How To Stop Being a Passive-Aggressive Witch

For some time, I’ve had a friend I no longer like. She is one of my oldest friends and it slowly turned sour. I feel fake. I can see the steam of judgement fuming from my skin. I notice those eye rolls I make, because they happen so often it hurts. The resentment and irritation get the best of me. I don’t even like who I am when I act this way. I don’t think she’s even that bad… She has a wonderful heart and many of my best times have been by her side. It’s my passive-aggressive nature that’s reached a point where there is no coming back. Marrium-Webster defines passive-aggression as:

“Being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by the expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive passive way (as through procrastination and stubbornness)”.

Here are various ways you can show your passive aggression:

  • Pretend to like someone because you aren’t able to be honest with them
  • Say you agree with something when you really don’t
  • Tell people what they want to hear, even if you don’t agree
  • Say one thing (to look like you are playing nice with the group) but do another
  • Dislike or hate someone but don’t tell them because you are too scared
  • Become angry but take it out quietly or in snarky ways

Now all stories are two-sided, so what really happened? I let little annoyances pile up. I bent over backwards for little to no recognition. Most of the time it’s because I take pride in helping others. I don’t expect anything in return. But I can read when it has transitioned from acceptance to abuse of kindness. And that, my friend, infuriates me…not the first or second slip up, but after some time, I am thoroughly offended, but of course, too scared to speak up. My personal favorite tool is sarcasm. Pretending to listen or care while secretly thinking you are stupid is a close favorite. But it hurts me too, likely more than it hurts others.

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It all snowballed because of an avoidance of conflict. A deep, rooted fear that the conflict would somehow soil the relationship. When in fact, speaking up was the only way to avoid my blow out. So before you let a bunch of little things pile up and you explode, here is what you (and I) can stop being so passive-aggressive:

Be more assertive– What is it that’s stopping you from engaging in direct communication? For me it’s part fear, and part anger. If the friendship is worth saving you should get over the anger and understand that you can’t grow from fake, indirect communication. If your friend is worth it, they will appreciate your thoughts. Give them the information they need to fix this and start that conversation before piling more “things that piss me off” to your list. Work up that courage to talk in a calm, collected, and authentic manner.

Stop being sarcastic– When it comes to dealing with conflict, sarcasm is not the way to go. When you catch yourself, stop; ask yourself, am I providing my friend with information to work on this? Or am I just pissing everyone off (myself included)?

Stop being so damn scared of conflict– This quote by Michael Batshaw, LCSW, a New York City-based psychologist who specializes in couples, sums it up well, “Engaging in conflict isn’t going to end the relationship, it’s avoiding the conflict [that might].” Amen to that. Conflict can often lead to closer relationships, mutual understanding, and higher levels of happiness. It won’t always work out perfectly but it is a damn better alternative to feeling angry, alone, and fake.

Talk when you are calm– Occasionally, I get  easily flustered and I will need breather. That’s fine. Take a step back or a week off (I took two months off from this friend but hey, I was bitter). Then talk when you are ready to communicate assertively without being mean.

Apologize– This one isn’t always necessary but if you’ve been like me: bitchy, sarcastic, snide you may need to apologize before finally owning up to what’s truly eating at you. I’d like to think we passive-aggressive folks can be really good friends but sometimes we get really upset, explode, and make manageable fights, into huge, catastrophic events. Apologize for anything out of line and then explain where you are coming from and what you both can do to move past the storm.

Stressed on the Inside, Calm on the Outside

Whether you are planning a big, stressful corporate event, or job hunting and scared about how you will pay the next rent check, appearing cool and collected to outsiders is key. After all, no one likes dealing with someone in freak out mode. Bad energy hurts you and those around you.

While the timing doesn’t seem just right to share what’s eating me, this fortune cookie couldn’t have come at a better time. I got it yesterday while grabbing lunch with my mama’ in San Francisco’s vibrant China Town. I’m not one for superstition but in that moment the universe felt perfectly aligned, like I was in the right restaurant, at just the right time, eating the right fortune cookie, receiving a message from afar: Breathe, Juliet. Stop panicking. Everything will be okay. The future is bright.

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In all honesty, I need a support system right now. But I can’t turn to my most-trusted confidant just yet. I can’t put any additional stress on my mom. She’s always been my rock and the one I come running to with my tears and worries. But since I can’t do that right now, how can I deal with my anxiety? Who can I turn to? How can I stay optimistic and sane?

