Easy Passive-Aggressive and Anti-Social Behaviors You Can Try Today

Are you really self-centered, but trying not to appear that way?  Wouldn’t you rather have people attribute your selfish behaviors to a quirky personality than to a passive-aggressive or anti-social behavior?  If you learn the following tricks, you’ll never have to face repercussions for your bad attitude.  Rather than thinking you’re passive aggressive, anti-social, or even just a big fat jerkburger, people will think of you as special! You’re busy. Important.  Possibly flaky, unlucky, or even delightfully unpredictable, but hey! That’s just you being you.

Being Late or Canceling at the Last Minute: We’ve all heard it said before — chronic lateness sends the message that your time is more valuable than anyone else’s time. We all know it’s true, and that’s why this is the Number One All-Time Classic Passive-Aggressive and Anti-Social Behavior. Being late is a great way to send the message to friends and colleagues alike that you are the top dog. Make them wait for you! It’s a simple and effective power play. But why stop with chronic lateness? Why not cancel plans at the last minute, too, every now and then? Keep people guessing as to whether you will actually show up at all. Because you’ve made a precedent of being late, they’ll be waiting at that restaurant for hours before they finally give up.

Refusing to Make Plans at All: If you’ve tried Being Late or Canceling at the Last Minute and you like the results but are looking for something even more effective, you may want to consider adopting a related personality quirk (hey, it’s charming and quirky!). Refuse to make plans at all. If a friend wants to arrange to meet you at your favorite bar for happy hour, what he is really trying to do is tie you down! YOU can’t be tied down! Avoid this at all costs. Instead, tell the friend you might be free but you’re not sure. Then, call the friend two hours after happy hour and let him know you’re finally at the bar — not your favorite bar, for inexplicable reasons, but a bar across town. Always keep them guessing.

Having Messy Handwriting: Unless you are writing in your own super-secret private diary for your eyes only, having messy handwriting is straight-up Passive Aggressive and Anti-Social. Fortunately for you, this is a rarely acknowledged fact. Most people believe that handwriting is either genetically ingrained or is formed through so many years of practice that it is virtually unchangeable. Whether either of these views is true (dubious), you have a get-out-of-jail-free card on the issue of handwriting. This means you don’t need to take the time to be neat or to assure that anyone else can read your chickenscratch. Sure it’s messy and annoying and renders any of your handwritten work useless, but GOSH DARN YOU JUST CAN’T HELP IT. So just keep on gripping that pencil in your improperly clenched fist like a caveman, dragging your wrist across the page to create smudges and smears — soon enough people will stop asking you to edit their essays, lend them your notes, or jot down a recipe. Then you’ll have more time for what really matters: yourself.

[N.B. For the advanced Passive-Aggressives and Anti-Socials among you, there is an even higher level of Passive-Aggressive and Anti-Social Handwriting to which you can aspire: handwriting so messy EVEN YOU cannot read it. Did you forget to pick up that extra item at the store for your husband or wife? “Oh, so sorry, honey! I guess it is on the list after all, but sometimes I can’t even read my own writing!” See also: Losing or Forgetting a Necessary Item.]

Losing or Forgetting A Necessary Item: This technique is brilliant in its simplicity. You can’t drive because you’ve lost your car keys. Oh, sure, you WANTED to treat that special someone to dinner, but it seems you have forgotten your wallet! Hey, these things happen occasionally, right? Except that for YOU, they happen all the time. This is why no one will ever put himself in the position of relying on you. You won’t be asked to pick up an item at the store while you’re out. You’ll never have car-pool duty or be asked to feed someone’s cat while he’s out of town. Life can be easy once you’ve freed yourself from the obligation of doing small favors for friends.

