Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Friday 24 August 2012

Passive Agressive, Much!

Perhaps someone could explain to me the point of passive aggressive behaviour.

Who does it benefit?

Last night, I watched a couple leave a bar, having placed an order, but not having been served. I watched the man stew for three or four minutes after an acceptable time lapse between the order being placed and when he might have expected his drinks to be served. The woman said nothing. It was the man’s decision to leave, and the woman, whom I assume to have been his wife, had clearly been through other incidents like this one on any number of occasions previously.

As they left the bar, the man said, loudly, “It wouldn’t do to be thirsty around here, would it?” The question was clearly rhetorical. I don’t know whether the woman we shall call his wife had ever attempted to answer any of these questions, although I guess he’d been asking them for most of his adult life, but if she ever had, she’d clearly stopped, probably several decades ago.

I doubt that the barman was thrilled, but the man huffing off weakened his position considerably, if he could be said to have a legitimate one at all, by being what is technically known as an utter t*sser (and I can’t believe I’ve used that term twice in two days).

Would it have hurt him to wave and smile sweetly at the barman, and get him on-side? I think not. He was in the warm and dry, in perfectly clean, sweet-smelling surroundings, and he was sitting down. He wasn’t expected to stand at the bar and wait for his drinks, and he wasn’t even expected to pay with his order. This was a very, very civilised bar, let me tell you.

Would it have done him any harm at all to notice that the poor, hardworking barman, with his minimum wage job, was working rather hard, and, I thought, terribly efficiently, building (and I use the word advisedly) a series of very complex, celebratory cocktails for what appeared to be members of a lovely, happy party? I very much doubt it.

I was not the only person in the bar who was unimpressed by the man’s behaviour, and I was not the only one inclined to feel sorry for his wife. I doubt he was the sort of man who would like to be thought ill of. I’m tempted to think he was precisely the sort of man who’d very much like to be thought rather highly of. Not one of us was sorry to see the back of him, and isn’t that a pity? Especially since not one of us could also claim to know anything about him other than what this little scene demonstrated.

In my experience, and, I think, in the experience of the wider world, we’re rather tempted to admire modest, humble, kindly people. We are obliged, by history, to remember dictators and tyrants, despots, martinets, autocrats and plain old-fashioned bullies, but you’ll notice that I haven’t named any of them here. 

We choose to celebrate instead, I hope, the wonderful men and women who really changed the World. 

Let’s face it Gandhi didn’t do it by sulking and neither did Gorbachev or the Dalai Lama or Desmond Tutu or Aung San Suu Kyi or anyone else that the Nobel committee has seen fit to recognise and celebrate, either with a nomination, or five in the case of Gandhi, or with the Peace Prize, which all of those named above have won since I earned the right to call myself an adult.


  1. so true.

    some people want the world to change for them, others realise that it's far easier (and more realistic) to change one's perspective.

    or if you prefer, never mess with those who serve you, especially if they're serving you something you'll take into your body ...

    as for me, I usually try to get staff onside, whether they're behind a counter, giving you a massage, clipping your ticket, consideration for others really is the golden rule!

    just imagine what would life would be like if everyone followed it ...

    (and that's coming from someone who has been accused of being passive aggressive on more than one occasion. unfortunately in each case I don't think they'd bothered to consult a list of symptoms, nor did they realise it is considered a personality disorder, and I study psychology ...)

  2. There's a difference between expressing distaste of customer service in a constructive manner, and being an idiot. One will garner respect and build a better world (be it but a little) the other will get bad comments and blog posts written about you.