1. Fake it Until you Make It: Long ago, I heard that emotions are strongly tied to the physical. So, anytime I get sad, I force a smile, and to my pleasant surprise, I actually feel happier. Yes, that means smiling may cause happiness. Imagine the implications. Now, I’m not saying to ignore your tears or emotions (getting out your tears is a great therapy in its own right) but you may find that turning a frown upside down will actually trigger authentic, positive feelings.

2. Get Rid of the Negative Energy: It may seem to go against the first piece of advice, but I’d disagree. There are times to put on a smile and hopefully start feeling genuine happy, calm emotions, and there are times to tap into your worries and get them out of your system! You can do this in a positive way by going on a long run, meditating at yoga, getting a massage, unwinding with a bubble bath, destroying a punching bag, or even drawing or writing in a journal. And if all of these really don’t do it for you, there is no shame in crying. While the research is mixed on whether there is really such a thing as “a good cry,” (some of us feel better after crying, some of us feel worse, and some of us feel about the same) it’s still a way to get rid of built up energy and feelings.

3. Don’t be a drama queen (king): If you are stressed out, odds are that things could go wrong. This does not mean that some major catastrophe is right around the corner. Get a grip on what is eating at you, and take a proactive approach to avoid this. Sometimes this means asking for help, or creating a more realistic plan for yourself. Don’t think of life as a giant, catastrophic soap opera. This is an opportunity; make the best of it.

4. Create your own sanctuary: Whether it’s getting your friend to watch your favorite show with you, retreating to your bedroom and listening to a relaxing playlist, or lighting some candles around the house, you can create an environment or ritual that signifies “official chill out time.”

5. Breathe: Panic mode creeping up on you? Take a deep breathe and engage in controlled, relaxed breathing. Take a look at these 3 Effective Anxiety Breathing Exercises to calm your mind and body.

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Stop Relying on your Gut; Start A/B Testing

 I began my marketing career in college, writing social media updates and blog posts about financial planning. The creative writer inside of me was having fun–yes, even writing about money management can be exciting. The stats geek inside of me, however, was starved for attention. Thus, I was ready to do cartwheels when I first learned about A/B testing, and realized that marketing is not something just for the “creative types.” Sure, I love art journaling, blogging, singing and the like (I still dream of being part of a funky band one day) but that’s only part of me. I was relieved to learn that [good] marketing and data are closely intertwined.

My first post-college job, I was lucky to be surrounded by marketers that tested everything: emails, landing pages, site design, etc. These were true data-driven marketers. For them, gone were the days when they relied on gut feelings to create and optimize marketing campaigns. I wanted to be just like them and let data do the talking.

What is A/B testing? (aka split testing)

Smashing Magazine summed this up well in their Ultimate Guide to A/B Testing

“You have two versions of an element (A and B) and a metric that defines success. To determine which version is better, you subject both versions to experimentation simultaneously. In the end, you measure which version was more successful and select that version for real-world use.”

If you are a visual person, here is a lovely sketch from my notebook. It shows what a basic subject line test might look like. Please forgive my (lack of) drawing skills:

Also, please note that A/B testing is not the same thing a multivariate testing. A/B testing involves changing one variable at at time, while multivariate testing entails changing several variables at once. A multivariate test can be great too but you would need a lot more traffic for the results to be statistically significant. We’ll keep things simple for now.

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Many marketing campaigns are based on a hunch

Should our call-to-action button be orange or green? What is the best day of the week to send a newsletter? Is it a good idea to use “FREE” in the subject line? Should the subject line describe the contents of the email, or be fun and quirky? Should the email sender be an individual team member, or a generic company email? There are endless opportunities for testing, so here are several marketing tests and results to inspire you.

When it comes to marketing decisions, it’s best to rely on data, not assumptions. You may have a hunch that the prettiest landing page will get the most leads (and dollars) but you could very well be wrong. Have multiple variations in mind for a campaign? (ahem: of course you do). Now, A/B test it!

How to get started with A/B testing

First, check out this A/B Testing for Marketing Optimization Guide by HubSpot. Their crew is one of the best when it comes to content marketing and they put out helpful learning tools with actionable information.  

Once you are ready to get started, email subject line testing is good way to get your feet wet. It sure was in my case, at least. There are various subject line testing scenarios, but this was the extent of my split tests for the first month or so:

  1. Finalize copy for an email.
  2. Come up with three different subject lines (every other variable stays exactly the same).
  3. Send the three variations to a sample of 30% of subscribers. 10% gets subject A, 10% gets subject B, and 10% gets subject C.
  4. After 16 hours, pick a winner based on whatever defines “success.” This could be open rate, click-through-rate, conversions, or dollars. It depends on what you are trying to achieve for that specific email.
  5. Winning email goes out to the remaining 70% of subscribers.

