Passive Aggression: A guide to being (politely) snide

Amelia Oakley 9 February 2015

We all have those moments or more importantly those people who drive us up the wall, who ruffle our feathers, who make our blood boil, and generally exercise our euphemisms for exasperation. But let’s face it, picking a physical fight, or starting a shouting match require levels of effort that most of us just don’t have. That would be just far too…well, active. Being able to stand your ground and make your — obviously superior  — point whilst snuggled up under your duvet with a cup of green tea to the sound of your chill playlist is the ideal situation. So read and take heed of these simple steps to conquering the oh so sweet world of passive aggression.


We’re not talking here about the trivial ‘indirects’ of twitter, those nigh on spiteful MSN statuses or even more old school, the politics of your top friend list on Myspace. Want to express your indignation on social media? Pop up a mildly relevant status complete with a multitude of sarcastic hashtags #loveitwhenamanunderminesmyauthority #progess #angelinthehouse, and if you really want to go all out, round it off with a simple ‘xoxo’ as the cherry on your cake of sincerity.

Post-it Notes

The pinnacle of passive aggression is of course the post it note. Having issues with someone in your staircase constantly nabbing from your secret stash of biscuits, or dipping their paws into your essay writing essentials? A subtly frank message conveyed by carrier post-it will do the trick. A simple ‘we were all rooting for you’, on the base of that chocolate bar you were saving should hopefully provide just the right guilt trip.

Being Polite

The number one, absolute, golden rule of passive aggression is to keep calm and carry on being a perfect portrait of politeness. No doubt you’ll be seething with anger, your blood ready to boil eggs at the speed of light, your smile about to fracture with frustration — but you mustn’t let the fury out. If the situation gets desperate remember the crucial mantra: conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.

When confronted by one of those…questionable…individuals who just can’t seem to help speaking utter nonsense at all times, defending the indefensible or being struck down with a case verbal diarrhoea about just how good their essay was this week, keep that smile plastered on your face. With much luck, it’ll merge into rather disturbing smile/grimace hybrid which might render them suitably uncomfortable, forcing them to stop in their tracks and realise their mistake.

Let Rip

“That’s so gay”, “but feminism is sexist though”, “but Cambridge doesn’t actually have a race problem”. Sometimes it has to be said. So let the smile fade, and start your howl.