Mansplaining: Friend Edition
July 2, 2018 1:20 AM   Subscribe

When the man is both your closest friend *and* your new colleague.

(Anonymous for privacy.)

Over the last two years my (f) self-esteem has gone through the floor after illness left me socially isolated and unemployed. This friend has been a great support and stuck with me through it. He's also just gotten me a job at his company, which I'm grateful for.

But he is a chronic mansplainer. The worst case I've ever come across. And his recent promotion at work has made it so much worse.

He:

- Explains the most basic of things to me. Things such as how manners, or printers, or the postal service work, over and over and over and--

- He argues with each little thing I say. Each. Little Thing. I'd say, out of every 10 things to come out of my mouth, he'll dispute 9 of them

- If I'm able to prove that he's wrong about something, he'll mansplain why it was perfectly rational for him to have thought what he thought. He's almost never, ever said "Oh, maybe you're right"


One example from this weekend:

(We're playing a silly ocean-based game together.)

Me: Oh cute, that little killer whale is following me!

Him: That's not a killer whale, it's a dolphin. It's all black.

Me: He has a white chin and belly, see. Plus killer whales *are* a type of dolphin..

Him: No they're not. I think you'll find they're a type of porpoise.

Me: What? They're dolphins.

Him: They're not.

Me: That is a fact that I 100% know to be true. It doesn't matter, anyway, let's go--

Him: No, they're not dolphins. They're similar but from a different family.

(I google it just for the victory. They're dolphins, not porpoises.)

Him: *doesn't ackowledge this whatsoever* The white on it was difficult to see in game. You can see from this angle that it's clearly all black, doesn't look like a killer whale. It's a bad design.


He, a perfectly healthy white man, also mansplains or belittles my (chronic) illness in subtle little ways. "Oh, I've felt sick like that before, just do x, y, z and I'm sure you'll feel better" or "You spent the day in bed? You're so lucky! I've been stuck at work all day" or "Yeah, what you spend on meds I probably spend on my car repayments. We're kinda in the same boat."


This is representative of maybe 10, 20, 30 tiny interactions we have every time we meet up. Sometimes it feels like I'm talking to a bulldog who wants to latch on and pull apart everything I say, rather than have a conversation. It makes me feel even smaller than I already do. And it makes my blood boil.

Confronting him in the past has not really worked. He gets angry and defensive and quickly falls back on old habits.

All that said, this is an infuriating habit in an otherwise lovely guy.

I am about to start this new job, and we'll see each other often. I'd love some ideas for ways to keep my cool when this happens dozens of times a day. I'm terrible at being assertive, so I'd also love to learn methods of shutting him down in a way that makes me feel in control but also doesn't anger or belittle him. In a way that shows that I disapprove, but that hey! we're still friends, it's no big deal.

And hope that eventually, if I keep not engaging, he might learn to tone it down.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (37 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh man he sounds exhausting to be around.

I actually think work gives you a great excuse to shut things down. Will you be on the same team or do you have to report to him? Or is it that you just happen to work in the same office and that's all?

If you're just sharing a work environment, you're at work, you theoretically shouldn't have time for idle chit chat. If his transgressions are really 9 times out of 10, I'd just try and not engage with him at all when at work. I wouldn't give him any sort of opening and just keep it professionally friendly - quick hellos while still walking, short answers, excuses that you are soooo busy or just about to go to a meeting, or right in the middle of some important task.

Don't give him any details about how you're feeling (you're always "fine, thanks"), no details about your weekend ("oh not much, just relaxed") or your personal life ("fine, thanks").

If he asks about your behaviour you can just say you are trying to keep work and personal life kind of separate. Which, I'm sure he'll have an opinion about, but just respond, "Ok I'll keep that in mind. Thanks for understanding. Ok gotta run and do this thing byeee."

And make some new work friends! Find other people to have lunch and coffee with.

