Passive Aggressive Communication
I’m sure there’s a better term for it, but that’s the term I’m settling on for now – passive aggressive communication. Our society and culture uses this form of communication, if we want to actually call it communication, to talk about politics, religion, relationships, community, values, and a whole assortment of things that actually matter and impact us.
The latest version of this has to do with the term “woke.” It’s a handy term used by conservatives in a pejorative way. And interestedly, it’s also used by more progressive-leaning individuals as well in a more positive way.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers two definitions for the term, which I find interesting:
- aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)
- disapproving : politically liberal (as in matters of racial and social justice) especially in a way that is considered unreasonable or extreme.
I think that’s fascinating. Both definitions cite racial and social justice as a part of their definition, but the use of the term deflects the conversation away from those topics actually. For those that are disapproving, that’s the point I suspect. Talking about topics you don’t want to talk about is uncomfortable. Maybe you don’t know how to talk about them. Maybe there’s something personal about them. Maybe there’s something else involved. I don’t know.
The definition also points to something else, maybe a bit more subtle in nature – how different people view the world. Those that are more prone to a positive view of the word “woke” are likely to take a more societal-view of such topics as race and social justice, rather than just an individual approach to such things whereas those who take a more disapproving view of the word “woke” are more likely to see the world through a more individualistic lens of the world.
Which leads to the some essential questions – how in the world are we supposed to have actually conversations about such things when we aren’t even at the same starting points? We’re not using the same language either. We’re talking past each other, using different definitions, world views, etc.
Terms like “Woke” and other terms similar to that, only end up distracting people from having actual conversations about actual topics. Don’t get me wrong, actual conversations are hard work. They aren’t easy and they aren’t quick. You have to dig in. You have to go through layers. You have discover that you aren’t talking about the same thing. You have to interpret what is being said. You have to define terms – even terms that we think are common. Because they aren’t. Terms like “freedom” mean different things to different people. And if we don’t define what those terms are, we’ll be using those terms but not actually communicating what it is that we are talking about.
Look, I’m not convinced that everyone wants to get to the same conclusion. That’s fine. But I’d like to be clear about that. I’d like to be clear about what it is that we are actually talking about, rather than everyone using the same terms but meaning opposite or opposing things, or even slightly different variations. Because that’s just insane and it leads no where.
I’m not convinced that everyone has the same vision for humanity. History is full of examples of people I could never get on board with, and I would oppose with ever breath I have. All I’m asking for is something simple – clarity and honesty in communication. I just want to know who I can work with and who I’m up against. And even when there are those that we aren’t going to share values, here’s what else I know – with honest and clear communication, we can figure out how to co-exist peacefully. That may not seem like a high bar, but given human history, I’ll take it.
It starts with actually talking about the things that we are talking about – not side stepping them with code words, or name calling. I don’t care if we agree or not – I honestly don’t. I just want us to be honest with each other. That’s it. I don’t expect everyone to believe everything I believe. That sounds like a boring world to me anyway. If we are going to talk about race, then let’s talk about race. If we’re going to talk about money, then let’s talk about money. If we are going to talk about something else, then let’s talk about that thing directly. And it’s ok to say, “I don’t know!” or “I’m really scared to talk about this.” or “This makes me angry and I don’t know why.” or a whole host of other things. Just be honest. That’s the only thing anyone can ever ask.
Please, please, please just leave the political spin doctoring and memes and things you’ve heard some politician or talking head say about a topic in a nice little tweet to “own” someone of an opposing political view behind. If your goal is just to piss someone else off, then all you’re really doing is showing the world that you have the mentality of a toddler who isn’t mature, or that cruelty is your point and goal. The world doesn’t need that because we have serious issues at hand. But we also need hearts that are childlike in the sense that they are soft and approachable. Don’t lose that. We don’t need stone cold hearts who have shut the world off. That doesn’t help anyone either.
Let our passive aggressive communication end. Let’s talk about what it is that we are actually talking about. Let’s stop using code. Let’s be honest with each other. Let’s build trust. That’s how community is built. That’s how life thrives, regardless of your ideology. Because it’s not our ideologies that save us. It’s our relationships. It’s not about being right. It’s about being in right relationship. And you can’t be in right relationship if you can’t talk honestly and with clarity. That’s how it starts.