“We must care enough to confront or we don’t care enough!” Tim McClendon, Pastor and Potter

I found the above statement in a blog post as I researched mainstream perspectives on direct and open communication. It all began with my last post and my concern about the limitations many of us put on ourselves and others in our own avoidance of discomfort or healing. This particular blog was on Southern passive-aggressive behavior and the classic “bless your heart” avoidance of frankness.

Much like the NY “borough Italian” upbringing of my youth, there is this idea that direct talk is too aggressive–that indirect statements lead to desired results without drama. But, no, this just creates a nervous “what if I misunderstood the cues?” angst–and no one will admit this because that is being too direct and open! The only difference I see between the Southern and Italian-American* way of communicating is that the latter treats it as an art from while the former just thinks its good manners.

The timing is also an issue. The passive aggressive statements are often an ambush. They are not offered with constructive intent or in a time frame that could contribute to a solution.  They are often belated. Snipes scheduled to cut. The recipient cannot easily respond without seeming reactionary or emotional–thus, deserving of the cut.

I find that my blood pressure goes up exponentially and my manners go out the window in the face of passive aggressive behavior. It’s disrespectful in my eyes and I, unfortunately, lose respect for the person. I’ve been told that I am extremely aggressive and hard to approach when someone has a complaint. That comes from people who are not direct talkers. It is from people who hold onto real or imagined slights and wait until I have complaint to bring theirs forward. Why hold on to something? What if I keep doing that over and over because I don’t realize I’m doing it or that it is upsetting? Direct people never stop being direct with me and I tend to understand how to act with them and what their needs are.

McClendon mentions a time that his father just stewed as a woman took liberties photographing pottery in the museum he was running. Instead of putting a stop to it, he let her run rampant then said something to the effect of having her stay for dinner while she’s at it. She accepted–not realizing he was being passive aggressive/sarcastic. Or maybe, being rude to begin with, she had no compunction about saving money by eating with them. He then proceeded, behind her back, after she left, to fume about her.

But, as McClendon pointed out to his father, he invited her! He allowed her to run roughshod over him initially and then accept insincere hospitality. In fact, direct confrontation might have created a different outcome. Perhaps, having just been overly enthusiastic, she would have been embarrassed and polite once she had been confronted–politely. Instead, the only good thing I can find in this is that the passive aggressive behavior backfired and the father did not get any satisfaction from it. The possible middle outcome: She was still a rude person but he stood his ground and cut short her infraction.

Confrontation is not bad in and of itself. It’s making sure that everyone is on the same page. We don’t always know we are being inappropriate or upsetting. We do, however, dislike being told belatedly about trespasses or things that might not have been if direct communication came into play. Passive aggressive saves up ammunition. Respectful confrontation stops problems and prevents patterns.

*I use the term Italian-American because I can’t speak for Italians everywhere in terms of communication. I can say that the kind of “indirect speak” that people witness in The Godfather and The Sopranos (complete with knowing look and pause) is what I grew up with—although with much less dire consequences when misunderstood!

If you’d like to read more from McClendon’s blog: https://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/southern-passive-aggressive-behavior/?blogsub=confirmed#blog_subscription-5

Be Safe: Be Educated

No one lives in a one-dimensional world, so how can you only investigate one dimension of the world around you?


In other words, why is it not obvious that a well-rounded education is essential?  It even hits me when I think of the debates we have about the border wall—how limited so many people are in their knowledge of our history with Mexico, of NAFTA and how it affects Mexico’s farmers. Do you know why there are more and more families coming from Central America (see links below). Where is the critical thinking and the research? Opinion and maintaining a personal comfort level is not a replacement for intellectual engagement and decision.

I keep returning to the continued debate over safe spaces and how far student-directed learning should go (I value active participation and feedback but how can you direct if you are still learning?). We still need to address the bottom line of what an effective and “valuable” college education should be. It seems that a higher education really isn’t about education at all anymore, but (inefficient) business training. Is it at all about learning for learning’s sake and being able to understand history, literature, philosophy, art, science, math, psychology, etc. as entities that create a well-rounded person able to approach multiple tasks and scenarios with agility and a critical perspective?

If you only know one thing, you have no reserves of knowledge from which to draw to assist you in working out intellectual, social, financial, artistic, business, tactical, or strategic conundrums. Lack of challenge to your knowledge base and comfort levels (yes, social, psychological, philosophical, and ideological) makes for an individual ill-prepared for any and all complicated events that will inevitably occur in the future. Can you really tell a major corporation or internal department that they should employ you, but they cannot run their business model as it is because it triggers a reaction to something in your past?

I’m not talking about real harassment, bullying, or a hostile work environment so much as the ability to identify the difference between your inability to deal with discomfort or handle particular content at the moment and real injustice or conflict. If you have a well-rounded education, you may well have read about (history, sociology, psychology, literature) or encountered people (fellow students, professors, study groups, in case studies and field research) who have dealt with the same or worse experiences. You might then have the ability to offer or create a solution rather than live as a complainant with a dilemma that someone else has the power to solve or ignore.

Really, with the amount of fighting and struggle—and trauma—that women had to go through to get the right to access higher education, how can any now want to push back and reject access to so much of this content instead of figuring out how and when it would be best for them to take advantage of this access? For all of the LBGTQIA people who literally fought and suffered for their safety, dignity, and rights, you can’t sit in the controlled space of a classroom and debate someone you could have the chance to enlighten?

If the answer is no, I have compassion. I suggest the continued pursuit of healing then and, if you are able, educating others—not controlling the intellectual  environment. Coming from someone who has been the victim of trauma and who could not quite get it together in my younger years to be able to focus on or appreciate the rigors of college, I had to wait until I was older to return. I had to wait until I was ready to engage with the content.

Never demand that the classroom become limited. Limit yourself if you really must–and only temporarily–but no one else.


For 2003-2004  studies on  NAFTA and Mexico’s farmers see the following links.

These might be older studies, but the long-term impacts are what we are seeing now.



For a information on causes of and policies that have influenced this current crisis: