Indirect Aggression

I walked in and there were two of the women that were in my group walking ahead of me. I said, “Oh, hey—how are you guys?” And they kind of looked over their shoulder and gave me this look, with that curl in their lip and roll in their eyes. They got on the elevator and as the doors closed, one of them said, “We’re going to get coffee”—click—and the door closed in my face.

As seen above, indirect aggression includes both verbal and nonverbal covert behaviors that could seem innocuous but are intended to hurt. They can include not only the use of body language, such as eye rolling, but also silence, as demonstrated in the story from another white nurse in her fifties, Janet, about her interactions with other women at work:

I’d go up to talk with them about something, and they’d all pick up the phone and pretend they were talking. So, for the longest time, I thought, “God, they’re on the phone a lot!” You know, it was just a smoke and mirrors kind of thing—and I was brand new to the organization, a lot younger than them, and they certainly weren’t going to let me in.

Smoke and mirrors—now add to this another thread in indirect aggression—denial. One example of denial in the adolescent-girl literature includes this description by a ninth grader: “Last week, I asked my friend why she was mad at me—I had no idea why—and she said, ‘I’m not mad at you.’ Right then I knew she was mad at me.”   An excerpt from my book, New Rules for Women, available at Amazon (]]>

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