Follow by Email

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Passive aggresssion

Daf Yomi Nedarim 78


My mother is a wonderful high school English teacher.  One of the joys of teaching is parent-teacher night.  On one such occasion, as my mother was meeting with a middle-aged lady, she knocked over her handbag and the TV remote fell out.
“That’s a good way never to lose it!” exclaimed Mom.  “Do you always keep your remote close?”
“Actually, my husband refused to come to meet the teachers this evening,” she replied, “and this was the cruellest way I could think of to punish him.”

Rabbi Chanina taught: One who is silent in an effort to cause pain may effect annulment anytime up to ten days.
The Ran explains: The wife made a vow and the husband did not respond.  His intention was to cause her distress by appearing to confirm her vow by his silence, when he really intends to annul the vow after a period of time.

The worst move you can make in a relationship is to be silence.  Passive aggression is worse than vocal aggression, because you do not even allow the other person to express themselves and vent their rage.   Often, that’s all they need from you, an attentive ear, an audience.  If you give them the silent treatment, you’re demonstrating that you’ve taken their issues personally and you’ve become affected by their mood. 

Sometimes, if you think you’re going to lose your cool, it’s certainly better to be quiet.  But once you have regained your composure, it is most unhealthy to be silent in the face of another person who is upset.  If you desire a relationship with them, you should aim to calm them down by talking to them softly and lowering the decibel level.

And on the flipside side of the coin, you might be dealing with someone who is continually acting passively aggressive – a colleague, a spouse, a child, or a friend.  They pretend they don’t hear or see you, or they outright ignore you, acting as if you are not there.  Or they might appear to listen but procrastinate and fail to act upon your requests, just to spite.

Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to fall into their trap by getting angrier at them.  Confront them gently, acknowledging your recognition of their distress.  They might not admit it and you might have to back down.  But once they know you have recognized that they are upset, it will go a long way to putting the relationship back on track. 


It is of the utmost importance in any relationship that both of you know how the other person feels. Conflict in any relationship is inevitable – passive aggression is worse than active aggression, because the relationship is no longer open and honest.   May you merit relationships that are open, honest, dependable, and strong!