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The Passive Aggressive Smiley Face in Non-Verbal Communication


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I had a co-worker that was training me once. When she would answer internal instant messages from other people within the company she would roll her eyes, have a snarky remark, and throw in one of these at the end of her response ” 🙂 “. So then every time after that when she would respond to me with a smiley face, I just pictured her gritting her teeth behind her keyboard while typing.

I know it can be hard to get the tone right when people are not speaking face to face, especially if there’s limited space available. I recently gave a compliment to someone in my Words with Friends chat after they had a high scoring move. They asked if I was being sarcastic.

I have noticed that smiley face on social media threads and blog comments, sometimes mine and sometimes someone else’s, creeping up after someone obviously wrote something condensing or hateful. I try not to write or type anything that I wouldn’t actually say to someone’s face. In person and otherwise I am okay with thoughtful conversations, differing opinions, standing up for myself. I always try to be respectful though.

I wonder if people who use the smiley face passive aggressively are the same people that say exactly what they mean, and then they follow up with an “I’m kidding.” Or I wonder why they don’t just own what they type and leave the smiley face off.

What do you think?

18 thoughts on “The Passive Aggressive Smiley Face in Non-Verbal Communication

  1. I only use a smiley face when I mean it and to help portray my tone 🙂 I’ve never thought anyone has used it as passive aggressive to me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well i use the smile faces, when I mean it, i also used the I am kidding when I meaned too but clearly I have witness Americans are not that straight forward and very passive aggressive . Hope this change for good.


  2. Lol I write exactly how I talk which is incredibly sarcastic. In life, most people (not all!) pick up on the massive grin on my face while I’m saying it, but on paper I just look like a right cowbag unless I use all of the !!s and :)s! I’d never use it passive aggressively tho.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting observation. I guess the smiley face could be the texting equivalent of saying, “Don’t be mad, but…” or “Just saying’.”

    It’s making me question my own smiley face usage. Don’t think I put them with stuff meant to be sarcastic, but I’m wondering if that’s how it’s sometimes read. Texting is SO easy to read the wrong way… there’s no tone or inflection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Like that words with friends chat, if I had put a smiley face would they have known I wasn’t being sarcastic or would they have thought more so that I was?
      People do seem use it for different reasons, but I think you are right. Sometimes it’s the ‘don’t be mad but’ or ‘just saying’. I can see that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I came back to read this post after reading your week in review! And I could tell immediately that I had already read it and sure enough, I even commented on it originally in 2016. I don’t do passive-aggressive. Back in June I left my 9-5 and a big reason was because my boss was exactly this person your wrote about. So gross! I don’t get it. We are grown-ups, say what you mean and mean what you say. It is super simple!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol thanks for commenting again!
      Ew yes it is hard to work under someone like that. It always leaves me wondering and 2nd guessing. Are you happier since leaving?


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