How to deal with passive aggressive females?
January 8, 2014 11:59 AM   Subscribe

There is a girl in my circle who has taken to completely ignoring me and making snide remarks in front of me. Let's call her J. For instance, I sat across J during dinner when our group was at a restaurant. J would talk to 1) the people next to her and 2) the people sitting next to me. She never once said so much as a word to me, and when I joined in a conversation J and other people are having, J quickly looks bored and turns away. You'd think from her behavior, we're all in middle school. Nope, we are 21 years old and in college. This is also our church group (ha, ironic). I've pretty much ignored J's antics for the past 5 months, but since she hangs out with us a lot, it's becoming difficult to ignore. I'm wondering when she'll let the phase subside, and if I should even do anything?

I'm pretty sure I know why she's treating me this way, too. Back in September in the van , one of J's friends was being loudly obnoxious in the backseat. I turned around to see who was making the noise, then ignored it. My face must have had a look of disgust though, because J's friend subsequently became silent, and from that day onwards, J started giving me the cold shoulder.

No, I don't know why girls have to make mountains out of molehills. And even if this was somehow my fault, how would I apologize? "Sorry I gave your friend a look of disgust 5 months ago? I was tired that day and didn't want to hear your loud yelling at 9 a.m. in the morning?"

Also, she has taken to act overly sweet to my new friends (in front of me) with sycophantic comments like, "Oh, your sweater is so adorable!" , etc. Still doesn't so much glance in my direction.

This kind of thing is hard to confront, too. She will no doubt deny everything, not to mention spread her version of my confrontation among the group. For the record, I do not hang around the group much except with the few good friends within the group, but I don't want to avoid all future hangouts just because of J's passive aggressive behavior.
posted by echoplasm to Human Relations (48 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
First off, you are probably not doing yourself any favors by calling women "females" and "girls" and making blanket statements about their behavior. That said, the best way to deal with problematic interpersonal relationships is to talk them out honestly and with some humility. Say to her something along the lines of, "It seems like I've done something to offend you. I hope that's not the case, but if I did, I'm sorry, and I hope we can put it behind us."

If you do that and she still gives you the cut direct, that's on her and her bad manners, but you've got to be the bigger person first.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:07 PM on January 8, 2014 [74 favorites]

Have you tried engaging J directly in conversation? I'd start there.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:07 PM on January 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

If you want to do something about it, I think the best thing you can say is something like this:

"Hey, I feel like you're pointedly ignoring me for some reason and I'd like to clear the air with you. I'd like to be friends with you or at least cordial and I feel like you are being cold to me. Have I offended you?"

And then have a sincere, straightforward conversation with her. If you've offended her, sincerely apologize. Do as little explaining of your side as you can. Your goal is not to convince her of anything, it is to establish a warmer peace than you currently have.

If she won't be an adult about it, that's on her. If she tries to poison other people against you, there's not much you can do about it other than to be decent and straightforward with everybody and let them come to their own conclusions.
posted by gauche at 12:08 PM on January 8, 2014 [15 favorites]

It seems like you never talk to her directly, either. Next time you're in proximity, strike up a conversation. "Hi! How about those bowling scores, huh?"

Most people react well to people who take the time to try to engage.
posted by xingcat at 12:10 PM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

I agree. Just ask if you've offended her and apologize if you have.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:11 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

She sounds like an anus. Ugh.

I don't think you should make this A Thing. Like, don't pull her aside for a chat, DON'T apologize, DON'T turn it into something where you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around her because that shit is tiresome and you're an adult and shouldn't have to deal with it.

Talk to her as if she's a normal non-anus person. If she rebuffs you when you're being friendly and trying to converse with her in a group setting, she will be the one looking like an antisocial nutjob in front of everyone else. Not you. She will out herself as a dick if she can't play nicely with others.

If she blatantly ignores you at a gathering like she did at that dinner, just kind of chuckle and cheerfully say, "ha, I'm right here, J, you can ask me!"

