• Thu, May 10 2012

How Do You Respond To A Passive-Aggressive “You’re Welcome“?

Actually just "passive"

This week, a terrible lady made Deputy Editor Ashley Cardiff feel very bad about her own manners–which defeats the purpose of manners! Ashley told EIC Jennifer Wright, who has also experienced the toxic, passive-aggressive “You’re welcome,” and she explained that when people do this, you have to scream at them. You have to scream hard. Here, they discuss the best way to shame people for being passive-aggressive assholes…

Ashley: So, this morning, the worst thing happened.

Jennifer:  Please tell me more, Ashley. I have no idea what this anecdote will be about.

Ashley:  My boyfriend and I were leaving a coffee shop and he passed through the front door. There was a girl outside the front door, which she took hold of, though my boyfriend did not let go because–although traditionally you should always let people out before you go in–it was a very heavy door. My boyfriend passed through and held the door for me, which was very nice of him. Just as I got through, however, the girl passed between us and said, “YOU’RE WELCOME.”

Jennifer:  FUCK HER. FUCK THAT MONSTER PERSON.

You'll never be good enough, even when I'm dead!

Ashley:  I could feel the words “Fuck off” form in my mouth because New York has made me this way, but then I paused and thought perhaps my boyfriend had thanked her and it was not, in fact, an act of monstrous passive aggression. We got about ten feet away and I said, “Hey, boyfriend, did you thank her?” And he said, “No, I thought you did.”

Jennifer:  UGH FUCK HER. Did you run back and just… I don’t know just jump up and down in front of her making angry monkey faces? Is that a response? I feel like – not just justice, but Borgia justice should be enacted on people who do that.

Ashley:  ”Oooh, you want a banana? Did you want a banana prize, you monkey asshole? I’m the fucking Pope and I do what I want!” Like that?

Jennifer:  YES.

Ashley:  That seems obtuse. Anyway, let’s agree–even if I was just spacing out and forgot to thank someone holding a door for me–this is outrageously rude. Moreover, whatever self-righteous thrill you get from rubbing someone’s lapse in manners in his/her face, you completely cancel out that person’s bad manners with your own terrible rudeness. Right?

No banana for you.

Jennifer:  It would appear that person forgot that good manners are designed to make other people feel comfortable. I feel like, to some extent, this may be an American failing? I think you see manners used more as a club to bludgeon people and assert superiority to them in our society than you do in say, England.

Ashley:  Oh, it’s always America’s fault.

Jennifer:  Well, I do think it’s a peculiarly American thing to do?

Ashley: Not only did she say something totally passive-aggressive, she was always wearing one of those giant foam hands and stuffing her face with a pie using the other. Additionally, she was morbidly obese and managing to sit on a couch… even though we were outside on a sidewalk.

Jennifer:  I suspect you are making this up. On the other hand, this seems consistent with my worldview, so I’m torn.

Ashley:  No.

"If we can get snowboarding in the Olympics, we can make this happen."

Jennifer:  It sounds like something people like that would do. Checks out on my logic radar.

Ashley:  Don’t blame America. People are assholes everywhere. I’m sure English people have shamed each other with bad manners, they probably just did it with an off-kilter sense of humor and then had some tea after. Going forward, let’s stop making useless generalizations about countries.

Jennifer:  Okay, fair point. Sorry I was such an anglophile asshole for a second, there.

Ashley:  SO RUDE.

Jennifer:  But! Moving on from this, boldly. What do people who do the passive-aggressive “You’re welcome” expect to happen? Do they think people will say “Pardon me, good lady?! Here is a medal.” Do they expect people to say that sincerely? Do they think I just carry around a pocket full of medals?

Ashley:  You don’t?

Jennifer:  It weighs me down, Ashley, but those medals are not for them.

You'd win the gold if they gave medals to DICKS!

Ashley:  Moreover! Isn’t it the height (nadir?) of BAD MANNERS to be completely rude and nasty? In our defense, she wasn’t even holding the damn door. But even if we were just spacing out, even if our manners had lapsed… that would still make her a dick! This whole interaction really shook me because I am usually on the effusive side of appreciation when people hold doors for me. …Wait. Is it worse manners to do that or to use your blogging job as a public platform to shame people?

Jennifer: You should have taken a grainy iPhone camera picture of her, and we should be running it right now.

Ashley: Nuts.

