I have a tricky situation involving a past acquaintance that I'd like to get some opinions on
May 23, 2012 10:51 AM   Subscribe

I have a tricky situation involving a past acquaintance that I'd like to get some opinions on.

In my case, an acquaintance from school I knew years back is trying to contact me, saying he might move to my area, and I'd rather not get back in touch. When I knew him, he was very negative and was not pleasant company. I had pulled away from him, and it's been a few years since I saw him last. There's a chance he's changed, but I highly doubt that. It's a risk I don't want to take.

We had been in occasional "how are you" email contact, and I was OK emailing him knowing he was far away. Plus, he can come across as upbeat and friendly in emails, but in person it's a different story. It's been more than 5 months since I last emailed him. I haven't responded to the recent message he sent me about moving to my area, and now he's trying to contact me on some social sites. I feel horrible about not responding, but I really don't want to get involved with him again. In the past, he spent a lot of time complaining, making negative comments, acting angry (to the point of it being scary), and so on. I spent a TON of time stressing about him when we were in school, and I don't need that right now.

From his perspective though, it might seem like I'm suddenly blowing him off. Our last emails (even though it was 5 months ago) were friendly after all.

My main conflict is that my gut is telling me to stay away, but my conscience is saying it's terrible to ignore folks.

Anyhow, does anyone have any suggestions or ideas? What would you do in this situation?
posted by starpoint to Human Relations (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You've already established the blowoff, which is what you want. Don't go back on it now out of misplaced guilt or you'll never be rid of this guy. Just continue to not respond.
posted by facetious at 10:56 AM on May 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

Everyone is the star of their own movie. He is probably not obsessively thinking about this as you are. And if he is, well you can't control another's unique mind.

It is likely he has many other people he emails and dropoffs in communication aren't too odd in my experience- for good or bad reasons, or for no reason at all. Let it go and do not respond since it is clear you are not interested in participating in an in-person friendship again.
posted by maya at 10:57 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

You don't have to be everyone's friend. You might write him a short email:

Dear Acquaintance,

Sorry to take so long to respond. Right now things are very busy for me and it's not such a great time for us to reconnect. Good luck with your move.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:58 AM on May 23, 2012 [15 favorites]

...but my conscience is saying it's terrible to ignore folks.

I don't know how to put this lightly, but your conscience is completely wrong. You don't owe anyone your attention. If you don't want to talk to this guy, don't. Don't worry about his perspective and just keep on ignoring him.
posted by griphus at 10:58 AM on May 23, 2012 [13 favorites]

Maybe it's not the "healthy" thing, but I would just continue to ignore him. You don't owe him any favors and I feel like anything you are going to say is either going to wring him into your life closer and or be hurtful to him.
posted by Katine at 10:59 AM on May 23, 2012

"Thanks, but that's a period of my life I don't wish to re-visit. I've moved on. I hope you understand."

That should be the last thing you ever say to him.
posted by bondcliff at 10:59 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the nicest thing you can do is continue to ignore him.

Would you be more satisfied sending this person an honest email?

"You were upbeat and friendly in your emails, so I've responded to those, but now that you're actually moving here I remember how you were actually horrible to be around in person - complaining, angry, scary - and I don't want to hang out with you ever again. Welcome to the area! Cheers!"

Pretend you sent it (but don't actually do it) and continue to ignore.

If you run into this person, be pleasant but feign forgetfulness about his attempts to contact you, dodge his attempts to plan social activities with you or get your phone number, etc.
posted by lizbunny at 11:08 AM on May 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

A couple of perspectives here.

1. Of course, you are every bit within your rights not to have any social contact with this person if you don't want to.

A few years ago a minor school acquaintance I barely remembered and was never even on a first name basis with friended me on Facebook. He got a little aggressive when I kept ignoring the request, and finally I just politely told him I didn't really remember him from way back then and preferred to keep my Facebook friends limited to people I actually knew and was on friendly terms with. He eventually went away. No harm, no foul.

Likewise, you are free to tell this person you're not comfortable interacting socially. I'd be tempted to be super tactful about it, maybe just say you're busy, or you don't use social networking sites in that way, or whatever will get them to go away without being all, "I HATE YOU AND YOU SUCK AND STOP TALKING TO ME FOREVER STINKBREATH."

2. In the fifteen-odd years since high school, I've had the opportunity to reconnect with a lot of people I didn't really like back then, or who had this or that glaring personality flaw that made them insufferable. Quite a few of them have grown up into nice people who are perfectly fine to have a drink with. Some of the most insufferable ones grew up to be really cool! It might not be a bad idea to get together to have a coffee or a drink or some short and low-intensity social interaction. Because you never know.

Then again, if it hasn't been all that long and you're pretty sure they are still the way you remember them, and the whole thing stresses you out a lot, see #1 above.
posted by Sara C. at 11:09 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

What I've learned is to always go with your gut feeling. Don't try to convince yourself otherwise. Follow the advice above-either write him a letter wishing him well or just completely ignore him. The message should be clear regardless of the method you use.
posted by livinglearning at 11:14 AM on May 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you just don't want to see him, that's ok. I don't think you need to feel guilty about that - you have no obligation to him! So I would write him a simple and clear response saying you don't want to be involved - then there is no misunderstandings.
posted by EatMyHat at 11:29 AM on May 23, 2012

...but my conscience is saying it's terrible to ignore folks.

If they are in serious need and you can help them without destroying yourself. This fellow isn't homeless or suicidal or even (as far as you know) especially lonely. You aren't obligated to pro-actively make people happy or meet their everyday needs. (I differ from the mefi consensus position that you should always feel free to say now - I think sometimes it's right to take up difficult and painful responsibilities for others - but there is NO reason that this should be one of them.)
posted by Frowner at 11:33 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't feel guilty. You can't be the friend of absolutely everyone. You only have so much energy and time, and you have to use it wisely.

I'd start with Ruthless Bunny's advice above, because I think the first step should usually be to remove any possibility of an honest misunderstanding about why you aren't responding.

And then no more communications or responses.
posted by tyllwin at 11:50 AM on May 23, 2012


If there's a RL challenge later on (which I doubt), his emails could always have been 'misdirected to your junk folder' and you simply never saw them.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:31 PM on May 23, 2012

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