Try to ignore the way she's acting toward your friends. You really can't control her interactions with other people, but you CAN control the way you act towards her. Pretend as if there's nothing wrong, because you have done nothing wrong.
posted by phunniemee at 12:11 PM on January 8, 2014 [12 favorites]

The best way to deal with passive aggressive people is to be direct and forthcoming with them.

Alternatively, since she's not even your friend, you could just get over it.
posted by sm1tten at 12:12 PM on January 8, 2014 [8 favorites]

An adult takes this on directly. Have a rational, honest, non-accusatory conversation with her. If you are worried about reaction, have a mutually respected 3rd party present to act as a sort of mediator.

If she, and your mutual friends, can not rise above this childish behavior - then they are not worth having as friends.

The worst thing to do, the childish middle-school thing, would be to talk to one friend, and hatch some plan, and start some drama chain.

Confront her. Stand up for yourself. Be an adult.
posted by Flood at 12:13 PM on January 8, 2014

There is just an outside chance that she's not mad at you but scared and embarrassed. Is there some reason why she might think of you as intimidating or cold or judgmental? I know that when I am worried that I have offended someone (or that I am associated with someone who caused offense) sometimes I avoid talking to the person in question as well. She might not be trying to be snide; she might just feel like you already dislike her and feel really awkward. (This is particularly true if she is not someone who makes a lot of other drama with other people.)

Alternatively, she might have a crush on you and feel extra embarrassed because you "gave her a look of disgust" all those months ago.

I would say that a direct conversation in the style recommended by gauche is still the best bet.

She might just be a giant drama-llama, but often people aren't actually being drama-llamas but are ashamed, shy or just unsure how to act.

It's possible that she doesn't like you and is being rude because she lacks social skills. If that's the case, a charm offensive might actually work - if you talk to her as recommended upthread, she might start liking or at least tolerating you. A lot of people who are rude/awkward can be won over because they often dislike people more out of fear than out of real dislike.
posted by Frowner at 12:15 PM on January 8, 2014 [9 favorites]

Do you ever talk to her, or do you just notice how she isn't talking to you? (I didn't notice any snide remarks, so it really isn't clear what those might be.) Just talk to her normally and let it go. Either she will respond normally in return, in which case it might have been a weird misunderstanding, or she will be polite but distant, because not everyone gets along, or she will act rudely, in which case you will look reasonable (and, as a bonus, that really gets at people who are trying to provoke reactions).

Also, your disdain for women might be affecting things. "Your sweater is so adorable" isn't sycophantic, it's a pretty standard compliment.
posted by jeather at 12:15 PM on January 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

Passive aggressive behavior begets passive aggressive behavior.

In other words, you sort of started it, so if you want it to stop, start treating this person as a person and talk to her directly about her behavior.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:16 PM on January 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ignore. Ignore ignore ignore.

This has three benefits.

For one thing, there is a strong possibility that this woman has no particular problem with you and means absolutely nothing by her behavior. I am a little socially clueless and have been in situations before where I didn't do a good job of talking to everyone at the dinner table, or felt shy around a new person and came off as being standoffish, or had bitchy resting face, or whatever and someone has taken it the wrong way. It's even happened that I thought someone was really cool, and desperately wanted to be their friend, but just didn't have anything interesting to say to them and didn't want to come off as being weird, and somehow they thought I was snubbing them when really that was the opposite of my intention.

For another thing, there is no real way to win this. If she really is being petty and passive aggressive, confronting her about it isn't going to make her like you, or make her not be like that anymore. (Most passive aggressive people have that trait deeply ingrained in their way of handling conflict, and being told not to act that way isn't going to have an effect.) The best approach to someone you dislike who you're forced to interact with for social reasons is to just ignore them. Which means actually ignore, not pretend you don't care but secretly keep score of every time you think they snubbed you.

For a third thing, if you do try to make a stink about it, other people will think you are the one being petty and middle schoolish. Past the age of 18, for the most part nobody cares about who is not on speaking terms with who because of so and so's camping trip where such and such glanced at whatshername in a particular manner. If your friends are still like this, the answer is to get new more mature friends, not to sink to their level.
posted by Sara C. at 12:16 PM on January 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

I cut myself off.

