Going to a party when one of the guests is someone you can't stand?
March 12, 2013 8:32 PM   Subscribe

My friend is having a birthday party and invited me. I love the guy, he's one of my good friends so was happy to go. Then I found out that he also invited one of his other friends who I cannot stand - the friend is very rude, sarcastic and condescending, and we got into a bit of a verbal spat last time we met. I am scared to death of conflict, and am debating on whether or not to go. How to cope?

I am very conflict-averse, and have an anxiety disorder (Mostly social). I had a rather dysfunctional upbringing with a lot of yelling, and even now tend to get scared and nervous when something that seems like a conflict might break out. I also tend to keep my negative emotions hidden until they suddenly flare up and get out of control. So the potential of an altercation occurring makes me nervous.

The friend-of-a-friend is the type to say small snide remarks (which tend to grow more assholish the more he drinks). I cannot imagine that he will not say something, which will be almost impossible to ignore since this will be a rather small house party.

Like I said, I am very conflict-averse, so I am wondering if I am blowing this out of proportion, and should bite the bullet and attend the party. I hate to think that one person would be keeping me away from my friend's party, but I also don't want to have a shitty time like last time I met this guy. I don't think my friend will moderate in any way. I would appreciate any ideas/advice on whether or not to go, and how to handle myself if I do.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Go to the party, be coolly polite to the person you can't stand, and have fun with the people you do like.

This is the kind of thing people have to deal with in all sorts of social contexts, and avoiding it every time it pops up is exhausting and keeps you from a lot of good times.
posted by xingcat at 8:39 PM on March 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


Go to this party and have fun.
Do not engage with the person in question.
Take this opportunity to practice turning the other cheek.
You can't get into a verbal conflict if you choose not to get in a verbal conflict, so if the other person says something to you, or you overhear something, just take a deep breath, turn on your heel, and find some cake.
posted by carsonb at 8:40 PM on March 12, 2013


Can you go, and walk up to the bastard when he's sober early on and say,"Truce tonight?"

Then if he's an arsehole you can walk away from him and the party knowing you did your best if and when he behaves badly towards you. He may not realise you think he's such a turd and that it's just sarcastic banter. Asking for a truce up-front lets him know that you see his previous behaviour as warlike. And unacceptable, especially at a dear friend's event.
posted by taff at 8:41 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I say this kindly: Grow up. That means learn to survive in a world with assholes -- and all you need to do that is in the 3 replies above.
posted by LonnieK at 9:01 PM on March 12, 2013 [16 favorites]


Then I found out that he also invited one of his other friends who I cannot stand - the friend is very rude, sarcastic and condescending, and we got into a bit of a verbal spat last time we met.

People like that actually enjoy verbal spats. He's probably forgot about it right after it happened. Just don't engage with him. It's not like he's going to follow you around looking to start a fight.
posted by empath at 9:03 PM on March 12, 2013


This spat is probably bigger on your radar than his - he might not attach much significance to it, so don't assume you're enemies, you just know that you don't like the guy.

Go to the party, because afterwards (when it wasn't so bad) you'll feel good about it - like you conquered a little piece of your aversion to conflict - it is right to avoid conflict, but it's a problem when things like this are determining your social life. And you'll grow slightly as a person.

”Do one thing every day that scares you.” Well this party hands you your One Thing for the day.
posted by anonymisc at 9:04 PM on March 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Definitely go. You can't avoid this kind if thing forever and it will only get easier to deal with these people the more you...well, deal with them. If this guy starts shit just give him a quizzical, slightly disgusted look--as if you are examining a small, gross-looking bug and trying to figure out what it's doing there. Do not say anything, just make that face and walk away or look away or disengage however you can. Repeat as necessary and say nothing.
posted by lovableiago at 9:14 PM on March 12, 2013


If he's making snide remarks in conversation, you can always go refill your cup, then rejoin a different pocket of people having a different conversation. Parties have multiple conversations going, so you won't need to hang out with the guy beyond random perfunctories, if at all. If he's actively trying to get a rise out of you specifically, you swat that on the nose by not taking the bait until he's trying so hard he just looks like a dick to everyone.
posted by anonymisc at 9:14 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just feel it out. There's no right or wrong here. Part of you wants to go. Another part of you feels considerable tension about going. I understand that the stress you feel around this situation may be debilitating. If you're really uncomfortable I don't think you need to pressure yourself to attend. You have nothing to prove to anyone. If you need to beg off, it will be ok to be honest with your friend, and you can find another way to honor him for his birthday.
posted by elf27 at 9:17 PM on March 12, 2013


Maybe you can take another friend along to the party? Then you know you'll always have someone else to talk to if you want to disengage from the guy you don't like. And hey, if you go and you're having a bad time, you can always leave!
posted by rjacobs at 9:40 PM on March 12, 2013


Go to the party. Consider dealing with the asshole as practice in how to deal with his type. I find that mentally reframing the situation can make it much easier to deal with.
posted by overleaf at 10:33 PM on March 12, 2013


Ignore him as much as possible. Be coolly polite. If he does what he does, raise an eyebrow and turn away to something else (an other person, drink refill, trip to the washroom, etc.).