I know you don't want to "anger or belittle him", but I am here on Team Anonymous to say that your self esteem and self respect is worth a lot more than his ego trip.
posted by like_neon at 2:18 AM on July 2, 2018 [18 favorites]


This is not a lovely guy, and he's not going to change. I'm sorry.
posted by all the light we cannot see at 2:34 AM on July 2, 2018 [61 favorites]


Have you read the classic ding-training comment? It may be effective, and heck it actually sounds pretty fun.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:58 AM on July 2, 2018 [18 favorites]


This is a good exercise in self regard. Do you want orcas to be part of the dolphin family or do you want him to acknowledge that fact? I dont think he really is thinking about what is happening. He's arguing reflexively. And being wrong is also a Bad Thing for him. So the cost for him to argue about orcas is low but the cost to acknowledge that orcas are dolphins is higher.

I have friends like this and they are from families where all conversation is debate and there is a clear winner. Many of them are on the spectrum and somewhere along the way learned thats what conversation is - a low level argument with a winner and a loser. And it can be exhausting to converse with them about anything with stakes because they can't really hear you, your words are just a springboard for the formation or development of their side of the argument they think they're having. I myself indulge in this debating conversation style with those friends (although every day is a school day so I am fine with "losing", and can tell when a person wants to have a real conversation amd not this bat about stuff). The point of debate is not to discuss facts but to convince others. Facts are secondary.

So I think basically do you need to be right or do you need him to know/acknowledge you are right? Because the former is already happening and the latter might never.

In terms of dealing with it, don't engage.

Him: Orcas are porpoises
You: Well whatever they are, this one might eat me! Your turn.
Him: they are definitely orcas
You: *long disengaged silence waiting for him to take his turn*

At work I would just not engage with it. You don't have time for chit chat or his long explanations of tech children can operate. Just say "sorry I better get on" and do so.

Fundamentally this is not a thing he does to you. It's a thing he does. It's about him. Not you. He's not doing it because he thinks you're stupid, it's just his communication style. If it's affecting your self esteem then limit your time with him a bit.

Also as the parent of disabled kids, if he's the only person to make the ridiculous "I really get it because.." comparisons with your chronic illness then high five because about 90% of people apparently know exactly how my life is because they once experienced some basically incomparable thing. I just tell myself they're trying.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 3:08 AM on July 2, 2018 [34 favorites]


You might be his friend, but I'm not convinced, unfortunately, that he's yours. He doesn't respect your experiences, thoughts, or opinions; he dismisses your problems. When he's been called on it, he gets angry and defensive, and even if he changes in the short-term, quickly falls back into the same patterns. If you were married to this man, I'd be suggesting couples counseling, followed by divorce.

In my experience, the problem with men like this is that they--probably subconsciously!--believe themselves to be inherently better than women. They've internalized their misogyny, and they believe it entirely--not that women should be treated badly, necessarily, but that As Men, they're just smarter, more reasonable, more rational. And my experience is that because of this, there's nothing that you, presumably Not A Man, can say to change any of that, precisely because you're not a man.

So where's that leave you? Personally, this isn't a fight that I'm willing to have with people, and so when they start, I just say "ok" and stop talking. Like, "Well, Misha, I think you'll find that the post office was actually started because astronauts needed a way to ship cheese to the moon, and--" I just say ok in my very best and most cheerful "that sounds unbelievably fake!" voice, and let it sit. This usually gets people to drop the subject.

If there's a man you trust, you might ask him to say something next time he's around when it happens--I find that men are far more likely to listen to another man say, "Hey, no, Anon is right," or even "Hey, you're being sort of a dick about this."
posted by mishafletch at 3:15 AM on July 2, 2018 [23 favorites]


I dated someone like this and it was exhausting. Having fights about someone being argumentative and running roughshod over you, perhaps unsurprisingly, doesn't work. The only thing that worked in the end was breaking up.

I know you can't completely stop talking with him, but reduce how much time you spend in his company. You can also set up a signal that means he needs to check himself, but that only works if he believes what he's doing is a problem.
posted by Trifling at 3:28 AM on July 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


A few suggestions:

Don’t exhaust yourself arguing with him. I like Captain Awkward’s script for shutting down unsolicited opinions and debates: “You may be right.” (He’s not, of course, but you can keep that to yourself.)
Another one is, “I’ll consider that!” (You already did and rejected it.)