Maybe spend more time hanging out with the people you are close to in the group AWAY from the group, rather than using the group as the only way that you can hang out with your actual friends.
posted by sm1tten at 12:17 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

This exact same situation happened to me a few months ago, and I'm much older than you. The man in question would engage everyone at the table but me, and every time I talked he would ignore me and visibly change his body language. I finally caught him after a meal and said, "Hey, do you have a fucking problem with me?" to which his reply was "Yes, in fact I do." He then started walking away, probably shocked by my directness, I then told him that he could go fuck himself, I didn't do anything to him to deserve being treated that way. He later apologized to me, but it was half-assed. We never really spoke again. But here's the key change that came out of the confrontation: it stopped bothering me.

Let me give you a great one-liner. Neglect is a form of abuse. This person is doing what they are doing intentionally and yes, it is probably over something stupid, because that's how people act when it's over something stupid. It's not just in your head, it's real.

Having said that, there is a number of ways to play this and I don't suggest you take my line. You can be friendly and slightly oblivious, or reconciliatory and straightforward. What I discovered is that most (if not all) people inflict pain because they are scared, in pain themselves, or want to be loved more by you. Nobody wants to admit that, but it's true.

There is no shame in being polite. Just don't start groveling. Own the fact that she makes you feel uncomfortable. Own it. Nothing she says from that point on can take it away from you. If she wants to continue to be a bitch, that will be totally on her and you'll notice it won't bother you anymore and she'll be the one feeling the pressure.
posted by phaedon at 12:18 PM on January 8, 2014 [11 favorites]

Another vote for gauche's direct conversation. It's the most mature thing to do. Even if she doesn't respond maturely, you've taken the high road and gotten some good practice for future situations where you may need to do something similar.
posted by Miko at 12:20 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Kill her with kindness. Whenever you do see her, be EXTRA friendly. Not like sarcastic-friendly or cloyingly sweet, but just genuinely nice. Maybe she thinks you're stuck-up or whatever and doesn't have any incentive to interact with you. Ask about how her day/weekend/whatever is going, ask her opinion on things, and be positive.

If that doesn't work after a month or two, forget her.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:23 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

To clarify: when I say "confronting her about it" and "making a big stink", I'm referring to the prospect of creating further drama in your social group by doing so in an angry and confrontational way, or by retaliating through back-channels within your circle.

If you like her and genuinely feel like there's been a misunderstanding between you, or have actual information you want to gather about whether you've upset her, in good faith, by all means be direct and just talk to the woman.
posted by Sara C. at 12:25 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

In fact I have a news flash for you that really helps reset my internal thought conversation. Ready for it? Not everybody in the world is going to like you! Can you seriously comprehend that? It's fucking liberating. Not everybody is going to like you. How exciting!

The best thing to do in this situation might be to catch her in private and say, "Did I do something to offend you?" and you can add "Because if so, I'd like to make it up to you." This will stun the person and their behavior. If they deny there is a problem, let them do that and tell them to have a nice day. They'll either talk to you, come back and talk to you at a later point, or change their attitude towards you completely.

You'll have given the other person a very reasonable chance to talk to you and that's all you can do. It's extremely empowering. And that's the real issue at hand here. Feeling empowered in social situations that might involve low-grade (or even high-grade) conflict. There's something great about letting a person be a dick and not letting it bother you. They just totally pay the entire price. On the other hand, you might have the makings of an improved relationship here. Great life question, thanks for posting it.
posted by phaedon at 12:29 PM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I think the chances are pretty good that J's version of this story would be different. Not in the sense that I think either of you would be lying - I don't - but different in a Rashomon kind of way.

Something that might help to consider is that when friction arises in groups like this, there's rarely a single cause for it. I can think of times when I've been offended by someone I basically liked, and my reaction was different than when I was offended by someone I already wasn't getting along with. My guess is that there's something or other going on here; something you're probably not aware of.

I mean, if I were to ask J what's going on here, do you think she'd say, "This person made a face one time half a year ago and it permanently soured my impression of them forever?" Or do you think maybe that was only one point on a continuum of annoyance whose origin even she might not totally know?