Do not let assholes limit your life.
posted by deborah at 10:54 PM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Go. You will be conflict averse for the rest of your life if you never practice how to deal with conflict when it comes your way. This is one of those phobias you need to get over with all you've got.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:55 PM on March 12, 2013


One mental trick I use in order to avoid becoming enraged by arseholes is to think of their behaviour as poorly rehearsed attempts at presenting some kind of weird performance art piece. There's a certain vicious satisfaction to be had in watching a mediocrity reach ever more desperately for applause that never comes.

If this particular arsehole gives you any verbal grief at this party, just study him quizzically as if you were trying to discern the artistic merit within a particularly banal motel-room wall print, and say nothing.
posted by flabdablet at 11:42 PM on March 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Don't go. Life's too short to be around assholes. Do something fun with your friend on your own.
posted by spunweb at 11:46 PM on March 12, 2013


Note that you said he was invited, not that he's accepted. He might not turn up at all.

Go, don't engage, be courteous if you have to engage, and don't drink too much because that will be the undo-er of things.

Have fun with your friend. Later, seek help for your anxiety before it cripples you.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 12:02 AM on March 13, 2013


Oh jeeze, i've been in this exact situation a pile of times.

Parties i regret going too because Asshole™ was there: 0, maybe 1, but i still had a good time.

Parties i regret not going too because Asshole™ was there: ∞, all of them, every single one.

There's two things you really need to remember here. Other people think this guy is an Asshole, even if they don't say anything. They're sitting around watching him being a prick going "wow, ugh". The other thing is that when you make a point of just putting it out of your mind and not engaging him, you will have a good time with the other people there. It's worked every time. At worst you have an unpleasant minute or two in the middle of a great 2/4/6/8/whatever hours.

The only time these types of situations are worth avoiding is when it's borderline 1 on 1, something like going to the bar with your friend, asshole, and one other person where you'll be stuck at a table with them. As long as it's an actual party where you can go sit with another group of people you like, it'll be fine even if Asshole wanders over. He'll go away when he realizes no one will feed the troll.

Flabdablets advice is also amazing. A lot of times this type of behavior is pretty much of a narcissistic cry for attention. When you read it as such, it's like watching a little kid throw a temper tantrum and just be completely ignored and shut down.
posted by emptythought at 2:49 AM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Exposure therapy is often an effective treatment for anxiety disorders. Think of this as a form of that.

The thing I've found about anxiety is that the fear beforehand almost always feels worse, and lasts longer, than whatever it is I'm fearing. Even if you have a brush with a jerk, you'll be relieved of the dread.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:21 AM on March 13, 2013


Yes, you're blowing this out of proportion. If that's your social anxiety speaking, then fair enough (I have it too!). But, going to social situations where someone you don't necessarily want to see is going to be there is kinda part of life. Go, be confident, ignore the person if you can, or if not, try to not let their ramblings trouble you. Most other people will be doing the same.
posted by Diag at 5:07 AM on March 13, 2013


Go. Don't let idiots dictate your life. Unless he gets violent when drunk, but if not - sticks and stones and all that.

Nthing the above advice to ignore/don't engage. If it is actually impossible to ignore, then something I've found that often works is to pretend not to have heard their snide remark and ask them to repeat it. What seemed to them like a coolly sarcastic comment when said the first time can often sound really stupid and lame (even to them!) when they are forced to repeat it, more loudly, and with more people listening in. But best to ignore if possible.
posted by pianissimo at 5:09 AM on March 13, 2013


Practice saying this: "You know, you're a real asshole." Go to the party. Enjoy yourself.

It's amazing how much actually being called on their shit will absolutely flabbergast many jerks. Many jerks tell themselves that it's all good fun, that the mark is enjoying it.
posted by notsnot at 5:39 AM on March 13, 2013


While there is good advice here, flabdablet has given you the very best way to go to the party and deal with this guy's assholery. A quizzical look and a bemused half-smile say, "You are unfathomable to me, and not worth the effort to try to fathom."
posted by Dolley at 5:50 AM on March 13, 2013


Go. Hang out, see people you like. When the jerk shows up, avoid him. If he becomes more belliegerant or obnoxious as the evening wears on, leave.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:54 AM on March 13, 2013


notsnot: "You know, you're a real asshole."

