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#593: “You’re not invited”, a “use your words” classic.

Captain,

I have a question about dealing with a Geek Social Fallacy #5 carrier, with a work-related twist.

I have a live-in position and a good working relationship with the other live-in staff members. Naturally we often spend our free time together, sometimes as a large group get-together but more often in smaller groups of the people we’re closest to / actually friends with.

There is one individual who generally gets on everyone’s nerves — she dominates the conversation and makes it all about herself, says slightly inappropriate things on a regular basis, asks people direct personal questions in front of everyone, etc. The problem is that she thinks that we’re all one big friend group and that anytime she hears that someone’s making social plans with another employee, it’s fine to invite herself along. She does not take hints at all, and no one wants to come right out and say, “You’re not invited to this” since this is someone we all have to live and work with on a daily basis.

From past experience, I have a feeling that trying to have an honest conversation with her would lead her to drop by everyone’s rooms to try to have hours-long FEELINGS conversations, and trying to shut that down will make her unbearable to work with. She recently renewed for another year-long contract.

Right now everyone’s strategy seems to be to make plans behind her back as much as possible, and then if she finds out and invites herself over/along, we suck it up and deal. Do you have any suggestions for a better strategy?

Your coworker has to learn sometime, and you need to speak up sometime, or this will never get better. You can withstand her displeasure at finding out she is not invited to something.

First strategy: Keep making plans with people you want to see when you want to see them. If annoying coworker finds out and tries to tag along, say, once, “Actually, it’s just me + this other person tonight. Another time, maybe!” Don’t preface it or add a lot of dramatic flair, act casual and normal, as if this is a perfectly reasonable thing to be doing (because it is), and then walk away. She will have whatever feelings she wants about that, and she will process them however she does. She may in fact vent to others in the house, who are at that point perfectly free to say “I don’t have time to talk about this, good night!” as are you. Hold your ground.

Second strategy: Sometimes make plans that she clearly IS included in, like, everyone going out for drinks or ordering food or whatever. Go out of your way to invite her to those things, so she learns the difference. It will help manage her anxiety that she is being left out if there are some ways/times she is clearly included.

Third strategy: If she protests, say “I like being friendLY with my coworkers, but that doesn’t mean I want to do everything with all of them, all the time. Sometimes I just want to hang out one-on-one, or in smaller groups. I’ll see you tomorrow though!” If she confronts you further, level with her. “Hey, sometimes you have a habit of inviting yourself along to things, and I don’t like it. I do want to see you and be friendly with you, sometimes, but I want it to be because I invited you or you invited me, not because I feel guilty. Can you please back off? If you do, I promise we can hang out sometimes.”

In all of these, don’t try to invoke other people’s opinions, just speak up for yourself. “I want,” “I need,” etc. Be the bad guy. You can handle it, I promise.

Fourth strategy: Prepare the others. “I’m trying a thing with Coworker, where when she invites herself along, I calmly and politely say ‘no.’ It might get weird for a week or so, but if you can back me up I think we can adjust until she stops doing it.” If they ask you how to keep her from dumping all of her feelings on them, you can say “Hey, you know you don’t have to actually sit there and listen, right? Just tell her ‘I’m sure it wasn’t personal’ and then go to bed or whatever.

Fifth strategy: Call out the inappropriate behavior when you see it. “That was inappropriate.” “Did you realize you interrupted so-and-so?” “We were talking about x, do you want to join us? Otherwise, we’ll catch you another time.” “Hey, it’s nice that you want to come along, but I just want to hang out with (actual friends) right now. Please don’t invite yourself.” “That’s a very personal question.” 

She should have learned this stuff by now, but she didn’t. You can be gentle and kind, but the boundaries need to be set or you will end up really and truly ostracizing her.

She may have a very outsized reaction, with lots of FEELINGSDUMPS at first. But if you stay consistent, she will calm down (or possibly quit in tears, but that is a survivable outcome). This seems like a good time to tell the story of my friend Amanda and the nail-clipping guy. Once upon a time, there was a company that had an employee who clipped his nails at his desk, where everyone could see and hear, and at meetings, where he left little piles of clippings on the conference table. The other employees strategized and worried about how to get him to stop, and because they didn’t want to hurt his feelings or cause issues, and they let it go on for probably years while all developing a deep loathing for him as a person. Amanda, as a new employee, didn’t have the same hangups. One day soon after she started working there, she said “Hey, can you do that in private from now on? It’s gross and annoying.” He turned very red and I’m sure was very embarrassed, but he did stop clipping his nails in public and there was no drama about it ever again.

