We are not friends anymore. STOP CALLING! also don't murder me in my sleep.
February 15, 2012 5:51 AM   Subscribe

A former acquaintance (non-close friend) from college continues to contact me regularly despite me ignoring his calls for almost a year. He calls me about once a week and occasionally he will call in bunches. He has probably called 40-50 times in about 9 months. The fact that he has persisted this long is freaking me out a bit. Should I just tell him to stop contacting me or has it gone beyond that? More below. I’m a man btw.

I dislike this person and do not want to associate with him. There was no major event or falling out between us; I simply dislike him as a person. I was able to tolerated him for the first few years I knew him but he became intolerable.

My opinion on him is shared by everyone I know that also knows him. However I am only person getting frequent phone calls.

Despite not liking him I did on rare occasion hang out with him even after our other mutual peers stopped. I did this out of a sense of obligation but mainly I want to, as socially inept person myself, show some empathy. I often was lonely in college and could not help but think he was even more so. But there was no relating to him as he was/is an arrogant, self-obsessed ass with extremely bigoted and sexist views and seemed to completely disregard what other thought of his actions. We never had a conversation or moment that would indicate he thought of me a close friend or confidant. I don't even know why he ever wanted to talk with me as he never was interested in my life nor did he ever tell me anything about himself that wasn't clearly a fantastical lie. He was mostly interest in my love life and the love life others we knew and I was a dry well to tap for that information/gossip.

The last time we saw each other was about 2 ½ or 3 years ago and probably a year before that. I did not have any contact with him for about a year after the last time I had seen him (I ignored a few calls) until I stupidly answered his call without checking the caller ID (I was driving). During the call he mentioned he would be in town for Cinco De Mayo, which was a long way off from this conversation, and ask if I wanted to get together for drinks. Spinelessly, I agreed.

That was the last time I talked to him. I ignored the calls and messages in the several months between talking to him and Cinco de Mayo. And ignored the several calls I got on the days before and on Cinco de Mayo. After a few weeks of no calls, the calls started coming in consistently. He has been calling about once a week, sometimes the calls come in bunches (3 - 5 times in a day or two). Also I am 99% confidant he sometimes calls from a block number, when a cluster of calls come from him generally one will be from a blocked number. Since I rarely ever get calls from blocked numbers I assume it is him. He has never left a voice mail.

Clearly I should have told this guy I no longer want to him to contact me in any form long ago but there is no way he thinks I want anything to do with him after not answering or returning his calls for this long, right? The fact that he has persisted this long is freaking me out a bit.

Am I just continuing to be a wimp about telling a person I no longer want them to be in my life or is this act of a crazy person that I need to worry about?
posted by Ommcc to Human Relations (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is there any way you can simply block his calls, or at least send them straight to voicemail?
posted by easily confused at 5:58 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Personally, I'd just continue to ignore -- you're over the hard part, cutting off contact, now it just needs to stay cut off. I worry if you talk to him again you might give in to be nice.

What do phone companies charge these days to block a number? I'd probably pay for that for a while for your peace of mind. Or if you migrate your number to Google Voice I understand you can have a lot more control over specific callers. If you go this route, you might also check with your alumni association and make sure your college doesn't release your contact information to this guy (depending on how they manage such things ... I think in mine I'd just have to lock down my contact info completely for a while).

Is he leaving messages? Or trying to get in touch with you by e-mail or facebook? If it were important (a mutual friend had cancer), he'd leave a message. If it were casual, he'd leave a message. I think he knows he has to speak with you to play on your sympathy and convince you to see him.

(And don't answer blocked calls -- it could be your doctor or whatever, but they'll leave a message.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:02 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Record the following message on your cell phone and/or home phone:

"Hi, this is Ommcc. If this is ________, please stop calling me, as I do not want to interact with you. Thank you." Something along those lines should work.

Also, if it's a smart phone, there should be a variety of apps that will block unwanted calls. I actually used this for a professor while in grad school who would call me at all hours asking me to do things for her.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 6:04 AM on February 15, 2012

Answer the phone and tell him you don't want him to call you any more. (You don't have to say why.)
posted by devnull at 6:05 AM on February 15, 2012

Broadly speaking, there are only three approaches:

1) Technical solution: contact the phone company, block his number. This is imperfect, as if he still wants to contact you, he can just use a different number.

2) Interpersonal solution: answer the phone one time, explain that you don't care for his company, and ask him to stop calling. This seems like a useful next step.

3) Legal solution: contact a lawyer and see if this person's behavior rises to meet the legal standard of stalking. I suspect you'll be unsucessful unless you've directly requested that they knock it off, but that's an uninformed opinion.

I guess I don't understand why you wouldn't make a direct request to stop contact, unless there's been a pattern of violent or other aggressive behavior- and I don't see any evidence of that behavior in your description.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:06 AM on February 15, 2012

Change your number and block him on facebook/other social media. Also take a look at whether he can easily track you down by Googling you.
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:06 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

You're not a wimp. This is weird.

