>’Tis the season for gift-giving galore! Have you ever given someone a passive aggressive gift–you know, the kind that sends an insulting message, but is wrapped with a beautiful bow to give the appearance of being something wanted? Have you ever been the recipient of such a gift?
Use the Comments section below to tell us your story of passive aggressive giving and receiving.
>In The Angry Smile, we talk about backhanded compliments, unsolicited advice, and unwanted gifts as classic examples of how adults engage in passive aggressive behavior. Appropriate-ish on the surface, these “gifts” let the recipient know that under the neatly-wound bow lurks a deep dig, an intentional insult, and a barely hidden act of bitterness.
At a neighborhood cook-out this weekend, I was told this great story about an elderly mother, the daughter she lives with, and a heartfelt birthday gift:
My mom is a widow who got herself into financial trouble after my dad’s death. About five years ago, we invited her to come live with our family. Since I have four children and my husband works a lot, I thought that she could help us and we could help her. We’ve had our ups and downs over these last few years and while we love each other, there is a lot of resentment brewing on both sides about our living arrangement.
Last week, it was my birthday. I was busy cooking and getting the house ready to have about 15 family members over. The house was a wreck and above all, it was just so loud, with all of the kids playing noisily, the TV on, music playing, the dog barking, etc. When my mom walked in the kitchen and started talking endlessly about something she had just seen on TV, I glared at her.
“What?” she asked. “What do you want?”
“Silence!” I pleaded. “Just 10 minutes of silence, please.”
My mother stormed out of the kitchen and proceeded to give me just what I had asked for—the silent treatment for four straight days. Not a word. Not a peep. A few icy stares, but no sounds.
My birthday came and went, without her saying a thing to me. I didn’t really mind. It was sort of peaceful.
The day after my birthday, my mom decided it was time to speak to me again. She asked, “Can I talk now?” After the momentary awkwardness, I thought we were back on track. Until about ten minutes later, when I heard the most horrendous, shrill squeaking noise coming from my family room. I rushed in to see my mom tossing a brand-new, squeaking plastic bone to our dog. “Look how much he loves his new toy!” she said with her best angry smile.
She was right—he loved it! Played with it all day. Through the night as well! I’ve never in my life heard a doggie-toy with a pitch quite as high as this one. She got me! I wish I had enjoyed her gift of silence more while I had had it!
Have you been the recipient of any good passive aggressive gifts—someone trying to prove their point and express their hostility wordlessly? Do tell!
If you are interested in reading more about passive aggressive gifts, backhanded compliments, an unsolicited advice, please check out The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive-aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces While you’re online, please also check out the adorable baby clothes and headbands at My Baby Clothes Boutique. My Baby Clothes Boutique has partnered with me to provide great parenting tips for their customers as a thank you for their loyalty. Check them out next time you need to get a baby gift!
>The subject of gift-giving always seems to be a ripe one when it comes to collecting stories of passive aggressive behavior–especially among family members. Passive aggressive persons often select gifts not based on what the receiver genuinely desires, but rather to make a specific statement.
Read below for some great examples, including this one, posted by Robin on 5/10/09:
My in-laws never seem to be happy with any gift we ever give them. And they are not the typical parents/grandparents that are happy to receive a homemade gift from the grandchildren or something with sentimental value. Oh no. They want GIFTS! Gifts that cost money. Gifts that come in a Red Envelope or ones in a little powder blue box. Expensive, lavish gifts that we don’t seem to ever produce, regardless of how much we’ve tried.
And yes, for a very long time, we have tried to please. However, this past Christmas, with the recent addition of a baby to our family, we didn’t have a lot of time for shopping. That being said, everyone in both of our families received gifts that could be ordered online. And everybody else seemed to be grateful for our efforts. Despite the time constraints and sleep deprivation under which we were working, we thought we had come up with a good one, both thoughtful and costing money, by sending my father in law a gift package from Omaha Steaks. For my mother-in-law, we sent her a gift basket from a company that apparently weaves baskets from gold plate instead of wicker.
They apparently did not appreciate the efforts. When my husband called his parents for our weekly phone chat (notice I didn’t say, when my father-in-law called to thank us) he graced us with a not so convincing thank you and proceeded to tell us that, “you know, if you’re looking for gift ideas for your mother and me in the future, we like tickets to shows. You know concerts, Broadway plays, that kind of thing”. My husband was beside himself over his father’s audacity to inform us of what to buy him. I, on the other hand, was not surprised. After all, if tickets are what he wants, tickets he shall get…..next Christmas, I hope he enjoys his night out to see THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES.
Have any good examples of bad gifts? Post them here!