Please don't pitch to me!
January 11, 2010 2:27 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to handle an obsessive friend making unwanted pitches to you?

I have an old friend who is down on her luck. We reconnected recently because I was sorry to hear some bad news she had, but she now wants to take this as an opportunity to pitch programme ideas to me. The problem is that she develops overwhelming obsessions about very obscure subjects - and she swamps and bores other people with them (even more than I do!). She gets very upset if people point this out. I suspect there's something neurological going on, as she's always been like this, and it's probably the reason she's down on her luck job-wise. I can listen to the obsessive stuff, and even enjoy some of it, but I know I can't sell it or develop it. It simply won't fly, and even I couldn't work with her.

I suppose that there's probably no non-hurtful way to tackle this - as it involves telling her things she doesn't want to hear - and that never goes well. But what would you reckon might be the best tack? I can't just say I have a blanket ban on pitching from friends, as I do work with other friends,
posted by Flitcraft to Human Relations (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If she has always been obsessed with obscure things like that, you should probably assume she won't change. But you might get her to notice when she's bothering you by telling you about her interests. Is your problem that her ideas are boring, or that they're not practical ones? If it's the latter, you could explain to her why her ideas are not the kind of thing you can develop or sell, and let the market take the blame for that.

By program(me)s, do you mean TV/radio shows? Software? That might help clarify the situation.
posted by k. at 2:37 PM on January 11, 2010

"Friend, I love you, but I'm not interested in going into business with you. I really enjoy spending time with you, and I wish you the best of luck with your ideas, but I'd like for us to focus on talking about things other than business. Thanks for understanding."

Once you've said that, it's up to her how she wants to respond. From that point on, if she brings it up again, you have to say, "I wish you the best of luck, but I'm not interested in working with you on this," and then change the subject. Eventually, either she'll stop bringing it up or she'll decide that you're not really her friend. And if the latter happens, she's not really your friend anymore either.
posted by decathecting at 2:39 PM on January 11, 2010

Radio programmes, the problem with her ideas is that they're usually not of interest to anyone beyond a very few enthusiasts, and she gets personally attached to them, so criticism of the idea or lack of interest in it, is taken as a personal attack on her.
posted by Flitcraft at 2:46 PM on January 11, 2010

Some people are blowhards. Suggest she start a blog or podcast.
posted by rhizome at 2:47 PM on January 11, 2010

Just say you aren't interested in that kind of thing, and get a mildly bored and glazed over look when she starts this kind of thing.
posted by anniecat at 2:50 PM on January 11, 2010

Have you explained that "Well, Topic X is pretty obscure, and even though it sounds fascinating, we need Y amount of viewers who would understand it so that we can continue obtaining funding from source Z"?

(I've no idea whether any of that's true, but I suppose I'd try to explain it in a way that compliments her varied interests--harmless white lies FTW--but puts the blame somewhere beyond your reach. Then repeat as many times as necessary.)
posted by coffeeflavored at 2:56 PM on January 11, 2010

I like the idea of getting her started on her own blog. That way she'll have an outlet other than you. Maybe then she can find those other few enthusiasts and leave you out of it.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:02 PM on January 11, 2010

She has a blog!
posted by Flitcraft at 3:03 PM on January 11, 2010

"I know I can't sell it or develop it. It simply won't fly."

What's wrong with this approach? It's not YOU turning her down, but the invisible hand making it just not viable. Damn shame really...
posted by anti social order at 3:28 PM on January 11, 2010

"Friend, I love you, but I hate the endless stream of program pitches that you inundate me with. Is there any way that I can have one without the other?"

The answer might be no, but then what have you lost?
posted by davejay at 3:46 PM on January 11, 2010

Can she be reasoned with at all? Seems like if the stuff she's pitching is so obscure, all you would need to do is tell her, "most people aren't interested in watching/listening to a program about that sort of thing, and I have to cater to a general audience if I want to stay in business."

If that's too direct, you could build up to it. Start with something like "fascinating, but I don't think many people are familiar with that subject." Then maybe progress to "I'm afraid that's really not something viewers of [insert program in your market] can relate to." You don't have to insult her, or suggest that you personally think her interests are dull. Use the mindless, lowest-common denominator masses who will be your programs' audiences as the scapegoat. Tell your friend it's nothing personal, but you have to follow the money if you want to keep putting food on the table.