Jennifer: Look, I remember this happened to me, once. I probably remember it because it was one of the only direct, furious confrontations I’ve ever had. It was in my cocktail waitressing days, and it had been a really long day. I was getting into the elevator in my own building. And a man held the button for me. I actually said “Thank you,” but I guess I mumbled it. And he said, loudly, “You’re welcome” and shook his head.  And I turned to him and said “Pardon me?” I gave him the side-eye as I did it. And he said – in this deep southern accent, he was clearly a tourist, he was carrying one of those gift shop bags that have the apple and the heart on it – “It’s customary to say “thank you” when someone does something nice like hold a door open for you.” And in kind of a bizarre moment, because I am not good with confrontation, I yelled “Not in New York, you son of a bitch!” Although, obviously, that is customary everyplace. The first portion of that sentence was stressed. As though I was offended that he had come to my city and brought his horrible ways with him. I think that was the moment I first identified New York as my home, and, in a weirdly protective move, that people didn’t just get to clomp in in their boat shoes and drag their shitty manners all over it. And then I yelled at him for the duration of the elevator ride about how he did not get to do that. And then he left, and as he walked down the hall, as the evelator doors were closing, I heard him call out “Bitch!”

SIT ON IT AND SPIN, OLD MAN

Ashley:  I can’t believe you yelled at an old man and called him a son of a bitch.

Jennifer:  I did. I was very upset. He won’t do it again. Also, he learned that you don’t come to Manhattan and pull that shit. Because people will yell at you for a full thirty seconds.

Ashley:  You learned him good.

Jennifer:  I think this may be the only head on confrontation I’ve ever had? I’m not endorsing yelling at old men you’ve never met who are trying to teach you how to be a lady, often, but everyone should probably do it, once.

Ashley:  Bet it feels good.

Jennifer:  It felt pretty good.

Ashley:  You know, maybe next time someone opens a door for me, I’m going to scowl at them and look away and say nothing, in the hopes they’ll pull this passive-aggressive shit and then I’ll just let loose.

"I can open my own fucking door!"

Jennifer:  I think you only get to do it once, though. I think that moment is really a gift. Don’t squander it. Wait for an old Southern man to come and tell you off.

Ashley: New York is really stressful. I think we need vacations or something, Jen. Or therapy.

Jennifer: Want to just go camp out and wait for Dark Shadows to start? Barnabas Collins would eat these people for us.

Ashley:  No. Wait. I want to yell at strangers until they feel awful. I need to go. Now.

Jennifer:  Get the old tourists!

Ashley:  I’m gonna go look for ones with limps!

Jennifer:  Show them the only lady in this city is called “Liberty!”

 

(UPDATE: As our lovely reader KJ pointed out, Miss Manners herself agrees that correcting others–for bad manners, undisciplined children, poor grammar, etc–is in itself “dreadful.”)

From Our Partners

  • S

    This is definitely not a culturally American thing – the only time I’ve experienced the passive-aggressive “you’re welcome” was in Paris. (And just to avoid more stereotypes, not all Parisians are horribly rude… most of the ones I met were lovely.) People are occasionally going to be jerks no matter where you are in the world.

  • kjon

    Shit! I used “you’re welcome” in a comment today. In my defense, it wasn’t so much passive-aggressive as much as being aware that my comment – concerning the duck nails trend – was entirely worthless and not at all compelling.

  • Emma

    lulz i’m practically drooling on my keyboard with laughter

    • Ashley Cardiff

      Thank you! You get a medal (for not being a dick).

  • Kj

    My beloved Miss Manners assures us that Correcting Others Is Often An Excruciatingly Incorrect Thing To Do , so miss Passive Aggressive Thank You can be cordially encouraged to go fuck herself.

    • Ashley Cardiff

      YES!

  • Jessica

    It was pretty rude of you not to say thank you. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but if someone’s being passive-aggressive rude over holding a door, it’s because you were rude first!

    • bean

      The post says in no uncertain terms that the rude woman didn’t open the door, the writer’s boyfriend did.

    • Em

      “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Um, trite, and not always true.

      But still, if the author’s “wrong” was to omit to thank this woman (for, uh, existing? I’m confused….) then surely the second wrong would be to call her out for it so rudely. Thus creating a situation that is, according to your homily, not conducive to the creation of a right.

      Just sayin’.

  • Fabel

    Peals of laughter at “not in New York, you son of a bitch!” That was perfect.

    Also, that “you’re welcome” fuckery is not okay. I heard (on the radio, maybe?) a discussion about this & everyone involved (yeah, definitely on some terrible radio station) was like “Hell yeah, I say ‘you’re welcome!’ I’m HOLDING THE DOOR FOR YOU” & it made me so mad to hear a group of people actually trying to justify it! (And then, I think I remember the segment turning to them actually CONFRONTING people? like, going up to them & being like “Hey, I held the door for you back there. And you didn’t say thank you?” AHlfjsda. Rage.)

    • Ashley Cardiff

      Stupid radio.

      Look, in this situation the girl didn’t open the door. She had no excuse to be an uppity jerk about it.

