Communication Skills/Is it me...


Hi Peter,

I was hoping you could please help me?

Is it a form of passive aggression to do the following:-

I am currently travelling so meeting lots of different people.

To tell somebody you've met 20 minutes ago 'You obviously don't drink wine you are supposed to hold it by the stem.' I might be uncouth on times but in the 35 years

I've been alive I've drunk wine in most of them, I've not noticed the way a person holds their glass and nobody has ever told me I was drinking wine the wrong way so

is this a reflection on me or, in my opinion, her?

The next day the same woman told me a bus I was catching had gone. It was leaving at 7.20am and I was told to be there 5 minutes early at 7.15am so I got there just

gone 7.10am no matter what I said about the time i.e. I was on time she completely ignored me. Then the driver said, when he turned up, he was going to get somebody

else to pick me up! If they want you there earlier than 7.20am why don't they just say 7am on the dot!

An older women (a traveller in the same room as me) virtually demanded I leave a room as check out was 10am and it was 9.40am. I wasn't ready but checked out in plenty

of time 10 minutes later as I've been travelling for months and know all about checking out now!

I said nothing but sometimes I think I should stand up for myself by saying:-

'I drink wine the way I please' AND 'Say earlier than 5 minutes next time' AND 'I'll take care of when I check out.'

I do get this attitude from time to time. So I am the common denominator, my mother says they can't stand my niceness as they see me as a pushover. I was in a hostel

once and this girl was so rude to me that another women (a traveller in the same room) even told her off for me in front of a bunch of women, I didn't even know who

the other woman was so she wasn't biased and it shows that I'm not exaggerating when it comes to all the things that happen to me!

It even happened where I was temping recently where another member of staff said to me 'You are not a dog's body!' as they were asking me to do things I shouldn't have

really been doing and my own boss told me to do something that somebody else (and later I found out he) had cocked up and when he said 'Fix it' he then just shut the

door in my face before I could ask any questions. I had only been there a short while!

I think what I'm trying to say is 'what is this?' To me it isn't aggressive, passive or assertive behaviour or is it passive aggressive or something else again?

Whatever it is do you have any suggestions about what can I do about it?

Or is it simply life...



Hi Lisa - it sounds like you're unclear on and/or unsure about [a] what these three labels refer to; and [b] how to label your own [and others'] behaviors.

"Aggression" occurs when person "A" seeks to fill her needs without caring about the feelings and needs of person "B";

"Passive aggression" occurs when person "A" is covertly angry with or hostile to person "B", but pretends otherwise and denies those feelings. It's an unconscious way to avoid conflict and confrontation, and being judged as rude, selfish, aggressive, and/or "bad;";

"Assertion" is expressing yourself clearly and honestly while respecting the needs and feelings of person "B":

Once you're clear on your own definition of each type of behavior, you can answer questions like you posed here. See

Note that [a] other people's definitions may not match yours, so you may disagree; and [b] you can't know how others will judge your behavior. When in doubt - ask!

Respectfully, Pete

Communication Skills

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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about how to significantly improve your thinking and communication effectiveness, and your relations with adults and kids. I cannot answer legal, medical, grammar, punctuation, spelling, or spiritual questions.


I have studied and taught communication and relationship skills for 40 years, and have been a professional family-systems therapist (MSW) since 1981.


I am a past Board member of (a) a large suburban community mental-health center and (b) the Stepfamily Association of America, and I am a current member of the National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council

I have published 6 books, including one on communication skills: Satisfactions ( 2nd ed., 2010); and over 150 articles in the nonprofit educational Website Break the Cycle! -

I have also published articles for and over 150 educational YouTube videos.

BSME, Stanford University, 1959 MSW, George Williams College 1981 Clinical internship U. of Illinois Institute for Juvenile Reasearch (IJR) 1981 Over 100 post-grad courses on a wide range of human-relationship topics

Past/Present Clients
over 1,000 self-referred Midwestern-U.S. adults, kids, couples, and families

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