I feel bullied; he feels confident
June 5, 2017 7:05 AM   Subscribe

I’m having troubles interacting with a current housemate and who “likes to argue” and then does so in ways that I feel shut me down.

He tends to make declarative statements that leave no room for debate: “Men have to act like XYZ.” “ABC will be fine and we don’t need to do anything differently.” “Mutual Partner doesn’t need ADHD meds and just needs to be stronger.”

When I try to say that these are opinions and that we should look at all the angles (often phrased as “yes, probably, but consider …”) he tends to talk over me and basically repeat his statement. Sometimes with a little “ssh ssh, don’t get upset” thrown in.

When confronted, he sends email apologies for seeming patronizing or bullying and says that that isn’t his intent. His actions never change.

He also say that he “makes a confident declarative statement not to try and bully anyone else's opinion but to bolster my confidence. [he] feel[s] that [he] must be confident in [his] stances.”

I really need suggestions on how to deal with this---how best to act in these situations myself (I tend to get frustrated and emotional) and how to reply to said emails.
posted by mkuhnell to Human Relations (45 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
What does "Mutual Partner" mean?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 7:12 AM on June 5, 2017 [22 favorites]

Your description reminded me of this Ask, which also addresses the "likes to argue" type.
posted by heatherlogan at 7:16 AM on June 5, 2017

Send an email outlining what would be useful if his true motivation was really to bolster your confidence. . Like giving you space to talk and showing that your opinion counts. If his behavior changes, good. If it doesn't, stop engaging when he does this. Say "hmm" and leave the room, and consider a new living situation.

This is assuming that he has some kind of role in your life that makes it not-weird for him to take on responsibility for bolstering your confidence and that you've asked him to do so.
posted by bunderful at 7:30 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just detach. He thinks what he thinks. So what if it's wrong? If he says, "Men have to act like XYZ," shrug and say okay. If he pushes, say, "I'm not in the mood to have this conversation right now." The world will keep spinning. If there's an actual action that needs to be taken, then decide what you're going to do beforehand and tell him as simply as possible. "Maybe it will be fine, but I'm going to do X just in case."
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:32 AM on June 5, 2017 [34 favorites]

I don't know if it's the right thing to do, but my strategy with this type is to just aggressively ignore them. I interpret it as a bid for attention, and a super obnoxious one at that, so I withdraw attention. "Okay." *goes back to book* "Uh huh." *leaves room* "That's nice." *eats sandwich*

I'm all for some conversation and even disagreement among friends, but this is not friendly behavior, it is not behavior inviting a conversation, so I'd feel under no obligation to be either friendly or conversant.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:36 AM on June 5, 2017 [39 favorites]

Agreed - detach and/or ignore. When he gets like this, step out the conversation as gracefully as possible. You don't need to convince him you're right. You don't need to care what he thinks.

"OK, I'll take that into consideration."
posted by mskyle at 7:36 AM on June 5, 2017 [6 favorites]

you have to hear the underlying meaning rather than the surface meaning. This will make it easier to ignore.

Surface: "men have to [do whatever!]"
Underlying: "I'm an irritating windbag who likes to demand, then waste, your time and attention!"

You'll never have to give him space in your brain again.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:38 AM on June 5, 2017 [12 favorites]

Best answer:
He tells her that the Earth is flat—
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.

—Wendy Cope
There's a type of person who just likes being loudly right. You are never going to convince him of anything: not that the points he's arguing are wrong, not that he's failing to convince anyone, not that he's being an asshole. They're exhausting and I'm sorry you have to put up with one of them.

I've found that the best way to deal with loud debatey people is just to avoid them. I don't think it would be overreacting to consider changing your living situation, but moving's an awfully big undertaking and isn't always possible.