When he’s getting really long winded feel free to interrupt and change the subject or let him know you have to get back to work. Interrupting isn’t rude when he’s already being rude.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 3:55 AM on July 2, 2018 [10 favorites]


When you engage with his bullshit he takes it as tacit approval to continue. It’s a game to these people, the “I’m always right” game. Shut it down with the most dismissive “uh-huh” you can muster and move on to whatever else needs doing/discussing.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:20 AM on July 2, 2018 [5 favorites]


There are people in my life like that.
Personally what qorks best is humour, lightness, but i watch it doesn't turn into cutting snark.
Like my Brother in law, he is just like that. However, i try to keep the banter light and mostly it works, by which i mean he will look for someone else to argue into the ground.
He wont change, but I don't need to engage.
posted by 15L06 at 4:21 AM on July 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


It is hard to imagine what possible loveliness could outweigh 90% of conversations with him being this infuriating madness. I would drop him like a hot potato, well at least to the extent you can, now that you're working with him.

Fundamentally this is not a thing he does to you. It's a thing he does. It's about him. Not you. He's not doing it because he thinks you're stupid, it's just his communication style. If it's affecting your self esteem then limit your time with him a bit.

I agree with the idea that this is totally about him and has no standing whatsoever regarding your self worth. However it sounds like at best, he's insensitive to the fact that you don't enjoy arguing with him over every goddamn thing, and you don't have to give your time and attention to people like that.
posted by ktkt at 4:23 AM on July 2, 2018 [3 favorites]


In general when people i know get into their own conversational messes, I stop engaging.

him: those are porpoises!
you: huh

him: I really get porpoises because I used to be one!
you: hmm

him: when I was a porpoise we would get really offended by ppl mistaking us for dolphins
you: nice chat. I have a deadline, see ya.
posted by bunderful at 4:45 AM on July 2, 2018 [22 favorites]


Seconding ding training. It was made for this porpoise.
posted by flabdablet at 5:18 AM on July 2, 2018 [30 favorites]


Him: No, they're not dolphins. They're similar but from a different family.

(I google it just for the victory. They're dolphins, not porpoises.)


if you must keep talking to him, don't take all these detours down to his level after you give the right answer one time. because it's treating him like the two of you are equals and like him knowing the correct answer is very important to you, and these are the very things to fight against: it doesn't matter what he thinks and it doesn't matter if he knows you're right, because his understanding is not the measure of all things, or indeed of anything. what if instead

it's ok, lots of people don't know much about killer whales, don't feel bad
[whatever bullshit he says]
no, please don't feel bad about it
[more bullshit]
I just know more than you do, it's not personal
[angry bullshit]
sorry I embarrassed you, I'll come back when you calm down.


and so on. will this make him more unbearable? probably. but the thing to accomplish, however you go about it, is understanding in your own mind that the main thing he's wrong about is believing that what he knows is very important -- that him realizing your correctness validates you in some way. it isn't and it doesn't. you're just as right whether he notices or not.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:02 AM on July 2, 2018 [18 favorites]


The ding thing sounds effective but may be overly confrontational for some types. I second the apathetic-noises/moving-along segue deployment recommends.

For extreme cases — and I have one or two to deal with (WTF is it with *-in-laws, eh?) — my fallback is gentle nonsense.

So...no matter what he thinks we’re playing at (debate, argument, conversion) what we’re actually doing is just having a laugh.

Example.

Splainer: “Technically they’re porpoises.”

Me: “Quite so. People who don’t know that are the same kind of people who don’t know dolphins are actually a type of bird. They’re corvids...very intelligent, like ravens, crows, jays or sparrows.”

Splainer: “I’m pretty sure dolphins are descended from a land mammal.”

Me: “Corvids are mammals, actually. That’s why they’re so clever. Because they’re flighted social mammals. Lukewarm blooded. Kidneyfied livers. Semi-live birth. All the hallmarks of transitional mammalia. I’m surprised you don’t know this.”

Splainer: “You’re not being serious.”