Sometimes you just gotta say the thing and let the other person deal with the thing. Working around someone’s terrible behavior while you grow to dislike them more and more and more isn’t actually kinder.

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136 comments
  1. Suzy said:

    GEUUUUGH! Sorry, I’m so grossed out by the nail-clipping guy! Jesus, I applaud Amanda so so much. She is amazing! I’m reminded of a horror story a friend told me about a housemate who DIDN’T REMOVE HER NAIL CLIPPINGS FROM THE SHOWER AND MY FRIEND STOOD ON THEM ONE DAY.
    *flaps hands*

    Using words. It is an awesome thing.

    • lengarion said:

      I had a classmate that wasn’t only an exact copy of LW’s co-worker, but also did the nail clipping in class. She would also remove the dirt from under the nails with art utensils – not always her own.

      Good times.

    • lizinthelibrary said:

      At large university, I was in a class with very important basketball star, and he would clip his nails constantly. Due to desk set up, the more often than not landed on my backpack. I was 19 and intimidated. Class instructor was a huge basketball can with gross hetero male sports crush on basketball player. And allowed him all sorts of other inappropriate behaviors. So I dealt with it for a semester. I envy Amanda SO MUCH!

      • JenniferP said:

        I had a dude who used to walk around barefoot and put his gnarly feet ON MY BACK when our elderly, half-blind teacher asked me questions. I feel your gross!

    • stellanor said:

      At my job we had a Stealth Nail Clipper at one point. We occasionally found clippings in the work area, but no one ever knew who the culprit was. Conspiracies abounded.

      • Courtney said:

        I sometimes clip my fingernails at work, particularly if I do something like chip or tear one of my nails. (My nails are super-brittle and break at the drop of a hat.) HOWEVER, I do this over my trash can with my hands UNDER my desk. If bits don’t make it into the trashcan, I pick them up.

        • Jane said:

          Hum. . . this brings to mind what may be an odd question (specific to gross nail stuff): Does anyone have advice for how to handle a situation when someone asks you to stop your compulsive or habitual tic? I pick my nails compulsively, and it ramps up the more anxious I am (so I do it more in social situations and work situations and deadline situations . . .) I assume it’s disgusting. I’ve never yet been asked to stop, but I assume it might happen someday.

          I’d LIKE to stop the habit, but it’s been with me for plus or minus fifteen years now, so it’s going to take a bit of time and emotional energy. So. . . if someone were to say “please stop that, it upsets me,” during a time of stress (when I’m unlikely to be able to stop for more than a day or a few hours or. . . it varies) . . . what do I say? If it’s someone I see for only brief periods of time, then I can probably hold off until they’re gone; but if it’s someone I’m in an office with, or someone I have gone on a trip with, I’m likely not.

          • sometimeswhy said:

            Maybe something along the lines of, “I wish I could but it’s a tic. Would you help me figure out a way that we can keep you from seeing it since I can’t stop doing it?”

          • Samantha said:

            Hey Jane,

            Not sure if this would help you, but I used to be a big nail biter (although it was a habit, not a nervous tic). I found painting my nails worked a lot because chipping them sucked. Even paying for a manicure sometimes helped because I wouldn’t want to ruin something I paid for! If you bite them, I know you can get gross tasting stuff for them as well. I even went so far as to get fake nails once and they stayed on for two weeks and I actually CAN’T pick at them. But, I know that’s an expensive solution.

            But good news– it takes 30 days to break a habit! I officially stopped picking them. Again, not sure if it’s a habit you have or something bigger but that rule is always a bright one :)

            Does having something in your hands help? I know my partner likes to play with something to help concentrate (he has ADD), so having this ball in his hand or that magnetic bead cube thing or something to roll around and move around really helps him. This could help keep your hands busy? Having something to move around/play with keeps him happy and safe feeling and he can have big talks like this, too, and it really doesn’t distract him. What if you tried bending around a paper clip or playing with something small if you didn’t have an object that worked?

