If passive aggressive behavior could be pitted against other passive aggressive behavior in some sort of competition, I think there would be a lot of Relief Society sisters going to the Olympics. And they would bring home medals.
I am going to skip the part where I convince you that Relief Society is a hotbed of passive aggressive behavior. If you haven’t noticed by now I am not likely to convince you. But, this week it struck me that the reason we have so many Hall of Famers is that we don’t allow any other type of aggression. Culturally, we have made confrontation (and even disagreement in many respects) off limits.
When someone raises their hand and makes a comment in Relief Society, they have staked out territory. If they were first to the punch, this presents a dilemma to anyone who disagrees with them. The disagree-er has a couple of options. First, they have the option of cleverly devising a follow up comment which has the appearance of building on the previous comment and praising the previous comment, when in fact it is actually directly contradicting the previous comment. The second option is to let it go.
The first option is dangerous because everyone listening knows what the follow up comment is actually trying to convey and there is the potential for hurt feelings and the genesis of a deep-seated grudge. However, if the follow up is clever enough, it is possible to contradict the previous statement within the bounds of an unwritten set of rules, at which time the original commenter must internally acknowledge that the refutation was so cleverly disguised that she really cannot take offense. One problem with making this into a real sport is that the rule book would be quite long.
Now, the good thing about comments in Relief Society is that they don’t have a concrete outcome. Which person was right and which was wrong never has to be resolved-life goes on. However, if you try to plan an event, watch out. In planning an event, decisions have to be made and not every idea can be executed on. Unfortunately, the same trouble remains. Instead of a comment, someone makes a suggestion. “It’s just a suggestion, we don’t have to do it, I am open to other ideas.” Sure. When someone says they don’t like that idea and proposes something else, they might as well have leaned across the table and slapped the person. So, it is the same old song and dance. There is an hour of people saying “I really like that idea” about ideas they hate and then whoever is actually in charge of it goes and does whatever they want, regardless of what was decided upon in the meeting. We are not good at everything, but we are good at getting our way.
We have created a culture where disagreeing with someone is akin to insulting them. The result is that we have trained people to be really nice to each other in person and then go get their way when no one is looking. No confrontation necessary. Everyone is happy.