DR. HOOK- Passive-Aggressive: The behavior that needs no loudspeaker

the handsome doctor John Hong of Charlottesville

Drive-thru beer stores in Ohio always fascinated me. You should not drink and drive, but you could buy beer and drive. Talk about getting a beer gut– you didn't have to expend any energy to buy a case of beer. 

Banks have drive-thrus as well, and I use them quite often. But while at a drive-thru at my bank, I saw a lady (though she wasn't very lady-like) beside me counting her money. Unfortunately, the car behind her honked at her for taking too much time. So what did this lady do in response? She counted even slower– one Mississippi, twooooo Mississippi– with a grin on her face.

In my estimation, the lady sat for only five seconds after receiving her cash before the person behind her honked. The "honker" displayed aggressive behavior. It was active, bold, and directed directly at another person. The lady beside me displayed Passive-Aggressive (PA) behavior. She made the person behind her mad by taking her time without directly confronting the honker. But what she didn't realize in her spitefulness was that she also held up seven other customers waiting in line behind her.

Is PA behavior bad for you?

We live in an angry world. I love the bumper stickers that say, "Mean People Suck," because that message itself is an oxymoron. Because we're told from childhood to mind our Ps and Qs, outwardly aggressive behavior is usually not acceptable. So many people turn to PA behavior, which can be rather hard to prove at times. 

For example, the lady counting her money could just simply plead, "I needed to make sure I had all my cash before I left, and I can't help it if I don't count as fast as you'd like."

Passive-Aggressive behavior can be detrimental to health, though.

Intentionally delaying a needed test can put a patient's health at risk, but some people think, "Well, I don't like the way the doctor told me to get my mammogram. He doesn't understand how I hate to have my breasts squished. I'm going to ‘forget' my appointments and make him repeatedly fax in the order requests." 

(At this point, Dr. Evil from Austin Powers starts to do his evil "Moo-Haa-Haa" laughter.)

Some are PA to make their family members mad or to manipulate them. "Oops, did I forget to take my insulin again? Please take me to the ER because I'm about ready to go into a coma. Sorry it ruins your plans to attend the concert."

Communication is the key to good relationships, but how many people cut off others when they're mad? On The Office, one of the characters was proud that she hadn't spoken to her sister in something like 100 years– and she didn't even remember why. 

Some patients, I swear, make it as difficult as possible to contact them: "You can call me at this number only on even minutes, and this number on odd minutes, except when the wind is greater than 5mph. Be sure you get to me ASAP." 

And then they complain to the world how their doctor is neglecting them (which is why I think blogs are so dangerous—they're dumpsters of emotional vomit). 

Passive-aggressive behavior might be associated with heart disease and other medical problems because internalizing all that anger is not productive. The key is to find out how to let go of it in a constructive way. If you, by chance, figure out a good way, please email me your secret.


Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice. Email him with your questions.