Find yourself a broken-record phrase or two that you can just default to. "I'm not interested in arguing right now." "I disagree, and I don't want to debate it." This guy will probably try to get you to respond any way he can; keep going to that default no-thanks phrase and don't elaborate on it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:40 AM on June 5, 2017 [73 favorites]

"Mutual Partner" suggests this is more than a housemate. If your partner is in a relationship with someone who treats you like this and they condone it, you are not being respected by either of them.

You can't make someone else not be an asshole, you can just have boundaries that you won't live like that.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:43 AM on June 5, 2017 [45 favorites]

Can you refuse those interactions? If they arise in response to your (innocent) comments, can you cut back on talking to him? Can you change the topic when he starts with something, a la "Men need to be strong and silent!" "Mmm. I'm going to go grab the stockpot and get the tameles going, do you want to put the trash out back?"

I periodically get kind of grumpy and jerky - not often, usually in response to something genuinely frustrating but unchangeable, I'm working on it! - and I can tell you that the "vaguely agree, smile and nod and detach" response totally works on me.

"Partner just needs to focus more, not take meds!"
"Huh. Did you see where I left my library book?"

"We must stop using electricity and live without a refrigerator, it's environmentally sound!"
"That's a thought. Listen, I have to go finish my paper."

That said, if this is really a poly partnership that seems likely to be long term, I think you should try to find some kind of relationship therapy. You can just about get through this kind of situation with a housemate by using this kind of negative reinforcement, but a housemate who is also your partner's romantic partner? That seems like a recipe for disaster.
posted by Frowner at 7:44 AM on June 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

What does "Mutual Partner" mean?

Seriously. If this is just a roommate your strategies will differ considerably than if this person is in some sort of a romantic relationship with you or your partner.

I dislike this fighty approach because I feel like it detracts from what i feel should be the consensus which is that a home should be at least somewhat harmonious. However, not all people feel this way. If this were me I'd be having a conversation about goals for the home and then refer to these (assuming you agree that bullying is against the rules or whatever) when things escalate. "I will not be bullied by you" and leave the room is a lot stronger than having that Same Old Fight again and getting a weaksauce apology later. It's easy to say "This person's strategy is wrong and they are being a jerk" and it's quite another to just not engage.

If there are reasons, like being in a personal relationship, where you have to engage, then there needs to be a conversation that involves everyone in the relationship because if you're being bullied by your partner's partner, that is something that needs to wrap up sooner rather than later or you need to reevaluate these relationships and their role in your life.
posted by jessamyn at 7:46 AM on June 5, 2017 [9 favorites]

Best answer: See, first, if you can ask if he frame his statements with an "I", because it is truly and only his own perspective he is sharing, and not the world's – i.e., 'I believe if ABC is fine we won't need to do anything differently' & 'I feel that men have to act like XYZ'. Barring that, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was not possible for him, agreed on detaching if you're not willing to engage, or try you can try to own how you are feeling because of it, using very stubborn statements that don't betray your own totality of emotion. "Hearing that, I feel upset and frustrated. For me, that's not true, and doesn't even begin to get my perspective right."
posted by a good beginning at 7:54 AM on June 5, 2017

Sometimes with a little “ssh ssh, don’t get upset” thrown in.

When I read this, my suspicions that he's male and you're female were immediately confirmed - though I just checked your profile to be sure.

This guy is a condescending, sexist dickhead. You've tried to explain why his behavior needs to change, and he hasn't listened; he thinks he knows better than you, and that your opinions only matter insomuch as they are a target for correction. He's trying to demonstrate his dominance over you.

You don't owe him anything - and especially not a good-faith engagement.

I agree with everyone else that you need to refuse to argue or debate with him. It only feeds the behavior. The more he can make you upset (and then chide you for it, like you're a child), the more he is validated. He's playing a mental game with you. Your winning move is to disengage, and to not even treat his opinions as worthy of consideration. Because they're not worthy of consideration until he can treat you with respect, which isn't something that you can make him do.