            Again, I’m not sure what it feels like for you but maybe some anxiety tactics (like deep breathing, holding onto one finger and switching them up, etc) could work as well.

            Hope this somewhat helps!

    • IrisInBloom said:

      I had a co-worker with nail fungus. He would trim his nails with our company scissors. I refused to use them afterwards, as did the rest of the office. I still have nightmares about it.

  2. Kanny said:

    “Working around someone’s terrible behavior while you grow to dislike them more and more and more isn’t actually kinder.”

    THIS. It’s the opposite of kind, LW.

    In my tiny scholars cohort at school, we have a friend like this! While the others fussed behind her back and got more and more upset, I was the one who started saying things like: “That was really rude to say!” “No, don’t touch me.” “That behavior is really invasive and annoying.”

    Results: She became a lot chiller once boundaries were established and eventually sought out friends she had more in common with. The rest of us didn’t have to deal with her annoying invasive pushy behavior. Everyone won! It didn’t happen overnight and sometimes it was exasperating and eyerolling (especially because I was the only one who tried to do this; the rest of my friends were major GSF-carriers.) But we all survived! You can too.

    • Yes! People who aren’t total garbage nightmares don’t actually want to be the missing stair that everyone else works around and silently resents. Sure, there are some douchebags who just don’t care, but many people (I’d even say most, actually) are actually pretty decent if you use your words and give them a chance to be better.

  3. Anon today said:

    I would add that LW should pay attention to how outings are described. If LW is using phrases that could imply the whole group when she is really meaning, “me + my 2 besties,” it can make that line harder to draw.

    My personal example is from a poly relationship, not work. Several years ago, I was part of a poly family where one member had a kid from a previous relationship that we all helped raise. Another member had a habit of referring to any outing that included the kid as a “family” outing. Then she would get pissed when someone she didn’t intend to go thought they were invited, because, “hello, part of the family!”

    So, words that imply the whole group–employee, co-worker, housemates, etc. Should only be used if you mean all of them.

    • Also helpful: decide *in advance* who all will be included in this outing. An honest attempt to keep it clear and not-mean can go bad quickly if you say, “just me and Julie and Amy for the museum” and then Sheryl hears about it and gets all psyched and you’re like, “sure, the more the merrier! But still not Laura”… now you’ve made it uncomfortably obvious that the goal of this outing is to exclude Laura (apologies to non-annoying Lauras out there)

  4. Karen said:

    I agree with the strategies to deal with it. However, social ineptness like this might not at all be because the person is in any way wanting to be different or pushy. Some people develop skills at different speeds due to their neurological makeup (e.g. with autism). You can say “they should have learned that years ago” – but their brain wasn’t configured for that yet, or they missed out on the lesson due to being overwhelmed with life. If you can in any way do this in a kind and compassionate way, or perhaps in an honest way, it will be a lot more effective. The feelings of anger or disgust that come through otherwise can overpower the message you are trying to give. What I mean by “honest” is that you own up to your bit: “sorry, I let you do this for a while without letting you know it was not what I wanted. I let it go on a little long and that meant I got irritated.” (That is not her fault!!!).

    • Blue Meeple said:

      Yeah, I’m uncomfortable with “should have learned that” also. Neurological makeup is one possible explanation, but also people simply learn things at different times because of different backgrounds and experiences.

      • Jenna said:

        I am not autistic, but, I was a very sheltered child and my dad was a really REALLY quiet person who raised me from 11 on pretty much by himself after mom died. I’m still learning how social stuff works, and it is one of the reasons that I read everything on this site.
        I also have problems with “should have learned that” but, that’s because some of us just aren’t exposed to the rules(rules? Expectations? Or just situations and solutions?) until we get out in the world on our own and flounder around a while. I still remember the culture shock when I stayed in a different state for a while in a very different region of the US. I decided that “common sense” was really only something that you learned so long ago that you forgot learning it. What is described as “common sense” can vary rather dramatically as you travel or visit people with other views.

        • JenniferP said:

          I am sorry for that phrasing. What would be better perhaps is: “We expect that people should have learned x behavior by now, but clearly this person hasn’t, so, you could ostracize her completely or you could try to set a boundary and redirect it in a more constructive way.

