Help me feel better about my situation
September 20, 2011 9:12 AM   Subscribe

I'm in need a morale boost. I'm feeling a little lost on how to cope with a rocky friendship.

There's this couple. I hate them. The problem is that in order to keep hanging out with the people I love, I also have to endure their presence. Trust me when I say, if I could never talk to these two again - I wouldn't.

I'm one of those people who hates conflict.* The husband of this duo constantly shoots down everything I say. He nitpicks all my sentences apart.. even when he's wrong. He will dig his heels in and insist I'm wrong. And if there is a grain of truth to what I'm saying, instead of conceding I might be right, he insults me or my intelligence instead. He did it today, just a few hours ago.

He mentioned that when Company A comes out with a product later this year, that they'll have Flavor B. I'm fairly confident, based on comments from the company and from their track record, that they won't have Flavor B. So I said "I'm pretty sure they won't". He said that if they make Flavor A, then there's no reason why they wouldn't do Flavor B. Flavor A and Flavor B only have a very basic thread of commonality, so I said that they weren't the same, but that's just my opinion. He said something along the lines of "I missed when Company A hired you to give you this information first-hand. Congratulations!" and that I should show him proof that I was right.

I happen to wake up on the wrong side of the bed and remembered a thread recently about standing up to people like him. So I threw my normal avoidance of conflict to the wind and brought to his attention how my opinion always seems to rile him up and he feels the need to knock me down a peg whenever I disagree with him. This was in front of several other friends, including his wife.

His wife rolls her eyes and says that she didn't see any direct insult to me. What's worse is that one of my other friends, playing peacekeeper, said that what flavors Company A comes out with isn't worth arguging over. My SO, on the other hand, is playing Switzerland. He nodded sagely to the peacekeeper and said: yeah that's exactly what I think! He never commented about what I said to him.

None of them see that this is not about Company A's flavors, but about his general behavior towards me. At this point I've just kind of shut down and left without another word.

Now I feel like crap. How do you fight against something when everyone completely misses the point? If I start citing examples, then it only looks like I'm trying to escalate the disagreement.

I just feel like I should dump them all and never speak to them again. But I really care about some of these people, and I don't want the negativity of some to ruin all. I'll also mention that this group is all that consists of my friends. How do you dump all your friends? I'm very sensitive to being alone. I already don't have a lot of friends, I'm strongly a geeky introvert.

So, right now I feel stuck and swinging from anger to sadness. The Mefite community is really good at saying the right things and pointing to resources** to uplifting words or books. What would you say to someone who feels degraded and misunderstood among the people who mean the most to her?

* My entire group of friends are like this. We all avoid conflict. We're all people pleasers. This leads to some strife when everyone is trying to be harmonious when they don't feel much harmony.
** Please keep responses about therapy to a minimum. I'm seeking therapy and for most of my problems, it's working swell.
*** Our group is very much all inclusive. Everyone does everything together. There's always ripples of unhappiness whenever everyone isn't invited to some hanging out session. So if I try to limit my activities to only the positive people, there will be hell to pay later.
posted by royalsong to Society & Culture (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: He nodded sagely to the peacekeeper and said..

The husband was the one who nodded, not my SO.
posted by royalsong at 9:14 AM on September 20, 2011

Do you have another story or example? Because this one sounds like you started the disagreement.
posted by jeather at 9:27 AM on September 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

I decided awhile ago that being the only one in the room who understands something is one of life's quiet pleasures. I recommend this mindset to you as a third way out.
posted by michaelh at 9:30 AM on September 20, 2011 [21 favorites]

Give him the Blank Stare. Not the Angry Stare or the Stink Eye, but the Blank Stare that informs him that he seems to be making sounds but they don't mean anything. That is, you say something, he nitpicks, you pause, stare at him blankly for a moment, and then just keep saying whatever you were saying. He does it again, you do it again. He'll either shut up or lose his cool, in which case you come out smelling like roses.

Also, if he makes weird-ass demands like asking your to prove some flavor crap, acquiese and then change the subject. He wants proof? Well, you'll have it first thing on his desk Monday morning, anyway...

Also, you might want to pick your battles a bit better. Yeah, he was being a jerk about some flavor bullshit, but it's, well, flavor bullshit. You can certainly stand up to him when he genuinely insults your intellgience, but if he's being a dick about your seemingly equal levels of conjecture about something that doesn't matter, you don't need to get into it then and there.
posted by griphus at 9:32 AM on September 20, 2011

OK, I'm sure this guy is annoying as hell but in the example you use you're an equal partner in the original argument, and you made a decision to escalate the situation.