      …But! My point is there is NEVER an excuse. Even if a person just spaced out, I think it’s totally obnoxious/smug to offer a withering, “You’re welcome” to a stranger.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Right, because manners are, really, truly, just supposed to make other people feel comfortable. The point of their existence is to make the lives of people around us easier. They let us pretend that we LIKE other people.

      They’re not supposed to be a platform to give you an excuse to be a smug asshole.

    • Fabel

      I agree!

  • Jennifer Wright

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I think part of the reason that girl was so upset was because, in that moment, you became Jeremy Irons and your bottomless sexiness was too much for anyone to handle with a clear head.

    And she was mad because she could not do the same.

    MISS MANNERS IS ON OUR SIDE!

    • Ashley Cardiff

      NO BANANA.

    • MR

      Please leave Jeremy Irons out of this. She’s smokin’ without his help. I mean the ’70s term which has nothing to do with the cigarettes she smokes. And is that kid really Dutch? :)

  • kjon

    (To add something that’s actually on-topic) I’m not sure what is worse: the passive-agressive “you’re welcome” for holding the door OR the outright “why didn’t you open the fucking door for me?!” when, for whatever reason, you didn’t open/hold the door for that special someone.

    Or, a third option, the person who presses the handicap button that opens the door for them for no reason at all. No handicap, no babies/puppies/groceries in her arms – just pure entitlement right there. To stand there and actually wait for that shiz to slowly inch open instead of, say, DIY-ing it irks me a bit.

  • Anne

    I want a job where I can freely air my frustrations like this! And be hilarious at the same time. I would never need any therapy! You lucky bitches.

  • G

    I hate to disagree with you all. Miss Manners on your side or not, but I do the passive aggressive “you’re welcome”. Especially to the people in my building who repeatedly wait for me to not only open the door but also hold it open for them, even though my hands are full and they are carrying nothing but attitude. Granted they are clearly better than me according to you guys. When someone say “you’re welcome” to me I usually have the balls to acknowledge that I messed up and I’ll admit I have my head up my ass cause I’m tired or whatever. I guess we can’t all be rude and the victim at the same time.

    • http://nathanhawks.us/ Nathan Hawks

      Just my 2 cents, but don’t do things for people who are clearly just waiting around for someone to serve them. In fact, make a specific effort to prevent yourself from helping those people unless they seem to genuinely need the help. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel much better about yourself for denying them.

  • Sarah!

    Saying “YOU’RE WELCOME” to someone is unquestionably rude. There is no scenario in which that is not a rude thing to do. Perhaps they were rude to you first, but two rudes do not make a polite.

  • Terri Mitchell

    You could all use some lessons. So you take what you consider passive/aggressive behavior and respond with Borderline/hysterical screaming. Smart. Very Classy. Exactly what Jackie O. would do! Right. She would say “I’m sorry” and move on to her beautiful day and not ruminate over by writing a stupid article .Get a life, and some manners, even if they don’t feel natural to you!

  • Nancy

    That’s happened to me a couple of times, I kinda just half turn and look a little suprised and say “Oh! Sorry! I didn’t mean to…” and that’s it really, awkward laugh and on my way. I totally agree with your logic; don’t respond to bad manners with more bad manners. Unless you’re at a little breaking point like Jennifer. I truly LOLed at that, hilarious! I bet that does feel good to do haha

  • mm

    I hate when people are passive-aggressively rude. Two weeks ago I was in the security line at an airport – ie somewhere you can’t get away if the line is long enough – and my dad decided to make friends with some weird woman behind us. She said to me, “wow you’re really beautiful,” which I obviously replied to with a thank you. She apparently didn’t hear and said really loudly and obnoxiously, “UM YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO SAY THANK YOU”…..so I just said “I DID” and ignored her for the duration of our time in the line, even though she tried to talk to me while flirting with my dad in front of my mom. When I get the “you’re welcome,” I tend to respond with an equally sarcastic and rude “thanks.” It gets the point across without yelling. People are so rude, it’s mind boggling. I can’t even count how many times I’ve held the door without hearing a thank you…but I never screech you’re welcome like a self-righteous douche. There’s nothing worse than having a bad day and then having someone say something obnoxious because you didn’t kneel and kiss their feet for holding the door for 5 seconds

    You can also just pretend you’re a visiting celebrity and say, “don’t you KNOW who i AM??” That will probably shut them up? ha

    • Em

      I love this! mm rocks. And parents (in my case, normally grandparents) making friends with weirdos in places where you JUST CAN’T ESCAPE is one of the many banes of my existence.

  • Cate

    I never, ever do the passive aggressive ‘you’re welcome’ and when other people do, I usually just smile in a grand way and say, ‘oh no YOU’RE welcome’ as if I just did them some favor by walking through the door they were holding. Usually it confuses them so much that they have nothing to say, which makes me hope that they have learned their lesson.