Can you get a friend who doesn't sound like you to answer your phone when you think it's him - answer it by saying "This is [somemadeupnamethatisn'tyours]"? If he thinks it's a wrong number, or not your number anymore, the calls may stop.

And/or block the number (though I don't know how this works if the number is obscured).

And/or answer it and if it's him, tell him to stop calling. Then never answer calls from him again.
posted by rtha at 6:07 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Answer his call. "Hey, dude, I'm pretty busy these days, and I'm not really looking to stay in touch right now. I'll give you a call when I have more free time. Thanks, bye." Hang up.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:07 AM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

By taking the call, wouldn't Ommcc just (a) confirm that the number is theirs and (b) confirm that they will answer the phone after some persistence?
posted by muddgirl at 6:10 AM on February 15, 2012 [10 favorites]

Don't talk to this person. You're being stalked.

Read The Gift of Fear. Heed its advice.

Really, I can't believe people are telling you to engage with this person. Idiocy.
posted by dfriedman at 6:11 AM on February 15, 2012 [28 favorites]

Generally when you want to drop an acquaintance I would say being honest and telling them to stop contacting you is best but....this is weird. And weird if creepy. The general advice about unwanted contact that weirds you out (from sources like The Gift of Fear and such) is that if a person you do not want contact with calls 50 times and you pick up to tell them not to call you, they interpret it as it takes 50 calls to get you on the phone. I mean, it doesn't seem like your past interactions with him are very creepy but for some reason I just wouldn't chance it yet. Is there anyone in your old friend circle who you could talk to? Not anyone that would go back to him but someone else who you know has cut off contact that you can ask if he did this to them as well? That might shed some light on your best course of action (he is just socially inept about contact vs. he has a particular fixation with calling you.)

Also, maybe paranoid, but I would keep a file of the dates and times of these calls. Just in case. I'm not trying to scare you and it probably is nothing, but it can't hurt.
posted by itsonreserve at 6:12 AM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

You'll probably have to change your number if you don't want to keep ignoring and deleting voicemails.

GET AN UNPUBLISHED NUMBER and give it out very selectively, since he will probably try to cadge the number from mutual acquaintances.

This may have to escalate into a police matter, sadly.

Nthing Gift of Fear, as always.
posted by Currer Belfry at 6:21 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Holy crap is your friend my grandmother? This is exactly how she behaves. And after 20-odd years of dealing with her, I can tell you that telling him to fuck off (however politely or angrily) will have absolutely no effect outside of letting him know you're paying attention to him. Best you can do is change your number and tell all your friends to not give it to him under any circumstances.

So don't engage under any circumstance. It's not (necessarily) going to put you in mortal danger, but it'll egg him on to keep trying to get in touch.
posted by griphus at 6:25 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

"I was ignoring you, thinking you would get the message that I don't want to talk to you, but I guess I should have just told you that I don't want to talk to you. Please stop calling me. If you continue calling me, I will treat you like a stalker."
posted by vash at 6:27 AM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

This actually doesn't sound like textbook stalking to me. It could be, though. I'd personally want to find out for sure.

I think, in this case, I would find it worthwhile to actually ask him explicitly to stop calling once, since you haven't. If he persists *after* that, go to the standard playbook for use against stalkers.

Good luck getting this guy out of your hair.
posted by Citrus at 6:40 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have a man he doesn't know answer the phone in a different language that he couldn't possibly speak or understand. Have him get a little yelly with your ex-friend if he persists in asking for you.
posted by desjardins at 6:41 AM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

Do not personally engage with this person under any circumstances. Block his number. The very worst thing you can do when dealing with a stalker is to set up an intermittent reward, where the stalker can sometimes, even if only very rarely, get in touch with you.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:42 AM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, have the man say "NO OMMCC" in broken English as many times as it takes for the guy to hang up.
posted by desjardins at 6:42 AM on February 15, 2012

I think it's "I'm pretty busy, I don't have the time." answer. The guy probably doesn't have many friends and is latching onto and trying to preserve anything he possibly can.

So, if you're too much of a 'nice guy' to be able to talk to him without giving in to his requests, continue to ignore. If he ever does manage to get you on the phone, brush him off and say you're really too busy, and you really don't have the time to talk with him at all.
posted by rich at 6:54 AM on February 15, 2012

Oh man, I've been there. I was kind of a loner in high school, but this one guy seemed nice enough in class and suggested we see a movie. The one and only time we saw each other outside of school, I discover he was kind of a despicable asshole. I didn't want to hang out with him again, but he had our phone number and would call several times a week.