Is being right so important that you can't ignore the stupid things this guy says?

How do you fight against something when everyone completely misses the point?

You don't fight it. At a fundamental level, you find this guy irritating and apparently the rest of your friends don't. Accept that you might be the outlier in this situation.
posted by auto-correct at 9:32 AM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

If it were me, I'd stop hanging out with them, even if it meant I had to stop hanging out with the group as a whole. No group is going to stay super-tight forever, that's just part of growing up. You could be the first to break free and start hanging out individually with the people you actually like.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:34 AM on September 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

This sounds like you've got a circle of friends who all self-select for complacency and non-conflict by way of anemic passive-aggression, and one guy who's figured out that that's a really easy system to game. Your two options are a) find a new circle of friends, or b) take strides to assert yourself in this one.

The reason everyone downed on your response in that conflict is because you were taking the agitated beta role of aggrieved reactionary, and all the other betas wish that the conflict ceases so they tell you to stop making such a big deal. New behavior pattern to try - assert dominance before the situation arises. Next time you're organizing something, or have any say in the organizing of an event, not only do you not invite [prick], you deliberately say 'let's not invite [prick], he's been acting like a prick lately.' At that point, the other folks of the 'don't rock the boat' mentality have two responses - don't rock the boat, or become the agitated reactionaries themselves. You win either way; either [prick] goes uninvited, or someone brings up the issue and you can discuss it openly, without you being on the defensive posture and without the guy being directly present to make a further mess of things.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:34 AM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Your group dynamics (everyone's) sound really passive aggressive here. I'll bet there are other people who feel put out when they have to do stuff with every single person sometimes -- after all, if you're a geeky introvert, don't you naturally prefer to do things with just a few other people sometimes?

This is what friends do. This is who friends are. You trust each other to be honest about their needs. You want each person to be the best person they can be, because then they can be better friends to you. Hierarchy of needs and all that.

Just as you wouldn't leave ALL of your socialization/trust/secret-keeping/comforting duties to your partner or spouse, especially because some of the issues you might have could be WITH that person, you need to spread out the duties and activities of friendship with more than one person or group so others get refreshed sometimes. Everyone needs a break. Absence makes the heart grow fonder!*

So think critically about this in your own head, and insist upon doing things separately. It's part of growing more mature and selective. It's NOT a mean thing at all. If anyone tries to tell you that, they're the ones with the problem.

*My mother told me this in 9th grade when I was sad that my dreamy lab partner moved to the next table.
posted by Madamina at 9:34 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Guess I'm not coming off right.

This happens every time I disagree with him. So in essence, I always equal in the argument. I admit that. But, will not swallow and accept that I should either agree with my friends all the time or never mention that I have a difference of opinion. I am not a mindless follower. Most of the people I hang out with never have a problem with me not thinking the way they do, just this guy. And if they do, they're much more tact then insulting me.

This isn't about having disagreements with friends, or who's right or wrong in an argument. Rhis is about dealing with a toxic individual that I can't avoid and who makes me feel like crap.. especially after I called him on his behavior towards me.
posted by royalsong at 9:40 AM on September 20, 2011

Rhis is about dealing with a toxic individual that I can't avoid...

I think a lot of the advice here centers on the fact that you can avoid this person, and that the strategy of avoiding him might be your best option.
posted by griphus at 9:43 AM on September 20, 2011

It sounds like there are multiple geek social fallacies at work here.

Everyone does everything together.

Everything does everything together all the time? I'm fairly social for an introvert, amd that still sounds exhausting to me. Can you not single out people you get along with for quiet one-on-one activities to build friendships that aren't reliant on the full group being together? There are plenty of people my friends are friends with who I tolerate at best - I spend as much time as possible one-on-one or in small groups with select friends so I have the resources to cope with the people I don't get along with when necessary.

I'd suggest limiting your engagement with this person and expanding your circle of friends.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:45 AM on September 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

Our group is very much all inclusive. Everyone does everything together. There's always ripples of unhappiness whenever everyone isn't invited to some hanging out session. So if I try to limit my activities to only the positive people, there will be hell to pay later.

