Beware the Passive Voice

Oct 25, 2023 | Insights

The passive voice is a way for your friends to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and is a litmus test for their loyalty and support.
We are taught to avoid using the passive voice in our compositions (writes he, using the passive voice – oops). After all, it is easier to read “The cat sat on the mat” than “The mat was sat on by the cat”.

Apps such as Grammarly and Yoast caution against using the passive voice, as did my English teachers at school years ago. If you say something, be direct and don’t beat around the bush (and Google will like you because your text is easier to read).

However, there is a more subtle interpretation of the use of the passive voice, as Natalie Haynes highlights when she describes how Pandora “was sent” to Epimetheus in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s retelling of Pandora’s story.

Passive irresponsibility

Haynes describes the passive voice as “a tremendous aid in avoiding responsibility”. She goes on to describe how “I am sorry I hurt you” can be a heartfelt and sincere apology, whilst “I am sorry you were hurt” is, in her words, “a reason to boot someone out of your life and never see them again.”

Zeus and the Olympian gods set up Pandora to bring mayhem and chaos to humanity. Still, Hawthorne’s use of the passive “was sent” abrogates the gods from any responsibility for Pandora’s actions.

The litmus test of the passive voice

Why does this matter to you, a parent whose children have flown the nest? Well, your network of friends and supporters is changing. The school gate crowd are dispersing to do their own thing, and unless you want to succumb to loneliness, you will prioritise finding new friends and connections to take you through the next phase of your life.

The passive voice is a quick and dirty way of assessing how supportive and loyal your new friends might be. Too much use of the passive voice (and “we” rather than “I”) indicates an unwillingness to take responsibility for their actions, and that is not a good trait in a friend. When you hear someone using the passive voice, you might want to take Haynes’ advice and boot them out of your life and never see them again.

The passive voice is a way for your friends to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and is a litmus test for their loyalty and support.

My name is Jeremy Deedes. I combine financial life planning and life coaching in a unique and powerful way that deepens your relationship with money and develops your money maturity.

I work with creative freelance parents of older children to help them become financially well-organised so they can blaze their own trail without compromising their family welfare.

Find out your money maturity score by taking the Money Maturity Quiz at https://shrtm.nu/n2D. It’s free, takes only a few minutes, and you will get your score and recommendations by email immediately.

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Photo attribution

Photo by Noel Nichols on Unsplash

 

Reference

Haynes, Natalie. Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths. S.L., Picador, 2021.

 

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Your views are important, and your fellow readers would love to hear your opinion, so share your thoughts in the comments box below, and thank you for your time and generosity.

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