A/B testing your next email

I have first-hand experience sending emails and conducting split testing through MarketoMailChimp, and SendGrid. Luckily, all three automated the testing process, automatically sending the “winning” email (based on my criteria) after the test-run was complete. Whatever email marketing tool you use, check out if A/B testing is a built-in feature. If not, it may be time to re-evaluate the way you manage email marketing.

Test entire site elements

Once you get a little more comfortable with the idea of A/B testing the small stuff you can experiment with testing entire site elements. Instead of changing up button colors or subject lines, you can test two radically different pages against one another. In this case, the two designs would be variables. This kind of testing can yield big improvements so it’s worth looking into split testing tools that can handle these kinds of experiments, before you get too caught up focusing on only small tweaks.

Now that you are convinced…

ResolutionMedia has a great step-by-step guide to split testing. Many A/B testing tools automate the process, but it’s still important to understand how to pick a sample size and acceptable confidence level, how long to run a test, what the criteria for picking a winner will be (and why), and whether the results are statistically significant or not.

Go forth my fellow data-driven marketers and get testing. Because not testing means losing out on leads and ultimately cash.

Have an amazing wine country weekend in Kenwood, California

About a month ago, I was scouring the interwebs for a weekend getaway idea for my boyfriend and me. I thought wine-tasting and hiking sounded right up our alley, but I wasn’t feeling Napa. After finding an awesome LivingSocial deal and doing some research, I settled on Kenwood, California, a small wine country town between Sonoma and Santa Rosa.

I scored a great deal on an extremely cute bed and breakfast, called Birmingham Bed & Breakfast which included a home-cooked breakfast each morning. Day one we had baked apple and pear and day two, we enjoyed baked pear, croissants, and a delicious egg soufflé. While I must admit, getting to breakfast by 9AM each day was tough for me; breakfast absolutely made this place amazing. It also didn’t hurt that it was walking distance to many of the local wineries; no drinking and driving staying in this place! Here is a breakdown of how we had a great weekend in Kendwood, California in case you find yourself in the area!

Day One: 

4PM- Arrived at our Bed & Breakfast for check-in

5PM- Grabbed some Italian eats at Cafe Citti. It’s claim to fame was being featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. I thought the food was pretty good but nothing to write home about. I must say their service was really friendly though and one of the servers let us borrow her phone charger!

8PM- Kenwood closes at about 5PM so don’t plan on hitting the town. We decided to make the trip to Geyserville about 30 minutes away and hit the River Rock Casino. Both the boyfriend and I made some profits! Win!

Day Two:

9AM- Breakfast

10AM- Morning hike at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. There looked to be quite a few long trail options but we stuck with a short, laid back path so we could make it in time for wine tasting. We were pleasantly surprised with the scenery and the weather couldn’t have been better for January!

12PM- Walked to  some local wineries. Luckily, we had a super-handy “wine passport” included in our Bed & Breakfast stay that gave us free wine tasting at about 40 wineries in the area. We got to get our drink on for free dollars! Otherwise, you an expect to pay between $5-15 for each stop. You can take a look at most of the wineries near Kenwood, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, and Glen Ellen in this Heart of Sonoma guide. Our personal favorite was our first stop, Paradise Ridge Winery, mostly because the woman Annette who helped us, rocked! She was welcoming, great to talk to, and poured based on what wines we actually like! Generous pours and no snobbery at Paradise; just my stye!

3:30 PM- Lunch at VJB. This place is a serious MUST with a cute Italian, rustic vibe. To be honest, we needed a break from wine by then, so I can’t speak for that side of things but the grub was on point! We started with some roasted red peppers and mushrooms, chowed down on a full stack of ribs, and topped it all of with some of the best gelato we’ve ever had: blackberry cabernet, alongside chocolate brownie heaven!4:30PM- More wine tasting and sunset at Chateau St. Jean. I’m not a fan of the wine there and it gives off a bit of a corporate feel but it’s a great picnic or chill out spot. I recommend it for the scenery.

9 PM- Skipped dinner because we were stuffed but grabbed some snacks and headed out to Rohnert Park for another night of gambling. We both lost all of our first nights winnings, and then some! Even though we did not go home winners in the casino, we couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather for January in Northern California wine country.

 

 

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