Dealing with unwanted negative attention
July 4, 2006 7:53 AM   Subscribe

How to deal with someone who wants my attention – when I don’t want to give it to him.

To make a long story as short as possible: I’m a woman. Through friends, I met a man the other day. No big deal, it happens all the time. The problem is that this man seems to have few social skills, at least when it comes to me. His first remark to me, even before introducing himself, was a sexist comment. (Sure, teasing has its place, but in my experience it’s usually wise to test the waters first.) He continued to pay a lot of attention to me throughout the afternoon, addressing remarks to me in a group situation, aiming a camera at me for a while (yes, really) and generally making abrasive comments. Ultimately, he tried to stop me when I was leaving and, when I shook him off, started making, “Ooooh, she’s cross with me!”-type noises. I pointed out that we didn’t know each other at all and that I wasn’t comfortable, but he told me to chill out because he was just joking.


What I want to know is, what is the best way to deal with this guy? I’m likely to see him again quite soon, and may well run into him fairly often. He makes me uncomfortable. I feel singled out, his comments are generally negative and his behaviour seems calculated to get a rise out of me. What the hell is going on with this guy and what can I do about it? I just want him to leave me alone, and to continue hanging out with my friends.
posted by different to Human Relations (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is he like this with others or just you?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:01 AM on July 4, 2006

I think you need to be direct. Tell him you find him very unpleasant. Act disgusted.
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:06 AM on July 4, 2006

I personally am a big fan of the withering look, sometimes accompanied by incredulous shaking of the head and turning/walking away from the annoying person.
posted by justonegirl at 8:07 AM on July 4, 2006

You met him once and he was a jerk. Don't fret too much until he acts this way again a second time. At that point, you may have to complain to your friends. Did they notice how uncomfortable he was making you?
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:07 AM on July 4, 2006

Response by poster: It seemed like it was just me. He didn't make rude comments to anyone else, face them with the camera or ask searching personal questions. In fact he barely addressed any of the other women at all, which is why I felt singled out.
posted by different at 8:09 AM on July 4, 2006

Honestly, I would be inclined to tell my friends I wanted nothing further to do with this man, and ask them to please warn me when he was included in plans, so that I could completely avoid him.
posted by orange swan at 8:09 AM on July 4, 2006

Just from what you said, it seems as if he's attracted to you and has such poor social skills he can't behave like a normal person. I'd personally just be very cold and polite and give pitying looks towards him when he tries to engage you. Even if he doesn't pick up on it fairly quickly, your other friends will and they'll hopefully put a stop to it.
posted by hollygoheavy at 8:14 AM on July 4, 2006

This sounds like someone who has trouble with social cues. The first thing you need to do is talk to this person away from the group. It sounds a little like he is performing for the people around you. It might be that when you say things like "You're making me uncomfortable" he acts like you're kidding in a highly clumsy way to save face.

Secondly, be absolutely clear and tell him that you want him to leave you alone. Leave no room for him to interpret it as anything but a firm rebuke. He might be fooling himself into thinking that you are flirting back if you leave the possibility even slightly open.

Next, ignore him. Don't give him and pleasure in a reaction from you. Enlist allies among your friends to deflect him if you need to.
posted by Alison at 8:14 AM on July 4, 2006

Sorry, "Don't give him pleasure in a reaction..."
posted by Alison at 8:16 AM on July 4, 2006

He is attracted to you and is showing it in a very childish, playground-style way. If the usual brush-offs don't work, I find that, mean as it is, you have to crush someone like this.

If he initates physical contact again, ask him to stop. If he doesn't, raise you voice and say something like, "take your hands off me," in an angry, dangerous voice - loud enough for everyone else in the room to hear.

If he continues on his faux-jokey, irritating tack, just turn away from him whenever he talks to you. Hopefully he will soon stop addressing you.

One thing to watch out for: if he is a real bastard, he might start badmouthing you to the other people present ("she's a real bitch to me and I'm only trying to be friendly" etc.) There's not much you can do here without badmouthing him back (which would be back), so just try and be on good terms with everyone else and hopefully they will realise that you are nice and he is the dickhead.
posted by pollystark at 8:23 AM on July 4, 2006

That is very irritating. It seems like the guy doesn't have much of a clue. If this happens again, I would confront him directly, being completely serious, telling him under no uncertain terms that you are not interested and want him to stop talking to you. If that does not work, I might tell him that if he continues you well let the others know how you feel. If that doesn't work I would take two friends with me and confront him with them at my sides to back me up. If that fails, the next time he does it I would humiliate him in front of the group, loudly and angrily reprimanding him. If that fails I would go for a restraining order ...
posted by blueyellow at 8:28 AM on July 4, 2006

He may be attracted to you and not sure how to deal with it but being a jerk is not the best way to do it.