I ask this because her behavior sounds like the behavior of someone who isn't necessarily trying to antagonize you; rather, she sounds like someone who dislikes you and is trying to avoid making waves. From what you say, she's not cutting you down - in fact, she's basically acting like you aren't there at all.

The trouble with a question like this is, there's no way I can ask you, "What are you doing that you're not aware of that might be rubbing her the wrong way?" Because, you know, you wouldn't be aware of it. Also, rubbing her the wrong way wouldn't mean she's right and you're wrong; it's about how she takes things, not whether or not she's right to take them that way.

Your best bet would be to try to talk to her when the two of you are alone - this would be a terrible idea in a group setting - and just say something like, "Hey, I kind of noticed you're giving me the cold shoulder. And that's totally your right, but I just don't want it to be weird for us to be in the same room. So check it out: If I've done anything to offend you, I apologize. I don't like thinking I've upset anyone. We don't need to be best buddies or anything but I'd like to be able to coexist at the least, you know? That's all. Sorry if this was awkward."

If she then indicates something you did to upset her, then just listen and apologize one more time and don't argue with her. If she apologizes for being weird herself, that's fine too. Take it in stride and say okay. If she reacts any other way, then just ignore her in the future and spend your energies interacting with other people in the group.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:30 PM on January 8, 2014 [28 favorites]

"How to deal with passive aggressive females?"

"No, I don't know why girls have to make mountains out of molehills."

Do you frequently talk like this about women around her? If so, I don't think her behavior is particularly off base.

I think your only real option is to ask, but I would only do it if you are open to the answer.
posted by pizzazz at 12:35 PM on January 8, 2014 [63 favorites]

If you have ever commented about "females" around her in a similar way to your post here, I can see why she's acting this way. I would too.
posted by celtalitha at 12:39 PM on January 8, 2014 [10 favorites]

Aaaand should have previewed. What Pizzazz said!
posted by celtalitha at 12:40 PM on January 8, 2014

Agreed, ask if you've been an inadvertently offensive & apologize.

Make sure you're sincere about this. That is the key. If you don't care about her, think she's a snot, want to show her up at all, then this will fall flat on it's face. She won't tell you if she was hurt, and she'll up the passive snark.

Sometimes we just get off on the wrong foot with people. So if you really can't clear the air, or attempts to clear the air make it worse, then give up and ignore.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:41 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I may be of a differing opinion here, and while I generally agree that directly confronting the problem is the 'adult' thing to do---it doesn't necessarily mean it's the right action for the situation.

You mentioned being 21 and in college. This is the perfect breeding ground for immaturity and drama and I have a feeling that engaging in a direct conversation about your feelings with this person may just open you up for continued mistreatment and/or ridicule. After all, how do you have a 'mature' conversation and expect mature behavior from someone already behaving immaturely?

Her actions are very High School - expect that level of maturity in dealing with her.
posted by stubbehtail at 12:42 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ok, wisdom from the older generation coming up. Unfortunately you are learning the hard way that some people never left junior high. This will continue to be an issue for you all your life, as there will always be people around you that never left junior high. I'm in my fifties, and these people are still around. It's so frustrating when you get pulled into that orbit because it's so difficult to respond maturely when dealing with an immature person. There will always be people like this at work, at church, in your circle of friends, on the bus, at the theater. I personally believe that you are NOT required to deal with them directly, because their own behavior doesn't deserve courtesy or consideration, especially the consideration of direct communication.

My standard advice is to deal with them with humor. Some of the humor can be slightly condescending, because that's what the behavior deserves. Being directly ignored in a group setting calls for a big smile towards everyone else and a shrug while saying "Still not speaking to me, I guess!" Or "Standing right here!" You get the idea. The trick is to be very casual, very upbeat, and direct your comments to the other members of the group. When she's at her worst, you have to treat her rudeness kinda like an inside joke that everyone else is in on except her. Because if the situation is as you described, that is the reality.

I didn't get a vibe that you have a condescending attitude toward women. I get that you have a condescending attitude toward this woman, and justifiably so, in my opinion.
posted by raisingsand at 12:54 PM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

You'd think from her behavior, we're all in middle school.