Me: “This is my most serious setting. In fact, science says that — on average — jokes are more serious than non-jokes, because they carry two levels of content which, even if there’s a percentage of silliness there, the non- or semi-silly parts always top out because there’s double the amount of messaging. It’s basic semiotic math, really.”
posted by Construction Concern at 6:05 AM on July 2, 2018 [23 favorites]


One thing you don't mention is if he behaves this way with other people. If you have the opportunity to observe him interacting with other people- does he do this to everybody? only to women? Only to you? If you notice a pattern, that might give you a useful data point for understanding his motivations and a context to frame his behavior. I guess it would be more forgivable (if no less annoying) if he treats everyone this way.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 6:36 AM on July 2, 2018 [3 favorites]


I've known people like this and have gotten some peace by telling them that it's exhausting to argue every detail of everything. The person really heard this and responded. The other helpful learning moment was ranting about another mansplainer (because I was genuinely upset and needed a rant) but this person had a serious self reflection moment afterwards. Some people are able to look at their smartest person in the room title criticality and adapt their behavior.
posted by toomanycurls at 7:03 AM on July 2, 2018 [5 favorites]


I dated someone like this and it was exhausting.

I date someone who has this tendency and with us it's definitely just "that thing he does" because he clearly (in all other ways) places my intelligence in high regard, it's just a weird nervous tick. But I'm also a pill about him not just walking all over my knowledge, so our compromise is we make and maintain a list of friendly low-stakes bets just to stop the going-nowhere discussion. So our conversation would go like this...

Me: Oh cute, that little killer whale is following me!
Him: That's not a killer whale, it's a dolphin. It's all black.
Me: He has a white chin and belly, see. Plus killer whales *are* a type of dolphin..
Him: No they're not....
Me: I will bet you fifty cents it's a killer whale which is a type of dolphin
Him: OK, you are so wrong....
Us: * Get back to playing game *
Me, Later: Here is a web page showing this is a killer whale
Him: WHAT. OK, adding it to our grand bet total...

It basically turns something potentially contentious into a sort of funny relationship thing we do and then we have fun whipping out our list of Idiot Bets (and I am sometimes wrong, if I'm being honest) at parties. But more importantly, it ends the bickering and lets the two of us (tenacious and debate-hungry) do whatever it was we were doing. So this only works if two people both agree to it, so you'd have to find a way to get him on board with some way of realizing "Hey you're doing that THING again..." but basically if he is your friend and you tell him this sort of thing bothers you, there should be some way you can interrupt that process (and do your own part to make that work) and then move forward like that. So it's not about confrontation so much as just redirecting a conversation or deferring a decision until later when he's not dug in about it. And all this is presuming this is work you WANT to do, I agree with other people it doesn't sound like he's being super friend-like and this would bug me but I think you do have options.
posted by jessamyn at 7:21 AM on July 2, 2018 [7 favorites]


“Quite so. People who don’t know that are the same kind of people who don’t know dolphins are actually a type of bird. They’re corvids...very intelligent, like ravens, crows, jays or sparrows.”

If you're going to go this route, Peter Cook has you covered for both material and delivery.
posted by flabdablet at 7:25 AM on July 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don't know if it's fully accurate to impute this to the "debate style" of conversation, because that actually usually (at least in this context) does refer back to objective facts, and there's usually a "curses!!!! how can my brain have betrayed me!!!" sort of acknowledgement of being wrong at the end. This is about power. I'm not sure what this dude has to offer that outweighs the constant assertion of his authority over you--it's controlling and disrespectful--but, assuming there is something worth salvaging here, I find it's best to explicitly state what's going on and that you refuse to participate in it. "You don't actually know what you're talking about, you're correcting me for the sake of feeling smarter than me, I don't enjoy it, and I'm not going to do it with you." You need to tell him straight out that he is harming you with his stupid convo tricks and you're not going to engage. He's going to tell you you're overreacting (don't argue with that, just repeat) and will probably sulk and so on, but if you stick to it, either he's going to change or you're going to stop hanging out together.
posted by praemunire at 8:09 AM on July 2, 2018 [6 favorites]


Here's a few tactics that I've used before in these kinds of situations:

- I pretend like I'm a secondary character in a sitcom. So-and-so is a huge jerk that the audience hates and my character is the avatar for the audience. So I'm going to sip this beer and stare directly into the camera when so-and-so says something annoying.