          However, this person is not the LW’s friend or family or someone they even like, it’s just a coworker that they don’t like and would not go out with outside of work, ever, if it weren’t the culture of that workplace. I don’t think it is necessarily our job to teach our adult coworkers social skills if they haven’t picked them up along the way. And it’s not just that this person interrupts, or asks really personal questions, or wants to tag along, or dominates discussions, it’s that past attempts to set boundaries result in manipulation, so the LW feels like socially engaging with this person is not based on mutual consent because they are worried about tantrums or hours-long emotional discussions or work repercussions. That ain’t autism or an unfortunate upbringing, that’s a severely maladaptive pattern where the coworker doesn’t care whether people engage voluntarily or not so long as they engage.

          • Yes, absolutely no one is required to donate their time to teaching others social skills. I’ve just found, travelling all over the US, the world, spending time with different socioeconomic classes of people, etc. that there isn’t any one code of behavior, and they are all different than the code of behavior I learned from my parents, which was along LW’s coworkers’ “your consent is not important to this interaction” type of grossness. Manipulation is gross and no one is require to put up with it. Just…expecting people to magically know how not to do it if they aren’t doing it consciously is also not a reasonable thing to expect.

          • Tesseract said:

            I’m on the shallow end of the autism spectrum myself, and I am infinitely grateful when someone points out specific aspects of my behavior they find uncomfortable (provided they do it in a nice way). In fact, my greatest, most paralyzing fear is that people WON’T tell me, that everything I do is creeping them out or otherwise upsetting them, and I’ll never know because they’re all too polite to just say it. It’s pretty hard for me not to end every interaction with “Nothing about that was weird, right?” because… well, unfortunately, that is weird all by itself.

            My point? Tell the awkward among you they are being awkward. Sure, they might be embarrassed and their feelings might be a bit hurt, but ultimately, you’re doing them a huge favor.

          • Karen said:

            And if you are always on the receiving end of such comments, people giving you hints on how to act, it becomes easy to believe that it is true and you are wrong or unacceptable. Not true. It’s just preferences. Majorities. Culture.

          • Jenna said:

            True. No one is required to teach others. The person the letter is about is maladaptive in probably the completely opposite direction from me, and I sure didn’t mean to take anything THERE personally. We all end up in our little patterns and circles in our own way, and on different paths. Some of us want to get along more gracefully with others, and some people are happy manipulating, because it has always worked for them.
            I am a big fan of using words, though, because I floundered a LOT longer because people wouldn’t tell me that I was doing something wrong or expected to do something that I wasn’t aware that I was expected to do.
            Unvoiced expectations do not help. The scripts and boundaries that you suggested will be more useful, I am certain.

          • This:

            “past attempts to set boundaries resulted in manipulation”

            Changes everything. While a person might have Very Good Reasons for not having learned better social skills (and really, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a BAD reason for that, it’s always sad) that does not mean that LW or anyone else is obligated or even encouraged to put up with that treatment.

        • lliira1 said:

          Culture shock is a big thing that I think we USians don’t expect when we move from one state to another. We’re all Americans, right? But this is a huge country with deep cultural divides. I moved from a place where I understood and could roll with the social rules, to a place where the social rules made perfect sense to me from day one and I felt like I finally understood people (NYC) to a place where I have, after nearly ten years, completely given up on even trying to make friends where I live. Workplaces can have similar cultural differences, and when you add that on top of geographical differences, it’s a perfect recipe for everyone to behave like their worst selves.

          • mamram said:

            Your current location sounds like a bummer. I’m in a similar situation myself, although it’s only been two years, and I’m planning on cutting my losses and returning to a city that’s a better cultural fit for me. I hope things turn up, or you’re able to get yourself to a better place soon.

