I fixed my indecisiveness, why are people annoyed?
August 18, 2019 11:44 AM   Subscribe

I had a reputation among family and friends for being too passive/indecisive (in response to 'where shall we eat tonight?'-type questions). So I started being decisive in these situations. Now people are annoyed at that too. Help me understand what is going on in their minds.

The situation in the past was like this:

Other person: What shall we eat tonight? Pizza or Chinese?

Me: Either is good for me, whatever you want.

Other person: why can't you just pick one?!

So I decided that in future I would always just pick one to keep the other person happy.

Now the situation is like this:

Other person: What shall we eat tonight? Pizza or Chinese?

Me: Pizza.

Other person: oh, so you don't want Chinese? I wanted Chinese. Sorry guys, looks like we're not having Chinese now, iamsuper has decided we're having pizza. (or some variation on this).

Why do people do this?
posted by iamsuper to Human Relations (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Some people are jerks, and want to have an excuse, any excuse to put you down. It doesn't matter how much you change yourself, they'll always find an excuse to needle you about something. I'd spend much less time with people who do this.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:50 AM on August 18, 2019 [44 favorites]

Agreed, but there's also just the fact that it's a change. They're used to having to/getting to (because it is a mixed blessing) calling all the shots with you. So they are maybe startled and acting poorly. Give them a (very small) amount of time to get used to the new you.

It also might help, if you really don't care, to respond to "Pizza or Chinese food?" with "Hm, how about pizza?" It's POSSIBLE that you're going for decisive and coming across as commanding (though this is no excuse; they did ask).

But if you do care, stick to your guns. Having a preference is not a crime, and people who are offering you an option and then moaning when you pick it are not okay.
posted by gideonfrog at 11:53 AM on August 18, 2019 [14 favorites]

Some people honestly don't care about X and can say so. Some people DO care about X but are AFRAID to say so because they feel vulnerable about wanting X and will feel rejected if someone chooses Y.

There are other categories of people who are crabby and like to be unhappy about everything, and people who are controlling and only like things that are their own idea.

The universe contains multitudes.
posted by perdhapley at 11:59 AM on August 18, 2019 [6 favorites]

Who knows why anybody does anything. But I would continue to remain direct and next time:

Them: oh, so you don't want Chinese? I wanted Chinese. Sorry guys, looks like we're not having Chinese now, iamsuper has decided we're having pizza. (or some variation on this).

You: We can get Chinese and next time you want Chinese, just say that instead of offering a choice and being unhappy when it isn't what you wanted. It's not a big deal.

It's really okay to call people out on stuff like this.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 12:00 PM on August 18, 2019 [119 favorites]

Hmm, that's frustrating - I love a decisive person! In my group of friends, what we try to do is:
Person 1: What should we eat tonight [3 options]
Person 2: I would do either [2 options]
Person 1: OK, let's do [1 option]
And then we just do that, no wishing washing.
Narrowing it down in 3 steps feels collaborative. What if you said, "How about you give me 3 options and I'll choose my top two, then you have final decision"?
Or, if I truly don't care, if someone gives me 3 options I'll say, "I don't have a real preference, but if it helps you decide, I'll pick two"
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 12:00 PM on August 18, 2019 [9 favorites]

Sometimes there just isn't a correct answer that you're supposed to give. I think these decisions are hard because no one likes any of the choices very much and it's hard to choose between things you equally don't want.

If I was in your place I think I would respond like "Im actually fine with Chinese, I just said pizza bc you asked me to choose."
posted by bleep at 12:01 PM on August 18, 2019 [10 favorites]

I hate endless discussions about where to eat. It's not just Pizza or Chinese, it's which place among those options. If someone offered you a choice, reply with Pizza would be my first choice, specifically XYZ, then Chinese as long as it's not 123, last time my order was completely wrong. Alternatively, CC's Grill is nearby and has a gluten free menu for Chris.. That answers the question, provides details, and gives the person good choices.

In the scenario you describe, the speaker is being a bit of a jerk.
posted by theora55 at 12:04 PM on August 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Fundamentally people don't like change. The dependable ritual you recount above was a reliable part of life and now you're undercutting it.