This is all so enmeshed. I agree; you absolutely don't have to hang out with all these people together. That sounds like what's toxic. Call up one or two friends and invite just them out to do something the others might find boring. Make some new friends outside this group. When everyone's going out together, you have the option to say "I think I'll stay home and read a book, but have a great time, SO." You already don't mind being the outlier who thinks for yourself; it's not very far from that to being the outlier who says "I spend time with who I want to spend time with and avoid people I don't like."
posted by Miko at 9:49 AM on September 20, 2011

The Geek Social Fallacies link is spot on. Much better than I would have guessed by title alone.
posted by Miko at 9:51 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think you can or should agree with your friends all the time, but I'm not sure why you need to argue about minor things like what flavours a brand will come out with if the guy's response to your arguments gets you so angry. You can choose to disagree with this guy only when it's something important.

Also, yeah, I think you need to find a group where there is less of everyone always doing everything together.
posted by jeather at 9:51 AM on September 20, 2011

The unfortunate fact is that your friends don't notice that he does this to you -- not because they are bad friends but because that's how people are. So when you call him out on this flavour BS, well, you look like the instigator. So if try to do as FatherDragon suggests (which I would otherwise go with) you're going to become the bad guy.

Maybe a variation on the above: "Hey, so I'm beginning to feel really uncomfortable around Mr. Prick. It's probably just me. Could we maybe do something without him this time?" and see how that goes. If the answer is, "NO WE ALWAYS DO EVERYTHING TOGETHER FOREVEE~ERR" you may need to make new friends.
posted by AmandaA at 9:52 AM on September 20, 2011

You can't change the ideas, attitudes, or behavior of anyone else. It doesn't matter how factually correct you are. The only reactions and behavior you can control are your own.

The guy sounds like a jerk, sure-- but you were arguing about Company A's flavors. I get that you're saying that the problem is the husband's pattern of being insulting to 'win' arguments-- but, honestly, as soon as one half of an argument (especially a petty argument) starts into always/never statements ("you never listen to anyone else" "you always insult me when I disagree with you") that person starts sounding irrational. Whether or not that person is factually correct (almost) doesn't matter-- those kinds of statements sound melodramatic and make the speaker look bad.

If he's being a jerk, you can (if you must) call him out on being a jerk, by saying something in a calm, even tone about his behavior. For example "You know, I don't appreciate it when you make sarcastic jabs at me like that". Don't make it about the facts/conjecture/whatever-- that's not the point. The point is his behavior, so comment on that. And then stop the conversation, drop the argument, whatever. He may argue with you, but do not engage-- he probably sees no problem in his behavior, and nothing you can say will change his mind on that point. You're going to need to let that go-- you can't change his mind, you can't change his behavior, and you can't make anyone else see it 'your' way, either. The only way you can come out ahead is being firm and calm, and dropping it.

For example:
Dude: "...Company A hired you to give you this information first-hand. Congratulations!"
You: "You know, regardless of whether or not Company A will make Flavor B, I don't appreciate it when you make sarcastic jabs at me like that."
Dude: "That wasn't a sarcastic jab! You're just being oversensitive!"
Wife: "Yeah!"
You: "I may be oversensitive, but I'd prefer you not talk to me like that in the future. So... what about the game?" (or something-- just change the subject)

Again, you have no ability to change his behavior, or the behavior of anyone else. If he makes you feel like crap, you can either 1) avoid him, 2) keep feeling like crap, or 3) figure out a way to let his jabs slide past you without damaging you. (That last suggestion is what therapy is good for.) Why let this dude have this much control over your interactions with him, your other friends, and your own emotional state? Why do you care if he's wrong? Let it go, let him be wrong. You can know you disagree with him (especially on completely trivial stuff) and chose not to ruin your day by starting an argument about it. It doesn't make you a 'follower', it makes you a sane person who has better things to do than to try (and almost certainly fail) to 'prove' something to a jerk.
posted by Kpele at 10:01 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

How do you fight against something when everyone completely misses the point?

If you want to continue to socialize with this group, you need to do the following:

You: [making conversation]
Husband: No, that's wrong. It's blah blah.
You: OK, so anyway, the important thing is this awesome book I read. It was about...

You: [making conversation]
Husband: That's stupid and here's why: blah blah blah.
You: OK, so anyway, I thought it was cool that they used the original recording...
Husband: [keeps baiting you]
You: Joe, I'm not going to argue with you about this. That would be stupid. So anyway, I thought it was cool that they...

Husband: [inaccurate statement]
You: ...

And so on.

