What should I do about gossiping and emotionally abusive friends?
March 10, 2013 6:07 PM   Subscribe

This might qualify as a rant, so I apologize if it is. Recently I have realized I am at my wits' end regarding my friends. I do not think that they mean to do so, but quite often they belittle me. When I have tried to approach a few of them regarding it, it ends up being my fault. I just don't think I can handle them anymore. Advice?

I am the president of a small club devoted to game design at my university. I replaced the previous president who wasn't able to fulfill his duties due to personal issues. However, I found out upon his return that he has basically gossiped about me since returning in an attempt to campaign against me. Part of me suspects it killed the morale in the club (since I was the big "dummy" to many people after hearing the "enlightened opinion" of someone who never attended a meeting).

The other part that stinks is that I told people that they could approach me if they had an issue with me. This person was supposed to be a friend, but I have found that he has started to dominate my own projects with other people. I think I am going to kick him to the curb.

I also have friends who belittle me in front of others. One of my friends said I was trying to be untrue to who I was simply because I went outside to get fresh air ("geeks don't need to be outside to win other people's approval"). He proceeded to tell other people this even though I knew it wasn't true. Recently, he criticized me for getting a B in a computer science class (which I received due to personal issues, not because I didn't know the material), makes fun of me for being an Honors student, and even said I don't have a "real skill" in front of bunch of our other mutual friends.

I don't think any of this stuff is malicious, but it is start to seriously wear on me and I think my friends are immature. Therefore, I am thinking of kicking them (and several other similar friends) to the curb. The whole incident has helped me realize in the end that I am better off working alone. And while these examples aren't all that has occurred, they are representative of the types of relationships I have had with them.

In the end, it is particularly difficult since I won't have many friends if I cut them from my social network. But I don't think I can bear them anymore.

Thoughts? Thanks for reading my post.
posted by xShinigamiEyesx to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
No friends is better than friends who are shitheads.

You will eventually find new people to hang out with. Don't spend time with people who try to make you feel bad.
posted by phunniemee at 6:11 PM on March 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


People who belittle you in front of others AREN'T friends. Do your own thing, be proud of yourself, work hard, and 'do the right thing' in everything you do... you'll find other friends.
posted by matty at 6:18 PM on March 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


Ditch them all with my blessing, they sound like complete assholes with an artificial image of what real 'geeks' are like, who can't even decide if they are too 'cool' for being good at school or too 'geeky' to do badly at school. If you want a comeback, 'real geeks don't give a shit what grade someone else got'.

And who knows, maybe being part of a group of assholes was cutting off your chances of being friends with nice people who just wouldn't ever put up with being around your now-former friends.
posted by jacalata at 6:19 PM on March 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


I had a friend like this. I gave her a thousand excuses- she'd faced extreme abuse in the past, it wasn't her fault, she deserved some slack- but at the end putting up with her abuse just made her an abuser and me a victim, and neither of us friends. It ended very bitterly on my end as I felt I had been such a good friend and deserved better.... YOU DO DESERVE BETTER and although it's hard to do, cut your losses now...

Once a cut a couple of poisonous people out of my life, good people filled the hole. Interestingly almost immediately. It was like the negative energy had been drained out of me giving me space to receive positive energy from good people. I was shocked and surprised and how that unexpected and GOOD friendship felt. I wish you that same feeling in the near future.
posted by cacao at 6:19 PM on March 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


I had a friend like this. I finally cut all ties, one of the better things I have done in my life. This is bullying behavior and you should not put up with it.
posted by fifilaru at 6:22 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I went to a relatively small school (~4000 undergrads) and found that a bunch of the nerd culture clubs were dominated by a small set of people with "strong personalities" — the kind who treat conversation like a personal challenge, call you out on everything, seize every opportunity to assert themselves and demonstrate their own superiority, etc. I found that environment unpleasant and draining, and generally avoided nerd culture for most of undergrad. I guess I did miss out on things I would have enjoyed, but I see it as a function of an unpleasant environment as opposed to a personal failure: less "I could have made it work if I tried harder" and more "it could've been worse if I stayed longer."