My personal response would probably be inflammatory ("you're a condescending dickhead and you're not nearly as smart as you think you are, so I'm not going to debate with you, on any topic, because you are not worth my time"), so maybe go with one of the others mentioned on the thread...
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:57 AM on June 5, 2017 [22 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify:

He is trying to bolster *his* confidence, not mine.

"Mutual Partner" does mean that we are in a committed poly relationship with the same person. I just didn't want poly to be the emphasis of this post.

Thank you all for the advice to detach. It's not the immediate and easy reaction for me, but it does sound like it would work in many of these situations.
posted by mkuhnell at 7:57 AM on June 5, 2017

Response by poster: @Metroid Baby
Thank you extra for that poem. I'm going to stick it in my journal!
posted by mkuhnell at 8:01 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

You kind of buried the lede, because while detaching/ignoring will solve the immediate problem of how to get out of the conversation, I don't think it's a valid long term strategy for someone you're in a triad with. The idea that he's using you as a conversational punching bag "to bolster his own confidence" and that you need to put up with it in your own home because he's also seeing your partner is... problematic; and I'm concerned that your partner is ok with it.

I would at the least suggest that you tell him flat out that you're not interested in "bolstering his confidence" by putting up with being bullied; that you have a right to live in the house without being subjected to his blustering; and that he can god damn well bolster his confidence somewhere else.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:03 AM on June 5, 2017 [63 favorites]

Best answer: Personally I would pity the guy. What a mess of toxic masculinity he must be to think "men must do X" and to try to defend that position. He has blocked himself off from any coping mechanism or way of understanding/interacting with the world that doesn't fit his sadly narrow viewpoint.

Probably telling him you pity him isn't a wise idea, but knowing it inside might help with the disengaging other posters have encouraged.

Also, does this behavior occur while Mutual Partner is around to see it? Either way you might have a think about the implications (either Mutual Partner knows and doesn't see a problem here, or this dude is trying to hide his treatment of you from Mutual Partner.)
posted by nat at 8:08 AM on June 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

You know what helps people gain confidence? Being right. You know what helps you be right more often? Listening to people with other viewpoints.

Guy is an asshole who's full of it. As I suspect nearly everyone who claims they "like to argue" is.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:14 AM on June 5, 2017 [6 favorites]

I would at the very least let Mutual Partner know that you're adopting a strategy of disengagement when he goes into Proclamation mode, just so Mutual Partner is aware that you're engaging in some necessary self care here and it's not up for discussion.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:14 AM on June 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

How reasonable is he? My guess is he isn't, but maybe if you hit him with some "When you do x, I feel y" statements. Ideally in front of mutual partner. You want this to be a house problem, not a you and him problem. Maybe point out that this confidence comes from taking your confidence away and that ugly bullying bullshit that makes him shitty to be around. Will he throw a fit? Probably. But it might take hold. You'll probably have to do it a few times. After that, disengage.
posted by Bistyfrass at 8:17 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Have you tried asking him why behaving in this way boosts his confidence? Not because YOU need to know it, but perhaps getting him to say it out loud will help him realize how bullying and inappropriate (and ineffective) this is.
posted by instamatic at 8:22 AM on June 5, 2017

Best answer: Two thoughts that go in almost diametrically opposed directions.

The first is to adopt a similar strategy when telling him what the problem is. Like, the next time he's defending his speaking style by saying it's about confidence, responding "Here's something I'm confident in: you need to change how you communicate, because it is hurting relationships. You have had to on multiple occasions to multiple people explain that you didn't mean to convey a bullying tone; that means the problem is with you doing it anyway, not with them misinterpreting you. I'm confident that there is more than one way to express confidence in one's self, and that not all of them are so aggressive and confrontational."

