Monday, September 01, 2008

Wherein I rationalize my passive-aggressive, controlling behaviour

Si recently mentioned to me something from a TV show, about chronic lateness being a sign of a person with control issues, and that by forcing others to conform to their timetable, the tardy one is engaging in passive-aggressive behaviour, etc.

I've heard this before, and i don't buy it.

Oh sure, I imagine there are those for whom it's about control. But most of us who struggle to make it somewhere on time don't want to make other ppl wait – quite the opposite, we feel anxious and ashamed of being late, and sorry that others are inconvenienced.

It’s mostly about poor time management, overly optimistic time-estimating skills, or general lack of organization.

Now, without a doubt there *is* an element of selfishness, as well: getting somewhere early wastes my time – unless I've got work I can bring with me, I must sit and chafe, thinking about all the things I could be getting done.

But I'm not intentionally arriving *late*, I'm intending to arrive precisely on time so as not to waste my own time or anyone else's. Of course, in reality this means I occasionally (unintentionally) arrive late and waste *other* people’s time.

And the andtidote of course is to
a) learn to estimate more accurately how long things take, and/or
b) always try to arrive a little early.

But being unwilling to consistently waste my own time (ie, always arrive early) in order that no one else ever waste theirs may not be generous or considerate, but it’s not the same thing as having control issues or being passive-aggressive.

I basically think that making personal disorganization, poor estimation skills, poor time management, or even selfishness be about controlling *other* people is a stretch; to me that diagnosis feels like a case of compulsively-on-time people – who are annoyed no end by tardy people – being terribly happy to
a) over-pathologize tardiness, and
b) make it somehow be about *them*...

I also wonder if people who are always on time don't merely *wish* to believe it's because of their great concern for their fellow man -- I suspect they do it because that's what feels better to them (ie, they *want* to; they're doing it for themselves), not because they'd like to be late but they dont' because of their love for humanity and consideration for others' schedules.

Or maybe I'm wrong. What do you think? And are you an on-time person, or a late person?


At Mon Sep 01, 07:33:00 AM PDT, Blogger Alan said...

I'm an on-time person and often "a-bit-too-early person". Basically, I'm just keeping an agreement to meet on D-Day at H-Hour. There's no particular psychology behind it.

At Tue Sep 02, 10:02:00 AM PDT, Blogger si said...

oh alan, you and i would not be good together! :-)

as bryan knows, i'm chronically late. generally i'd concur with his reasons: poor time management and disorganization. but i have to admit, there might be some passive-aggressiveness with my family. my mom & sister were/are chronically early (my mom was embarrassingly so; liking to arrive 30 minutes early for, say, a bridal shower -- hosts not ready!)

but overall i'd agree with everything bryan says on this post! (shall we mark this auspicious occasion??) ;-)

At Tue Sep 02, 11:40:00 PM PDT, Blogger Cal said...


cogent arguments all, articulately presented.

and I wonder if I could just toss in:

- what's so all-fired selfless about showing up at my cube 6 minutes before our meeting? Oo, oo, h'ray, you're not late. But actually, I had plans for those 6 minutes, and you're stepping on them. Now I have to either rush through them while you meander uselessly about in the hallway, all "oh, don't mind me, I'll just be here destroying your focus and concentration and maybe listening in on your phone calls", or else I have to give up on those 6 minutes altogether.

- and while I'm on it, what about those annoying early morning people? they love to think it's all about being ambitious and virtuous and carpe diem and all that rot, but I don't see them bringin' their oo-I'm-so-productive when it's 1:30am. Or even 9:30pm, most of 'em. Buncha wimps. Pshaw.

Pathologize this, pal.

Oh, can you guess which kind I am?

At Wed Sep 03, 06:32:00 PM PDT, Blogger si said...

ah, cal, a person after my own heart! i do think there's a correlation between always-being-early and early-morning-people! i agree -- too annoying for words! :) and yeah, where are they at 11:30 pm? the night's still young!

not to pick on my mom & sis again, but they're both early morning folks. my mom would sing an irritating song, "good morning to you," to get me out of bed to get to school. needless to say, it did not make me a bright and cheerful person, ready to start the day!

and those who arrive early to meet with you -- arrgh! i have my increments carefully scheduled out -- how dare someone encroach on them! (hah -- not so much scheduled as trying to cram in stuff i'm behind on.)

only slightly related to the above: also not enamored with those people who "drive-by" my office to see if they can catch me (in case i'm screening their calls -- not that i would, of course). this causes a fair amount of interruptions and usually not for small amounts of time -- no wonder i'm late for everything!

At Wed Sep 03, 08:14:00 PM PDT, Blogger unca said...

Well, it's one thing to arrive early at someone's cubicle and bother them. It's quite another to be late for a meeting that involves several other people. As for being late, couldn't there be lots of reasons some of which are of the passive-aggressive type and others simply the result of poor planning? Here's another one: I'm late--see how important I am--I've got lots of important things to do--maybe you don't--too bad you're not as important as I am. As for arriving early, take some work with you--you don't have to simply sit at the table at pick your nose.

At Sun Sep 07, 07:33:00 PM PDT, Blogger anya said...

I concur most fervently about those early-morningers. Augh! It wouldn't be so mad if they (and they rest of the world) didn't think they were so VIRTUOUS and superior...
About being late/on time, I also don't think (in my case, anyway) that it's passive/aggressive or Byran says, it's lack of planning/disorganization/unrealistic estimations. However, I have basically given up my chronic lateness and am generally on time to places these days. I dislike inconveniencing other people (I guess it didn't use to matter to me? hmm), have realized it's kind of selfish, and don't like the embarrassment of being late when it matters. However, and I don't know if this is coincidence or related, my darling, wonderful husband is way more of a late person than I ever was. The trick is, now *I* get to be late even when I planned to be early/even when it's really important/etc. I don't believe in karma, but I think it's karmic revenge that my father is having on me because he was the only on-time member of our family and we made him late to everything.

At Mon Sep 08, 08:11:00 PM PDT, Blogger Alan said...

OK, you guys are over-analyzing again. We early-risers are simply creatures of habit. With many teenage years working in the orchards (it's too hot to pick in the afternoon) plus several years in the military, one simply gets used to it.


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