The Rules of Passive Aggressive Communication

Sarah Walton '15

Contributing Writer

It was a sunny afternoon at Smith College when Rumour Mills burst into her friend’s room. Her friend G. Ossip turned from her Smith Confessional reading and noticed Rumour was crying.

“What’s wrong?!” she exclaimed. She glanced at her computer, worried. “Has Yik Yak surpassed the Confessional’s popularity on campus?”

“No,” Rumour sniffed. “Miranda Right came to my room and asked to talk ... She wanted to see if there were any issues between us because she feels I’ve excluded her from our group!”

“What?! No! Why would she do such a thing? Has she bad-mouthed you in the dining hall?”

Rumour tearfully shook her head. “Haven’t heard anything.”

G. Ossip frowned. This was scandalous. She pressed on, asking, “Did she use sarcasm to mask calling you out as a joke?”


“Did she roll her eyes and sigh when she passed you in the hallway, or did she stop Snapchatting you?”

“No, G! Don’t you understand?! She knocked on my door, asked if it was a bad time and opened up about how my actions made her feel! No pretending to be busy when I texted, no incriminating posts on Smith Confessional and no notes on my whiteboard! She just wanted to deal with the problem rationally and keep it between us!”

Rumour dissolved into hysterics. Miranda Right had crossed a line. Didn’t she know she’d broken several social rules? With a huff, G. Ossip sat down at her computer and started a new Confessional thread titled “OMG Miranda Right is sooo confrontational.” She grinned, knowing her post would soon be riddled with scathing comments, putting Miranda Right in her place. She pulled up her e-mail and furiously typed a letter to the Judicial Board. Miranda’s breaking of the unspoken Code of Conduct with her “openness” would not go unreported. She cracked her knuckles as she admired her handiwork. Rumour calmed down, and the two began practicing their best smirks in the mirror. They would need them when they encountered Miranda on campus.

An hour later, the Judicial Board chairs entered the dean of students’ office, hands trembling as they gave the dean the e-mail.

“What do we do?!” one cried.

“This is so out of the ordinary!” lamented the other. The Dean squinted as she read the email, then looked at the chairs, making them squirm.

“Ladies, this is very serious. I’ll speak to Miss Right personally.”

Miranda Right was called into the dean’s office, where the dean explained Smith’s historical social etiquette, which has only improved with social media. Try as Miranda might to tell her story, the dean would not listen.

“Smithies don’t deal in direct conversation,” she said. “It’s just not done.” Miranda was charged with upsetting the balance of Smith’s social life, and though the dean attempted to teach her proper passive-aggressive tactics, Miranda was not having it.

Finally, out of exasperation, the dean gave Miranda the most important advice: “Miranda, you know you always have the right to remain silent.”