Let me share with you something that happened to me last week. I actually detected my level of consciousness moving up a notch. I was waiting in line at the grocery store watching the cashier as she checked out the groceries of the woman in front of me. But what the cashier really was doing was having an animated conversation with her friend standing close beside her. The clerk continued the nonstop chatting as she finished checking out the lady, who left without a comment. Then she started checking out my groceries, again without note.
First, I tried the hard stare technique to clue her in that I wanted her to pay attention to me and my groceries. This was ineffective. Next I squinted my eyes and glowered. Still, no results. Finally, I questioned her: “Can you do two things at once?” She looked oddly at me, terminated her conversation, and quietly completed my order. As I exited the grocery store, I stopped abruptly. It hit me. I had just demonstrated classic passive-aggressive behavior. I actually recognized in myself the trademark indirect language designed to help me get what I wanted without a direct confrontation. A direct approach would have been to simply say, “I would appreciate it if you would delay your conversation until after you finish my order.”
There are lots of ways we can be passive aggressive. We can do a job poorly if we don’t think it is our job. We can pretend we don’t hear the request if we don’t want to comply. We can ignore emails from someone rather than telling them directly we are unable to complete the task. My specialty is using indirect language as a means to avoid the confrontation that I fear would happen if I just said what I felt.
Even though my grocery store encounter was trivial and my insight came too late to help me avoid the behavior, I consider it an important step. It is not easy to recognize ingrained behavior patterns in yourself. I attribute this small growth to my practicing Centering Prayer (Christian contemplative prayer, meditation) for 7 years. I don’t practice Centering Prayer to raise my consciousness, to make me mindful, or to cure me of my passive aggressive tendencies. I do it as a prayer of surrender to God as I rest in His presence. But, I will happily accept all the secondary gains that come my way. I am hoping this glimmer of self-understanding will help me avoid this communication style in the future. Maybe it will work for you.
1. Learn more about Centering Prayer.
2. The science of how meditation changes your mind, brain and body is fascinating. Check out my blog Why Meditate? which includes a summary of the physical and mental health benefits of meditation. The 2017 book Altered Traits by Goleman and Davidson reviews these topics in detail.
2. Mindfulness means being aware of the moment in a nonjudgmental way, being nonreactive. This trait is strengthened with meditation and with many other practices. I love what I call God-centered mindfulness, a term I started using after reading The Sacrament of the Present Moment by Jean-Pierre de Caussade, a classic 18th century work—you might enjoy reading it..
P.S. Remember, if you want to receive, my blogs on a regular basis, follow serenity and health on Facebook.