Friday, February 16, 2024

Passive-Aggressive Communication

Passive-Aggressive people are annoying.

I see this all the time on Old People Island.  Edna is talking with friends and her husband is present.  She says, "The important thing is..." and then her voice fades off. quieter and quieter.

Her husband replies, "I didn't catch that last part, what did you say?"

"I SAID!" she nearly screams, "The Important thing is..."  and then her voice fades off. quieter and quieter.

Husband asks for clarification yet again, and she says, "It doesn't matter!" which is a way of saying he doesn't matter.

Then she goes on a five-minute diatribe about how her husband is losing his hearing and how he won't wear his hearing aids and then go through a litany of his other faults and medical issues, including his erectile dysfunction or whatever.

I just want to scream, "Lady!  He's sitting right here!"  How emasculating to be humiliated in front of friends by your own wife.  Love, what's not to like?

I see this all the time - spouses unwilling to repeat what they said (in an almost whisper) but willing to spend ten times the energy in verbally beating up their spouse about it.  It takes less time and effort to just repeat what you said, in a clear and consistent voice without this stupid dumbass dropping off at the end of a sentence.

And for all you "soft talkers" out there - FUCK YOU. It's isn't "cute" and it isn't "sexy" - it is just annoying as all get out.

Ditto for people who try to talk to you while facing away or even walking away.  It is just passive-aggressive nonsense.

And speaking of which, mumbling and muttering things under your breath isn't clever, it is a sign of mental illness - get help!  You are talking to yourself!

Of course, teenagers engage in this sort of nonsense - we all did it as teens.  Being powerless in terms of control over their lives and their economic conditions, teens tend to rely on slang to befuddle the older generation and communicate under-the-radar.  It is annoying as all get out to older people, of course, who have no interest in learning the latest slang - which will be obsolete in a week or two.

If you are a teen and you think this won't happen to you, in ten years time, you'll cringe when you look back at your yearbook and see things like "rizz" under your senior photo.  Trust me, you won't be saying that in 2034.

Teenagers, of course, have an excuse.  Like I said, they are going through a tough part of life.  But they grow up (most do, anyway) and learn to communicate - or at least the successful ones do.  Learning to communicate clearly and succinctly isn't easy, but you'll find those that succeed in any profession are the ones that can get their ideas across.

In some professions, you don't have a choice.  In Engineering, we can't say, "Make the bridge beams about yea wide and so-so long with bolts about as thick as my thumb!"  In the law, we can't ask for a "bad court thingy" as Lionel Hutz tried to do.  In medicine, the surgeon can't say to the nurse in the operating theater, "hand me that do-hickey, willya?"  Specialized language has evolved in a number of professions, to make communication more succinct and clear.

But in everyday life, the same is true.  Dealing with people who are vague and ambiguous - two of the hallmarks or passive-aggression - is just annoying. People like that sometimes succeed by using buzzwords and such, but in the end, they often crash and burn - or the company that hired people like that crashes and burns.  Being able to tell the difference between real communication and bullshit is important, for example, in investing.

We see this all the time these days. A new company comes along with a startling new discovery.  But they can't tell you how it works, other than to throw around a lot of bullshit words.  People who don't understand the difference between bullshit and real technology, invest in bullshit and lose their shirts.  Every day, it seems, some high-flying "new tech" company comes crashing to the ground when reality catches up with the bullshit.

Yet people still throw their money at things like bitcoin or Theranos or whatever.

Language is the exchange of symbols - symbols with an agreed-upon meaning.  When someone starts throwing around symbols that sound like something important but have no agreed-upon meaning - or worse yet, no meaning at all - then all hell will break loose quite shortly.

This is a long way from deaf spouses, but the essential message is the same.  Ambiguity is a sign of poor communication, whether it is someone soft-talking at the end of a sentence, or a con-artist throwing around bullshit words to dazzle you out of your last dime.  Same shit, different day.

As for the hearing aid thing, I have seen this happen many a time.  Dad finally breaks down and gets a hearing aid.  He is ecstatic!  "I can really hear again!" he says.  But a month later, you talk to him and he says "what?" and you realize he doesn't have the hearing aids in.  They are uncomfortable and in a crowd can create a cacophony of noise that can be painful.  I have talked with someone with a hearing aid and I could hear the squeal of feedback from their ears.

So they stop wearing them.  Or they wear them infrequently, which is sort of a cruel trick as you can never tell if they can hear you or not.  You say something to the wife and the husband - in the next room - says, "I heard that!"  Sneaky bastard!