The other is a negotiation technique: using "Yes, and ..." instead of "Yes, but ..." Even if almost the exact same message follows the conjunction, the choice of "and" primes people to listen more rather than signalling that the "yes" was a lie. For instance: Men have to act like XYZ. "Yes, and the fact that our society imposes that kind of toxic masculinity on men is one reason I'm a feminist." might be better received than "Yes, but consider that they shouldn't."
posted by solotoro at 8:30 AM on June 5, 2017 [6 favorites]

He's too focused on his own feelings to focus on the relationship with you, and on your feelings. This isn't just about your feelings, though -- in any conversation like this about real ideas, the conversation partner's state has to be taken into account _before_ one decides what information to present and how to present it.

I say this because: if he were to take that on as the first objective of any conversation, he'd be able to then achieve more of his probable real goals: effecting some kind of change (long term) in the conversation partner's thinking or strengthening the relationship with the conversation partner.

Here's an idea for a framework for him: Other partner's state first (through non-verbal signals, previous information received, and general knowledge) otherwise this whole thing takes too long to get to the actual ideas. Relationship reinforcement second (through being sincerely open to the other person's ideas and recognizing what they already know as well as the vastness of what I don't know). New ideas presented third.
posted by amtho at 8:46 AM on June 5, 2017

When people say they are having problems with in-laws, we often tell them that their spouse has to help out. E.g. if wife says husband's parents are problematic, then we say husband has to be on the front line in making things better between his wife and his parents.

It's not the same, but I wonder where your partner is in all this. Are they willing to tell this guy to act decent and stop being a bully to you? If yes, that's good; work together on this, and let the mutual partner take the lead: they are the one dating the both of you, and they get to reap the rewards but only if they do the work to keep harmony (seems like you are not directly romantically involved with this guy).

If mutual partner is not willing to help, then consider DTMFA: you don't need a partner who will shrug and let you be bullied in your own house by their other partner.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:46 AM on June 5, 2017 [18 favorites]

He tends to make declarative statements that leave no room for debate: “Men have to act like XYZ.”

My first reaction to this was to tell you to just say "Ha", in a scoffing tone of voice and walk away. It's basically a response that implies "I don't give a shit." This might work with a roommate you didn't see much and a dwelling with plenty of private space. A variation is a more humorous response like "You betcha" said in a joking or sing-song voice. (Sometimes humor deflects Grarrr. Sometimes it doesn't.)

There are feminists on the internet who take the position that they aren't going to patiently educate people unless they are paid for it. If he isn't paying for your time, or you aren't enjoying it, why would you engage for more than a nanosecond?

I do have one brother-in-law who, while otherwise a fairly decent guy, sort of swells up and makes loud, sweeping, provocative statements. It gets me pretty hot under the collar. My husband occasionally channels the same tone of voice as his brother. I usually push back against it and tell him how much I dislike it. (Hate, actually.) I'm very reactive when my husband uses "always" or "never" in a statement. It would take a really strong force field to hold me back from immediately offering up five exceptions. (I would probably raise my voice, maybe stamp my foot, and possibly say 'that's fucking ridiculous.")

So you have my sympathy!

Abstractly, I was on a long car trip this weekend and did some thinking about the (simplistic, loud) Trump communication style, versus the more cadgey and complex and lawyerly communication style of Clinton. Adding qualifying words and clauses as she does helps make her statements more *accurate*. His shorter, less accurate, and less true statements are more memorable and do sound 'stronger'. So the roommate's belief that loud, bald statements sounds stronger is sort of true (in my opinion.)

And, huh, sweeping loud statements are how my sister-in-law drives me up the wall. My solution to that is to avoid her. Not helpful for your situation, though.
posted by puddledork at 9:05 AM on June 5, 2017

you gotta tell him his actions have to change, because his intent doesn't matter for shit. Seeing as he seems to buy into the whole bullshit of masculinity, argue by threatening his manhood: e.g. a man's actions are the proof of his intent; if a man can't change to meet the situation he faces, that's true weakness; it's foolishness to think "strength" can overcome adhd
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:08 AM on June 5, 2017 [6 favorites]

Nthing that you are not obligated to engage in these "arguments" (which are not actually arguments, they're chest-beating shows of dominance, but I digress) or explain things to him.

