Help me not care what others think of me?
January 17, 2014 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Why do I care so much what others think of me... I am feeling stressed at work I don't interact much as i have too much to do. I don't ha've time to talk. Others talk all the time generally bitching about others. By not getting involved and talk ing it's making me feel like I'm creating an atmosphere and a dark cloud hangs over me. Worse thing one particular lady is using this to her advantage calling me stroppy in front of others and making me generally feel worse by trying to get a reaction out of me as I'm too quiet. Obviously I react raise my voice and I'm left looking like a bitch. She is very negative and talks crap about everyone so I tend to ignore her and don't speak to her even though she lives closely in the same office. So what I'm asking is how do I control my emotions? Stop letting this poisonous negative co worker not get the better of me?? What can I say back to her when she calls me stroppy? I get very paranoid they are bitching behind my back. How do I stop thinking this?
posted by happiness01 to Human Relations (7 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

1. She calls you too quiet, and other things, in order to provoke you; then
2. She calls you stroppy (for those that don't know, someone that gets worked up and so is hard to talk to)?

She's quite literally doing her best to intentionally provoke you into being the kind of person she can then mock you for being. The verbal/behavioral equivalent of trying to smack someone in the head, then saying "made you flinch." She's a child.

You can call her out on it, with a calm voice and a smile: "Isn't it funny how I only get stroppy when you work really hard to provoke it? Why, it's almost like you enjoy seeing me angry." Which of course she does; that's why she's doing it. That, and future occasional (calm) responses of "I've got work to do, go bait someone else for a while" might help.

As for other people: they can see her behavior just as well as you can. That means they're either on board with her -- in which case they're also childish, there's nothing you can do to earn their respect because it isn't about you -- or they're secretly relieved when she provokes you, because it means she's not provoking them. Or they might even find her antics annoying and childish, but don't feel like it's worth dealing with directly. In all possible cases, it isn't really anything to do with you, and that's what you have to focus on: she's not a powerful person pointing out your flaws and proving that you make other people miserable, she's a person who goes out of her way on a daily basis to make everyone else'e lives miserable by making up flaws/provoking behaviors that she can mock.

She's a bully, in short. Act accordingly. Bring it up with your manager if you feel comfortable doing so.
posted by davejay at 3:21 PM on January 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

Try to turn your negative energy into productivity. Get yourself mentally pumped up, convince yourself that you are way better than her at everything, and get to work. You are there to make your company money, not build friendships. Do your best to focus on that, and watch yourself get promoted and get new opportunites and fly by them in your career while they stay where they are, focussed on gossip and other garbage.

Haters gonna hate. Don't let that stop you from succeeding. As long as they are not your supervisors, don't worry about it. Worry about how your supervisor perceives you. That is the only thing that matters.
posted by Fig at 3:34 PM on January 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

In addition to what was said above, have you ever tried talking to her about it? From what you've said it seems like she has a history of this type of behaviour. If she truly 'talks crap about everyone', it honestly looks like everyone else has been letting her go unchecked. Try to talk to her, or at least tell her that you think this type of behaviour is completely unprofessional. If you're too intimidated to that, then go straight to the manager.
posted by TepidWaters at 3:36 PM on January 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

She's a bully. Go to HR or your manager and make a complaint and ensure that it's documented.
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 3:41 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Why don't you work on your self-confidence? Do things that make you happy. You don't need to react to anyone that talks about you or around you.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:01 PM on January 17, 2014

Best answer: This person (who I'm going to call Asshole) is pushing your buttons. The trick is to disable those buttons.

Asshole calls you stroppy. Right now, you ave a programmed response to react with anger, to defend yourself against this attack. Consider for a moment, though, why it is that you feel the need to do this. Asshole calls you stroppy - "so what?". That's not a rhetorical question. So what if she does do this? What thoughts and feelings are going through your head when she attacks you? Maybe it's "she shouldn't talk to me like that". Or "maybe I am stroppy". Or something else entirely.

When you know what the reaction is, have a look at it and examine it for flaws. Yes, she shouldn't talk to you like that, but so what if she does? Dig deeper into the response. Then dig a little deeper into the response to the response. Somewhere, you'll realise the cause of this response, and then you can start defusing the button. There's a bit in the book Feeling Good about handling yourself when people are attacking you, entitled Verbal Judo. It's pretty cheap on Amazon, and well worth the read.