Having Allergies, Dietary Restrictions, or Religious Restrictions: This is the ultimate trump card. If you have allergies, dietary restrictions, or religious restrictions, no one can dispute you. After all, your health and/or morals depend on your adherence to certain ascetic codes! Get ready for an absolutely unimpeachable excuse to abstain and refrain. Have a bad date? You can’t come in for the night because you’re allergic to his cat! A dinner invitation you’d like to decline? Too bad, you’d love to go, but [sigh], YOU’RE A VEGAN. A friend needs an inconvenient favor late Friday night when, let’s face it, you’d rather be busy with other things? No worries. Just remind your friend of that one defining fact about you: YOU DON’T FUCKING ROLL ON SHABBOS.

Acting Helpless With Technology: Incompetence with technology is a great way to get out of the tiresome duties of both social and work requirements. “Oh, I didn’t get that email,” you say. People may try to tell you that emails just don’t disappear, but hey, when you and a computer get together, anything can happen! “My computer must have accidentally deleted your message! You know how bad I am with technology!” Of course, email incompetence is really just the first step in this genius plan of passive aggression. You’ll also need to feign incompetence with files in general (“But I’m SURE I attached it!” “I thought I SAVED those changes!” “It must be here SOMEWHERE!”). What about all those popular social networking and communications applications the kids are using these days? Don’t bother with them. After all, your extreme levels of incompetence prevent you from using computers for anything at all. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, MySpace, blogs, Skype? Of course you can’t figure them out! We know how YOU are with technology! Let’s not even get you started about how you don’t understand that “text messaging” nonsense. While you may seem to be sending the message that you are too stupid to keep in touch with people, rest assured: the real subtext is that you simply don’t care.


  1. I’m guilty of two, bad handwriting and dietary restriction. (Gluten intolerence) You’ll probably get some outraged reactions. It is what it is. (and isn’t THAT getting old)


  2. Hey, for one thing, the diet stuff is unimpeachable! Like I said, no one can complain about it. As for the handwriting, I do remain convinced that anyone can make their writing neater and more legible if they actually try to do so. Try and see what happens!

    Another response, in keeping with the tone of the post: CONGRATULATIONS! You are already an expert!


  3. I have to disagree about the handwriting and do believe it may have something to do with fine motor control and hand-eye coordination. I had an awful time in public school with handwriting drills. My inability for neatness infuriated me to no end; and the teachers used to hold up samples of my work as what not to do. It was terrible. I simply can’t stay between parallel lines when I write – the harder I try to be neat, the worse it gets.

    And speaking of smudges and smears: are you a lefty? If you’re not a lefty you’ll never have problems with smudges and smears – the worst writing implements for a lefty are erasable pens and liquid ink pens. (unless you write from right to left).


  4. I have ugly, but ultimately neat and legible writing. I have compensated for a lot of the messiness by always using lined paper and using specific pens that dry quickly and tend not to smudge.

    Actual, real, food allergies people cannot be blamed for. HOWEVER! I will blame people for religious restrictions (get a new religion already, yo, yours is lame), fake bullshit food allergies like “oh, you know, I’m on a gluten free diet”. Because, really cupcake? Celiac disease is pretty fucking rare, and gluten has been a naturally occuring part of the human diet since the first time we made bread so no. Just no. It’s not the result of “processed” foods, it’s the result of starch + water + heat…it’s a protein assholes, a protein that not only won’t hurt the vast majority of people (especially the self-diagnosed) but makes bread delicious.



  5. J – I’m not a lefty, and I know lefties are more likely to get smudges, but then again I know or have taught plenty of righties who also get the smudges just because they treat their pieces of writing like dinner napkins. Sometimes it really is just people choosing not to be neat.

    T – See? You’re making your writing neat. As my grandfather used to say, I commend you!


  6. Well now is being scatterbrained passive-aggressive and anti-social? Because I blame my scatter brain for being guilty of two of these things — the handwriting and the losing and forgetting.

    HANDWRITING: Although I am a smudgin’ lefty, my handwriting is generally ugly but readable. But sometimes I drop a letter or two (“and” becomes “ad”; “letter” becomes “le/er”) and, as I attempt to write a sentence, I soon have to be putting in all kinds of interjecting arrow talk and scratching through other talk to say what I meant when I started and before I stopped noticing what my hand was doing. I do this to myself as well as others, so can it be passive-aggressive? And when I am able to fix things, like with typing, I totally do becuase I hat errows.