    • Blitty said:

      I’m not autistic but I am schizoid and have been “that person” enough times. I’m still working on it and can come off as rude/aggressive without meaning to, and people still apparently get a ‘crazy’ vibe from conversing with me at times, but I have improved a lot with regard to appropriate discussion topics and responses. Not perfectly, since I have to learn this intellectually rather than having intuition, but it’s never too late to try. The problem with ‘disorder’ labels (IMO, of course) is that a lot of people seize onto them and use them as a crutch or excuse to continue their inappropriate behavior without any attempt at improving it. I get that some people are incapable of empathy and mystified by social cues and conventions – it doesn’t come naturally to me, either – but getting super clingy or imposing on other peoples’ lives after being explicitly told not to is not okay ever. I think it’s analogous to taking a cultural sensitivity course – you still might forget and make faux pas fairly often, but if you’re polite and trying to be respectful, people are usually very willing to overlook mildly odd comments or behavior.

      Also just adding that I do appreciate being corrected if it is something that really bothers someone. Try not to call people out in front of a group since that makes everyone more uncomfortable, but usually we social defects are just oblivious and a quick ‘hey, could you not communicate by yelling? And stop making jokes about X.’ helps a lot.

  5. Groovy Biscuit Intervention said:

    I would add to this that it’s maybe worth considering discussing the situation with your manager?

    I manage a live-in team (although I don’t live in myself), and… yeah, I’ve totally had this person on my team. Only in this case, the individual effectively ended up stalking another team member. And also used to stand at the window watching to see whether colleagues went in/out. And would call or visit them in the middle of the night to talk at length about FEELINGS, despite being asked by them not to do this (and they couldn’t not answer calls, because they were on call to back one another up in emergencies). Unsurprisingly, the team dynamic became… interesting. And ultimately, the thing I came to realise was that however much, on one level, I might want to believe that what my team did outside of their work roles was their concern to sort out between themselves, it sometimes also had an impact on their work role which wasn’t going to go away just because I wanted it to, however much I might have wanted it to. And, I also came to recognise that I needed to know about things like that; that it was good when the team shared what was going on with me rather than me just wonder what the weird unspoken currents were. If I knew, I could talk to them about what sort of action they would appreciate me taking (if any), and work out a plan for what to do. In other contexts, I’d regard knowing about the personal lives of people I manage as none of my business; in a live-in context, sometimes personal and work lives can’t be completely separated.

    Because of that, I think there are a few reasons why it’s worth at least having a low-key, off-the-record discussion with your manager (who I’m guessing is also the other individual’s manager, or working alongside them?). Firstly, if you’re going to try defining some clearer boundaries, it’s worth bearing in mind that, in a worst-case scenario, this individual might react to your boundary-setting by telling the powers-that-be that you’re bullying her, or excluding her unreasonably. (You aren’t, but she might take it badly). A quick advance heads-up along the lines of “FYI boss, I’ve been finding that X invites herself along to social events even when she wasn’t asked, and I’m finding it rather awkward, so I wanted to just let you know that I’d be politely addressing that with her. I like her and want to spend time with her, but just want to have some say in when. This isn’t to do with our work, everything’s fine with our working dynamic; and I’m not asking you to take any action; I just wanted to make you aware in case it comes up at all” could be helpful, and protects you against any later suggestion that you were being unreasonable.

    Secondly, it’s an inevitable issue with live-in teams that work and socialising become muddled together to a certain extent – but how much of an extent is determined largely by the setup of the live/work environment. One lesson I took from observing my team, partly from the situation I described above, was that making everything too much of a goldfish-bowl tends to result in unnecessary dramas. So, when we subsequently came to restructure the way we operated, we made ‘ensure team members get to have a life outside this environment’ a high priority, and we have had far fewer soap-opera moments since then. I’m sure that your manager(s) are aware of how living-in can impact on people, but it does no harm to occasionally reflect on it as it can help inform how the structures around you are set up.

    And finally, there’s the slender possibility that your individual turns into my individual. Hopefully they won’t; hopefully things are a million miles from that… but actually, the way I was able to piece together the full extent of the problem with my team member was through a succession of people sharing small pieces of information about what she was doing and how she was behaving. Some of it came from her colleagues. Some of it came from her friends. Some of it came from clients. Individually, none of the issues were large enough to act upon, but added together it became apparent that there was a real and significant problem, which (when enough people had finally felt able to tell me about the issues) I acted upon by not renewing her contract – in her interests as well as ours, as it became apparent that we were risking causing real harm to her by keeping her on in a role she wasn’t coping with. As I say, hopefully this situation never gets anywhere near to that situation… but, if it ever did, your manager would certainly be unable to act if they didn’t know. In the case of my individual, things had gone on for a long, long time before people started telling me about it, a bit at a time, and some team members suffered quite a difficult time – which I felt bad about, but frankly couldn’t change until they made me aware of it. Most likely, that “FYI boss,” conversation is just what appears to be, a quick heads up about something that never needs to be discussed again. But there’s the small possibility that it sets cogs whirring at the back of our manager’s mind as they file it away for reference against other bits of information.

