adj. being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive way (as through procrastination, stubbornness, and unwillingness to communicate)
You’ve probably encountered passive-aggressive communication in some area of your life. Deep down, the individual is upset but chooses to express that sentiment in less than clear and direct methods of communication. Passive-aggressive communication is often masked by congeniality on the surface while someone is being targeted or “sniped” at in a way that only the targeted individual would perceive (and anyone else with spiritual discernment). This can be accomplished face to face, in a small group meeting, in a family, on the job, or through modern technology such as email, Twitter, blogs, and Facebook. In fact, modern technology lends itself particularly well for this type of communication because it adds a wall of inaccessibility and sometimes anonymity.
If you are not normally paranoid but you get the distinct impression that someone is trying to get their contempt across to you (even though they are not speaking directly to you) you are probably dealing with a passive-aggressive communicator (no, you are not nuts…people really do function this way and you should praise God you don’t live with a person like this…unless you do). In reality, it’s a form of “cyber smack” and it is inconsistent with the good speech standard we read about in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome communication talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (NIV). I have a simple paraphrase of this verse I coined early on in my ministry” “Build up or shut up.”
Seriously, though, passive-aggressive communication reflects poorly on us as believers and it is equally unprofitable. Consider today several reasons why you should avoid communicating this way:
Passive-Aggressive Communication is Ineffective
If the point is to express oneself or deal with an issue, passive-aggressive communication is a waste of time. Sometimes, the intended audience is so pure-hearted that they would never imagine someone would be coming at them in this manner. This kind of communication never brings resolution and restoration but it often just pours more fuel on the fire for the individual that knows full well that they are the target.
Passive-Aggressive Communication is Incomplete
Another problem with passive-aggressive communication is that it is almost always incomplete. Rarely does an individual in the habit of employing this type of communication have or express all the facts. The goal of the phone call, letter, “sharing”, email, or post is to score a point without looking bad in the process rather than being transparent, honest, and truthful.
Passive-Aggressive Communication is Immature
The biggest problem with passive-aggressive communication is that it is patently immature and the individual that communicates this way is plainly viewed that way by the recipient of the snipe and those that observe the communication. In fact, it reminds me of those exciting years in school known as junior high or middle school (depending on where you went to school). Children this age become masters of the thinly veiled slam and indirect put down. The problem is that most of us left junior high many years ago. We need to make sure that junior high has left us.
Focus on speaking the truth in love and doing so in a direct manner with no agenda of gathering sympathizers, winning supporters, or looking good in the process. People will respect and receive an “open rebuke” more than a dysfunctional, passive-aggressive cyber smack.