You can register your objection by saying something like "What a strange thing to say." "Nahh, that's not true." "That's insulting."

And then, your only further response is "I'm not going to argue this with you." Try to keep your tone neutral and matter-of-fact. If he insists that you need to explain yourself, tell him that there's a whole internet out there and he can look into alternate viewpoints himself.
posted by desuetude at 9:23 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't think it works to take the romantic angle out of this, but it's your choice. Not my place to argue that point.

I think the best thing might be a standard, pat phrase when this person is doing their arguing thing. I like "Okie dokie." Never say it except when this person is being a jerk, and always use it to end the conversation. It can become your own personal joke (three Okie Dokies today!) and maybe lessen the aggravation of dealing with this nonsense.
posted by cnc at 9:45 AM on June 5, 2017

When confronted, he sends email apologies for seeming patronizing or bullying and says that that isn’t his intent. His actions never change.

Maybe reply with a link to intent vs impact on Google?

Or just ask your mutual partner to do the patient teaching and explain that you have zero patience for this.
posted by salvia at 9:55 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'd come up with a brief, non-committal answer, that doesn't actually mean that you agree:
'Okay then.'
'That's a way to see it, yes.'
'So that's what you feel.'
'That's a statement, for sure.'
'We'll see.'

- If he repeats his statement, you can repeat your remark or say 'No worries, I heard you'.
- If he asks whether you agree, you can simply say that you don't and leave it at that. He can't force you to argue, he can't force you to agree with him, he can't force you to explain your point of view. You can say 'You gave your point of view, I disagree, we're done here'.
- If he tries to draw you into an argument, you can say 'I don't feel like discussing this further'.
In other words, like others are suggesting, I'd stop engaging. Let him make his statements, if he must, but don't engage.
- If he says (or writes) that he needs to bolster his confidence, I'd be tempted to ask why; I might also tell him that he really needs to stop doing that at my expense.
- If he talks over you, walk away that very second. You don't have time for that.

He seems to be full of hot air and, frankly put, toxic masculinity. He does not exactly sound like a joy to be around. Is it necessary to spend as much time with him as you're doing? Does your partner know that he is being a dick to you? How do they feel about that?
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:00 AM on June 5, 2017 [15 favorites]

Too-Ticky has it. This balloon loses its air when you stop blowing into it. Build that vocabulary of non-committal responses that do nothing more than acknowledge that he's Said Some Words. You do not have to agree, you do not have to even express an opinion.

Let him bloviate, and live in your own bubble of right-ness. Don't engage, don't confront. Don't expect him to think like you do. It's just not worth your peace of mind. If the relationship situation is unlikely to change, then you have some soul-searching to do, maybe. This type of personality (IMO) is unlikely to change course.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 10:24 AM on June 5, 2017

There's two things here. One, being combative, but also in my experience some people don't realize they are speaking of a subjective truth as an objective one. I've had some success with calmly pointing out the difference, but I admit that I find the confusion between these two things infuriating. I hope you can resolve it.
posted by crunchy potato at 11:31 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is serious YMMV advice -- it may not be something you can carry off smoothly, and it also may not be something you want to do. The problem, as I see it, is that this guy is being a bombastic asshole to you, and you're trying not to feel bullied while still remaining polite. Have you considered abandoning politeness?

I, myself, am a bit of a bombastic jerk (I'm a woman, but nonetheless). And what works for me with guys like this is making fun of them. In a friendly, non-heated tone, but straightforwardly mocking them to their faces. When he says something absolutist and badly supported, you say "Sure, Bill. Absolutely. X is always true, nevermind [counterexamples A-E}. You betcha," and laugh at him. He tells you not to get upset, you tell him that you're not upset, he just doesn't know what he's talking about. Or listen to him bloviating with a smirk on your face, and when he's done turn to someone else and say "Now that we've heard Bill, what do you think about [your own reasonable position on the issue]." If he gets mad, you explain with an expression of wide-eyed sincerity that you know he says things that he doesn't have any basis for to build his confidence, and that's great it if it works for him, but of course he can't expect to be taken seriously if he's doing that.

