Lost in translation

Updated: Jun 03, 2019, 07:47 IST | Karishma Kuenzang | Mumbai

A recent survey points out some seemingly passive aggressive statements in the text-savvy digital world. Think before you type a 'k' for okay

There is a land called Passive Aggressive, and you are their Queen," is something Derek Shepherd tells his ex-wife after she gives him the silent treatment lathered with a generous helping of sarcasm in the TV series Grey's Anatomy. But that was about a decade ago. In the digital age, many seemingly innocent statements can be interpreted as passive-aggressive reactions. And vice versa. An Instagram page recently did a survey and came out with a list of passive aggressive texts; and yes, responding with "K" was a part of the list. Let's be honest, we all know that lazy people or those who think it's "cool" still choose to type like this. And we do belong to the category who sees red whenever someone responds to something elaborate with a letter of the alphabet.

Identifying passive aggressive behaviour is crucial to avoid misunderstanding or resolve conflict, points out city-based psychologist Dr Aditya Tiwari, adding, "This behaviour means non-cooperation in any situation. For example, in a fight, shouting translates to being aggressive. But when you are silent and non-responsive, that's passive aggression." Trouble arises in the digital world when withdrawal from communication is interpreted as the same. While blocking someone and not responding implies direct aggression when it comes to texts on social media or WhatsApp, it's the change from the regular pattern of expression that qualifies as being the
passive kind.

"Some people reply with a "k" or "cool" out of convenience. Adding a "whatever" after a sentence is more of an indication of being non-committal. But if a person who doesn't normally use holophrases (a single word to express a complex idea) starts responding like that, that's passive aggressiveness," he explains. Using Internet acronyms like "idk" and "idc" way too much, adding an "I guess" after an assertive sentence and using emojis instead of words, also fall into a grey area. "The main problem is that there is a lot that's lost in translation when you are seeing things on the text. You are not sure of the tone and there are no overtones to help you out," Dr Tiwari points out.

So, the best way to tackle a situation where you think someone is exhibiting such behaviour is to immediately pick up the phone and call. "Talk to each other to sort out any hint of conflict. If a person is upset, typing "okay" instead of "k" won't help, because at some point it will spill over. But remember, you can't force someone to communicate. So, if they aren't up for it, leave them alone or it will result in a fight. Continue to keep the option of having the conversation open, even if the person takes two-three days to get back to you," he advises.

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