    Maybe this is rude behaviour on my part, but I feel that the gaping stares of ‘what did she just say?!’ are worth it.

  • Maggie

    Jennifer and Ashley, you guys are hilarious and make my day.

    I agree that the passive-aggressive “You’re welcome” is rude, but I think it’s warranted in certain situations (though not Ashley’s, that girl was a beyotch). I used to work at a gym and had to scan people’s membership cards, and there were a few members who would purposely ignore me and not make eye contact, they’d just hand me their cards and walk on through. After a while I got fed up, so when those few people came through and were rude to me, I’d put on a huge, obnoxiously cheerful smile and say “You’re welcome!” It startled a few of them enough that they actually said thank you and weren’t such douchers after that. So yes, the passive-aggressive “You’re welcome” is rude in most scenarios, but I feel that when someone is purposely being rude by not saying thank you, then it’s justifiable.

    • Ashley Cardiff

      Really good point: if there is a case to be made for the passive aggressive response, it is CERTAINLY in a situation where you are an employee dealing with a customer and outright aggression might jeopardize your job.

      I can see how you’d resort to the syrupy “You’re welcome” if you can’t resort to a more satisfying, “EAT A DICK.”

  • lbfly55

    I had a similar situation once. Well, kinda similar.

    Went to a play with my husband, who unfortunately started feeling ill and left midway through the first act to go to the restroom. I went out to check on him at intermission and stayed with him in the lobby as he drank a ginger ale. So when we went back into the theater for the second act, it had already started. We were sitting in the middle of a row, so unfortunately we had to crawl over people to get to our seats. As we’re heading down our row, half-hunched in order to make ourselves as small as possible so the people around us wouldn’t get pissed, I kept whisper-speaking “Excuse us, excuse us,” etc. Well, I guess I wasn’t loud enough for one lady, who took it upon herself to “correct” us and yelled, “Excuse me!”

    I was already upset that my husband wasn’t feeling well and that we’d missed part of the show, so I snapped my head in her direction and yelled back, “You’re excused!”

    It wasn’t the most mature response, but hopefully it confused her a bit.

  • Coff

    No winners here. This rant is essentially, passive-aggressive. Would it have killed you or your boyfriend to acknowledge the woman or at least nod in her direction? She could have just barreled through the door, without giving you all the courtesy of coming out, which people often do. I agree that barking “You’re welcome” at someone is fruitless and equally as obnoxious. Sometimes, you have to just let some perceived infractions roll.

    • Kristin

      Can you explain to me how it’s better to call someone a son of a bitch and tell them off for 30 seconds and make them feel stupid for being an out of towner than to passive aggressively say “you’re welcome”?

      Can we say “hypocrite”?

    • Ashley Cardiff

      It’s not hypocritical if passive aggression is the worst.

    • http://nathanhawks.us/ Nathan Hawks

      Believing passive aggressiveness is worse than actual aggressiveness is hilariously dumb when people are being stabbed, shot, raped, and relieved of their land and possessions, not to mention psychologically abused. Your nihilism is no less culturally-suicidal for its trendiness.

  • len132

    To be fair, I don’t really think Miss Manners is expressly on your side… Because I do think it’s polite to say thank you, etc, and very rude to yell at someone, even if they did try to school you on manners. I just don’t think that Miss Manners is on the other person’s side either.

  • Em

    I usually raise a disappointed and condescending eyebrow, and say, “Indeed.” As in:

    —”You’re WELcome!!”
    —[An eyebrow slowly rises] “Indeed.”

    It encapsulates my utter disdain for such passive-aggressive, rude, tomfoolery. At least, I think it does. Maybe it just makes me look constipated and near-sighted, I don’t know.

    That said, my new response is going to be “Not in New York, you son of a bitch!!!” and it’ll be even better since I don’t live there. Seriously, though, I’m super jealous, and totally want to yell that at a sanctimonious Southern guy. Actually, I’ll alternate between “son of a bitch” and “sanctimonious prick.” I’ve always wanted to break that one out….

  • Sophie

    Not all English people are polite, infact its well known that the spanish and french hate the english tourists as theyre so rude & obnoxious!

    - Sophie from Northern Ireland (not cheerful, drunk or wearing green!!)

  • Amy

    I remember being shoved by a woman on a bus because she wanted, nay, needed to get off right away. I angrily said, “BE PATIENT AND WAIT YOUR TURN!” She turned to me and said, “we’re all just trying to get off the bus, there’s no need to be rude.”

    I was stunned because this javelina who shoved me just called me out for calling her out… but then I thought maybe she was right? Did I really want to be one of those people who yells at strangers on the bus? Yes. Fuck her.

  • Doodle Bug

    Judging by the above story, it seems to me that Ashley, the one telling the story, is the passive-aggressive rude prick.