug-14 16:38:19

That does rather sound like a misuse of the term. Likewise, as MsAstronaut said.....

sillystring Fri 22-Aug-14 16:38:56

I know the thread you mean and was a bit confused by that post myself. I think they were just a bit annoyed by the OP whining about doing something she didn't have to and then complaining about it on a forum when the whole thing could have been resolved by her answering the question of "where are my DCs" with a straighforward "No idea, go and look for them yourself if you're that bothered".

Vintagejazz Fri 22-Aug-14 16:42:30

Yes I agree. She was obviously losing patience with the OP a bit but if she'd used the expression 'martyred' or 'two faced' or something it would have been more accurate.

sillystring Fri 22-Aug-14 16:43:45

Yeah, see what you mean. PA really isn't appropriate but the examples you've used would have been better.

MsAstronaut Fri 22-Aug-14 16:46:26

Doing something you didn't have to do then moaning about it is more what I would call being a martyr, but it's a bit different if you feel people are putting pressure on you.

sillystring Fri 22-Aug-14 16:48:21

They weren't putting pressure on her though, she just "felt" she was expected to look out for others' DCs. It was an irritating thread.

MsAstronaut Fri 22-Aug-14 16:50:44

"Passive-aggressive" is maybe over-used sometimes but I think it's good that it has a name, people know it's a thing and talking about it helps people to know when it's happening to them. I have had 40+ years of it from my mum and sister, and the more I've learned to spot it, the easier life gets. Now the second I detect it I just switch right off.

limitedperiodonly Fri 22-Aug-14 16:51:04

I think the use of Passive Aggressive and other terms diagnosing personality traits and disorders ought to be avoided by people who've picked them up from the internet rather than years at medical school and in post-graduate study.

Is that what you mean, OP?

Vintagejazz Fri 22-Aug-14 16:53:58

I agree MrsAstronaut that it's very real and upsetting behaviour that can cause huge upset to people. But applying it to any old situation just undermines its significance. It's also unfair for posters to be accused of that behaviour inaccurately, which I've seen quite often on here. It just grates with me sometimes.

MsAstronaut Fri 22-Aug-14 16:56:07

I agree with that Vintage, and it's true of a lot of things - they become fashionable to fling about in any old situation. Still like I said, then people will argue and have a debate about it (like this one!) which helps to define it.

Seriouslyffs Fri 22-Aug-14 16:57:48

grin limited

Vintagejazz Fri 22-Aug-14 17:05:33

Are you feeling alright Limited? Would you like to lie down?

LiverpoolLou Fri 22-Aug-14 17:06:11

I don't know if it's correct, but I always think of passive-aggressive behaviour as suppressed hostility. Sort of, 'yes of course I'd love to be your bridesmaid, I'm so pleased you asked me'. But actually resenting the person doing the asking and therefore the being awkward but in a way that is really difficult to address. So being late for dress fitting, no replying to emails checking shoe sizes, forgetting to book to the day off work etc

limitedperiodonly Fri 22-Aug-14 17:07:21

I'm fine vintage, but thank you for your concern.

LiverpoolLou Fri 22-Aug-14 17:07:28

Oh yeah, and everything done/not done in such a way that you'd be the one in the wrong if you pulled them up on it.

VodkaJelly Fri 22-Aug-14 17:11:08

I always thought Passive Aggressive was about getting somebody to do something for you without asking - "No of couse I didnt want a cup of tea, you just make your own" or "No its ok I didnt want a buscuit" when you have just got one for yourself, "No dont put yourself out by driving, of course I dont mind walking 5 miles, dont put yourself out on my account" sort of thing

Vintagejazz Fri 22-Aug-14 17:19:05

You're very welcome Limited hmm

Seriously, I know what you mean Vodka. I went to view an apartment a couple of weeks ago which had a tenant living in it. She refused to give the Estate Agent a key, changed the time of the viewing at the last minute, got 'delayed' at work so we all had to stand outside for about twenty minutes, and then when we got in the place was like a tip and she stood in the garden talking on her mobile phone with hostility radiating from her.

That's passive aggressive.

As is the insisting you don't mind something while going around with an injured look and then becoming 'ill' but doing the 'oh no, I'm fine honestly. Of course you should go off on holiday. I don't mind being left here alone. I'll just stay in bed with my book' behaviour.

partialderivative Fri 22-Aug-14 17:35:23

I was just thinking the other day how few people use this expression on these boards compared to a few months ago.

I remember there was a thread a long time ago which asked what is meant by PA. There were so many different interpretations, the only conclusion that I could make was there is no 'definition'.

People make a definition from what they observe to be unreasonable

LiverpoolLou Fri 22-Aug-14 17:39:39

There is a definition of passive aggressive. My mother. If you're not sure what it means spend a week with her. Then'll you'll know.

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