- Say 'Hmm' or some other sound that acknowledges that he said something but isn't a sound of agreement and then don't engage further with the comment. Feel good about knowing that you're actually right and he knows it but he's too much of a manbaby to admit it.

- Be so grateful and happy that you are not him AND that are who you are. You do not have such low self esteem that being wrong sends you into a spiral of over-explaining and blaming and you can navigate the world without grating on everyone's nerves. You're crushing it.

- Practice radical acceptance.

- Confront him. "Of course, I know how the postal service works. Haha, wow, it's so bizarre that you think you have to explain that to me." or "Yes, I know, you don't have to explain it to me." Then turn around or leave the room and ignore.

- For his snide comments about your illness, try "Wow" + silence or "What an unkind thing to say." or "That was mean." , etc. You get the idea.

Be kind to yourself, anonymous. Being a woman in the world is hard.
posted by pumpkinlatte at 8:30 AM on July 2, 2018 [13 favorites]


I think this "friend" really needs to understand that what he's doing is hurtful. So the next time he engages in this kind of behavior you can follow a script like this:

Him: *says something undermining or mansplainy*
You: That sort of comment is really unsupportive and makes me feel bad
Him: *starts to turn things back on you by calling you too sensitive or whatever*
You: That's beside the point, your comments are hurtful.
Him: *maybe ups the ante on his own defensiveness*
You: I need you to respect my feelings.

If he's truly your friend, he won't want to hurt your feelings. I do this with my boyfriend with who I have a pretty jokey, bantery relationship. Most of the time I don't mind it if he teases me, but sometimes I'm just having a hard day or am not in the mood and I just straight up tell him that I don't want to be teased that I can't take it in that moment. And he respects that because he cares about me and doesn't want me to feel bad. Your "friend" needs to learn to respect your feelings.

Work, however, is work, and you don't need to engage in hurtful chit chat, just shut things down by keeping things professional.

Him: Oh you're doing X wrong and you need to do it like Y.
You: I've already discussed this with Supervisor/Project Lead and this is the way it's supposed to be done.

Him: Oh things here are work are really like A.
You: Oh, I was talking with Supervisor/Project Lead/Coworker, and this is what we agreed to.

And hang out more in groups at work so you don't have to be dealing one-on-one with this person.
posted by brookeb at 8:38 AM on July 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


We have this specific word now, mansplaining, and it's great for awkward situations like this as it's humorous and every man knows what it means yet none think it applies to them. Can you keep it very light and say "okay, you're mansplaining again" the next couple of times? This might lend him a clue, in the event he is simply clueless. If he's not just clueless and just an ass, that will become rapidly clear. Rather than engage with the content of his arguments, which will only prolong them, just point out the behavior.

Alternatively, and this is what I would do, you could just engage with him less in general, and if he even hints at starting up with this stuff, rather than getting sucked into the back-and-forth, just go do something else. One thing I feel 100% sure you can't do is change him into someone who admits when he's wrong.

Just for a different perspective since it's a popular comment, I find the idea of "ding training" a bit odd and even mean, and not something people should do to one another in the real world unless it's part of a consensual dynamic between very close and trusting people. I can't see its efficacy in this situation, unless of course it's been agreed.
posted by kapers at 8:58 AM on July 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Your example isn't mansplaining, so many of these useful suggestions won't work when, for instance, he patiently explains how to use the frigging printer.

You could try being kind but firm. "Thanks for trying to help, friend, but you're not helping. I, like many adults, do know how to use a printer and have no trouble at all with my methods. Is there something else we can talk about?"

Or just, "Thanks, I've got this."

If he helped you get the job, he probably feels "responsible" for you which is another load of neurosis you'll have to navigate.