This is definitely more obnoxious than you may want to be to your partner's partner. (And for lots of people, it may be ruder than they want to be anyone, and those people are probably better people than I am.) And it takes a certain amount of technique, because you need to be able to identify the bullshit in real time and sound cool and amused about it. But if the relationships are such that your being the asshole is tolerable, this kind of thing can shut down that class of bullying.

(Really, the advice to be noncommittal is probably a much better idea. I throw this out mostly in case with your knowledge of the people involved it sounds workable.)
posted by LizardBreath at 11:34 AM on June 5, 2017 [7 favorites]

[he] feel[s] that [he] must be confident in [his] stances.

He is hijacking actual content as well as your personal attention in order to celebrate his ego-enhancing stance-taking strategies.
Realize that it is not your problem how he thinks he needs to feel at the end of a day of arguing. If he doesn't understand that conversation, even heated conversation, is about a mutual exchange of standpoints, or (if you will) a comparison of discourses, leave him be. Don't let yourself be bullied in being his resonating board or doing his emotional grooming for him.
posted by Namlit at 12:26 PM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

By virtue of the fact that you have a "mutual partner," you are pretty much in a relationship with this guy too. He sounds sexist, rude and like a jerk. What I also find interesting is that "mutual partner" in this scenario seems doesn't seem to be backing you up in this scenario either -- you and this guy are left to duke it out yourselves. If I were you, I would consider leaving this relationship. It doesn't seem to be working out for you and doesn't sound particularly satisfying. I am not sure either your partner or this guy respects you.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:34 PM on June 5, 2017 [6 favorites]

By virtue of the fact that you have a "mutual partner," you are pretty much in a relationship with this guy too.

Agreed, if this person is part of your household and chosen family you may need something that is a little stronger than just casual deflection. I appreciate that you don't want the question to become one about your relationship. At the same time it's worth noting

- Arguing about politics or religion is different from arguing about "What do we do about partner?" Your partner should have a role in those discussions or, if they don't for some reason, they should have some role in how the household operates and what constitutes acceptable behavior from BOTH of their partners. So at some level if they think it's ok for one partner to bully the other, that's a data point for you. If they don't but seem ineffectual to work with their partner to at least work on this behavior, that is another data point. If they are passive and want you two to "work it out" (a truly toxic stance if you want my opinion but many people have these relationships) you can decide what you want to do about that

- These arguments may not be about the topic but it may be about housemate's feelings about the relationship they are in with their partner and, then, with you. I don't know the genders of people involved but there are tropes about a man who feels it's okay for his female partner to be with other women but not other men and having a lot of feels about poly relationships that are more about certain kinds of poly relationships (based on their own rigid gender stereotyping) and less a dedication to the amount of communication, caring and respect that are required to make those lifestyles work for everyone. In short, he may be way out of his depth here. It is not your job to work out his issues but it might be worth some reflection if this may be part of it which would help you determine how to respond

Also you mention he's doing this over EMAIL at least sometimes? The easiest way to stop this is to just not respond or say you'll talk about it in person (preferably with all of you present) Statements like "Don't get upset" need to be shut down like the toxic shit that they are.
posted by jessamyn at 1:34 PM on June 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

Also, this is a side thought, and I'm not actually giving advice here because you didn't want to make the poly thing the focus of the post. But it seems as if it might be fruitful for you to think about the poly issues that way -- that is, there are going to be constraints on how you behave because you don't want to make things difficult with your partner's partner (who I am assuming is not also your partner). That is, you want to keep the peace with him, but there's not a strong direct relationship.

