Content marketing: Telling Meaningful Stories

Is the smiley passive aggressive?

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The other day somebody on social media somewhere said something about the smiley – this guy 🙂 – being passive aggressive. 🙂 You can be rest assured that one was not passive aggressive there 🙂

I’ve been struggling with that comment a bit. I use the smiley all the time. Mostly because the people I’m writing can’t see I’m smiling since it’s all text based. Or I use it to show agreement. Typically, it’s a positive expression for me. It’s shorter than me writing: You should see me smiling.

So I discussed this with a focus group – aka a few people that I stopped in the hallway – and they all agreed with the poster. Yes, it’s often passive aggressive. Hmmm. OK. Good to know. I actually went back to a few messages that I had sent with a smiley – not a passive aggressive one, though – to re-evaluate if they could be read that way. And lo and behold they could be read as passive aggressive. I hope they weren’t taken that way. (See, had I put a smiley right there, that certainly could be seen as passive aggressive.)

Maybe the tone we read things in is a reflection of our offline relationship. If we don’t give the writer the benefit of the doubt we might take the smiling smiley as passive aggressive. Even when it’s not. Maybe. And other times we might be reading it exactly correctly.

Either way, it’s good to listen to people’s perceptions and perception is reality – even if it’s not our reality,

It’s always good to listen to people and how messages are received. So if you are smiling at somebody – keep in mind they might take it as passive aggressive. I suppose that could happen offline, too, though.

OK, I think that clears this up. Now, what about the winking smiley? 😉


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Christoph Trappe

Hello and thanks for stopping by. I'm Christoph Trappe and I'm the Vice President of Content Marketing Strategy, Americas, at ScribbleLive, which is based in Toronto and is a global content marketing software company. Before I started at ScribbleLive I was VP of Content Marketing and Conversion at MedTouch, a Boston-based company that helps healthcare organizations with digital marketing. I've written two books, speak at conferences around the globe and blog frequently on here. I love sharing my stories and helping organizations share theirs. If you need help, just visit the Contact Me page in the navigation and drop me a note. I'm always happy to chat! Thanks for reading! - Christoph 319-389-9853

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