I have been organizing a large retirement function for my boss who retired September 30. It is the end of a 35 year career, the last 20 of which he spent in the position I was then given. I have known the man for 25 years. He invited me here seven plus years ago expressly to replace him. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to him both for that and on a personal level because he and I are first and foremost, friends.
This function includes upwards of 75 people, involves renting a swanky hotel ballroom downtown in my city, and facilitating a sort of roast. Its been a lot of work, work that I do not have spare time for nor am I good at, yet I am glad to do it.
I coordinated the date with the man’s wife awhile back. Lets just say hypothetically the function is on the 1st of a month (it isn’t). Her and I have collaborated on various things and its been a shared joy to do this for her husband after we discussed setting a date so as to assure his availability.
Then I get a text message from the woman the other day. It reads (somewhat redacted) like this:
Empath, you had originally told me the party was on Tuesday the 2nd but the invitations you sent say its the 1st.
That’s it. Nothing more.
Here is the problem. I had sent invitations to maybe a hundred people a month ago. I had not sent one to her house for obvious reasons and only recently shared one with her because it may be scrap book material. There are still several weeks remaining before the function. Given that….what was she trying to say in that text? Is she asking me if I made an error on a hundred invitations?It doesn’t say that either date is a problem or that there is a conflict. It doesn’t say anything functional or operative about the situation. It doesn’t even grouse, directly, about the confusion (whether I had told her that or not). It just lays out a statement in passive aggressive voice. It is pointless.
I choose this topic because it was if, as I read that from her, I realized more vividly than I ever had before how much of this kind of thing I have heard from various women in my life over my five decades. I think because it was in text form, it was about something I had invested countless hours over many weeks in, and I could run it through my mind yet have no obligation to go into it with her, that it struck me as it did. When this is done in face to face discourse and you must respond, it invariably frustrates the receiver.
Passive aggressive voice is useless for communication. Women, “the superior communicators”, are masters at this voice.