Keep it up for a while and it will become the new normal.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:06 PM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

I wanted Chinese. Sorry guys,
Some people don't get what they want because other decisive people ruin it for them. And some people assume that a person not making a decision is hiding their truth and not risking ruining it for others. They took that risk and don't want you to opt out. They didn't get Chinese and you didn't get the opt-out you wanted. Had you said "Chinese" they wouldn't have had to stand alone as the ruiner person.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:26 PM on August 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I feel like there's a bit of Ask vs Guess going on here, but I can't quite decide how!

Anyhow. If my main aim was a trouble-free exchange (rather than definitely eating pizza), I'd say: "I'd probably prefer pizza, but I don't mind too much either way." That way you've expressed a preference, helping out anyone who doesn't want the burden of making a decision. But you've also given the option of switching to Chinese, helping out anyone who was in fact just being polite and really wants Chinese but feels rude stating their preferences too baldly.
posted by penguin pie at 12:28 PM on August 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

As someone naturally both unreasonably polite and prone to ponder every decision until the opportunity is lost and who embarked on a very intentional campaign of impulsive decision making a decade ago with spectacular results. . . I'd suggest not giving up on the idea. Your friends just aren't used to it yet.

Depending on your friends, being decisive and also really weird can help. "Let's find the best Ethiopian place within 30 miles" or "I insist on a restaurant that has three Rs in its name" redirects the conversation in interesting directions. Turning it into a silly joke also works for me. "If you flip a coin, we're both going to harbor secret hopes for the outcome. Let's skip the coin part and leg wrestle for it instead. If you win, I buy the pizza."

(It's also possible the new you may want to spend more time with different friends. I've no idea if that's true or not, but it's worth considering. People do change.)
posted by eotvos at 12:28 PM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

This annoys me so much as well. I typically go with a variation of “Meh, if i had to pick i’d get pizza but whatever is good, I’m not picky”. Which is totally passive aggressive and annoying, but somewhat less indecisive than “Meh, whatever you feel like”.

The not-nice side of me would reply with “You friggen asked me if i had a preference so I answered you. If you didn’t want to hear it, don’t ask!!”.
posted by cgg at 12:37 PM on August 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Look, we can't read anyone's minds.

But one thing it might be is that when people said "Be decisive," they probably didn't mean "I want you to be 100% decisive." They probably meant "You're currently at 26% decisive, and it would be nice if you got up to like 40%." But if you've now decided that every single time you're going to pick one, you've probably overshot 40% decisive by a fair amount, and left them feeling like whoa, hang on, that's too far.

This is a reason it's good for stuff like this to be an ongoing conversation. Better not to decide "Ok, you asked for it, I'm always doing X," but instead to check in and say "Hey, I've been trying to do X a bit more, is that what you wanted?"
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:49 PM on August 18, 2019 [11 favorites]

are these the same people doing this? If it is, then it's not about you. It's because their preferred stance is "to have what they want, but not have to say it." So when they ask you to pick and you don't, that stymies them because it moves them no closer to their goal (of having what they want but not having to say so.) But if you choose the thing they didn't want (and maybe they didn't even really realize it til after you responded,) that stymies them too.

In some cases it's even worse: what they want is not pizza per se, but rather the chance to bitch you out about something. Anything.

If you want to handle them gently, you can use wording like "Chinese sounds pretty good, but I could do pizza too if other people are needing pizza." That will work if they're not just looking for a chance to be nasty. If they are, they'll find something else to complain about.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:50 PM on August 18, 2019 [11 favorites]

Other person: What shall we eat tonight? Pizza or Chinese?

Me: Either is good for me, whatever you want.

Other person: why can't you just pick one?!

Me: I can if you don't want to. [flips coin] Heads! Pizza.
posted by flabdablet at 12:56 PM on August 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

omg restaurant discussions.

Sometimes I go with something along the line of, "Pizza, since you've asked me to choose." or "I'd say pizza but if you prefer Chinese that's ok too."

This comes up a lot for me, not just in restaurant contexts. I often really don't care, but I also understand that sometimes this puts the onus on others to make a decision. So sometimes I will make a decision but also (try to) make clear how much I am invested in this decision vs. just making it so the other person doesn't have to, which is what I was trying to express above. This works in some situations and with some people, but not all, so YMMV.