I'm not sure about that. For a certain percentage of trollish jerks this would just serve to amp up their assholishness, since they know they are getting a rise out of you. Instead, if he starts to be an ass, I'd just move to another room or area of the party, or just turn around and talk to someone else or just stare at a bookshelf or a piece of art or whatever. If he insists on involving you, say something neutral like, "I'm looking to have fun tonight, not argue, so I'm going to go out to the porch for a while." Then just go. If it gets really bad, just go up to your friend, thank him for the invitiation and quietly explain that Asshole is making it difficult for you to enjoy yourself, and so you are going to head out. There's no rule that says once you go to the party you have to stay all night.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:12 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree with the advice to go to the party and be coolly polite and/or ignore. I think you also need to practice your inner dialogue that will go through your head AFTER your encounter. Don't try to over-analyze it, don't beat yourself up, don't dwell on it at all. Figure out a script that helps you let it go, or high five yourself for being awesome at facing your fear, or have a specific person to go to and a specific topic to talk about (like, you walk away from Asshole and feel shaken up, but you think: now I will go talk to Fred and ask about his art exhibit) so that you have a purpose and are not floundering around like you've lost your balance by the Asshole.
posted by CathyG at 6:24 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


CathyG: have a specific person to go to and a specific topic to talk about (like, you walk away from Asshole and feel shaken up, but you think: now I will go talk to Fred and ask about his art exhibit) so that you have a purpose and are not floundering around like you've lost your balance by the Asshole.

This is great. In fact, you could enlist Fred (or someone else you are close to at the party) as an ally. Explain your anxiety situation and tell him that if you ask him about a certain specific topic, that is code for needing to get away from Asshole for a while. Maybe Fred could even know to suggest the two of you go outside or into another room to talk about it, if it makes sense.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:38 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This guy can't actually do you harm. He has no power over your employment situation, hasn't run off with your SO. You just don't like him.

Meanwhile you've accepted an invitation. You can't take that bak without good reason.

Don't ignore the guy, you must at least say hello and goodbye to him. But stay out of his way. And don't let him draw you into an emotional response. That's all there is to it really.
posted by tel3path at 7:04 AM on March 13, 2013


You should go because it will be fun and parties are awesome.

Here is how to handle yourself:

Do everything normally. Drink slow, but always have a drink in your hand. If and when he says something shitty, deploy Ultimate Dismissive Maneuver.

What is Ultimate Dismissive Maneuver, you ask? It is the following, which I recommend that you practice when alone beforehand to get a sense of how it works and to make it feel unforced. Again, have a drink in your hand - a martini glass works best, for style reasons, but any will do.

1. A shitty remark is made in a conversation.

2. You do all of the following at the same time: An raise of both eyebrows as if someone had just said something incisive; a tiny, tiny nod of the head as if agreeing; do that thing with your mouth where your lips disappear and your chin sticks out, like when a person is being incredibly insincere, go "Mmm," as though expressing lukewarm agreement. This should be brief - about one second. If you have to do it several times, try changing it up - go "Mm-hm," or whatever. Eventually, just disregard completely that he even spoke.

3. You continue the conversation as though the shitty remark had never happened. You do not acknowledge that you're steering things back on topic - don't say, "Anyway," or anything like that.

Dismissing someone with panache will ensure that the room is on your side.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:16 AM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I came to say basically exactly what FAMOUS MONSTER said.

The well-played pause, the puzzled but contemptuous expression including eye contact that says, "I can't imagine why you would have said something like that", and the acknowledging but dismissive "huh" before continuing to conversate with the awesome people around you -- that is how you deal with verbally combative assholes at parties.
posted by gauche at 9:05 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was in a similar situation a couple months ago. I hate confrontation, and I was super worried about the "drama" that might occur. My therapist gave me some advice:

1. Don't give the baby candy. Drama is what he wants, so don't give it to him. Either be cooly dismissive if you can, or just literally ignore entirely if you can't. You can do the tight-lipped smile and nod of acknowledgement when you first see him, but leave it at that. It's easier (IMO) than trying to toe the line of speaking to him but not getting drawn in.

2. Have an exit strategy. Go early in the evening, have some fun, and if the guy gets drunker and harder to ignore, excuse yourself and go elsewhere.

3. Have a friend who knows the situation and can come rescue you if he corners you or tries to get a rise out of you, and who will leave with you if you decide you need to leave early.

House parties are actually great, even small ones, because typically small conversation groups establish themselves, and you can always excuse yourself to refresh your drink/go to the bathroom/get some fresh air if he joins the group you're speaking to, and then join a different conversation upon your return.

In my situation, the guy didn't start anything when it was clear I had no interest in even speaking to him, and he even ended up being the one to leave early. Win!

Good luck - definitely don't avoid your good friend's party because of a jerk.
posted by misskaz at 9:06 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


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