Back in September in the van , one of J's friends was being loudly obnoxious in the backseat. I turned around to see who was making the noise, then ignored it. My face must have had a look of disgust though, because J's friend subsequently became silent

J's behavior is not the only behavior in this situation that is reminiscent of middle school. And I say that as someone who is a self-admitted 23-yo female cranky old man.

Also, as someone with an abrasive personality, I go into all situations like this knowing that at least 50% of the problem is probably me. So, if someone is "giving me the cold shoulder" or being snide or whatever, I always approach the issue assuming that the whole thing is partly my fault. Your approach - writing off your bad behavior as okay because you were tired, while refusing to flex with her bad behavior - is not helping anything.

Also nthing the comments re: blanket statements about "females" being inappropriate.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:02 PM on January 8, 2014 [9 favorites]

Your attitude towards her indicates you don't like her, and her attitude towards you seems to indicate that she doesn't like you - so, what's the problem? Two people don't like one another and have nothing to do with one another. End of story.
posted by heyjude at 1:06 PM on January 8, 2014 [13 favorites]

I'm not seeing anything particularly passive aggressive or even "bad" in your description of her behaviour (it may be there in reality, but I don't see it here). She hasn't said anything rude to you, or done anything worse than not initiating conversation with you or complimenting you (do you do those things to her?).

My guess would be that it's either completely unintentional (we often focus our conversational energies on the people we're most emotionally close to, when in a group), or that she doesn't like you but likes your other friends, and doesn't want to cause problems in the group by openly saying "hey I don't like you because XYZ". totally the best thing to do in that situation. Especially if your conversations have gone over poorly in the past.

I'm not really seeing the problem here. You can't really force someone to not ignore you. If it's really overt and bothering you, you can ask "hey did something I do bother you? you seem distant" or something, or go the more subtle route of being more friendly with her and engaging her in conversation.
posted by randomnity at 1:07 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, women can be difficult at that age. I don't think you are displaying disdain at all. You could always try inviting her out for coffee to talk about some shared interest in order to break the ice.

Good luck! People in their twenties can be pretty obnoxious until they either get married or get married to other obnoxious people.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:08 PM on January 8, 2014

I think you guys are blowing the whole "females" thing way out of proportion. There is an entire industry of pop psychology that tells us that women and men have different means of dealing with each other socially. I'm not saying the distinction is a good one or even accurate, I'm just saying no one's calling Tina Fey and being all "but boys can be mean, toooo!"

My interpretation of the OP's phrasing is "a person is behaving toward me in a stereotypically Mean Girls fasion, please hope me!" I'm just not getting the feeling here that OP is a misogynist worthy of our ire.
posted by phunniemee at 1:08 PM on January 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

It's your church group. Tell her you see she's angry with you, you don't know why, and you'll pray that she comes to her senses.

A woman I work around became angry with me a few years ago and started sticking her nose in the air any time we passed each other in the hallway or bathroom. I confronted her one day (when we were alone together in the elevator) to be sure I wasn't making this up, and I asked her to explain why. She said it was far too complicated to explain. So I told her what I thought had upset her. She agreed that I was right. I then told her my opinion of the situation, which was that she had willingly participated in insurance fraud and since she is a lawyer representing insurance companies, I think her clients would be horrified if they knew what she had done. She was angry with me because I had found out about it.

Now? She avoids me. She's afraid of me. And I say, good riddance to bad rubbish.
posted by janey47 at 1:17 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

phunniemee: I'm just not getting the feeling here that OP is a misogynist worthy of our ire.

I think it is important to point out that saying things like, "I don't know why girls have to make mountains out of molehills" may not be winning him any points with a woman with whom he'd like to be cordial. He may not be aware of the negative impact that sort of rhetoric can have on some people.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:20 PM on January 8, 2014 [17 favorites]

I want to add onto my answer because I don't want to seem like I don't believe your interpretation - I've had people snub me in a rude and hostile way that seems very obvious in person but seems like nothing when you try to describe it in words. And that may very well be the case here.

