The Single Most Important Skill You Need To Be Culitvating in 2019

AMENITY LOUNGE SATURDAY 1-4PM

Just a friendly reminder we will be having a birthday party for our son in the amenity lounge on Saturday from 1-4PM. We know the space can’t be reserved, so we hope this doesn’t interfere with anyone’s plans!

Thanks so much!

If this opener made you want to vomit in your mouth, then happy 2019! JK this isn’t a 2019 post, but I feel kinda guilty for not writing to you about “goals,” so I snuck that in there to fit in with the rest of your inbox.

Today’s article will be the teardown you’ve been missing while you were on vacay, secretly wishing someone would send you an email teardown. YOU’RE WELCOME.

So let’s talk about what’s wrong with how I opened this article and that insane ALL CAPS subject line.

There’s a listserv for my apartment complex that people use to reserve our amenity lounge. You are not allowed to reserve the amenity lounge. I should have opened with that. But if you’d like to do it anyway, you email the listserv with the above vomit-in-your-mouth scrpit that everyone just cuts and pastes each week.

Let’s start with my personal favorite point of contention: THE ALL CAPS. I LOVE ALL CAPS IT’S LITERALLY THE ONLY WAY HILLARY AND I COMMUNICATE. 

BUT CONTEXT MATTERS. DON’T SCREAM AT ME IF I’M NOT YOUR FRIEND YET. ALSO IF YOU KEEP SCREAMING IT LOSES ITS EFFECT AND STOPS WORKING SO RESERVE YOUR SCREAMING FOR THE THINGS THAT ACTUALLY MATTER. LIKE THIS:

Hillary and Margo HAMYAW Texting Thunder
This is an important conversation.

Ok, next, let’s talk about what’s wrong with, “Just a friendly reminder.”

IF YOU’RE SINCERELY BEING FRIENDLY YOU DON’T NEED TO PREFACE IT!

(See, all caps works there.)

This person means, “Listen, assholes, I reserved this amenity room. If you planned to be in here, change your plans.” Except they said it in code. This is the opposite of friendly.

So is this: “We hope this doesn’t interfere with anyone’s plans!”

Of course you do! That’s the point of the email, isn’t it? You don’t “hope,” you are straight up saying do not show up at my kid’s birthday party with your own conflicting party. And adding an insincere, “Thanks so much!” just to be snarky. VERY VERY NOT FRIENDLY.

Folks, this is what’s called “passive aggression.” It’s the world’s least effective communication strategy, but continues to be used all the time, by everyone, everywhere.

We transmit passive aggression (PA) from generation to generation. Mother to daughter, Boss to employee, TV show to viewer.

We teach our young: “Do not be clear. Always mask your true feelings in verbosity, defensiveness, insincere enthusiasm, and lies by omission. Do not EVER say what you mean.”

(But not directly, obviously.)

Passive aggression is the avoidance of direct confrontation.

It’s popular among current and ex-girlfriends, your best friend, and your new hire. It’s all the rage.

GET IT?! IT’S A PUN. Fine, whatever. Waste of perfectly hilarious all caps moment.

Aaaaaanyway. The problem with passive aggression as a communication strategy is not just that it’s weak, cowardly, petty, and mean. The​ problem is it doesn’t work.

Can you recall any instance when you employed passive aggression and it ended well for you? 🧐

NO. THE ANSWER IS NO YOU CAN’T.

God, I love all caps.

You can’t recall any because passive aggression as a strategy never ends well. It escalates a problem 100% of the time.

There are zero instances where being unclear about what you mean is an advantage

We know how not to do this. We have the words. We all went to college and were tormented by that one teacher who insisted on removing contractions and passive voice from our sentences. CAN’T WON’T IT’S YOU’RE THEY’RE I’M MUAHAHAHA damn that feels good. STOP DISTRACTING ME ALL CAPS. HERE’S THE POINT: We know how to string together a better sentence. We choose not to.

We choose not to because passive aggression is not a condition of poor writing. It’s a symptom of low self-awareness.

To defeat passive aggression and communicate clearly and SAVE THE WORLD, we need to cultivate self-awareness.

Self-awareness: The conscious knowledge of what your true feelings, motivations, and desires are (thank you, dictionary).

You have to know what you are trying to say in order to say it. Without self-awareness we end up having conversations around the conversation and never really get to the meat of what matters. This is a profoundly infuriating waste of time that leads nowhere good, ever.

Because the only thing passive aggression does well is pull us into behaving badly. It drags us into the dirt of emotional triggers and hijacks our brain to react with defensiveness, pride, anger, or hurt. And that’s a waste of time, energy, and resources – especially in the context of work but also in life. Like how many nights have you lied awake (or is it laid, I can’t remember) (or lain, shit is it lain?)(no, it’s never lain), fuming about how rude Jennifer was to you. You can’t even focus on evaluating the veracity of her statements because you’re too stuck on how she delivered them. 

Passive aggression gets us nowhere. It should be thrown in the garbage, left to rot next to last week’s lasagna, Narcos Cali, and that special misogyny reserved for mothers.

Here’s how I’d rewrite that email, sans the passive aggression:

Hi Apartment Building,

My son is turning 2 and we are inviting some friends and family to celebrate. We will be using the amenity lounge from 1-4PM on Saturday.

If you do not like the sound of screaming toddlers, we recommend avoiding the amenity lounge from 1-4 on Saturday. If you’d like some cake, feel free to join us.

If you’d like to take my toddler so I can take a nap and have a beer, this is negotiable as well.

Thank you,

Margo, Apt 27T

PS: If you were planning to use the space that day, please text me at 123-456-7890 and let’s see if we can work something out so we can both use the lounge without interfering with each other’s plans. Thank you, again.

It’s ok to deviate from the script. Infuse your personality in there a bit. Say what you mean. Dare to be disliked. 

In fact, it might be the only way forward.

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