At first I thought he was just lonely and I tried to be nice, but I really did not want to talk with this guy and it spiraled out of control pretty quickly. My mother ended up having to run interference and tell this guy I wasn't home whenever he called. Of course, he'd track me down at school which was its own problem. He ended up being pretty verbally abusive any time he saw me.

From this experience, I came to the conclusion that there really isn't any getting around being kind of a dick to get this guy off your back. He really will not take the hint, even if you tell him flat out that you don't want to interact with him. It makes things a little easier that you don't have regular day-to-day interaction with him, so I would just ignore the calls. If your cell phone has the capability for custom ringtones, I might even add him to your address book as "DO NOT ANSWER" and set the ringtone for his number to silent.

You may feel like an ass for not being nicer or more forthright, but I don't think there are any alternatives that won't result in the guy continuing to try to call you.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:17 AM on February 15, 2012

So don't engage under any circumstance. It's not (necessarily) going to put you in mortal danger, but it'll egg him on to keep trying to get in touch.

He's already constantly trying to get in touch, so I can't see the harm in explicitly telling him not to call.

Don't talk to this person. You're being stalked.

He's never escalated beyond weekly phone calls (except when he thought you had plans, which you can hardly blame him for), and he's never (as far as you say in the question) exhibited any other "stalker-like" behavior (contact on social networks, attempting contact through others, showing up in person, etc). It frankly seem ludicrous to label someone a stalker whom you have never told not to call you. Some people do not take a hint.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:26 AM on February 15, 2012

The group is split. I think I am going to answer next time to tell him to stop calling. Which has the added benefit of being personally satisfying.

If he is indeed stalking me, the consensus seems to be that he will continue contacting me. Then I would proceed as necessary. But since I have never told him not to contact me (although not answering for a year would seem to hint at it strongly) I will give him a chance to stop on his own.

This was not a person that could have intimidated me in the past. So I don't think he knows he can or to some degree has rattled me with these phone calls, which very well might just be innocent but obliviously frequent.

Thanks to for the responses. Glad to know that this was not just me over thinking this and that there were conflicting opinions.
posted by Ommcc at 7:48 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to chime in here, Gavid de Becker has good advice on this score. Basically, if you do not want to speak to this person, you should stop speaking to him. Change your number, make it unlisted, and block his number. He should not even be able to listen your voicemail question.

You do not want a grand confrontation, and talking to him is probably not going to help. Someone who calls this much is sending you a signal that they are not processing things normally. You want to disengage and be impossible for him to reach. He will eventually fixate on someone else.
posted by machinecraig at 7:55 AM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Step 1: Answer Phone. "Hey dude...I've noticed you have been calling me ALOT. This has really got to stop because, not only is it starting to freak me out, but I use my phone for business and I can't have you ringing me off the hook every day. I really can't keep in touch these days as I've got my own life to worry about, so please stop calling and maybe some day in the future I will get back to you."

Step 2: If he keeps calling: Answer phone. "Hey, I really need you to stop calling. If you don't stop calling I'm going to consider this a legal issue and get the proper authorities involved. Stop. Calling."

Step 3. If he keeps calling. Consider him a stalker and research how to deal with that situation.
posted by jnnla at 11:38 AM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Please don't give excuses. This guy is already so far over the line of what is considered appropriate behavior - if he doesn't see that he's not going to care about why you're asking him to stop calling.
posted by muddgirl at 11:45 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've read your update. You're taking the wrong advice. The person is mentally ill, and you're about to teach him that it takes a year of harrassing phone calls to get you to pay attention to him.

I do have a technical solution that involves your voicemail, but it's kinda a hassle to implement (although, if you have a recorded outgoing vm, CHANGE IT! He probably likes to hear your voice. Make your outgoing vm the automated generic one.)

Anyway. This sucks, but you BEST move right now is to change your phone number.

I'm sorry. I know. I've been there.
posted by jbenben at 12:20 PM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Personally responding to this person is such a bad idea. "Stop calling me" may work on rational people, but he is not rational. He is sick. You might as well tell a depressed person to just stop being depressed, or a delusional person to stop being delusional. It's sad, but if you don't want to deal with this person, then it is not your responsibility.

Treating him like a rational person is counterproductive, and it turns you equally crazy. After all, what sane person would think someone who calls 2-3x a day for a year will be dissuaded by a "please don't call" message?

It is not even fair to him to "reward" his obsessive calling with personal attention, even if it's ostensibly negative. Even if it's unintentional, you'd be teasing him with the prospect of contact.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:24 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

He calls me about once a week and occasionally he will call in bunches. He has probably called 40-50 times in about 9 months.

Not sure where you are getting the "2-3x a day for a year". I am disappointed that MeFites are labeling this person as "mentally ill", "sick", and insane based on the limited information we have been given.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:56 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fair enough, I was off with the numbers. My mistake. I was thinking about *my* person who kept calling me.