People that behave like him need to be made into social outcasts so that they can realize that they're behaving like boors. But that's not your job, he's just a guy being a jerk to you and calling it charm.

Cold shoulder him, withering look him, publicly respond to his negativity and hopefully he'll move on to easier pickings. Or just tell him to piss off and that you don't like boys.
posted by fenriq at 8:32 AM on July 4, 2006

You have to at least once say, very directly "I don't like you, go away, please do not talk to me."

After that, feel free to cuss him out.

Another way is to play his game, ie give him attention, but only of an embarassing sort "Oh, you want to clothes shoping with me? Lets go!" Note that this can only be pulled off by certian types of people and if you arent' one of them, don't try it, as it only encourages him.

Ultimately, ignoring him may be the only way.

Did any of your friends comment on his behavior? Did THEY call him on it?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:42 AM on July 4, 2006

Ignore the shit out of him. Hard-core, full-on, no-reaction ignorification—don't express frustration, annoyance, etc. Just don't acknowledge him.
posted by cortex at 8:59 AM on July 4, 2006

I agree with Alison -- this sounds very like someone I recently had to deal with who had Asperger's. You mostly wouldn't know, but you wonder why the hell he can't catch on that he's being annoying, repulsive, etc. I'm not saying by any stretch that you can diagnose him from afar, but given his apparent cluelessness, taking the direct approach is the best thing.

If this guy is really friends with some of your friends, then you may do well to ask them about his behavior -- if they were ignoring it, it may be for a reason. Whether or not you choose to take him aside and tell him to knock it off in no uncertain terms or to tell him in front of God and everybody is your choice, but you really have to tell him.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:13 AM on July 4, 2006

You could tell him that, in your experience, men who make awkward jokes and unsolicited comments to women whom they barely know are inevitably trying to draw attention away from their own penile insufficiency, and that, judging from his lame game, he's desperately afraid you'll notice his complete lack of manly bulge, which you have. Smile, and say how much you sympathize with him about his shortcomings, since there is so little men can do about such things, medically. Stare at his crotch in public, and smirk. If he moves away, point at him while giggling conspiratorially to another woman.

Keep this up for 10 minutes, and he'll leave any gathering the two of you find yourselves attending.
posted by paulsc at 9:22 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

I would tell friends you won't be around when he is. Simple as that.
posted by dobbs at 9:32 AM on July 4, 2006

It's called a negative hit. You're way out of his league and he knows it. Once he realises he tactic doesn't work and he backs off, don't be surprised if you actually start to like him (as a friend).

I wouldn't know how to make the guy give up because I am not a girl, I'm a guy, and sooner or later the tactic always works for me ;)
posted by dydecker at 10:03 AM on July 4, 2006

I think the best suggestion here is to just tell him, very firmly, to leave you alone.

Whatever you do, don't bring his penis into it. If you do so, you would just be showing yourself to be as immature as he is, and your remark might be interpreted as playful curiosity about the size of his genitalia, and this would very likely result in continued harassment by him. paulsc's suggestion is a very bad one.
posted by jayder at 10:08 AM on July 4, 2006

Ugh... your description reminds me of one of my guy friends. He's a sweet a guy, but occasionally he makes an ass out of himself in group settings, usually when alcohol is involved. He's made several women very uncomfortable in sort of the same way you describe (thought not as over the top bad as this guy sounds.)

I've talked to him a few times about his behavior... but it doesn't always click with him that he is acting bad. In recent years he's mellowed out some, but it's taken a lot of awkward situations for him to catch on.

There's lots of good advice above. Whether you tell him to f-off or ignore him or whatever make sure you're really firm about it - otherwise the guy will interpret it as some sort of weird flirting on your part.

