passive aggressive revenge

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Hello all–

I’ve got a busy Fall planned, with several training workshops featuring The Angry Smile.  Although I’ve got a good number of stories about sugarcoated hostility, excessive civility, defiant compliance, and plain old passive aggressive behavior to share, I am always looking for fresh, new examples.  If you have a good example of passive aggressive behavior from a friend, family member, co-worker, parent, child, mother-in-law (those are the best!), boss, on Facebook, via e-mail, on a post-it note, or all of the above, I would love to hear it!

Please e-mail me your story to or better yet, leave it here via the Comments section.  Be sure to leave me your e-mail address; I will be sending a free copy of The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed. to the best example I receive.

Spread the word.  It’ll be great for my collection of real-life examples of passive aggressive behavior and probably worth several laughs for you as well, as you hear about the hilarious lengths some people go to avoid expressing their anger directly and assertively.




PLEASE NOTE: By submitting this story to, you grant Signe Whitson a permanent, royalty-free license to use and/or reproduce this story for any purpose.

>I’m Gonna Teach Her How to Flick ‘Em!


>You just never know who you’ll meet in line at Panera Bread.

So yesterday, I’m standing in line, hoping that my wiggly 5-year old daughter doesn’t knock down the cookie display, when her booty-shaking antics attract the amused attention of the man behind us.  He explains that he has raised 3 daughters himself and that my little mover reminds him of his eldest. 

This trip down memory lane brings him to share with me several anecdotes (it was a long lunch-rush line!) about the trouble that his first-born created over the years.  From demanding money (no $1’s, Daddy!) to sneaking around with boyfriends, he laughingly recalled the struggles he went through with his lawyer-to-be eldest daughter.

Just when it was my turn to order, he shared with me the line that this Blog was waiting for:

She has a daughter of her own now,”  he smiled.  “So guess who taught their grandchild how to pick her nose in public?”

He laughed with a self-satisfied grin and a classic angry smile.

As I smiled, waved and turned my back to place my order at the counter, he guffawed, “Next, I’m gonna teach her how to flick ’em!”

Sometimes, passive aggressive revenge is years in the making, but look out, girls…dad is plotting!

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>What’s Your Anger Expression Style?


>Is your daughter the type to come right out and tell you when she is feeling angry? Does she stuff her anger inside? Perhaps she is most likely to express her feelings in sneaky ways. Or maybe, when she is mad, the whole world knows about it—and better step aside! Whatever your child’s anger style, chances are she has developed it over the years and modeled it after…gulp…much-loved family members.

Click on the link below to complete an Anger Expression Style Quiz I developed for the website Mom It Forward:

What’s Your Anger Expression Style? Take This Quiz to Find Out

A designer clothes boutique has partnered with me to help bring articles about parenting, bullying, and anger-expression styles to their community.  The next time you are in the market for trendy baby clothing, including unique headbands, baby hats, and fashion-forward pettiskirts and tutus for little ones, please check them out.

>Passive Aggressive lines on Facebook


>Best passive aggressive line I just saw online by a Facebook friend:

“Some people make me want to put a red sock in with their whites”

>Passive Agressive Signs



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>Slap the Chicken


>Great passive aggressive clip and angry smile example on last night’s episode of ABC’s Modern Family.  At the beginning of the clip, Gloria is open and honest with her anger at Jay for not respecting her Colombian customs, but when she finds her direct expressions mocked, she turns to more covert means of getting her point across:

The “interview” clips are always the best part of this show.  I love her self-satisfied angry smile as she explains her chicken-slapping revenge.  Can’t get enough of this show!

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>MTV’s The Real World New Orleans


>Have you been following the back and forth acts of passive aggressive revenge between Preston and Ryan on this season of MTV’s The Real World?  The two roommates have nothing but hate for each other and have been engaged in hidden, back & forth rounds of detroying property (Preston’s cut-up beanie), stealing (Preston’s debit card), utter grossness (Ryan wiping Preston’s cigarettes on his ass) and upping the ante (Preston pissing on Ryan’s toothbrush and swirling it in the toilet). 

Despite the major wrongs on both sides, Ryan decided he was the innocent victim when he phoned the New Orleans police (who I’m pretty sure have bigger crimes to solve!) and reported the toothbrush incidents.

With MTV, it’s difficult to clip episodes, so I have to ask you to fast forward to the 90 sec scene btween 38:30 and 40:00.  For a classic and insightful explanation of the reasons behind passive aggressive revenge, you can’t get better than Preston’s apology and “confessional.”  Preston talks about how gratifying passive aggressive behavior can be to the person who commits the acts of covert hostility and also recognizes his tendencies as an “ugly characteristic”

If you watch the scene that follows, you see that despite Ryan’s seemingly sincere acceptance of Preston’s apology, his own passive aggressive behavior continues, only slightly hidden beneath the scenes.  What a pair!  

On a totally unrelated note…My Baby Clothes Boutique has been partnering with me to provide articles and resources to parents, as their way of giving back to their community. If you are in the market for truly unique and fashionable baby gifts, please check them out!

>May I Help You? Passive Aggressive Behavior in the Customer Service Industry


>The customer service industry is especially ripe for situational passive aggressive behaviors in that service professionals are expected to demonstrate hospitable behaviors at all times. When faced with demanding patrons and customers, these workers may maintain their public smile while privately seething and plotting revenge. In The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior In Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed., we share this real-life anecdote:

Sharon went to the Customer Service counter of a local Supercenter to return a pair of brand-new, never-worn shoes she had purchased on Clearance the previous day. The tags were still on the shoes and Sharon had her receipt in hand. After waiting in line for what she felt was an unreasonable length of time, Sharon’s exasperation was apparent to the customer service representative. “I’m in a hurry!” she barked when it was her turn in line. “I want a refund on these shoes.”