In your personal life, when he wants to play the debate game, don't play along.
Good luck.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:27 AM on July 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have a close male relative who does this. It is infuriating. One of my favourite examples is the hour-long monologue which involved him telling me in great detail about the politics and social life in a particular African nation in which I lived in for three fricking years (when he lives in a remote northern town that he has never left for more than a month at a time, let alone living anywhere else or even visiting this particular place). He also regularly lectures me about what it's like to work for my employer, based on a year-long contract he had with the regional office of an affiliated agency twenty years ago (and ignoring the fact that I've worked for both the main HQ and a number of regional offices in a career that has spanned twenty-five years, ten assignments, and half a dozen promotions). Sigh.

In his case, there is a good dose of misogyny and entitlement mixed in with some good old-fashioned insecurity and cluelessness. He not only never admits he's wrong, he will actually get self-righteous about how I "don't need to make a federal case out of it" if I pursue an issue to the point where he can't deny it without looking like an asshole. (And he will keep denying it.) A few years ago, after he left yet another job because they were idiots who were doing it all wrong, and couldn't appreciate his wisdom, I realized he's like this with everyone, even when it's not in his interests.

Somehow, that made it better, and I decided to play a game the next time I saw him. Now, I entertain myself by finding some way to agree with some part of what he says, without acknowledging authority on things I know are crap. Backhand ways are allowed, which of course makes it more fun. So, in your killer whale example, I would say "hmmm, yeah, they certainly do look like porpoises, I can see how you would think that." If he went on about how the character wasn't drawn well in the game, I would say "yeah, I can see how you would miss the white." It's quite entertaining to watch him go around in circles trying to find something to argue about. Other times, if I'm just not in the mood, I fall back on "you could be right," etc..

Since you're now going to be working with this person, and it sounds like you do want to keep the friendship, just minimize exposure to him in the office. Like others have said, be busy, say "mmhmmm," a lot, develop your network with other people, and leave the room when he starts getting like that.

And, as someone else above pointed out, rejoice that you are not this dude and you do not have this neurotic habit of alienating the people who are close to you. It's kind of sad, really.
posted by rpfields at 9:27 AM on July 2, 2018 [3 favorites]


Is there any possibility your friend might be on the autism spectrum? Because this is me. Or, this was me, but it took literally decades before I slooowly realized that:

A. I have a tendency to "download" - go into way too much detail about everything and bore/exasperate people to death as a result;

B. Repeat it over and over andoverandoverandover...

C. Have to be Right. All. The. Time.

These are fairly common aspie traits, alas, meaning it can sometimes be a bit hard to differentiate between that and run-of-the-mill mansplaining. Does he do this with anyone else, particularly other guys? If it's just women, or just you, yeah, you're stuck with a mansplainer, ugh. And even if he's on the spectrum, if he's been called out on this at least once before, he needs to work on adapting his behavior. We can change, though it can take a long time (and in the meantime, we try everyone's patience.)

You might try this: every time he mansplains, whip out a little notebook and make a check mark, while with a deadpan expression, tell him you appreciate him telling you that. The next time he mansplains, whip that notebook out again, and tell him you really appreciate him explaining things to you for the nth time today/this week. Once the page starts filling up, let him catch a glimpse of it.

If he's got any self-insight at all, that will give him pause. If he hasn't, it's hopeless. Best you can do at that point is treat it like a joke.
posted by Lunaloon at 9:41 AM on July 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


If you're going to go this route, Peter Cook has you covered...

I certainly do appreciate Peter Cook, but honestly the point isn’t to be as funny as possible. It’s not about comedy, it’s about marking down their arrogance. Putting all comments on equal footing of silliness is a non-aggressive way of saying, “Your argumentativeness is pointless” or “Your corrections are a joke.”
posted by Construction Concern at 9:51 AM on July 2, 2018


Your choices are limited:

1) Limit communications - say "that's interesting" or "hmm," and otherwise drop any subject that's not absolutely required to get your job done. This means giving up on him as a friend. (As others have mentioned, there's a good chance he's not your friend; he's someone who finds your presence pleasant because he thinks he outranks you.)

