Once upon a time I had a friend who told me that I was passive aggressive. I asked her what that meant because I honestly had absolutely no idea. She wouldn't tell me. I was supposed to figure it out for myself, or something. I don't think that that tactic worked out in her favour.
It was a while before I remembered to look it up, and even when I did, I could never completely understand it. I certainly had no idea how to fix it. I didn't even know what behaviour of mine could be considered to be passive aggressive.
Looking back on the friendship now, I can see how my lack of assertiveness skills when trying to effectively stand up to the Queen of I Must Have My Way Or I Will Get Super Angry With You would make me feel like a failure every time, which in turn would frustrate me to the point of total exasperation with the situation, which then would, most likely, lead to passive aggressive behaviour on my part.
A few years and a failed friendship later, I've been trying to be a better communicator. It's been really hard.
Because I'm a whiny little bitch.
As in, I cry if anyone gets upset with me in the slightest. That tends to make assertive communication a little difficult. This in turn makes me look passive aggressive. It's difficult to speak when you're crying, so the only way left to communicate is physically, and that can definitely come across as passive aggressive. It's amazing how much frustration can come across as anger.
And, I'm a bit of a ticking clock. You know, everything is fine, even when it's not, but no biggie. Until I get too tired to hold it all in.
I often wondered why I was, and still am, this way. Was I just too shy as a child to learn how to stand up for myself/my wants/needs effectively? Did decades of being told to ignore my younger brother when he teased/tormented me instead of learning how to "use my words" leave me with absolutely zero skills? Or, did I somehow learn this behaviour?
It's probably a combination of all three, but I definitely know where I learned the behaviour. And, it only took sharing a house with my mother again to see it.
Now, don't get me wrong--I love my mother very much, and nothing said here negates that. It's just, well, holy fuck.
How is it that someone with tons of training and experience in the fields of effective communication and assertiveness skills, and who often regales us with stories about how wonderfully she asserted herself at work can come home and very clearly communicate that she's upset about something (most likely the imperfect state of the house, or that it's 8pm and the kids are still up, or that she caught a cold. From the kids) by scrubbing the shit out I of something that's not even dirty and slamming cupboard doors, all with a sour look on her face, but never tell us what is bothering her and denying it if you ask her outright?
If anyone else acted like that, the judgment and the admonishment would rain down.
I now know exactly where i learned to deal with frustration. And holy fuck, do I ever need to change!
The first step is admitting that I have a problem.
Now I just need to learn how to say what needs to be said to be assertive.
But maybe I need to learn ho to not cry at the drop of a hat, first.