The young woman behind the counter smiled graciously and took the shoes from Sharon. She began to inspect them.

“There’s nothing wrong with them!” said Sharon.

“No problem, Ma’am,” said the worker. “I just have to check. Do you have your receipt?”

Sharon threw the receipt at her. “I just bought them yesterday. I never wore them. They are the wrong color. And they look so cheap. Everything in this store is hideous.”

The worker, continuing to smile, looked at the receipt carefully and replied, “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but these shoes were purchased on Clearance. We have a no-returns policy on Clearance Items. All sales are final.”

“I want to speak to your manager!” yelled Sharon. “This is ridiculous! How dare you?”

“Certainly, Ma’am. All referrals to management are handled at that counter” she said, pointing to a line, ten people deep, across the aisle.

Fuming, Sharon grabbed her shoes and walked out of the store.

The next customer in line overheard the loud scene created by Sharon. As soon as she approached the counter, she politely explained that she too had a Clearance item for return and would move on to the other line. The Customer Service Representative stopped her, saying, “No problem. I’d be happy to take care of that for you right here.”

In our one-day workshops, based on The Angry Smile, we’ve had participants share many similar stories, including the following:

Awake and Alert at 35,000 ft.

My workplace was the perfect setting for passive aggressive behavior. When you are 35,000 feet above the Earth, you have many opportunities to graciously and politely respond to the demands of obnoxious, authoritarian passengers.

It was a snowy January evening and we were taxiing to the runway, getting into position to depart O’Hare airport, when the pilot made an announcement that our departure for Washington D.C. would be delayed because we had to have our wings de-iced. Before the announcement ended, a call button rang. As I approached the passenger, he demanded to know how long we would be delayed, because he had an important meeting very early the next morning. Of course, this was the same man who had just given me a hard time about stowing his over-sized bag under his seat, a few minutes earlier.

I politely explained that safety was our first priority. He insisted that I ask the pilot how long it would be before departing. Before I had the chance to respond, the pilot informed the passengers that we were next in line for de-icing. The passenger gave me a dirty look and demanded that I bring him some decaffeinated coffee. I told him that he would have to wait until we were up in the air.
Shortly after take-off, before it was even safe for me to unbuckle my seatbelt, his call button rang again. I waited longer than was necessary before I made my way to his seat. He wanted his coffee immediately, but wanted to make sure that it was decaffeinated, reminding me of his important early morning meeting.

I politely told him that I would make the coffee and bring him a cup as soon as it was ready. Less than ten minutes later, I served him the first of five cups of fully caffeinated coffee. I don’t know about him, but I slept very well that night.

Aren’t You Forgetting Somethng?

An irate customer stormed into the store where I work and approached my co-worker, Cindy. Cindy tried to be helpful as the customer made a huge scene over trying to return a non-refundable item. Cindy attempted to explain the store policy and politely pointed to the bright orange, “Final Sale” label on the item, but the customer would have none of it. He insisted on speaking to the manager.

Cindy explained the situation to our boss. The boss was busy and told Cindy to “deal with the problem.” Cindy informed the customer that she would allow him to return the item, as long as he had the receipt. After digging in his wallet, the customer was able to produce the receipt, so Cindy promptly issued the return—intentionally giving the customer the wrong amount of change.

When the customer pointed out her mistake, she apologized sweetly and corrected her error with a smile on her face. When the customer turned to leave the store, Cindy noticed right away that he left his wallet open on the register counter. She thought about pointing this out to him…then decided not to.

Have you fallen prey to a customer service professional’s passive aggressive behavior? Have you been the one to dish it out? What are your stories of private anger in public service?

>Revenge! Counter-Passive Aggression in Families, Schools and the Workplace


>Welcome to Passive Aggressive Diaires, especially to those readers who have linked here from Psychology Today! Please browse through the examples of passive aggressive behavior that have been shared throughout this blog and add your own interesting, humorous, conniving, and infuriating examples of passive aggressive…and counter-passive aggressive behavior here.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

If you haven’t been there already, please check out for my latest post on the Psychology Today website.

>Hidden but Conscious Revenge


>Did you see the news headline this morning about Sarah Palin’s vacation-wear? Apparently, she was filmed by the paparazzi wearing a sun visor with her former Presidential running mate’s name blacked out! As if her book, Going Rogue, had not spurned enough of her political foes in a backhanded way, now she’s blacking out McCain’s name with a Sharpie, for all of the world’s cameras to see! This is classic passive aggressive revenge, accompanied by all of the hallmark excuses that justify, rationalize, and excuse her behavior. Here’s her statement:

“I am so sorry if people took this silly incident the wrong way. I adore John McCain, support him 100 percent and will do everything I can to support his reelection. As everyone knows, I was honored and proud to run with him. And Todd and I were with him in D.C. just a week ago. So much for trying to be incognito.”

“Incognito?” Seriously? That’s the best excuse she can come up with? It’s almost like she’s not even trying to cover up her resentment… Her and Tiger Woods have got to know that they will be filmed everywhere they go! There is no “incognito” as she keeps making public moves like this one!

This Blog is made to laugh about the hilariously conniving lengths that people are willing to go to to express their hidden anger; when I saw the news this morning, I knew it couldn’t get more funny–or more passive aggressive–than Palin’s searing political statement!

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