As an editor, I notice, probably more than the average person, words that are used improperly. Recently, I seem to have noticed that a lot of folks have been improperly using the word "passive-aggressive" to explain pure, honest, unadulterated aggression.
"He is so passive-aggressive, he yelled at me and told me to shut up!" Now, I don't know about you, but that would be downright aggressive in my book. Ain't nuthin' passive about yelling, or telling someone to shut their pie hole (unless we're talking about some sort of kinky role-playing). One of my most enormous pet peeves is hearing someone tell someone else to shut up. (No really, YOU shut up. But I quickly digress.)
Aggression comes in all forms, some of it, yes, passively. And I will say, if I am feeling the need to be aggressive (and I try not to ever go that route, but it happens), I'll choose the more passive approach. Passive-aggression is when someone is sincerely trying to "hide" their jabs behind supposedly well-meaning prose. When it happens repeatedly, it is a form of veiled abuse. Because it's not overt, it's hard for the victim to defend themselves, or to even notice the abuse at times. I see this occasionally, and most often in the workplace.
Frankly, why can't we all get along?!
Well, for whatever reason, we can't. We are judgmental people by nature. I strive to be less and less judgmental, as I don't want to waste my time on that anymore, but I'm human. (It's a lame excuse, but it's honestly all I got.) Sometimes, I can't help but see the glaring flaws in others when they so elegantly and successfully stick it straight in front of my face. I'm learning techniques for looking the other way; what used to drive me crazy in the past rarely ruffles my feathers anymore. (An absolutely lovely part of aging!) Aggression, however, is often an in-your-face jab, and it's hard not to notice and respond on some level. But the passive stuff just doesn't stick anymore.
At the end of the day, we should recognize the difference between aggression and passive-aggression. It can be so subtle, you might think to yourself "Did I just take that the wrong way?" or "Did that just really happen?" If you are asking yourself these questions, then it is indeed passive. If you have no doubt whatsoever, that someone just dissed you? It ain't passive.
This public service announcement brought to you by your roving wordsmith.