You cannot win by arguing with him. You might get him to lose interest in baiting you if you combine confidence and boredom in your reactions to him: you need to act like you know you're awesome and you're bored with his dumb baiting. Because these arguments don't matter. You don't need to convince him you're right and he's wrong. You need to show him the kind of rude behavior you won't respond to. You fight this by refusing to play his game.

That said, if your social circle consists of someone who tears you down constantly and "friends" who let him do it without consequence and expect you to keep showing up and expect you to always include him... you should find some nicer friends, because yours are acting like jerks--not just the one guy, not just his wife, all of them.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:01 AM on September 20, 2011 [12 favorites]

that I can't avoid...

Many people here are advising you that you can actually avoid him, if you want to. You can, but I think you should look at why he gets under your skin so much. People can be assholes all the time, but you don't have to take it personally.

I think you and he are arguing, not because he's an ass, but because you feel like crap from his treatment of you in the past. At this point, any little thing will set off your radar, and immediately, you're on the defensive. Once you're on the defensive, you'll naturally want everyone else to see your point and validate your feelings. Your feelings matter to you, and they should, but I think wanting to be right and vindicated is entirely separate from that. Yes, he's an ass; no, he shouldn't treat you the way he does; and no, you don't have to do everything with everyone all the time. Also, this whole idea of "don't rock the boat" is fine if you're sailing along without a care in the world. It sounds like the boat is already being rocked, and everyone is either oblivious or trying to ignore it to make it stop.

You don't have to care about how he thinks or acts. You can brush off the inflammatory comments and attempts to undercut you. Every time he says or does something hurtful or that pisses you off, ask yourself if it really matters. Do you care whether or not he thinks he is right, witty or brilliant? I guarantee you, he already thinks he does, and arguing with him isn't going to convince him otherwise. It's not making you feel better - so don't do it. He's not worth your energy or time.

On preview, what Meg_Murry said.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 10:17 AM on September 20, 2011

You're never going to win if you engage with him, because he doesn't care to let you win. So don't engage with him. Change the subject or roll your eyes and smile. Choosing not to engage doesn't mean you're avoiding standing up for yourself, but it does mean that you're not going to participate in something that makes you feel bad.

Your whole group of friends isn't responsible for how this guy makes you feel, and they probably don't know this is so upsetting to you. If I didn't have your framework and just heard this story, I would have no idea how upset it made you.

There are absolutely always going to be people who don't respect your opinion and/or who don't treat you right. No matter who you are. You can't let that affect you too much - it speaks so much more about them than it does about you, and you're not going to reason them out of crappy behavior. You just have to accept what it is and enjoy the company of your other friends.

I don't mean to minimize your feelings, or to say that they're not valid, but I do want to suggest a different framework for thinking about the situation.
posted by mrs. taters at 10:18 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

There was a guy like this in my social circle a few years back. He'd been a part of this particular social circle for longer than I had, so he had more of an 'in' than I did, too. Anyway, he had this subtle way of making me look like an ass - I won't get into the details here; suffice to say that it drove me nuts and none of the other friends in the social circle saw it. So I stopped hanging out with that guy. I made plans only with certain people in the social circle at one time. Once in a while this particular guy'd pop up for some reason (a party, a dinner, whatever), and when he did I'd try my damnedest to avoid any contact with him whatsoever.

You may not have the option/desire to do what I did, but it worked for me (mostly). The distillation of this is that if you like these people and can't bear to try to find new friends, just try to limit your interaction with the jerk. If he's truly such an ass he'll out himself as one without any effort from you. If he's not as much of an ass as you think (i.e., he is an OK guy but just rubs you the wrong way) you may just have to cut your losses one way or the other.

Epilogue: Shortly before I left the town in which all this happened I saw the guy out at a bar. I was sitting with my new girl friend (who would eventually become my wife). I told her about the guy briefly, then said, "I'm going to go over there to punch that guy in the face." She replied. "I'll start the car*," then she walked calmly out to the parking lot. I finished my drink, then walked casually over to the guy. "Mace," I said, "How are you?"

"Kele?" he replied. "I'm fine."

"Listen, man - when I first got here I was in a very sensitive emotional place, and you were very, very rude to me. Needlessly rude. I didn't understand it, and I didn't appreciate it." He nodded slowly. I gave him a moment to ponder some sort of reply. "You have nothing to say?" I took a step back with my right foot so that I might more efficiently clobber him.