    You might feel that it’s not appropriate in your work context to ever discuss non-work things with your manager – maybe you have a different set of boundaries to the ones we’ve evolved – so of course you should go with that feels right. But, think about it, at least, and see whether it might be appropriate to mention.

    • LW said:

      I have mentioned this to our manager, and there are also work-related concerns about her, but those were not enough to keep her from getting her contract renewed another year. I also think it’s very very possible that Coworker would go to our supervisor about being left out and I would be reprimanded for sowing discord among the staff or some such thing, legitimate concerns or no.

      • Groovy Biscuit Intervention said:

        It’s good that you’ve mentioned this already – and, on some level, the fact that reservations have previously been expressed about her work (and other issues) will have been noted by your manager, even if they aren’t (yet) at a level that would prevent her from returning.

        With my manager hat on, if a member of my team (especially one where there was some residual hmmmmm going on) turned up my office to tell me that “LW and the gang all went to karaoke without me and it’s sooooooo unfaaaaaiiiiiirrrrr” I’d first check the details of e.g. was this on work time and they snuck off and left X to do all the work? And when it transpired that no, this wasn’t a work thing but how the other team members choose to spend their spare time, X would be met with polite indifference on my part, a gentle reminder that socialising with her isn’t in her colleagues’ job description, and a suggestion that developing some social interests outside the live/work environment is always beneficial for people who live in.

        That said, a heads up to expect such a visit would be handy. Is there any mileage in revisiting that conversation with your manager, along the lines of “Boss, I mentioned previously my issues around X. We’re very different people and I’ve come to the realisation that I really need some social time away from her in order to preserve our positive working relationship. I’m more than happy to work alongside her, to spend time with her at any official team events*, and even to hang out with her socially sometimes – but would you agree that it’s not an expectation my job to socialise with her all the time, and it’s reasonable that team members can choose who spend their free time with?” They will almost certainly agree with this in principle!

        (*Might this be part of the problem? Are there expectations in your role that ‘team spirit’ is dependent on socialising? Are there blurred lines between what is and isn’t an ‘official’ event? If so, logo. Instigate a system where if it’s official, it has the team’s logo/colours on it, is advertised on a particular and recognisable way (maybe on a team noticeboard, or Facebook group) and everyone is invited. If it’s some-friends-who-happen-also-to-be-colleagues-who-also-happen-to-live-at-work hanging out, then keep it away from that ‘official’ branding. If the expectation is that you’ll bond through socialising, make sure there’s enough ‘official’ stuff going on (say, one thing a week? Even if it’s just something low-key like ‘DVD night’) that she can’t reasonably claim she’s being excluded – I do think it’s worth avoiding anything that looks like you’re all out to get her. The other advantage of this is that you always have the next ‘official’ thing to reference – so, “actually, it’s just me and Y and Z going to karaoke tonight, but see you at DVD night on Wednesday?”)

        • misspiggy said:

          Just wanted to say you sound like an awesome manager.

        • TO_Ont said:

          I like this too. It does seem like a clearer distinction between group events vs people just randomly going somewhere with friends that happen to work there too, might help the situation.

      • jdrives said:

        Wow that’s a whole other level of Suck, if your manager would get on your case about setting social boundaries with a coworker. Dealing with a socially unpleasant coworker is bad enough! Good luck to you, LW!

  6. Bunny said:

    THIS.

    Most of the people I’ve met who had annoying social habits weren’t actually being intentionally unpleasant, they just had never been told that a thing they were doing was wrong. Hell, I’ve been the annoying person who didn’t realise they kept interrupting people when they were talking. Once a friend directly stopped me mid-sentence to say “Hey, did you know you keep interrupting people? It’s rude.” I was very embarrassed and very regretful, but I was glad they said something because it made me aware of an issue I needed to change.