I also like the "narrowing down" discussion that Uncle Glendinning gives above for restaurants in particular.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 1:01 PM on August 18, 2019

(Just realized I didn't actually answer your question of "why do people do this?" That I can't help with, sorry.)
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 1:06 PM on August 18, 2019

Honestly to me it would because I’m not getting the truth either way. The first time you probably had a slight preference either way and the second example you probably didn’t actually care that much about which you were ordering. Just say what you mean, in its entirety, “pizza sounds good but pepperoni doesn’t agree with me. I could also do Chinese but I’d prefer to stay away from the spicy dishes.” Don’t just say pizza or Chinese and expect me to be able to fill in the rest
posted by raccoon409 at 1:08 PM on August 18, 2019

I think some people prefer to make decisions that take into account everyone's input. This is hard for restaurant decisions because at the end of the day, you have to choose one restaurant. I think the ideal for your family and friends is for everyone to actively want to eat Chinese food. When you say that you don't have a preference, people can't take into account your input, and when you say you prefer pizza, your input ends up being ignored if the end result is eating Chinese food.
posted by chernoffhoeffding at 1:10 PM on August 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

raccoon409 nope, not the case. But perhaps this gives me some insight into why people are getting annoyed--perhaps they're assuming I'm not telling the truth.
posted by iamsuper at 1:21 PM on August 18, 2019

Who are these people to you? How long have they known you? How close are you?

There are a few likely possibilities, perhaps already covered:

---They are bullying you and will be shitty about whatever. If these are friends, think hard about where you are in the pecking order, and whether they treat you with respect.

---If this is a woman who you're really close with (e.g. girlfriend, close friend, mother) they probably do not feel that you are really engaging with them or showing interest in the team food picking exercise.They probably want you to do something like "oh, hmm, I know you like Chinese better, but I feel more like pizza...plus the Chinese place was so slow last time. What do you think?"

---If this is a very long-time friend, they may just be thrown by the change! I have one friend who does this sort of intense interrogation-style questioning whenever you say something but don't give him "enough" information. Like total cross-examination style, with followups and references to earlier answers. It can be legitimately bothersome, but I have noticed that he has recently stopped doing it as much and that bothers me, too, because it was so familiar! I think you fix this by going back to your old behavior, but teasing yourself for it a bit?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:30 PM on August 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

Also, if you can be a bit more on the literal side, are you sure they were really criticizing you before, and not just sort of poking lighthearted fun at you? This is really cultural, but I've found that some people really enjoy this kind of directed complaining and see it as an expression of intimacy, not as a genuine attempt to change your behavior.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:32 PM on August 18, 2019

@iamsuper I’m going to gently push back to say that I’m at least one of the instances you weren’t giving the “whole truth.” You said nothing has changed in your actual feelings, just the action. So did you really not care if it was pizza or Chinese when you were answering the first time or did you actually want pizza like when you answered the second time.

(Also I realized my language came across a little brusk the first time, sorry about that!)
posted by raccoon409 at 2:04 PM on August 18, 2019

I am also leaning toward "These people have some kind of emotional baggage that they're taking out on you" as an answer.

The only thing required of you in this scenario is to give an honest and reasonably comprehensive answer.
E.g. "I could go either way, but Chinese sounds better to me right now than pizza."

At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter if, or why, your answer annoys them. A normal person would ALSO give their honest answer when it comes to their dinner preference. Whenever my friends and I have this conversation, it goes like this:

What do each of us feel like eating, offering 2-3 options
Eliminating the "I definitely don't want" options from that list (e.g. "I could eat pizza, but I definitely don't want steak")
Taking 2-3 of the "I could eat" options and then suggesting restaurants
Agreeing on a restaurant

With each person acting in good faith, this conversation takes about 5 minutes.

Other person: oh, so you don't want Chinese? I wanted Chinese. Sorry guys, looks like we're not having Chinese now, iamsuper has decided we're having pizza. (or some variation on this)

This would never happen because my friends aren't huge assholes. I would strongly recommend doing a mental tally of how frequently someone puts you on the spot like this, and if the answer is more than once, you are hanging with assholes and could probably do with a change of scenery. It's just ONE meal and nobody's gonna die because they had to eat their second choice. If someone is regularly this rude about it, they need to go sort their shit out while everyone else enjoys their pizza.
posted by Autumnheart at 2:24 PM on August 18, 2019 [7 favorites]

Unless your friends have very unusual priorities I don't think they actually care about whether or not you truly in your heart were exactly 50-50% about pizza vs. Chinese before, or whether you are 51-49 or 100-0 now.