He put his finger up to stop me, nodded slowly once again and said, "I don't remember what I said to you. In fact, I don't remember being rude to you at all; but at that time I was a very angry person, and it doesn't surprise me to hear that I hurt your feelings."

I must have been bowed up a little when I walked up to him, and it dawned on me that I was looking down at him. He was a good six inches shorter than me, and I outweighed him by an easy forty pounds. I felt myself relax a little as he spoke, and it suddenly dawned on me that I had been nearly livid when I approached him. He continued, "I do not enjoy your company, but I am sorry for whatever I said that offended you. I had no right to do that. I'm sorry."

I had been focusing so hard on exactly how I was going to knock the teeth from his head that I was completely flummoxed by this turn of events. I was still angry, but having received such an apology had completely diffused the situation, and relieved me of any self-righteousness that might have allowed me to feel justified in brutalizing this guy. I grabbed the back of his neck and drew his head next to mine. "That was very elegant. Thank you." I didn't know what else to say. I turned around and left the bar. I never saw that guy again.

You never know how things will work out.

*It was then that I knew I was going to marry this girl.

posted by Pecinpah at 10:37 AM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

You are facing karma. If you hang out with people you hate, you will be angry and hateful much of the time.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:40 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

A lot of people have provided good advice above (particularly Meg Murray), but I'd just like to add:

From your description, it sounds like this guy is the sort of know-it-all who has an opinion (whether right or wrong) on just about any issue you can name. Is it possible that this is tied to his self-esteem, and he regards your disagreement with him as an attack on him personally? That might explain what sounds like a defense mechanism: him always insisting he's right, to the point of engaging in ad hominem attacks on you.

Let's assume that's the case. Disagreeing with him, even if he's clearly got his facts wrong, will not only rile him up, but cause a knock-on defense mechanism in his loved ones, who will parse the exchange as you beating up on him. You end up looking like the aggressor, and he gets all the sympathy of the group. (I'm not saying you do this intentionally, I'm only trying to get you to see your situation from another perspective).

My usual approach would be to sit this fellow down outside of the group and try to have a conversation about this. But he may be feeling so raw from his encounters with you that he can't step away emotionally, and will view it at just more attacks.

Honestly, I see the following choices here:

1) Tolerate him, and laugh off his apparently ill-informed opinions, and try to look at what good things he brings to your circle of friends (I'll admit, this might be the high road to take, but it is a fucking rocky mountain pass to have to tread)

2) Start expanding your group of friends, such that you can eventually "retire" this person.

There's something in this friendship that has soured, and I'm not at all convinced that regaining the goodwill of this person is something you want to put the effort into. If it were me, I would channel that effort into forging new friendships (as many as you can feasibly manage).

Good luck!
posted by LN at 10:56 AM on September 20, 2011

My father likes to get into political/ethical/etc. debates for fun. But he backs out when he realizes that the other person is just too set in their opinions to even respect what he's saying.

To get out, he uses this fantastic verbal judo move-- after they've said something, he'll just stare at them blankly a second, then shrug and say, "well, okay then..." and that's it. And his tone is a sort of "well, I don't agree, but I'm not gonna stop you," combined with "but this conversation's done." And then he just stops engaging. Sometimes the people try to keep going, and he just looks at the table or the ground, listening, if they do; then when they're done, he gives them another shrug and an "Okay, then."

Try that. People don't know how to argue with "okay, then".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:03 AM on September 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

A similar trick to EmpressCalligpygos' is one I heard in an Al-Anon meeting ages ago.

JERK: Argue argue argue.
YOU: Oppose oppose oppose.
JERK: Argue argue argue
YOU: You may be right.

That kind of stops it in its tracks, too, without validating their response, and without you having to conceded anything.
posted by Miko at 11:21 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I'm reflecting on what you all have to say. Ironmouth's words ring strongly with me. I have a friend in this group who is echoing the same things. I put a lot of faith in Karma.. but I never looked at like this before.

I have tried a lot of things you all have suggested (trying not to engage him, trying to speak with him privately about this, etc) and it doesn't matter. Mefi was my last option. Even though I think I already knew the answer, sometimes it's good to get a kick in the pants.

This guy is poison to me.. and as much as I love my friends, it's not healthy for me to continue even limited social interaction with him and his wife. It's changing me into a poisoning person. I never really seen that until I listened to what you all had to say.

To be honest, I'm scared to death. I don't make friends easily. I've got some crippling shyness to overcome (Part and parcel of being a geeky introvert female, in my case). I suppose I'll make it, right? If not, well that's what therapy is for.
posted by royalsong at 11:30 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Definitely a topic for therapy.