    Of course, not everyone handles being told these things well, but whatever the reaction your colleague has, telling them that a thing is wrong is actually the kindest thing you can do for them. And then they can handle that however they decide to handle it, and you can use their reaction to help inform how you deal with them in the future.

    • Freya said:

      Friends of mine did the same thing to me, which is how I realised that those friends were probably the only people in my life at the time that I didn’t have to interrupt and talk over, because they never did it to me (I’m developing more ways to deal with getting talked over that don’t involve shutting up and silently being upset, which was, prior to that, my default. My parents are slowly coming around to not being upset that I won’t let them shout me down :-P ) My friends are awesome, and they and their support are the best things that have ever happened to me :-)

      • D said:

        Also….I would suggest asking if there is something going on for the person that they would like to talk about (as a separate conversation, away from the invitation stuff). As Freya says, there can be back-story and somehow not being “heard” leads to “shouting”…sometimes a little quiet information and support go a long way. It’s possible the lack of invitations goes a long way back, and the current behaviour is a buildup of all the rejection/avoidance/invisibility of the past – and a lack of awareness of options.

      • Polychrome said:

        Yeah — interrupting is a conversational style in some families (mine, for example). It can be warm and exciting (I’m so enthusiastic about what you are telling me and want so much to share with you that I just can’t wait!) but only where everyone does it and is used to it. I really, really, am still training myself out of it, especially when I get close to people or really like them — I fall into that style because it is associated for me with closeness. It’s taken people using their words with me, and me realizing how unfair a style it is when the other person doesn’t do it: they just feel trampled. And the longer I spend away from home the more I notice it when I talk to my family, and to be honest now that I am more conscious of setting limits on myself about doing it I do get annoyed sometimes in conversations with them. A lot of this is because in phone conversations you have to really take turns for things to work; I do still find it kind of comforting when I go home and we talk face to face and everyone talks a LOT and AT ONCE and there is something sweet about it. So not everyone “knows” everyone else’s rules and it is sometimes a kindness just to tell people. I have benefited from others using their words with me!

        • monologue said:

          I’m like this too, when you’re close you can interrupt cause you’re close. I haven’t totally quit doing it. What I do is pay attention to whether the other person does it or not. If the other person doesn’t, then if I do it I catch myself and apologize and give them space to finish what they were saying. If they do it too sometimes we become friends who can both talk and listen at once, totally efficient :D I’m also hyper aware of this anyway because being talked over by truly tramply people is the worst. My boss is one, ugh.

        • Ahhh that is exactly me and I’m learning to better about this with friends, but I still do the excited interrupty thing! D:

        • dov ber said:

          It’s also a cultural difference thing. I definitely do this too, and when folks tell me that they find it rude, I find it rather difficult to strike a balance between my desire not to offend people and do things they find rude and a kind of low-level resentment that they’re trying to whitewash my cultural differences and turn everyone into buttoned-up, staid and quiet, upper-class-aspiring WASPs.

          • Polychrome said:

            yeah for sure — at the same time, though, there are a lot of non-white cultures that are really careful about turn taking and listening in silence. And my super interrupty family is white, but Southern. I mean this one I think does not come down to wasp vs. not (though in certain interactions in North America for sure it can), it is really all over the place all over the world.

          • lliira1 said:

            My WASPy family is incredibly interrupty. I ended up with a (non-WASPy) guy for whom interruption is one of the rudest things you can do, and I’m much better about it now, but it’s made socializing in real-time with my family a lot more difficult because I notice it now.

          • Bunny said:

            Aye, my family is working class, white, British and not just interrupty but simultaneous-loudy-shouty… n a totally friendly and affectionate way. I still find it really hard to not raise my voice to near-shouting level when having a conversation about something that I’m enthusiastic about, because in my family the normal way to talk is incredibly fast to the point of not fully articulating half the words, interrupting because everyone else already gets it, randomly remembering and continuing a conversation from a month ago and being incredibly loud at the same time. One of those families where someone waves their hands and goes “And he put it in, you know, the thing – the whatsit thing like with-” and everyone DOES know.