40-50 times in 9 months is still an abnormal number of times to call someone when there has been no response. As the old saying goes, "insanity is repeating the same action and expecting different results."

Regardless of whatever diagnosis an actual professional would give the caller, if his actions freak out the OP, and s/he wants it to stop, then saying "stop calling me" will probably not work.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:11 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Gift of Fear is a great book, and a lot of people here are spot-on in their explanation of the 'absolutely no contact' strategy (and the rules of thumb such as 'picking up the phone after 50 calls just teaches the person that the cost of talking to you is 50 calls' and so forth).

However, in this case people are skipping the first part of de Becker's advice. He says "I suggest one explicit rejection and after that absolutely no contact." And he's absolutely clear about the explicit rejection--it shouldn't be confrontational/angry (that can spark aggrieved feelings and seem to "justify" a war on the part of a potential stalker), but it can't be some kind of iffy waffly nicey-nice thing. It must be firm and perfectly clear, with no caveats or alternatives. And then, the rules of absolutely positively no contact--total avoidance--go into effect.

So I think you're doing the right thing, Ommcc. If there is any contact whatsoever after your very clear and firm rejection, then there are a lot of good strategies for total avoidance that you should look into, both here and in The Gift of Fear.
posted by theatro at 2:41 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have that book, and initially I had the same thought as you, theatro. But my take on how De Becker's advice would apply here is that it's too late now to make the "Stop contacting me" demand.

As I understand it, telling a harasser to stop contacting you works best (and is actually advisable) in the beginning stages, because most people are not mentally ill to that extreme. They may have some issues that caused them to obsess and fixate on you, but firmly and unequivocally telling them to quit it will usually (hopefully) be enough. If they continue to harass you after that point, then you know you're dealing with a serious problem. In OP's situation, it has already been going on for almost a year. I agree with other commenters that it has become evident that the OP's harasser/stalker is mentally unwell, and has already crossed the line into serious problem territory. Just because they're "only phonecalls" doesn't mean it's not serious. This man is clearly motivated by means that are incomprehensible to a sane person. Of all the most socially clueless people I've ever known who cannot take hints, I can't think of one who has exhibited anything approaching this type of behavior.

OP, I think you are absolutely right to be alarmed, and in my opinion your first instincts: "Clearly I should have told this guy I no longer want to him to contact me in any form long ago but there is no way he thinks I want anything to do with him after not answering or returning his calls for this long, right?" are spot on. Please do not contact him, even if you think it will be personally satisfying. There is a chance he will stop after you confront him, but there is a bigger chance that it'll trigger an escalation of his calls. People who do this stalking thing... they don't think like normal, rational people do. Any response, any response at all, is a reward in their mind. Stalkers are so incredibly difficult to shake because they don't operate sanely, and any "common sense" approach to the problem will tend to backfire. I hope you'll reconsider.
posted by keep it under cover at 6:04 PM on February 15, 2012

I've done a fair amount of research into fixation, delusional disorders and stalking, especially erotomania, and based on that I'd say you're so much better off not responding to this man in any way at this point. Most people would get the hint and stop calling. It's significant that he doesn't understand the implicit rejection in not answering or returning his calls. The tell-tale sign of his inability to comprehend is the cluster calling. That isn't normal behavior between people who aren't close.

You are not obligated to talk to this man. You are not obligated to spend one single second trying to explain to him that he needs to stop calling. Societal conditioning teaches women that it's impolite to ignore unwanted contact. Hence, we strive to prove that we're good, polite people even when it's not in our best interest.

This could be nothing, but it doesn't feel that way based on the pattern of behavior. My instincts tell me otherwise and so do yours or else you wouldn't have asked this question. Don't ignore your instincts, if you get the creeps from this guy there's probably a good reason for it.

It will hurt nothing to ignore him for the rest of eternity. If he's fixated on you, talking to him could cement the fixation. Change your number and don't worry about making him feel better or explaining anything. Concentrate on keeping yourself safe. You are first and foremost the most important one in this equation.
posted by i feel possessed at 10:17 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

I missed that you're male when I was typing my reply, sorry. It's still applicable advice, though. People can become obsessed platonically as well as romantically.
posted by i feel possessed at 10:27 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

The suggestions to have someone else pick up the phone and pretend it's not your real number will just make him "understand" why you've never answered (he wants to know WHY. That's what's driving his persistance - hint: he probably doesn't realize what a huge asshole he is and immediately get that that's the answer) and send him on a search for your new number. Trust me. Please don't do this.

Otherwise, I bought a package of up to 30 numbers which can be blocked for definitely not over 15 dollars I don't think, but I think it was actually much less. This would be wise for you, as if he calls you from another number, you can just go ahead and call the phone company and add that to the list of blocked callers.

Good luck, but no more jellyfish actions, we want like hippopotamus actions. Not aggressive, but strong.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 10:14 AM on February 16, 2012

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