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It it aggressive to label someone aggressive?

  1. Aug 18, 2010 #1
    it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    In another thread, the difference between aggression and assertiveness was raised. This made me wonder what is going on when someone would label someone else's assertiveness as "aggression." Is this itself an aggressive tactic to cause someone to reduce their assertiveness, and if not when it is legitimate to expect someone to back off? What about when the only reason you want them to back off is because you feel like they are proving you wrong or confronting you with something offensive or problematic that you have done?

    In general, is it aggressive to accuse someone of aggression?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 18, 2010 #2
    Re: it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    I dont think its aggressive to say someone is aggressive - its just saying how you feel, how you see things. its not offensive in anyway - its like saying someone is happy. Its not telling them to back off - not directly anyway, maybe it is implied. if it is implied, then maybe it is because the person feels threatened in some way, yeah. But whether it is implied is up to the other person to judge. and like in the other thread, there is a difference between assertiveness and aggression.
  4. Aug 18, 2010 #3
    Re: it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    Boundaries are relative. If I tell you to back off, because you are overstepping, you better do it. You cant force me to discuss something I don't want to discuss. If you continue to pressure, you might slide towards aggressiveness. You asserted your position once, and I told you to back off.
  5. Aug 18, 2010 #4
    Re: it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    I agree with you that it's possible to talk about aggression and even describe someone else as aggressive without your blood pressure rising (although if you anticipate defensiveness, it might rise anyway). However, I question whether any form of aggression is not at least partially a response to a feeling of being threatened. For some people, feeling threatened may come easier because they have high standards of dominance, control, or deference in interactions with others. People who expect a certain amount of "aggression" from others do not become as aggressive (active or passive) in response to aggression, I think. The irony in this is that someone who is accustomed to expressing a certain amount of aggression as a normal part of their personality has weaker taboos and alienation regarding aggression, so they are less likely to feel threatened by aggression from others, I think, at least when that aggression isn't intended as a threat.

    Do you think there's no aggression in telling someone to "back off?" Or do you just see this as legitimate aggression in that it is done in self-defense as a response to some other initial aggression?
  6. Aug 18, 2010 #5
    Re: it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    yay someone is talking to me again :)
    hm, yeah I kind of agree with what you say, but someone who is used to expressing aggression might not realise they are doing it, and so will still be very sensitive to aggression expressed at them.
  7. Aug 18, 2010 #6
    Re: it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    Telling someone to respect your boundaries is no aggression at all. Its an assertive behavior.
  8. Aug 18, 2010 #7


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    Re: it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    I don't understand. If you know there is aggression afoot, why not just skip the assertiveness and just POW, right in the kisser, blitzkrieg the guy, and then assertively walk away, briskly.
  9. Aug 18, 2010 #8
    Re: it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    What defines the distinction between aggression and assertiveness exactly? Does it have to do with anything more than the presumed right of territorial legitimacy? In other words, is it "assertive" to defend it when it's my territory and "aggressive" when I'm making claims about someone else's territory? If so, wouldn't I just have to render someone else's assertiveness as encroachment on my autonomy to render it as aggression? Plus, doesn't rendering someone as aggressive automatically put them in the position of backing off "or else?" Maybe it's just my interpretation, but my impression is that there is a culture of absolute repression of any person or act that is defined as aggressive. It's like in the movie Monster's Inc. when an alarm goes off everytime someone is spotted with a certain kind of paraphernalia and they get immediately quarantined until the situation is brought under control.
  10. Aug 18, 2010 #9
    Re: it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    Harmful behavior is the difference. Crossing boundaries can cause psychological harm. Telling someone to back off is not harmful. It's simply letting him know that he is causing distress to you and he should let you in peace.
  11. Aug 18, 2010 #10
    Re: it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    Why stop at that ? We invented firearms after all :P

    Joking aside, most persons will understand to back off when told so. There is no need to beat the **** out of them.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2010
  12. Aug 18, 2010 #11
    Re: it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    Are you aware of how often people get away with aggressive behavior by using passive aggression and cause distress by doing so without putting themselves in a position of taking the blame and having to back off? There have been times when I've thought that someone actually studied passive aggression in some kind of training facility they were so good at it. Such people actually long for the moment the person they are harassing loses their cool and responds with active aggression because that gives them their chance to play victim and call for social control. It's really sad, because the reason such people probably engage in this kind of behavior is because their own aggression has been repressed and they are searching for a way to express it without getting in trouble for doing so. It's miserable to have to deal with, though, because there's no way to really prove that what they're doing is aggressive because its so subtle and done in a way that they can justify it as "just stating their opinion," etc.
  13. Aug 18, 2010 #12
    Re: it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    Passive aggressive behavior is considered a personality disorder. Im not talking about clinical cases. If you have to deal with someone in your family who is clinically "ill", and nota bene, has been diagnosed by a specialist, not by yourself, there exist places where you can get training and consultancy on how to behave with such a person.
  14. Aug 18, 2010 #13
    Re: it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    I don't see the value in addressing the clinical side of passive aggression. It's more interesting to look at it as a simple displacement of active aggression that occurs when people repress their active feelings of aggression. If you work in retail sales, for example, you should notice that because people are required to always be nice to customers and agree with them no matter what, these people develop more subtle (i.e. non-confrontational) ways of asserting themselves to customers and talk amongst employees in a defensive self-legitimating way that somewhat criticizes the customers (whom they usually blame) but not enough to come across to management as being an unfriendly associate. It's not that all these people have a clinical disorder. They are just in a situation where they have to deal with conflicts and aggression without active confrontation, so they find ways to do so indirectly and "passively." It's just basically working around a taboo on direct confrontation and active aggression.
  15. Aug 18, 2010 #14
    Re: it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    Im not adressing passive aggressive behavior, you seems to be puzzled by it and I told you you can learn how to deal with someone who is diagnosed with it.

    As for the rest. Its all in the eye of the beholder. Just dont take it personally. You may be oversensitive. It is extremely rare it goes as far as you describe. I am not the most patient of man, but it may very well take years between incidents of this kind with the personal involved in the retails where I go to buy things , or where I eat, drink cofee , whatever.
  16. Aug 25, 2010 #15
    Re: it it aggressive to label someone "aggressive?"

    I think ppl often assume that the worst consequences of (passive) aggression are for the "victims" but I think the aggressor actually ends up suffering quite a bit, especially in the case of passive aggression because they become so alienated from their own true feelings in their constant effort to police their aggression while being subject to stressful situations that trigger it while being under pressure to repress it in their response.

    Active aggression might be more of a behavioral problem but I think passive aggression is more like a form of madness.
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