2) Polite-but-aggressive negative feedback: The "Ding" technique, a notebook, challenging to make it a bet. These are all methods of saying, "I think you're wrong, and I'm going to continue to think that." These have the best chance of keeping a friendship, but the transition is likely to be awkward at best, and stressful at worst, with a non-zero chance of him reacting with some kind of violence. (I don't know him. I do know that there are a frightening number of men who react by shouting and later hitting, when a woman consistently tells them "I don't like what you're doing.")

3) React to the conversation, not the content - this includes approaches like "go surreal on him" and "psychoanalyze why he feels the need to criticize you." Has much of the same awkwardness and risks of the previous; may fit your personality style better.

4) Full-on passive aggressive: Thank him profusely for correcting your errors, and tell him you don't know what you'd do without a man like him to help keep your womainbrainz in order. Has a good chance of convincing him that you actually are a nitwit; almost certainly ends the friendship; may make him uncomfortable enough to reconsider his conversation style. He may start avoiding you, especially if you tell other people, "oh, have you talked to FriendMan here? He knows everything! Why, just yesterday he was telling me that you need first class stamps to mail a letter in the US!"

There is no option where using the word "mansplain" to him will make anything better. There is no option where saying "I already knew that" will help, or prevent future incidents. He's not trying to inform you; he's trying to show off what he knows. You are the audience, not the recipient.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:53 AM on July 2, 2018 [5 favorites]


C. Have to be Right. All. The. Time.

the thing with this guy though is he's the opposite, he has to be wrong all the time. the dolphin story is a great illustration of how uninterested he is in actual facts or information -- uninterested in learning facts, uninterested in sharing them. and you have to care about that stuff in order to care about being right.

what he cares about is dominance, being in charge, being treated like an expert, and possibly being thought of as helpful. but he's not interested in being right, or he'd be thrilled to have a friend who can teach him things. you know, to help him be righter.

you can still be an annoying lecturer-type if you actually know stuff, but being right about things goes a long long way. this guy hasn't got that and he doesn't seem interested in it, either, which would be my own friendship cut-off point. lecturing and mansplaining is bad enough, but not caring what's true? beyond the pale
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:04 AM on July 2, 2018 [14 favorites]


This is not a friend and he's not a great person. You can try sitting down and having a heart-to-heart with him, in which he's going to tell you he doesn't do this but may change his mind after a couple of days to percolate, or, you know, may then become dangerous or hostile. You can try dinging him with "I wish you wouldn't do that" or "please stop doing that" or "can you please treat me like a functional human being?"

There's a chance he's just bad at social cues or doing it out of anxiety and your intervention will actually help him become a better person. There's a chance that will happen but it will require the heat death of your "friendship" for that to occur. There's a chance it won't change anything. From there on, though, you have to decide what's best for you as far as letting him do this to you.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:50 AM on July 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Even if he can change, it's not your job to do a thing. I would have to spend less time with him.
posted by juliplease at 1:00 PM on July 2, 2018


I think there's a lighter version of ding training that involves making them aware of something, but a bit more gently. I'd lay out the issue, then later reference it while quickly changing the conversation to something pleasant. "You know, it feels like we're often debating or like you sometimes explain really basic and obvious things to me." "Oops, we're debating things again. Did you catch the Raiders game?" "Uh oh, you're explaining something basic to me. How was your weekend?"

I personally couldn't handle this at all. But one tactic that gives me a little bit of patience with people like this is to ask them questions about things that I do want to know about, i.e., channel their incessant explanation in a direction I find interesting. If there's nothing practical to discuss (work? "How long has Bob been with the company?"), then philosophy or science questions. I wouldn't care if he knew the answer; I'd personally be just as amused by watching him try to explain why zebras have stripes but giraffes have spots, or if time is the fourth dimension what is the fifth. It would still be infuriating to be so unseen, and taking on a (fairly disingenuous) tactic like this would increase the sense of alienation, so I'd try other approaches first. But if you're stuck in an elevator with him and starting to feel your frustration mounting, this (in my experience) can provide a few more minutes of cheerful patience.
posted by salvia at 1:06 PM on July 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also, what happens if you are just extremely blunt and firm but with a fairly neutral demeanor? (Neutral meaning somewhere in the range of cheerful to matter of fact to mildly exasperated but without scorn or anger?)