Have you reached out to your other colleagues and tried to strengthen your social bonds and capital with them? Don't stoop to the level of Asshole and badmouth her, but show more of an interest in your other co-workers and their lives. Be the one who stands out as being a nice, decent person who makes eye contact, smiles and occasionally brings cookies for everyone. With an asshole in the group, your behaviour will stand out more, and anything that Asshole says to try to drag you down will just show up as mean-spiritedness. You remembered Jo's daughter's piano recital and you asked if Sam was over the flu. People won't believe that someone who is as nice as that is doing it to hurt people, and they'll be less likely to exclude you and more likely to realise what Asshole is like. Also, when Sam and Jo are bitching about everyone else (is this prompted/encouraged by Asshole, perchance?), you'll be less likely to be on the receiving end of nastiness. If you take a box of doughnuts into the break room, make sure you pit a sign up telling everyone to enjoy them, and sign your name on it nice and clearly. Then walk up to people and say "I left some doughnuts in the break room, help yourself". Doesn't take long, but cements you in people's minds as being That Person Who Gives Us Nice Things.

When she calls you stroppy, put an end to the conversation. Don't respond for a few seconds, just look at her, right in the eye. Then ask if there was anything else. She'll probably try really hard to press your buttons, but not responding has two benefits. If you don't respond, then she has nothing to work with. If you don't fight back, then she can't prolong the fight. You are the mountain, she is the wind. She can blow and howl all she wants, but the mountain doesn't move. Eventually, the wind dies down. Not responding also proves to you that you can indeed just weather the storm. You don't have to react to a button pusher. The button is pushed, but there's no longer an automatic reaction, because your brain now knows that it can choose to respond, or not. This will probably be hard the first time you do it, but it just gets easier and easier as time goes on. Your response right now is conditioned, but you can condition yourself to have another automatic response.

Beware the extinction burst. This is when a person ramps up their behaviour to try to get what they want. People only do this when they know they're about to lose whatever it is they want. Consider someone on a cliff edge - they're standing there, not exerting much energy. Then they start to fall off the edge of the cliff. Suddenly, they start doing rather more to keep themselves in the same position. If Asshole gets nastier when you stop giving her what she wants, that's a really good sign. It means what you're doing is working. She's about to fall off the edge of the cliff. Hopefully she'll make a spectacle of herself in front of everyone and make herself look even worse, but you can't always have everything.


Another thing to consider is how awful Asshole's life must be. Asshole doesn't seem to know how to be nice to people, and so likely has very little niceness shown her in response. This has likely made her somewhat bitter and caused her to act out in this fashion, just to get people to interact with her, by preying on their fears of being an outsider. She's shown people in the office that she's prepared to push someone out of the in group by attacking you, and there are very very few people who are comfortable with being the Outsider. Nobody else in the office wants to be in that position, so they interact with her to hopefully prevent a situation where she turns on them as well. Everyone in the office wants to be an Insider, which makes Asshole's tactics very effective. Everyone is desperate attempt to Fit In.

Stop and think about how shitty it must be to have to manipulate and goad people into doing something so human as talking to you. She must be very lonely to have to stoop to this level. And sure, Asshole could radically improve her situation by, y'know, not being an asshole. It's possible, though, that she doesn't know how to do that, any more. Her tactics are superbly effective, because the need to be an Insider is pretty intrinsic to human existence, and why would she give up on such a winning strategy? Fucking with people's minds like this is a particularly nasty trick.

It's something of an untested theory, but I think that being assertively nice to Asshole might work in your favour. Try saying "good morning, Asshole" when you see her first thing in the morning. Obviously use her given name, not "Asshole". Using her name means that you're acknowledging her existence. You could say "good morning" to anyone or anything, but you can only say "good morning Asshole" to her. It's likely that she only gets a curt response to greetings from your co-workers, and she has to prompt for those by saying good morning first. This might backfire, because it's almost like rewarding her for being nasty to you. Or it might work really well, because it's the only time someone has made a genuine human connection with her that entire day. You don't have to be nice to someone who is treating you like shit, but being anything other than coldly civil is going to give them more ammunition.

It might seem like it now, but I doubt that you're in a barrel full of bad apples. If the one bad apple gets taken out of the barrel, then I reckon that the rest of the apples will suddenly improve. It's likely that people don't actually think as badly of you as you think they do. They're just scared of being on the Outside, and to put someone there, all you need are three people - one to be the fall guy, one to badmouth and one to listen. When the badmouther is gone, everything will likely go back to normal.

Finally, if someone ever does mention Asshole to you, just smile pityingly in her direction and say nothing. You're better than a badmouther.
posted by Solomon at 2:39 AM on January 18, 2014 [11 favorites]

To answer the broad question in the title: be too busy doing your own thing to care. Nobody can make you feel bad about yourself without your permission.
posted by deathpanels at 5:49 AM on January 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

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