And your initial reaction has been to be polite when he's a jerk, which is reasonable and makes you a decent person, but is wearing you down. With what you know about your partner and his partner, can you visualize what a relationship between you and the jerk would be where he's not bullying you but it's still tolerable for your partner? Some version of friendly-polite-cooperative that includes being clear that you don't have a relationship with him that involves you taking his nonsense or giving him emotional support, you're only decent to him as you'd be to anyone your partner was involved with? Or whatever the actual relationship facts are -- I'm just thinking that if you put some work in imagining what a happy end-game would be like, that didn't involve his spontaneously changing, it might be easier to see how to get there from here.
posted by LizardBreath at 1:38 PM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Reading this again, I would also suggest the approach of disarming reflection.

"I appreciate that you want to increase my confidence in your position, but a stand off doesn't persuade me. Telling me it is your truth or nothing doesn't increase my confidence. It just makes me think you don't really know how to discuss an issue, or you wouldn't be so nervous to try on another point of view."

"I am confident around people who can hear opposing views without making intensity. You're not doing that. I don't want debate. I want discussion."

Realizing it is ego weakness, insecurity etc. helps me put this sort of thing in perspective, realize it isn't about me, and that makes it easier to not react to it. Finding ways to call them on their stuff, but in a neutral or understanding way rather than a retaliatory way, seems to help people see their shit better and throw it around less. Which makes things more comfortable for everyone in the long term.
posted by crunchy potato at 1:51 PM on June 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Read up on logical fallacies and practice arguing with him. He sounds like he's kind of an ass and a blowhard but maybe not really horrible. You could get better at verbal self-defense, which is useful.
posted by theora55 at 2:36 PM on June 5, 2017

Leave the emails unread and don't reply. When he makes inane comments, say 'uh huh, really...' and then smirk. Occasionally carry a notepad down, shake your head, laugh to yourself and make a note. He will hate being laughed at, knowing he's not getting to you and wondering what you're going to do with all his comments you're writing down. Trust me, this will drive him insane.

Or you know, I would just leave. But if you insist on staying, the best way of getting to a bully is treating them like a laughingstock. He knows he's a joke, this is why he keeps trying to bolster his own confidence. Pop his balloon.
posted by Jubey at 4:45 PM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

He tends to make declarative statements that leave no room for debate:

When I try to say that these are opinions and that we should look at all the angles (often phrased as “yes, probably, but consider …”) he tends to talk over me and basically repeat his statement

ok this is super super important because he DOES NOT LIKE TO ARGUE, whatever he may say or like to pretend about himself. he does not actually know how to argue. Maybe in some hypothetical world he might like to argue, but in this world he does not know whether he likes to or not because he has never done it. he is like a toddler riding his scooter yelling about how much he loves to drive firetrucks.

If I were you I would respond to any and all of these incompetent rhetorical lollopings around with a remark about you understand he doesn't like to argue because it makes him nervous and he loses his train of thought, or it's ok that he can't cope with arguments because even the best of us get flustered when our assumptions are challenged, or any similar thing. Say it kindly and helpfully, because a man who is this helpless when confronted with the idea of an argument is going to have problems every time he talks to a person who actually does like to argue, and knows how to do it. also, because that's your best hope of getting at him.

I don't know if you can get him to stop yelling declarative statements into a room while grownups are trying to talk, like an uncharming Gordon Cole, but maybe you can at least get him to stop embarrassing himself with his nonsense brags about his own behavior.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:29 PM on June 5, 2017 [7 favorites]

When confronted, he sends email apologies for seeming patronizing or bullying and says that that isn’t his intent. His actions never change.

This, in the interest of bolstering his confidence? He has apparently never heard of the difference between intent and effect, so how can he ever feel confident not knowing how this bullying of his is working? And "seeming?" No, pal, you are just a garden variety solipsist (read: blowhard jerk).