Also, there's nothing wrong with giving this guy a second chance. Maybe was off his meds, drunk, having a bad day, whatever... who knows, maybe he will behave himself the next time?
posted by wfrgms at 10:17 AM on July 4, 2006

Some of the more vindictive suggestions above are really bad, and are going to make the situation turn much uglier than it has to, really fast. Publicly snubbing someone who is bad with social cues does not work the same way that publicly snubbing someone who is good with social cues does. You think he's awkward and difficult to be around now? Just try turning up his insecurity as far as it will go, and see if his behavior gets any better (hint: it won't).

This doesn't have to be complicated or vicious. You met him through some other friend who presumably is more socially apt than he is. There is a chance that your mutual friend has already taken him aside and said "Dude, the way you were hitting on different was not cool; you created an awkward situation and freaked everyone out; was it a mistake for me to bring you?" and the awkward guy is now wallowing in a pit of despair, pledging to himself that he won't even talk to you next time.

When there is a next time, if he acts up again, talk to him the way you would talk to an (intelligent) child who is not being "bad" but simply hasn't learned the tropes. "When you point that camera at me, it makes me really uncomfortable, could you please stop it?" and that sort of thing.

If there's still a problem, then talk to whoever brought him, and say that unless the guy learns to leave you alone, you're not hanging out with the group when he's there anymore. Most likely, this will result in the talk described's what happens when socially inept people are friends with socially apt people.
posted by bingo at 10:21 AM on July 4, 2006

jayder and bingo, read different's post again. She already told him, directly and civilly, that he made her uncomfortable. He didn't miss her "social signals," he ignored her expressed wishes and ridiculed her in front of others for expressing her feelings. He's not an Asperger's case, he's an aggressive cheapshot asshole, and she needs tactics, if not weapons. Guys like this occasionally leave gatherings early, and wait in the bushes to get even, if repeatedly and ineffectually rebuffed. She expressly concludes that she doesn't want to avoid hanging out with her friends, she wants to make him stop his remarks and his camera pointing, and I, for one, applaud her for not being willing to give social ground to this cretin.

different needs to consider that if she has to rebuff him repeatedly, she needs to do so in a publicly witnessed way, that leaves him no retreat, and one that will be remembered. She needs to be socially viscous, because this dope isn't going to stop if he thinks he can scavenge any shred of ego, and keep being "funny" in public. She's aware this is serious, and she knows he's trying to get a rise out of her. "Strategies" for "managing" the situation won't help, but tactics and strength in numbers with her friends will.

Go for his privates, different. Nothing says "Go Away!" as effectively as a well aimed shot to the groin.
posted by paulsc at 11:06 AM on July 4, 2006

She already told him, directly and civilly, that he made her uncomfortable.

That's a pretty extensive inference to make. She said she "shook him off" and then "pointed out that we didn’t know each other at all and that I wasn’t comfortable."

Anyway, paulsc, your advice is really, truly, monumentally bad. I mean, it's shit. If there's anything in this thread likely to lead some fool to 'wait in the bushes to get even,' it's your astronomically assinine suggestion. You've given the worst advice that I've ever seen on askme on any subject, and that is really, really saying something.
posted by bingo at 12:06 PM on July 4, 2006

Maybe he's just a jerk. Maybe he has Asperger's. But I got a job when I was 17, and a guy just like this was my boss. He creeped me out so bad, and I had such a viseral hate for him, that I quit almost immediately. I had gotten the job through a friend who continued to work there, and he informed me that shortly after I quit, the jerk was arrested for spousal abuse, and later, for trying to grab a woman at a bus stop.

Stay away - it can't hurt to be too cautious.
posted by peep at 12:11 PM on July 4, 2006

bingo, I'm a bit amazed at what a clueless twit you appear to be, and how bad your reading skills are. Let's see if repetition can help you:
"I pointed out that we didn’t know each other at all and that I wasn’t comfortable, but he told me to chill out because he was just joking.
She pointed out she wasn't comfortable, as I restated. And:
"He makes me uncomfortable. I feel singled out, his comments are generally negative and his behaviour seems calculated to get a rise out of me."
She's feels uncomfortable and baited. And:
"...what can I do about it?"
She's asking for tactics, not your opinions of someone else's comments.

I think different is perfectly capable of judging what tactical suggestions she's likely to be able to implement, and which may or may not be effective. If I read you right, you're still suggesting she treat the jerk nicely, and hope he gets the message. That already hasn't worked, apparently, and worse, in my experience, it can send people like this the message that they can continue their harassment without concern, and that's a dangerous and foolish course to continue to push.