"Bob, I do know how to use a printer!"
...he continues explaining...
*a bit exasperated:* "Bob puh-lease stop telling me how to use the printer! Geez!"
posted by salvia at 1:12 PM on July 2, 2018


I'm the type of asshole to give people like this whatever they want. It's not what you think though: at the end of the day, you have to use this one weird mind trick: you know you're right, you know that you know how things work, you are the authority on your illness. So whatever he says is a reflection of him, his lack of social awareness and empathy, not you. This "one weird trick" will serve as a protective barrier around you so that whatever he says, it won't affect you.

As such:
Him: No they're not. I think you'll find they're a type of porpoise.
You say, "mm hmm," purse your lips, raise your eyebrows and look down. That body language conveys "this guy doesn't know what he's talking about, he probably knows it, but doesn't want to hear it." And change the subject.

Explains the most basic of things to me. Things such as how manners, or printers, or the postal service work, over and over and over and--
"Thanks for letting me know. I have to get back to doing x now." Say this with an icy polite smile.

Asshole response (depends on your comfort level; if you have a good friendship, it should be able to weather this): say really sarcastically with wide eyes, "Really? I had no idea. What would I do without you. I would never have known. I mean, I've only been using the post office for the last 10 years."

"Oh, I've felt sick like that before, just do x, y, z and I'm sure you'll feel better"
You say, "yes I will do exactly that because I'm sure you know better than my doctors."

"You spent the day in bed? You're so lucky! I've been stuck at work all day"
You say: "Yes, I'm sure you'd want to be in bed all day with x symptoms feeling like shit and unable to do xyz."

"Yeah, what you spend on meds I probably spend on my car repayments. We're kinda in the same boat."
You say: "we're really not, but I appreciate your half assed effort to relate." Or just don't talk to him about your illness at all. If he asks, just say, "nothing new to report." And change the subject.

I'm not this asshole-ish IRL (only a little bit?). But I can definitely be blunt and sarcastic. I know how to temper it though! Mefites are very upstanding, ethical and polite ppl; so this advice is to provide some contrast. :) On preview, this is like 4) on ErisLordFreedom's comment. Salvia has a nicer version of what I'm offering you.

YMMV with all this and will probably be out of your comfort zone. I have no idea how he'll react to this new side of you - the point is you don't care, and to give yourself some internal satisfaction in the face of his condescension. I'd also limit my conversations with him as much as possible. I also echo what was said above about being glad that your internal life is not like his such that he alienates people this way.
posted by foxjacket at 1:26 PM on July 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


Depending on your roles at work, I like the idea of betting. The minute he says something wrong-headed, ask "how much will you bet?"
posted by bunderful at 3:28 PM on July 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also, just being quiet when people start on their bullshit trains a) saves you energy and b) sometimes, just sometimes, when they're not reacting to someone else they can hear themselves talking and they realize how not at all good it sounds, or at least c) it's no longer rewarding to keep going down the bullshit trail alone.
posted by bunderful at 4:35 PM on July 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


what he cares about is dominance, being in charge, being treated like an expert, and possibly being thought of as helpful. but he's not interested in being right, or he'd be thrilled to have a friend who can teach him things. you know, to help him be righter.


Wow, this comment by queenofbithynia made the hair on my neck stand on end. It explains the cognitive dissonance I experience whenever trying to "discuss" anything with my male relative. After all, if you really are interested in how things work in Country X, wouldn't you take the opportunity to hear from someone you know who lived and worked there?

In your case, it also might explain how your friend can be a good person in many other ways while also needing to do this stuff. He might have entirely positive motives for wanting to be in charge and being thought of as helpful, but that doesn't mean you don't need to find ways to insulate yourself from the corrosive effects of his behaviour.
posted by rpfields at 5:06 PM on July 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


One more idea!

Him: total bullshit
You: that’s different, can you send me a link to the source

Then move on.

One thing a lot of these answers have in common is making this pattern unrewarding for him and you not losing any more energy over it
posted by bunderful at 9:22 AM on July 6, 2018 [2 favorites]


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