If you want a way to respond to his email, I would encourage the cultivation of boredom. "So how's that working out for you? This is the nth time we've been through this."

Also, it's a classic abuser's ploy to do whatever they feel like, then apologize afterwards. No wonder his weak ass only apologizes with maximum emotional distance: over email.

How does other partner feel about this?
posted by rhizome at 6:29 PM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

This guy is straight up trying to bully you to establish a position of power over you in your poly relationship. I would seriously think about dating someone who allows one of their partners to mistreat the other in this way. Does your mutual partner shy away from conflict? Are they afraid to bring their bully boyfriend to heel? Is this guy their primary partner and they're afraid to rock the boat and lose that relationship? Are they the kind of person who secretly enjoys having romantic interests fight over them? There are a lot of options here, and even though you don't want to make this a referendum on poly, I think the underlying issue here probably is some dysfunctional or unaddressed issue in your triad, and you're going to need to figure that out.

In the meantime, I would go with a script of non-engagement. You seem like someone who likes to have deep, good faith discussions about differing views, and your partner's bf pretty clearly does not. Stop trying to actually have substantive conversations with him because he has zero interest in that or ability to do it, and trying to engage him in good faith is just a giant black hole of your time and energy. You're going to have to focus on behavior management/modification. Start with noncommital brushoffs and be willing to escalate to stonewalling. If he gets frustrated that you've denied his bid for attention and doubles down, go with one of the super professional, "sorry, I'm not interested in having this discussion right now." and deflect to talking about dinner or whatever. If he persists, give him a flat look and tell him "I've already told you that I'm not going to have this discussion. I'm not going to speak to you until you can treat me with respect." And then walk out. If he emails you, don't read the emails. Talk to him about household things and pleasantries, be civil, but if he asks you about the emails, or starts making declamations and expecting you to respond, tell him again, "I've told you that I'm not going to engage with you until you can speak to me respectfully. When you're ready, I'll be here." And then walk away or pick up your book again.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 7:51 PM on June 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

"Uh-huh...uh huh....nobody cares. Piss off, Joe."

Not angrily or intensely, but totally bored and uninterested, while rolling my eyes or looking at my phone or whatever thing in the room is more interesting than the jackass. I certainly would avoid this person as much as possible.
posted by windykites at 8:46 PM on June 5, 2017

Best answer: Maybe ask for what you need from him directly or leading up to it.

Like: His declarative statement is uttered/pronounced/expounded with no room for debate, you do your usual exploratory preamble 'well, maybe some men need to do x, but perhaps consider x, y or z that tends to negate that sense of value in y,z etc' [a reasonable approach] and he repeats the original declaration louder with dismissive tones.

You pause and let him finish repeating his point, don't talk over him, and say blandly 'Oh Pete, I'd really prefer it if our discussions on such topics developed a sense of a variety of options being explored together. Can you do that with me on this topic?' If he repeats himself, talks over you, dismisses you, minimises your observations, then go back to the question you asked - 'maybe I wasn't clear enough. I am not currently debating this topic with you, nor needing a repeat of the original declaration, I asked you directly if you could explore more options than your own with me. Is your answer no?'

When it escalates, as it will the first few times you do it, the dismissiveness and patronising could be addressed directly. It could be as simple as asking 'I'd like you to use a respectful approach when having conversations with me. Can you please do that?' When he says he IS being respectful but you are just Lady Brains Dumb and he is Trying To Help, then you can calmly outline the dynamic: 'repeating a point, interrupting, dismissing and later hiding behind email to deliver defensive and selfish responses to the effects of this dynamic on others, replete with more dismissiveness is a disrespectful way to engage with others. You are doing this to me. I would like you to stop doing this. I am asking you if you can do that? Y/N.'

If it is consistently no, no he can't do x in a conversation, and no he can't do respect or talk about the dynamic, it's time to have a real think about why he lives in your home, and/or participates in your life.
posted by honey-barbara at 1:45 AM on June 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

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