At the same time, I've had a few people accuse me of "ignoring them" and "not liking them" for the exact behaviours you describe her doing - initiating conversation with others but not them, complimenting others but not them, "looking bored" in conversation, etc. In my case it's been caused by introversion/shyness/obliviousness/sub-optimal social skills (yes these are all different, but can overlap), and sometimes also dislike for the person involved. It's never ever been an attempt to subtly hurt their feelings, cause others to dislike them, or however else you're defining "passive aggressive". It's purely defense, not offense.

And again, that may very well be the case here too. None of us can tell what's really happening without being there, but hopefully different potential explanations help even if they may not be true for your situation.
posted by randomnity at 1:21 PM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Talking to her doesn't have to be confrontational at all: "hey, are we okay?"

She's unlikely to use it as an opening to air her grievances, but either way you can shrug it off and let it be her problem. If/when she plays dumb, "oh good, I can be a bit neurotic and worry too much. Glad it's nothing."
posted by politikitty at 1:24 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you like her; do you want to be friends with her? If not, you've got it made: she doesn't talk to you!

There's no need to "confront" something if it doesn't really affect you. Since you're still hanging out with the rest of your friends, it doesn't appear that it's impacting your social life, so, really, who cares what this woman's problem is.

Rock Steady: I think it is important to point out that saying things like, "I don't know why girls have to make mountains out of molehills" may not be winning him

What makes you think the OP is a man? This whole "stop saying females" thing is a stupid derail, it seems very unlikely that's the cause of this problem.
posted by spaltavian at 1:33 PM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Came back to say this. I was in a pretty big friend/work group. Lots of us got together outside of work to socialize. I got a call from a friend asking if I wanted to ride with her to a party of a person in our acquaintance who was having a birthday. I said, "No thanks, I wasn't invited."

My friend said, "don't be silly, I'm sure it was an oversight, she likes you fine."

I said, "No, really, she doesn't dig me. Really and trully."

My friend said, "Everyone from work is going, you should come with us, I'm sure it'll be fine."

I had a weird feeling about it, but my friend was so passionate. So I went out and really outdid myself with her present. I bought 30 little items, wrapped them up with little poems on each, about turning thirty. Everyone at the party thought the gift was so thoughtful, and sweet and the birthday girl looked like I had gift-wrapped a turd.

As we drove home after the party, my friend turned to me and said, "Wow! I never noticed before, but you're right, she doesn't like you."

And that, my friend, is sometimes how it goes. There are people you rub the wrong way and nothing you do will ever make you friends. I was always cordial to her going forward, I even helped her get a job when she wanted to relocate. But I know that for whatever reason, we never clicked.

So once you've attempted to 'make it right' it's okay to give up. Not everyone has to like you and vice-versa.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:39 PM on January 8, 2014 [9 favorites]

it sounds like you're both behaving like jr high kids - she doesn't talk to you and makes a point to avoid you in the conversation...but it sort of sounds like you're doing the same thing. you're mad that she told your new friends that she likes their sweater? it sounds like you're engaged in some sort of weird power struggle about dominance (but in a back biting "sweet" church sort of way). be the change you want to see, stop behaving so passive aggressively towards her, take her at face value. the best remedy for passive aggression is to pretend you don't see it. next time you're in a conversation and she pointedly ignores you, just ask her a direct question relating to the topic and see what happens.
posted by nadawi at 1:39 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another older generation checking in here (I'm a woman, too).

About the "girls" comment--anyone can make mountains out of molehills, believe me. This is not a girl thing, it is a person thing. Personally, I think the sweater being adorable comment comes across as a bit cloying and precious.

But you know, it also sounds like someone trying too hard. She may be insecure and compensating for that by bing extra nice to the guys she feels like her, because she thinks you don't care for her (or her friend or whatever). This is NOT something you have to fix, any more than a woman needs to fix it when an insecure guy's actions make her uncomfortable! But it might help you to see her actions with a bit more empathy, FWIW.

So that's why, although I would not go into this in an overly-conciliatory "How can I make it up to you?" way, I would definitely confront her about her actions towards you. Next time she ignores you, just ask her straight out, "J, did I do something to offend you?" And leave it at that.