I stand by my suggestion, different. Make a scene. Go for his 'nads.
posted by paulsc at 12:38 PM on July 4, 2006

Whatever tack you take, just make sure you get over the woman-programming that will encourage you to be nice, to smile, to be polite, and to be apologetic. Do not put the blame on yourself (eg, "I'm uncomfortable"), put the blame on him (eg, "You're being inappropriate"). Do not smile, even apologetically or sarcastically. Use the firmest tone you have; do not let the end of your statements go up in pitch and become questions.

In my experience, guys like this will turn any "feminine" response into a flirtation. Pretend you're a big bruiser of a guy, and make your body language, tone of voice, and choice of words match that.
posted by occhiblu at 12:55 PM on July 4, 2006

He sounds dumb, so if you address him directly act way over the top. So over the top that it gets your message through his thick skull.
posted by parallax7d at 1:01 PM on July 4, 2006

Also, use direct commands: Do not touch me. Take your hands off me. Do not photograph me. Do not talk to me.

Don't give further explanation about why you want him to do (or not do) these things. "Take your hands off me," not "Take your hands off me because I want to leave." The second statement gives him something irrelevent to argue about (whether you should be leaving). If he objects to the first statement, just repeat it forcefully and as loudly as necessary until everyone at the table is uncomfortable, if necessary.

Don't use when you/I feel statements ("When you do X, I feel uncomfortable). Those things are great when you're talking to someone you want to maintain a relationship with, but you do not want to maintain a relationship with this man.

Do not ever back down from your statements. If you argue for 15 minutes and then finally give in (by staying, by smiling, by letting the subject drop, by letting him take a photo), you're just letting him know that you give in after 15 minutes. If you suspect he might be aggressive or stupid or screwed-up enough to pursue you physically, this is NOT the mindset you want him to have.
posted by occhiblu at 1:03 PM on July 4, 2006

If it helps, think of it this way: The concept "No means no" does not just suddenly jump into existence right before someone's threatening to rape you. You need, for your own safety and peace of mind, to enforce that idea early with people who make you uncomfortable.
posted by occhiblu at 1:19 PM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with what occhiblu is saying. I also like what Alison has written, except for this : talking to the guy "away from the group". I don't think it's a good idea to be alone with him. You could state your annoyance a little bit aside from the group but all in all, a firm public rebuke --repeated if necessary, in the manner Alison and a few others have suggested-- is the best thing to be done, I think.
posted by amusem at 2:06 PM on July 4, 2006

OK, I deal with this All. The. Time. I am a Jerk Magnet like you wouldn't believe. And a 6' tall woman that a lot of men think they need to cut down to size.

The trick here is to be way cooler than him and get everyone else on your side so don't start making statements like "you are not allowed talk to me!" or his inference that you are a stuck up bitch who dislikes him for no reason will only gain credence in everyone else's mind.

Instead just act like honestly annoyed and irritated with him taking up time you want to spend having fun: he tapes you? flip the tape off then walk away or call out to someone else "what do you think he does with all these tapes of gorgeous women like us?". Be archly amused, learn to raise one eyebrow at a time and above all be cool. He makes rude comments? turn to the friend who introduced you and say "nice" and walk away. If he makes a sexual comment say wearily "I'm sure you say that to all the girls". Don't get rattled, don't get on your high horse, don't give a shit.

Definetely don't take time out of your day to talk to him alone, he's doing this to get your attention and throw you off balance and make you think about him. Don't.

If he tries to call you on being bitchy just laugh and I say "Yes well you really know how to bring that out in a girl". Once he doesn't get a reaction he'll stop and meanwhile the other people will see things from your point of view because you're the good sport and he's the asshole and probably tell him to tone it down. Who know, he might even turn out to be an OK guy in the end.

If he lays a hand on you though smack him in the eye, that shit's not cool.
posted by fshgrl at 2:26 PM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

paulsc: You could tell him that, in your experience, men who make awkward jokes and unsolicited comments to women whom they barely know are inevitably trying to draw attention away from their own penile insufficiency [etc]

bingo: Anyway, paulsc, your advice is really, truly, monumentally bad. I mean, it's shit. If there's anything in this thread likely to lead some fool to 'wait in the bushes to get even,' it's your astronomically assinine suggestion. You've given the worst advice that I've ever seen on askme on any subject, and that is really, really saying something.

