Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How to Write a Barely Passive-Aggressive Letter Using Exclamation Points and Emoticons :) !

photo: Alamy

If you are a people pleaser, you become overwhelmed and flustered in person-to-person confrontations.  

You leave the discussion feeling defeated and resentful, rehearsing what you would have said like Seinfeld's George Costanza.

The next time, you send a letter or e-mail. Now you can tactfully say what you mean! 

Unfortunately, you overcompensate.  Direct to the point of insult, you burn bridges.

What to do?!

A direct, yet sensitive missive is possible with the use of emoticons and exclamation points!  These trendy darlings of the punctuation world allow you to be blunt, but with a little hug!

Let the following outline help you craft the perfect piece of diplomatic correspondence!

Paragraph #1: Remind the recipient how much you like him or her.  Be sure to exaggerate.  Point to a specific time you spent together.

You know that I think the world of you!  We have had oil tankers full of fun! Our conversation about alternative household uses for contraceptive sponges was one of the best times I’ve had without the aid of rubber cement! :-)

Paragraph #2:  Communicate a spirit of mutual goodwill.  Discuss your feelings and what you hope to avoid. 

We work on the same team – as equals, and we respect each other!! I would never scold or patronize you :-)  I hate, however, to let things fester!!  I had a roommate who shied away from confrontation, but then would become very passive-aggressive :-(  She slapped me Dynasty style when I helped myself from the vat of pasta salad she kept in our living room :-(  I know!! So uncool!!

Paragraph #3:  Humbly state your grievance.

Because we agreed not to send emails without the other checking it over, you regularly proofread and “correct” my writing :-)  I can’t help noticing, however, that you might be more than a little spelling challenged :-) :-( !!  On several occasions you changed my work, and inserted the WRONG homophone  :-( :-( !!!  This was a huge issue for our clients, Da Rhodz Skolaz, who are sticklers for good writing :-( :-)  Upon receipt of a message stating, “I’m sorry your throat is soar. Please stay home so it can heel,” Mista Sock Rateez questioned whether I had passed kindergarten!!!! This hurt deeply :-(   He knows I went to Yale!!!!!!!!!

Paragraph #4:  Using I statements, declare your feelings and defend yourself. 

I am concerned that I will be blamed for losing DRS, clients of the highest value, when I, in fact, speak their language!!!  At their last visit, we talked for hours about Christian symbolism on Jersey Shore.  I AM capable of producing a very well written letter!!! Did I mention I went to Yale  :-) :-) :-)?

Closing Paragraph:  Summary.  Statement of future goals.

It is my sincere hope that I was not unduly harsh    :-(  I merely wanted to be honest and forthcoming  :-) !!  I think you are a queen of a co-worker!!!  With a little focus you’ll attain the writing skills of that kindergartner in no time! 

In the above outline, please note the following:
  • Exclamation points show the reader that your statements, no matter how straightforward, are delivered with a smile! 

  • Sad faces convey MILD dissatisfaction at silly or careless acts, letting the recipient know that s/he was not smart enough to know better!  What could be more sympathetic?

  • And smiley faces are a pat on the head for a mistake, which again s/he couldn't help but make!  They turn every thing you say into a little ray of sunshine!

These days, with emails and texts taking the place of face-to-face, or even phone conversations, the ability to write compassionately is key.  Imagine the above letter without the emoticons and exclamation points?

Cruel and unacceptable.

Isn’t this the sensitive, yet honest message you would love to send to someone who has upset you?

If you had offended someone, wouldn’t you feel relieved and comforted to receive such a considerate message?

You tell me :-) :-) !!!!!


  1. LOVE THIS! It's terrific. !!!-Alicia

  2. Thanks Alicia! Now off to go write someone a loving "I can't stand you :-)!!!"

  3. Keesha, I am all about the passive-aggressive letter :)! The last time I did this though, I think it was more rude than not, but whatever. I was sick and tired of seeing my neighbor's nasty garbage piled in front of their door for HOURS on end. They would do this a few times a week. What makes it worse is that they are right across the hall from me. :-/

    Anywho, one evening I came home and saw it there. Already in a bad mood (from traveling on the bus with kids), I promptly wrote a brief note stating simply: "THIS IS DISGUSTING." Sure, I could have been nicer about it, but ....why? ;)

    Can you believe they had that shit out ALL NIGHT LONG?! At least until 9am. For. Real. Funniest part is they left a note back, disapproving of my note. Whatever, it got the point across. ;)

    Actually, I think I'm going to write a post about this because it's kind of funny. To me, anyway.

  4. This is what I need to do from time to time :-) Love this..Thanks for sharing.

  5. I think so many people do this without realizing it! :) But what they don't realize, is how easily the rest of us can see through their bulls!!t!!!! :D


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