If she's reasonable, she'll understand and will shut up in hopefully short order. If this really is a mental disorder and she's prone to get fighty, you'll need to take another tack.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:57 PM on January 11, 2010

I'm really looking to nip this in the bud and find a way to say I do not want to be pitched to, full stop, rather than to have to sit through and deflect the pitch, as I'm really really bad at dealing with that and I will be put under a lot of pressure and guilt. I'm thinking of going along the lines suggested by decathecting, but I'd welcome any other ideas of how best to say no, before getting to that point.
posted by Flitcraft at 4:00 PM on January 11, 2010

Oops should have previewed, cross-posted there, yes I think she will get fighty and upset and I'll find it very hard to deal with. If it was a normal case of saying 'sorry I can't sell your idea to the commissioner' I would do just as The Winsome Parker Lewis suggests, that's why I'm so worried.
posted by Flitcraft at 4:14 PM on January 11, 2010

Wait, so you have connections or something that causes her to want to pitch to you, that you can help make her ideas happen by presenting them to someone you know or work with? If so, just start playing piggy-in-the-middle: "Bob hates that kind of shit." It will sound like you're being ruthless toward Bob, but it's really a way of cutting her path off. If she persists, saying groovy things like "well how do you know if he doesn't know about THIS ONE?" you can say "because he tells me" or "because it's my job to know and I'm good at my job." yadda yadda. If she still persists like a child, then you'll have to deliver le smackdown.
posted by rhizome at 4:22 PM on January 11, 2010

I'm afraid you might have to resort to the Little White Lie for your own sanity. Can you tell her that you are no longer in charge of programming decisions? Give her some other excuse for why she should no longer tell you her ideas.

If you are not comfortable with the LWL then you're going to have to go with the direct approach. I like what davejay had to say. Or "I love you but the constant idea pitches make me feel like I'm still at work, can't we please just be friends."

Maybe you could even say something about how you value her friendship so much that you are not willing to let it get muddied by business. Tell her that you aren't willing to lose the friendship over something as 'low' as business, so you are taking the idea off the table. Then if she starts in again you can say something like "We talked about this, Friends Above All Else." That way she knows you value her, and you can still have business relationships with other friends.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:23 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would ask her if she is pitching to you for job reasons or just for fun/relieve boredom.

If she is trying to pitch radio programs as an actual job, it would be a favor to her to "serious it up" and explain what actually needs to be included in a pitch. I am assuming that everyone needs to put in more effort than "hey here's this cool idea I had!" to convince you-- e.g. demonstrate that there's some kind of market for the show by looking up actual market data, or come up with a year's worth of topics for a weekly talk show, or something else requiring effort. Set the bar accurately in case she is doing this to other people. If she later pitches to you in any other format, reply, "I'd love to evaluate it but as we discussed I need (a product of labor) to begin evaluating it."

If she says it is just for fun or to assuage her boredom, then everytime she contacts you, you say, "LOL!" and go on with your day. If she protests that this is a serious pitch, refer to prior paragraph.
posted by holyrood at 4:39 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Unless you actually get other friends' program ideas on the air, why not just say "It's a conflict of interest for me to listen to your pitch"? Or "You need to be more careful about divulging your ideas informally"?
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:49 PM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've found a really good strategy for dealing with people who always talk about x (eg, themselves, their job, their drama) -- play their game.

"OMG I had this great idea for a radio show about the differences between slugs and snails."
"Oh no kidding. Did I ever tell you about the time I found a slug in my soup at that cafe on the corner? So I call the waiter over and I'm like--"
"No, but this show idea, I think a lot of people will want to know because it's so interesting--"
"Yeah that is interesting, my coworker Joan had this interesting idea today, too, it was about our deteriorating school system. She had some really interesting statistics..."

Quickly and persistently bring the conversation back to you, your life, your interests, or other topics that have nothing to do with her and/or on which she cannot or does not want comment.

You will watch her deflate and begin to realize that she won't be able to satisfy her boredom/ego/vanity/fantasy by constantly bouncing her thoughts and feelings off of you. Teach her that you are so insensitive and tactless and such a bad listener that she should find someone else to bother.
posted by thebazilist at 7:34 PM on January 11, 2010

I think holyrood is onto something with the idea of making it hard work for your friend. Right now it's all pie in the sky, fantasizing about stuff she enjoys, so it's fun for her and she'll keep doing it. If you can make it unfun, she will probably move on to other obsessions or "victims". Very quickly, too, I'd expect - maybe just one time will cure the problem.

So put her through the wringer. Next idea she pitches, give her a list of everything she needs to provide for you to take it seriously. Spare no detail: market data, financial forecasts, potential advertising revenue, production costs, whatever (I have no idea what goes into planning a radio show). Whatever factors you normally consider, make her do all the legwork and come up with actual numbers. No handwaving allowed - make her work for it, providing data and full citations for sources of that data. If she leaves stuff out, send her away and tell her not to come back until she's filled in the gaps. This is work, not play, and she needs to get that pounded into her head.

Once she gets the idea that making a pitch to you means unfun work for her, I think she'll stop right quick. If not, at least she might be convinced by her own market research which says that nobody's interested in her pet topic.
posted by Quietgal at 9:35 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tell her that part of your job is to make radio, and part of your job is to exercise editorial judgement about what makes good radio. Then tell her that in your editorial opinion, her ideas are not good ideas. If she argues, ask her why she thinks she can do your job (that is, exercising editorial judgement) better than you can.
posted by embrangled at 11:13 PM on January 12, 2010

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