Ah, the art of conversation. If only it were as easy to navigate as it’s defined: simply, two or more individuals engaged in dialogue. The problem is that people don’t always express what they’re truly feeling; worse (and what seems to be an ongoing occurrence in my life), some seemingly deliberately attempt to mislead you. Allow me to explain:
number of months ago, I found myself in a very unfortunate conflict
with an individual that is significant in my partner’s life. I dislike
being in arguments with anyone, but it adds a whole nother realm of
complication to the mix when your partner feels like they’re being torn
between two people they really care for.
For obvious reasons,
I’d rather refrain from getting into the nitty gritty of our falling
out. What I’d like to focus on instead is everything that unfolded after
our initial disagreement which only proved to escalate the situation to
To reiterate, I sincerely dislike
fighting in ALL capacities. However, I am a very confrontational person
by nature. That may sound like a contradiction to you, but what I mean
is that I don’t like pussyfooting around situations. I believe in being
honest, upfront and trying to solve things as soon as possible, as I
know from experience that the longer you leave things unattended, the
more they simmer and have the potential to lead to clouded
With all of that said, as soon
as the proverbial shit hit the fan between me and this individual, I
immediately tried to diffuse things. I explained my side of the story as
I felt my intentions had been misinterpreted and I tried to display
empathy toward the other person’s case. Despite being told directly by
the party in question that everything would be resolved if I’d just “be
myself” and “be honest”, I was accused of using “psychobabble”, being
condescending as well as disrespectful.
The first thought
that crossed my mind of course, was well I do have a Hons. degree in
psychology so I kinda have a natural inclination to analyze situations
and people’s motives in order to gain a better understanding of this
crazy mixed up world we live in… but I digress. Beyond that, I couldn’t
help but feel both offended and extremely confused. I mean in my mind, I
gave this individual EXACTLY what they asked for, AND YET somehow doing
so made the situation worse?!
Now this is classic passive aggressive behaviour:
seemingly playing nice only to pull out the claws when you least expect
it, and honest people who take others at face value, such as myself,
fall for it EVERY single time. Passive aggressiveness commonly develops
in childhood in reaction to overbearing/controlling parenting and is
ultimately rooted in feelings of EXTREME insecurity.
Three key behavioural characteristics displayed by those who have taken on this form of maladaptive coping are:
Victimization (ie: the belief that one is constantly being unfairly
attacked by others and is always innocent in the equation)
2) Blaming (ie: the inability to acknowledge responsibility for one’s own actions/consider the perspective of others) and
Hypocrisy (ie: inconsistency between one’s expressed
thoughts/views/attitudes and one’s actions). It is the latter of these
qualities that is of our interest today.
According to Dr.
Michael J. Hurd, psychotherapist and personal life coach, “hypocrisy is a
symptom of intellectual dishonesty.” In other words, hypocrisy is rooted (surprise, surprise!) in the inability and/or unwillingness to practise introspection.
Hurd goes on to elaborate, “an intellectually honest person, confronted
with a gap between what he thinks/preaches and practices, will
immediately hold a meeting with himself: ‘What's wrong here? Is there
some mistake in my idea? Or am I simply not walking the talk, even
though I can?’” Given this interpretation of hypocrisy, it’s not
surprising that pathological lying (both to others and oneself) is
frequently another symptom of passive aggressiveness.
psychologist, Dr. Robert Kurzban, in his article, “A Mind Designed for
Hypocrisy” takes the argument one step further. In his view “our minds
are designed to identify and even point out other people's
moral failings while, at the same time, pursuing our own interests even
if doing so means violating the very same rules we want to punish others
for violating.” Hypocrisy therefore is “just one way that we [as
humans] try to gain strategic advantage in the social world; pursuing
our own interests while at the same time trying to stop others from
So perhaps it all comes down thinly-veiled insecurity in the form of “power plays” and bullying yet again?
In support of this hypothesis is the fact that it has been noted by
many that there is a distinct parallel between holding feelings of
superiority/authority and displays of hypocrisy, in that the higher up
you are/you perceived yourself to be on the feeding chain, the higher
likelihood there is you will engage in hypocritical behaviour.
makes you wonder whether honesty is truly valued as an admirable
quality or rather we just “say” it is? Maybe this calls for a social
experiment. The next time you find yourself in one of those daily,
“hello, how are you?” interchanges, answer the question unabashedly.
You’ll know by the other person’s reaction whether said query was purely
propositioned out of obligation to honour what society prescribes as
“polite conduct” OR worse if they only asked you so they could be asked
in return and have the opportunity to proceed in bragging/ranting about
their own current affairs.
In other words, this week’s
lesson: psychological maturity is neither selfish nor self-serving. Say
what you mean. Mean what you say. And don’t initiate a dialogue if you’re really only interested in listening to the sound of your own voice.