Gotta agree with bingo here. The only way that approach could even *conceivably* work is if the guy has a micropenis. If he is average or above, your comments will do nothing other than inflame the situation, as he will then be hell-bent on proving you wrong.

Moreover, cognitive psychology demonstrates that people tend to rate themselves as "above average" in just about any scale you give them, unless it is blatantly obvious that they are not. Thus, even if he is statistically below average, as far as he is concerned, he is probably above.

So, you would be playing with fire if your small-penis accusations are wrong, or wrong in his head. On the other hand, you would also be playing with fire if you just happen to be correct, by calling his masculinity into question. Unbelievably bad advice.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:09 PM on July 4, 2006

Plus , the guy is a jackass not Pure Evil. yes he was monumentally irritating to the OP on this occasion but does he really deserve such a vicious comment or some of the other extreme responses suggested on this thread? (he might but I see nothing to suggest it). He's immature, aggressive and completely irritating, treat him as such and maybe everyone can come out of it better off.

Or in other words no need to use a cannon where a peashooter will do.
posted by fshgrl at 8:06 PM on July 4, 2006

"... no need to use a cannon where a peashooter will do."
posted by fshgrl at 11:06 PM EST on July 4

peashooter. Heh...

By this point, it's probably not lost on different that some people here are worried that my suggested tactics may be too viscous, and are counseling her to have some sympathy for her adversary, even though all I really originally suggested was that she loudly sympathize with her tomentor's "shortcomings," stare at his crotch while smirking, and perhaps, giggle conspiratorily to a friend while keeping an eye on him.

None of what I actually suggested even rises close to being "fighting words." But the suggestions have clearly refocused the debate in the minds of some contributors here.

And that's what effective tactics do. They immediately change your adversary's behavior, and refocus his attention.

different has been warned that taking my suggestions might "inflame the situation, as he will then be hell-bent on proving you wrong." He could be hell-bent on any number of things, just because he takes an unnatural liking to her shoes the next time she sees him, without any inflammation from different. She can't censor herself in fear of what he might do, unless she's willing to be bullied. Unless she wants to quit seeing her friends, and let this guy's presence dictate her social life, she's going to have to take him on, effectively.

Effectively, not necessarily nicely. She tried nice before, it didn't work so well; next time, she can try nice again if she likes (and hope that, this time, it works), she can leave when he hits on her, she can hide in the ladies room, or she can do something else.

I like occhiblu's attitude, and agree with her that "Whatever tack you take, just make sure you get over the woman-programming that will encourage you to be nice, to smile, to be polite, and to be apologetic." And fshgrl has laid out strategy as well as Sun Tzu when she says "The trick here is to be way cooler than him and get everyone else on your side..." Right on.

But attitude and strategy only prepare you for confrontation. Tactics win, or lose, conflicts.

If different can't maintain the indignation and sense of entitlement occhiblu has described, can't hit the "cooler than thou" note that fshgrl can, can't "own" the tactics her irritation demands, and carry them out, she can always be nice and have plenty of sympathy for the fragile psyche of the jerk that would like to intimidate her, and make her feel, again, "uncomfortable" and "singled out."

But I bet she won't. Damn, I'd like to be a fly on the wall...
posted by paulsc at 10:19 PM on July 4, 2006

Just be very serious and try not to smile or laugh at his jokes or comments. After some time he will get the message. Or you can be direct and tell him to buzz off.
posted by Noodles at 12:34 AM on July 5, 2006

He probably will ignor you, these guys have delayed embarassment. If he continues tell him that he is being inappropriate. If he still won't leave you alone, tell him you are going to tell his parents, and then do call the parents. These guys usually live with their parents or are very close with them. NO matter how old the guy is a good scolding from his mother about his inappropiate behavior usually puts an end to it. A girl I know called the father of this fifty year old guy that was bugging her. That was the end of his bullshit.
posted by zackdog at 12:39 AM on July 5, 2006

He can tell his behavior makes you uncomfortable/pissed, and he likes it--makes him feel like some kind of rebel. Instead of sending "you make me uncomfortable" signals, try to send him "your antics bore me" signals.

(BTW, paulsc: amateurs talk tactics; professionals talk logistics.)
posted by equalpants at 2:06 AM on July 5, 2006

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