It may better if you can just ask her one-to-one, but she is acting out publicly, and she is also actively avoiding you so that could be hard to manage. Additionally, pulling her aside to speak with her privately may seem more confrontational and aggressive than just flat out addressing her on her behavior as it occurs. Which is when you need to do it! In the future, keep in mind that this passive aggressive stuff tends to fester if you let it go on too long and become toxic. The sooner you get to the bottom of it, the better.

Good luck!
posted by misha at 1:40 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds like she doesn't like you. You can't make her like you, but you can ask her to be civil. And be happy, and cool, and then she may decides she likes you after all.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:51 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't it matters if the OP is male or female. I would not like a woman making sexist comments either.

Any hoot-- Maybe if you want to get complimented on your sweater, you should wear cuter sweaters. Alternatively, if you want to be included in conversations you should initiate your own with your friends instead of jumping in on her conversations. I don't see her as the rude one here.
posted by spunweb at 1:53 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

OK, so "females make mountains out of molehills" is a pretty sexist and inaccurate statement. But it doesn't make the OP the worst misogynist in the world or anything.


That attitude is also really counterproductive to your situation, OP. For one thing, you are assuming that the issue is a molehill. You're assuming that situation X (the face in the car) caused reaction Y (getting the cut direct from this woman). But you have no idea whether that is the truth. It could very well be a mountain! Or at least a large hill. Maybe you snarked on something important to her, or inadvertently passed judgment on something that she's done. In both of those cases it would seem to you like you were acting just fine, but she would still be legitimately hurt.

Assuming someone's overreacting is almost always going to come off as dismissive. Even when the person is, in fact, overreacting. And being dismissive is only going to make this person dislike you more.

So approach this as though she has a perfectly valid reason, even if only in her own mind, for behaving like this. Try to find out what that reason is, with the talking.
posted by like_a_friend at 2:09 PM on January 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

"This whole "stop saying females" thing is a stupid derail, it seems very unlikely that's the cause of this problem."

Given the fraction of responders who have indicated this would be a problem for them, the likelihood of it creating a problem for the OP (either now or in the future) doesn't seem that low.
posted by pizzazz at 2:35 PM on January 8, 2014 [18 favorites]

Hugs to you, OP. I'm with @phaedon: "Neglect is a form of abuse. This person is doing what they are doing intentionally… It's not just in your head, it's real." Amen!

Sounds to me like J is socially-undermining you (also known as Bullying) using some "hidden" relationally-aggressive strategies, such as "making snide remarks in front of" you, and showering praise on others right next to you while pointedly ignoring you. However, I would not expect most people to support you in understanding this dynamic if you were to try to explain it to them.

Go read the classic book Queen Bees and Wannabes by anti-bullying educator Rosalind Wiseman. I'm not surprised few here are willing to see J's bullying for what it is, but I think you will find it validates your feeling of being socially undermined.

I'm wondering when she'll let the phase subside, and if I should even do anything?

Yes, you need to be the one to stand up for your own dignity, since your mutual "friends" refuse to help you. @FAMOUS MONSTER's second to last paragraph is an excellent script.

Finally, think about what your real goal here is, OP. To get J to knock it off and to start acting civilly towards you, so that you can both enjoy your time together in this group without the sekrit cold war stuff between you? If so, then ask her for that, after you've read Rosalind Wiseman's how-to. It doesn't even really matter what J's response is, but you need to be brave enough to actually say it to her, in a respectful but assertive way, because that is how you stand up for your own dignity.
posted by hush at 2:39 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

You said J has "taken to" completely ignoring you and that "from that day onwards, J started giving me the cold shoulder." So, there was a time when J didn't completely ignore you. What was that time like? What kind of baggage is there, besides a cranky glance in a van at 9 a.m.? (I mostly forget what it's like to be 21, but attributing all this to that seems like a reach.) I think that's a pretty huge part of the equation you're asking us to figure out.