In addition to what ifdssn9 mentioned it could be that before, some of your friends pretended to be annoyed that you were being indecisive, when really they were annoyed that you weren't choosing what they wanted, and that now they're doing the same thing when you make the "wrong" decision. Sometimes people aren't doing this specifically to bully you, or even consciously, but rather because they're used to having to be manipulative and indirect to get what they want.

Making it a little clearer that you're making a proposal could help (e.g. "How about pizza?" or "I could go for a pizza") but ultimately, it's pretty unreasonable to ask you to be a mind-reader and especially unreasonable to ask for an opinion and then get mad if it's "wrong," so I think it's good practice to just keep saying what you actually want and shrug off any resulting criticism. People will get used to it.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:26 PM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

What you want to do is put forward your personal preference, explain why you have that preference, but not act like you are the supreme leader deciding in a trice the dining futures of all you survey.

Good: "I'm feeling like pizza. Something about that cheese and sauce and bread just _appeals_ right now."

Bad: "Pizza is the right choice. It is winter. We go now."

Good: "The sandwich place is the closest, and I have a deadline."

Explaining _why_ lets people know _how much_ you want a particular choice, and lets them compare that to the strength of their own preferences -- so that they can intelligently, collectively, figure out what's best for the group.
posted by amtho at 2:41 PM on August 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

Some people just want to make you be the wrong one no matter what. This person doesn't like it if you don't pick and they don't like it if you do pick. They just want to be right and for you to be wrong. If you immediately said "No, I want Chinese," he'd probably still bitch and pick a fight about it. He'd do that about ANYTHING you said because that's his fun.

My dad was a pain in the ass about restaurant choices and would hound us to pick something and then not want anything we suggested. To this day my mom and I generally refuse to pick things (even though that's like, the one thing about her that annoys her boyfriend!) because we are long in the habit of dealing with that shit. When it came to my dad, I just made a flow chart list of restaurants by cuisine, price, location, etc. and made him pick every damn time after awhile. He wanted the power and control, so that meant he had to do the work of picking.

I doubt that's something you can do in friend groups, but since no matter what choice you make--spineless vs. choosing--is going to be wrong, do what you fucking want to, I guess.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:54 PM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

Is this an actual pattern, or just something you've noticed happening with maybe one or two persons? It seems unusual to me that people put this much thought and effort into wordsmithing this type of exchange (as evidenced by the previous responses) and I say that as an anxious overthinker with people-pleasing tendencies.

Unless this is causing actual strife I would really just ignore it.
posted by sm1tten at 2:58 PM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

These people sound like they're being annoyingly passive aggressive - they wanted Chinese, but they want it to be someone else's idea. You can deal with it in a number of ways - personally, I think railroading over passive aggressive people is one of life's great joys, but YMMV.
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:01 PM on August 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

"Wait, if you really wanted Chinese why did you ask ME to pick something?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:24 PM on August 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

I come from a huge family. There is always one or two that think their ideas are the right answer. We solved it by flipping a coin with different people doing the flipping. It seems to have removed the tension in choosing. Works for us.
posted by JayRwv at 3:51 PM on August 18, 2019

Seconding EmpressCalipygos: "Then why did you ask?"

I see this as passive-aggressive.
posted by rhizome at 4:52 PM on August 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Why do people do this?

I'm gonna second internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 wherein it's worth thinking about this within the context of who these people are, who they are to you, and when/how often they say this.

Because this: "oh, so you don't want Chinese? I wanted Chinese." is . . . a not uncommon response that kinda ties into Ask vs. Guess and other personal or cultural factors - there are people who don't like to appear "bossy" so they like to circle around to their preference by bouncing off others' suggestions, there are people who don't feel comfortable with a group decision unless there's an actual dialog (so your previous "whatever" wasn't giving them any useful info), there are people who don't really grasp their own preferences until someone else states a preference first, maybe these are just people having (as mentioned by multiple folks above) a bit of trouble getting on board with your new decisiveness and are still finding their footing. Age, gender, and cultural background can all come into play here, and it's not necessarily meant maliciously or to be intentionally aggravating.

But THIS: "Sorry guys, looks like we're not having Chinese now, iamsuper has decided we're having pizza " is a whole other level of rude passive-aggressive martyrdom. Best case is it's some kind of joke, but to be totally honest I'm having a bit of a hard time believing that multiple people say this often enough that you can really consider "people" doing this.

If that's really the case then you're surrounded by jerks and you should just try like hell to reduce the amount of time you spend having these conversations, or just bluntly call them out on this rudeness.