    FORGETTING AND LOSING: I do a lot of things without noticing, like set things down somewhere weird or agree with someone about a thing I’ll get at the store. Sometimes I’ll even write that thing on the list and then lose the list, which puts both ailments together in a rad basket. I just am not willing to admit that this sort of absent-mindedness equates to dickery on the level you suggest.

    {FINALLY: Tim, do you really think calling your junk a “meat wagon” is classy?}


  7. Re Tim’s meat wagon, I am DYING LAUGHING!

    Anyway, the genius thing about calling someone Passive Aggressive is that DENIAL IS A SYMPTOM! Seriously! Blaming other people, blaming outside circumstances, etc, is all “symptomatic.” It’s just like all that Freud Bullshit. You can’t deny your Oedipal feelings because they’re unconscious! Your conscious mind’s tendency to censor will make you deny your unconscious wishes to protect itself! It’s insane!

    So the point of that is: do I think scatterbrainedness is to blame? If you said that to a psychologist who was determined to tell you you were passive aggressive, they would just tell you that refusing to take responsibility for your passive aggressive behavior is a symptom of the disorder!

    Or at least they would have back in the late 80s – early 90s, when PAPD was a disorder listed in the old DSM-III. Now in the DSM-IV it has been moved to the appendix (although what moving things to the appendix signifies, I am not sure).

    Some perspective on where this is coming from: Sullen Teenage Vague was once handed a list of the diagnostic characteristics of Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder, xeroxed straight out of the DSM-III, by her dad and his crazy then-girlfriend, who had received said xerox from their family therapist after they had complained about Sullen Teenage Vague’s bad attitude and incompetence in the realm of household chores. “YOU HAVE A PERSONALITY DISORDER, AND DON’T TRY TO DENY IT, BECAUSE DENIAL IS A SYMPTOM!” While I’m sure Sullen Teenage Vague did have some disorder, I suspect is was something more like “Sullen Teenager Disorder” (most often diagnosed in hormonal 13-year-olds whose parents are splitting up and/or have Horrible Girlfriends).


  8. Well, yeah, and that’s the genius of many personality disorder diagnoses. Believe me, as the child of a psychiatrist and a psychiatric social worker — both of whom are guilty of at least two of these things — I know how this game is played!

    For shits & giggles, let me suggest that making a concerted effort to have nice handwriting might itself be passive-aggressive — that is, if most people have bad handwriting, what do you mean to say by trying really hard not to?

    You can’t win, with this. And if you do win, what did you mean by trying to?


  9. Well, clearly the one with the neatest writing wins! And in that particular battle, my enemy was my 4th grade teacher, a decidedly evil specimen who not only sparked the handwriting issue, but who also made me cry weekly when administering the math speed drills. It got to a point where whenever we started one of them, she would dramatically place a box of kleenex on my desk just in case “someone” needed them. My advice on that: never send your kids to Catholic School.

    Once, on the day report cards were handed out, she took me into the hall to Have A Talk about my handwriting grade: “a generous C,” in her words. I was warned that if I didn’t improve, I would be getting an F the next time around.

    And now we have plumbed the psychological reasons behind my Passive-Aggressive nit-picking.

    I win by being on time all the time, writing the neatest, and calling out others on their errors. WIN! A sad and shallow win, but I’ll take it.


  10. Also to be noted: If past me, facing an F in handwriting, could improve, so can anyone else.

    And furthermore: the illegibly messy scrawl I use to comment on student papers is further proof of messy writing being a behavioral choice. It’s so messy no one could match it with my usual writing. Why? Because I hate grading and wish I didn’t have to do it.

    All this what I say here is really just based on myself.


  11. My handwriting remains crap no matter how much I try. Even when I write in block capitals for legibility. I suspect that people just don’t want to read my handwriting. That’s okay, I’m happy to type this.
    P.S. I like John’s explanation for bad handwriting. My essential spazziness is to blame.


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