FWIW, I don't think it's rude to join a conversation at a group dinner. That's what happens at group dinners with friends. You don't pick two people and only talk to them the whole night, and you don't exclude yourself from other conversations with your friends just because you didn't get there first. Given that, I think J's created an awkward situation at best, and you're not wrong for being put off by it. I don't agree with a lot of the advice about "someone doesn't like you; get over it." It's fine for her to not like you; it's not cool to "make snide remarks in front" of you. (Though I don't think you really provided any examples of those remarks, and, like others, I cringe at a lot of your phrasing.) I have to interact with people I don't like or particularly care for all the time. I don't ice them out. I say "oh, how interesting" a few times, smile, and then say "yeah, have a nice night and drive safe." Part of being an adult is being civil to people you don't like, especially in a group of friends.

I like the advice about just asking, "Hey, how come you ignore me?" Except my best friend went ice cold on me in high school (still don't know why), and when I did this in private, she flipped her shit, threatened me ("the shit will hit the fan!"), and then started telling everyone she could about how I "wouldn't leave her alone" and was being "creepy." (Ultimately: in the divorce, I got the friends, but she pretty much ruined my senior year. She lost all of her friends. And I got all the friends by doing absolutely nothing and taking the high road, as incredibly hard as that was.) What I would actually do, for better or for worse? At the next group dinner, ask her a direct (kind and appropriate, though) question and when she ignores you/looks away bored, share a confused look with your tablemates, and then say (without a hint of snideness), "Oh, okay. Hey, how about you, Other Tablemate? [Re-ask question.]" If you make her behavior publicly obvious without being a jerk about it, it might serve as a decent wake-up call that she's not being appropriate.

(But I would still like to know what your relationship/friendship was like before the "freeze.")
posted by coast99 at 3:08 PM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Small point: an acquaintance cannot neglect you. If she's making a mountain out of a molehill (because you interpret her issues as a reaction to you glaring) then you are too, by taking one acquaintance's reluctance to talk with you as neglect, as terrible, as in need of a confrontation.

That's not to mention the serious level of disdain you're rocking by the 'females' and 'girls' comments, the 'middle-school' comments, the 'sycophantic' comments, the insistence that if you do confront her she will lie and spread rumours. Or the lack of actual snide comments from her, or bad behaviour that is not moderated by your own disdain (she talked to people closest to her, and doesn't look enthralled when you speak).

She, quite frankly, is a lot closer to the high road here - chatting civilly with someone who obviously dislikes and has contempt for you is hard and rarely works out well. So she's silent, rather than getting into a fight with you, that you have already pre-empted and decided she would spread rumours about.

What about you is there for her to like? To want to talk with? Why is it so important that she talk to you?

(And I'll agree with the other posters that 'they glared at me and a friend' is really unlikely to be the only reason for the sudden shutdown, and that sexist 'observations' are also unlikely to endear you to a lot of women).
posted by geek anachronism at 7:38 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies everyone. Sorry, I should have clarified that I myself am female. I emphasized the female part in the question because typically guys do not resort to this kind of stuff in my experience, and I have had enough firsthand experience to know how some girls can carry a grudge for years...

Generalizations aside, FAMOUS MONSTER might be right in that my provocation in the van was only one in a series of events that ticked her off. We were never that close to begin with, but at least before, we were cordial to each other.

It's true I never initiated conversation myself, so I will take all the advice to strike a polite conversation as normal. If she continues to snub me, then at least other people can tell who the bigger person is.
posted by echoplasm at 7:55 PM on January 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Sounds like a great plan, OP. Also check out this recent Ask on a similar passive conflict between two guys.
posted by hush at 12:04 PM on January 9, 2014

You can be sexist towards women and still identify as female- indeed the sort of gender disparaging behaviour of calling women ("girls") inherently drama baiting, etc is a very common way that other women perpetuate sexist stereotypes.

Case in point, this particular video:

As gently as I can put it, either you are assuming that normal women behaviour is inherently bad, which would endear you to nobody non-sexist who would pick up on that, nor women or you are taking a single case of behaviour that might be reprehensible and extending it to call it gender typical, in which case it's the wrong angle of approach.
posted by Phalene at 5:59 AM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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