One thing you really don't want in life is awful people you're friends with only because you're afraid you won't find anybody who treats you better.

You're the only kind of 'friend' those people tend to have.
posted by Miko at 11:32 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Why are you arguing with him? Is his opinion important to you? Bc if not, I'd just be like: that's his opinion, I think he's wrong. I have no problem with him continuing to be wrong. I won't waste any effort to help him see the light. He's not worth my time.
posted by Neekee at 11:48 AM on September 20, 2011

Response by poster: Ah! I forgot to mention.

It wasn't that I set out to argue with him. One of the friends in the group absolutely loves Flavor B. I meant the original comment as more of a: don't get married to the idea of Flavor B being available.

The friend that loves Flavor B is easily upset and I'm very defensive of her. She's like a sister to me. (she's was also the peacekeeper)

Regardless, I probably should have just pulled peacekeeper aside and told her privately that Flavor B might not be available because of XYZ. You all made me realize that.

and the conversation we had wasn't about flavors. It was something much more esoteric, so I had to boil it down for askmefi.

I'll stop thread sitting now.

posted by royalsong at 12:04 PM on September 20, 2011

The poster not 'starting an argument'. Disagreeing with someone is not 'starting an argument'. Those words have two different meanings, and for good reason. The poster was disagreeing, the prick was starting an argument. Anyone who can't see the difference between the two approaches in the given example might really want to examine their own formats of interaction.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:04 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hey royalsong, I totally hear you on the difficulties of making and keeping friends. And! I totally hear you on the crippling shyness. Now that I'm done with my wedding and the accompanying hibernation-from-anxiety, I have to scratch my way back into the world, and it's not going to be pretty.

The thing is, though, that it's often tougher to live with yourself once some of these friendships go south, even just a little. It's like when you have a pair of shoes or something that you don't wear very often -- or do, even though they are a wee bit too small. It's not quite what you need, and it gives you discomfort to see them unused/use them when they don't fit, but DAMMIT, I PAID A LOT OF MONEY FOR THESE, AND SO HELP ME GOD!!! I WILL NOT GET RID OF THEM. In the end, the grief that you've given yourself ends up being more of a problem than simply getting rid of them or trading them in for another pair.

I've been in these friendships before, where either people ask a lot from you and don't give much of themselves, or you give yourself freely and they don't notice. It's easy to fall into a pattern where a "friend" does little things now and again but you let them slide because it's no big deal. By the time you recognize a pattern, saying anything will come off as a huge blowout and/or super passive aggressive.

So you sit there and stew, wondering why you let people take advantage of you over and over again. It's no fun, and it's hurtful -- to YOU. It's like beating yourself up for dating a rude guy: he's the stupid one, but, you think, "I'm the one stupid enough to stay with him, so clearly I'm at fault." Circular logic that helps nobody. Stop that.

On the argument part: dude, he's a geek, and YOU'RE a geek, and you both know the old schtick: If you can't be known for your sparkling personality, be known for your INTIMIDATINGLY GREAT KNOWLEDGE! We've all been there. At least we're not being ignored as usual, right?

So have some compassion for this guy, who probably wants to find his niche but is even more socially awkward than you. You still don't have to pay attention to him; a simple "that's nice" and walking away is fine. But he's probably digging his own grave, and there's no reason to let yourself get dragged into his drama vortex when everyone else already knows that he's the one wit the issue. Let it go.
posted by Madamina at 12:14 PM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I recommend The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense, by Suzette H Elgin. She analyzes different types of put-downs, and recommends strategies. When it comes to showdowns about who's right, I usually just say "I'm not really a gambler, but I'll bet you (something pretty small - cup of coffee, a beer, a quarter) that Moonbucks won't be releasing OliveOil flavored coffee, but will be releasing pasta flavored espresso blend ." Reach out to shake on the deal. When he contradicts you and announces that you're wrong, a trait I don't enjoy at all, just say "Oh, I hadn't heard that" and continue your conversation.

I think you can make your own life easier by looking for the good in this guy. Maybe he's funny, or smart, or good to his dog. But seeing him in more human terms is a good thing. In the long run it's better to be liked than to be right. It takes longer to be appreciated for being quiet and calm about the wrongness of others, but it is a lovely trait. I'm working on it myself.
posted by theora55 at 2:38 PM on September 20, 2011

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