For me, the ultimate point of being in a club is doing something I enjoy in a positive, supportive environment. If you like game design, it obviously makes sense to stick with game design. It sounds like you don't have a supportive social environment where you go to school. I'm not sure what the benefit to you might be from sticking it out: I wouldn't think that "game design club president" is that impressive to employers, and it doesn't sound like you're going to have fun if you stick with it. Consider looking for leadership opportunities in another setting.
posted by Nomyte at 6:31 PM on March 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Best answer: I won't have many friends if I cut them from my social network

Think of it this way: the time you spend with jerks who think it's ok to treat other people this way is time you can't spend making new friends who treat you better.

I know that making friends can be hard and intimidating, and it can seem like a good strategy to stick with people who sort of halfway act like friends. I've done it. I think a lot of people do it. But if you're willing to branch out a little, it can get so much better. Giving a good friend a second chance, or accepting a heartfelt apology is different from putting up with consistently disrespectful treatment. I'm not suggesting that no one deserves a second chance, or no one can improve their behavior, but you need to stop hoping for that at a certain point--and you've reached that point.

If the culture of your club has gotten toxic, it's ok to step down. If they're already gossiping about you, well... what do you have to lose? In any case, I wonder if there's a way to apply your interest and skills with another group or activity. For instance, there might be a club oriented toward something else you like, and you could find a niche with them by creating a game or app around their theme.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:38 PM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I won't have many friends if I cut them from my social network

Incorrect; you'll have exactly the same number of friends, because none of these people are your friend.

Here is a good metric for whether or not someone is a true friend: every time, after spending time with that person, you feel better about yourself. You feel hopeful, confident, smart, kind.

This set of people you've fallen in with sound like assholes. Ditch them. They're making your life miserable. Being alone is better than spending time with these people.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:10 PM on March 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


I don't think any of this stuff is malicious

You know, it sounds malicious to me. Criticizing you for your grades? Who does that? Certainly not friends. Nobody I'd want to spend time with, anyway.

Unless the atmosphere at your university is uniformly awful, you'll be able to find a club that does something else with people in it who are actually friendly. Maybe something really far away from nerdery, or a different brand of nerdery entirely. You'll feel so much better.

Do game design work by yourself, or find people to collaborate with online or if you're in a big city, maybe find somewhere outside of your school. Because, honestly, these people sound like they suck. There are so many good people out there; spend your time on them (or on yourself).
posted by BungaDunga at 7:15 PM on March 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Best answer: The first time they do it in an evening/conversation/time you're hanging out:
"You're being awfully negative. How about if we both try not to do that tonight/right now?"

The second time:
"There you go being negative again. I think I'd rather be positive."

The third time:
"I'm going to go to [some other place] and think happy thoughts. Hope you can join me."

And then you walk away. You go to that place, and you sit there for about ten minutes just thinking any ol' happy stuff. How much you're looking forward to this week's episode of "Archer," or how well you're doing in a class that you're really rocking, or how good is that cocoa you're drinking. If the person comes after you and doesn't continue being negative, then great.

If the person comes after you and keeps picking at you, then tell them, "No. We're done. Go away." If the person keeps in on you, raise your voice. "I ASKED YOU TO STEP AWAY FROM ME." Make a fuss. At that point, that person is an asshole who's ignored four warnings that you don't want to engage in the conversation he or she wants to have. You are being harassed at that point, and it is not incumbent upon the harassee to walk away.

Note that I haven't called that person your friend. That's because, as other people have said, people who act like this when you've asked them not to are assholes, not friends, and you are better off. No one worth keeping in your circle is going to side with the asshole.
posted by Etrigan at 7:17 PM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Best answer: The first part of your post - about your role as leader of the group - made me think of the theory of Differentiated Leadership. You sound un-differentiated - your role as a friend and your role as a leader are too intertwined in your head. Your friends might be shitheads, but as a leader you have a responsibility not to let that toxicity affect you, because otherwise it increases in the system.