But it's worth, I think, considering whether it's really one or two people being that rude, and whether this has maybe primed you to interpret other folks' responses as more hostile or martyred than they really intend.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:36 AM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm midwestern, and "do you want pizza or chinese?" is actually the opening salvo in a negotiation, where everyone makes room for everyone else to express preferences without anyone directly expressing one until everyone has had a chance to feel out the territory. In this context, never expressing an opinion is annoying because it short-circuits the negotiation (and makes the other person negotiate against themselves), while directly expressing an opinion the first time you're asked also short-circuits the negotiation; both are seen as rude.

So properly it would go more like (imagine there are 3 people in this conversation):
"Do you want pizza or Chinese?"
"I'm in a bit more of a pizza mood, but I could do either."
"I had pizza last night, so I'm a little meh on pizza, would you mind terribly if we did Chinese?"
"Yeah, I could do Chinese, but not Golden Dragon, way too salty."
"Would you rather go to Szchewan Garden or that new Imperial Panda place?"
"I don't know, are you in the mood to try a new place?"
"Yeah, I could do either. I mean, I definitely love the kung pao chicken at Szchewan Garden but Imperial Panda sounds good too!"
"Well ... let's try something new then!"

The key at each step is to express a tentative preference while leaving room for the other person to express a contrary preference without having to be directly confrontational, and without anyone having to "lose face" by backing off an earlier direct claim. Done properly, this also lets you indirectly exchange a lot of information about your plans, feelings, frustrations, mood, etc.

This is a really difficult territory to navigate if you are not native to this kind of negotiation! (Or if you are just temperamentally ill-suited to this sort of circling around the point.) My husband is from a part of the US where this kind of tentative feeling-out IS NOT DONE, and I would say that honestly 50% of the arguments in our marriage arise from miscommunication over this sort of discussion where we end up talking past each other because I feel like I'm being clear and direct (by expressing my strong opinion tentatively to open the discussion about it) and he takes it as a sign I don't have a strong opinion. Or he expresses a loose opinion quite directly, and I take it as a strong opinion and feel steamrolled.

(If you are normally a good participant in the negotiation game, you are free to express a clear and direct preference when you have one, especially if you do it with a little self-deprecating humor that indicates you know you are being too direct but that you're really excited. "Pizza or Chinese?" "PIZZA! Omg, sorry, I am just having an INSANE pepperoni craving, I would steal a car right now if someone agreed to pay me in pizza!" "Okay! Pizza it is!")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:46 AM on August 19, 2019 [8 favorites]

"Pizza sounds good, but I could be persuaded otherwise" (assuming your degree of preference isn't strong). Otherwise, just say what you want. If they don't like your answer, they shouldn't have asked the question.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 12:50 PM on August 19, 2019

I am like you! In particular, there is a person in my life who often asks me to make decisions. Sometimes these decisions involve me (e.g. a restaurant we will go to) sometimes they do not even involve me (e.g. a hairstyle for a video game character) and the conversation often goes this way. When I am direct, they balk. When I am indirect, I am accused of trying to manipulate. Yes I know this sounds like an annoying person to be around.

What has worked for me when I have no opinion but do not want to say so for fear of comments about indecisiveness is to say "I don't have a strong preference so I am mentally flipping a coin right now. The coin has landed on pizza."

This framing of "mentally flipping a coin" seems to avoid the impression that I'm being excessively polite (but still expect to get what I want) while also communicating my weak opinion. Might be worth trying.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 8:07 PM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am strongly on the "this isn't a cultural thing, it's a jerk thing" delivery van. In my experience, getting mad at you for answering the question is really passive-aggressive.
posted by daybeforetheday at 2:05 AM on August 22, 2019

another thing you might try, in situations where you've been asked to join a discussion or contribute a decision, especially with the "what should we eat" question, is say "those both sound really good" instead of "I don't care."

It's very easy to hear "I don't care" [what we eat] as "your question is unimportant"; "plans we make together are unimportant"; "I'm not interested in chatting this out with you"; "I don't care about dinner with you"; etc.

"Those both sound really good" gives approval of the two choices that have been given; promises enthusiastic participation in the dinner; and also eliminates the possibility that you can be "blamed" later for what results.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:42 PM on August 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

See, that kind of thing sounds to me like walking on eggshells.
posted by rhizome at 2:25 PM on August 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

« Older Sigh, Inc.   |   Copyeditor help, please Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments