Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Passivity and Passive-Aggressiveness

It's a huge pet peeve of mine when someone is too smug about their passivity or think that being over-accommodating and conciliatory somehow gives them a moral high ground.

Sure, part of it is that I tend to be questioning, opinionated, a bit critical at times...I've been told, on more than one occasion that I have a "lawyer" personality. It's not that though.

I think my problem with it is that the flip side of that is passive-aggressiveness. If someone is obnoxious, I can deal with it head-on. If someone is passive-aggressive, my hands are tied. The other problem, though, is that the passive person, well, tricks you. If someone isn't direct about what they think, at best you get a vague "prickly" sense when they side step an issue only for them to eventually explode. That's no big deal, right? Sure, it might blindside you but at least you're finally getting their opinion, right? Well, except, there's always a bit of martyrdom and guilt built into it. You didn't ask them to martyr themselves. In fact, you wish they'd been straight with you from the get go. Only, they seem to think holding it in for so long somehow makes them superior. It never, for a moment, occurs to them that maybe they just haven't been doing their part in the relationship. No, they just want you to know the burden they've endured dealing with you while denying any responsibility for communication in the relationship. Once it's done with, the evasiveness resumes again...for a time at least.

Perhaps some people that are passive had their self-esteem crushed at some point, but they've never considered that more assertive types may have taken as much of a hit to their self esteem and not become passive. Furthermore, some of the most passive people I've ever known actually had more support for their dreams and aspirations than the average person. The problem with this "taught not to take up space" rhetoric is that it encourages a victim mentality with what may genuinely be a personality difference. Statistically, INFPs and ISFPs are low on assertiveness, whereas many extraverted types (including, interestingly, ENFJ) are much higher on assertiveness. It may not be the case that anyone "did" something to the IFPs, but rather, we naturally fall on a spectrum from very assertive to very unassertive. Additionally, either extreme can be very disruptive in society. The very unassertive person can easily become uncooperative and stall group processes. The very assertive person can (often, without realizing it) bully others. Neither extreme is without problems, nor should either end of the spectrum either praise or condemn the early home environment. The ENTJ who grew up in a home environment that tried to repress her would probably naturally push back against such messages whereas the ISFP who grew up in a home environment that told her how special and talented she was from an early age, would likely still be plagued with reticence and self-doubt.