Whether you ditch your friends or ditch your leadership role, or neither, or both, it sounds like there is some work to do on strengthening your sense of self. It's OK to bow out and gather strength elsewhere, but your situation is kind of a perfect learning environment for self-differentiation, should you wish to take it on. However, if you do, then begin to work on your backup plan - expand your hobbies, or gather some new friends you can unwind with when you need some time out from the toxicity.
posted by cogat at 7:55 PM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry you're going trough this. Life is too short to spend it with negative people. That's what these are, towards you anyway.

I've had negative friends. When I cut them out, not only did I feel better about myself and have more energy to focus on what made me happy, but I discovered that maintaining my association with those people had been costing me respect with genuinely good people who didn't understand why I was hanging out with such jerks.

Cut them out. You don't need them. Not for anything.
posted by dry white toast at 7:58 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also have friends who belittle me in front of others.

Real friends don't do that.

You need to make some new friends, and when you do, remember:

"When you choose your friends, don't be short-changed by choosing personality over character."

-Somerset Maugham
posted by xm at 8:15 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: Thanks for the advice. All of it has been helpful.

So I kicked the person who was going to be the president before me and a few other negative people in my life off of my Facebook list. I haven't kicked the one who belittles me in public, but that's because I have to finish a midterm project with him. Since I am close to him, I am going to warn him before kicking him. But I am going to make it clear that enough is enough. That I deserve positivity in my life.

I realize that I myself sometimes joke in a way that could be construed as harassing (although I see it as light-hearted fun) so I think I might have invited this somewhat. Nonetheless, I am going to be more sensitive to it.

As for the club, many people in it were my friends before I became president. So it made it difficult. I know the club would have functioned fine if people trusted my leadership, but I think negative people made it difficult. I'll try to salvage what I can, but I am not going to take negativity as an excuse anymore. Once the current semester is over, I will just work on private projects. A few of these might even be online.

Once more, thanks for the advice!
posted by xShinigamiEyesx at 10:45 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I think that at some point you should set aside the debate as to whether these problematic people are "friends" or "assholes," and try and think of them as people who are somehow being trained or encouraged to behave in ways you don't like. Since you are in a position of leadership and you seem to be a common element in the conflicts, there's a good chance that something you're doing is actually encouraging the behavior you don't like. That encouragement may be as simple as your predictable willingness to engage in arguments and get defensive (I'm speculating, not claiming that this is how you behave). Often the best response to bad behavior is no response at all; active attempts to control the situation can end up making it worse.
posted by jon1270 at 4:12 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Don't judge the intent, just the action. I also have friends who belittle me in front of others. One of my friends said I was trying to be untrue to who I was simply because I went outside to get fresh air ("geeks don't need to be outside to win other people's approval"). He proceeded to tell other people this even though I knew it wasn't true. Recently, he criticized me for getting a B in a computer science class (which I received due to personal issues, not because I didn't know the material), makes fun of me for being an Honors student, and even said I don't have a "real skill" in front of bunch of our other mutual friends.

It may be that this person wants to psychoanalyze you, but in any case, just blandly say "Why are you analyzing/ criticizing my intentions? How peculiar." "You seem to feel you are an expert on my feelings. That is, of course, ridiculous." Don't argue or discuss. A puzzled stare is a help. To other "X said that? How strange that someone would discuss me that way." Look for friends who are less toxic. Learn how to not feed the troll; they get lots of energy when you engage them, and will continue their efforts.
posted by theora55 at 11:53 AM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: @Jon1270:
I think I do encourage it to some extent. I think I am so worried about being liked that I joke back or give a response to negative behavior. Perhaps it is time to nip it in the bud in the way theora55 suggests.

I likewise just found out that the first person I mentioned campaigned privately with several people against me. The infuriating thing is that I asked for feedback countless times and no one gave it to me. I am starting to think that is a flaw on their part, not mine. I want to resign, purge those people from my life, and start learning how to find healthier friendships.
posted by xShinigamiEyesx at 1:35 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


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