            Learning how to talk Like A Person so other people could even understand me properly was something I grasped late in life.

    • lengarion said:

      Well, there are only so many times that you can tell someone that they misbehave until it starts to look like you’re picking on them. I had a friend like this that did really inappropriate things in class and private. Like, talking to a male teacher about her plans to go swimming naked with him in moonlit ponds (I don’t know who that ever came up, but she referred to it multiple times). In the middle of class. Or putting her cigarette ashes into someone else’s china in their home. So, the things I pointed out to her were legitimately unwelcomed behaviors. I still felt like a jerk after a while.
      No one else ever spoke up to her.

      I never figured out how to address the issue of her asking / saying way over-the-top private things. Once I hung out with her, my love interest was present, too. It was the 2nd time they ever met. She told him, in great detail, how a neighbor had molested her as a child. I’m not saying that she shouldn’t talk about this, but my now-husband was very uncomfortable having this conversation with a near-complete stranger.

      There is only so much you can do. Eventually, I avoided all contact with her, I saw no other way.

      • Jenna said:

        Yeah….
        I have a cousin who has no verbal boundaries. I have used my words with her on occasion, and so, I am the rude cousin. I was even asked to intervene on someone else’s behalf, as they didn’t have the energy to deal(situation arising after a funeral. I took care of the problem on behalf of the widow).
        She talks to me less now. I consider it a win.

  7. Werner Herzfrog said:

    Did anyone else reading this picture Downton Abbey the whole time?

    • stellanor said:

      I am now and it’s making this letter incredibly entertaining.

    • Tricksie said:

      Haha! Best perspective ever! It does make the whole thing extremely entertaining.

    • I totally was. I am so glad I’m not the only one.

    • I pictured my old job – sailor. Sharing a single bedroom, about 16′ square, with 7 of your coworkers leads to a lot of strange personality politics.

  8. Esis said:

    Ah the joys of live in jobs. I worked at a summer camp once. The love/hate/FAAAAAMILY mentality the staff had is very familiar. There was also a girl I went to high school with who invited herself to things. I still have resentment towards her over her inviting herself to prom and then riding in my car backseat driving the whole way. I WISH I’d said something. I WISH someone would have said something to her. It made me incredibly sad that these people I called my friends would be nice to her face and nasty behind her back, but no one ever said, “Hey we didn’t actually invite you to this.” So I’d say that the Capt’n’s advice is spot on. Deal with it now and don’t let the resentment build up.

    • JenniferP said:

      Mine too, she’s great.

  9. Muffin said:

    Having been part of an intensely GSF-carrying group for most of my college life, I love all the advice in this letter!

    In my own experience, I had to be willing to be the bad guy / the Boundaries-Setter even though no one else in my space was willing to do it. (Maybe especially since no one else was willing to do it!) That meant I couldn’t expect anyone else to change their behavior, and, as the Captain said, I couldn’t make it about what “everyone” thought, just what I thought and needed. I had to expect that I was flying solo.

    However: I did have good success with a more targeted version of the Captain’s Fourth Strategy, above. LW, if you know of one or two people who you are fairly sure will back your play, maybe have the conversation with them about what you’re doing, and then make those people the first ones you invite for a tete-a-tete. That way you’ll know that your first mission will be a success, because you can trust those people to stay firm when your interloper gives them the first wave of, “But whyyyyYYYYYyyyyYYYy?” (The first wave is always the worst!) It also gives you the opportunity to model good boundaries for some of your more skittish coworkers, so that they can see that it’s possible to tell this person no.

    Lastly, I did have some people in my group come up to me and say that they thought I was being mean and exclusionary. If that happens to you–and I hope it won’t!–I recommend repeating that this is about *you* and *your* personal needs and how *you* arrange *your* time. It gets very hard to argue with someone about their own personal needs and their own personal schedule.

    Good luck!

  10. H.Regalis said:

    Yes, definitely say something now. Don’t let it get to the “bitch eating crackers” stage. Deal with stuff before you’ve built up massive anger at this person. It’s better.

    I’ve been on the giving, receiving, and witnessing ends of this, as I’m sure most people have; receiving end story: I had a job where I was ~5 minutes late most days, but no one ever said anything to me about it ,and also I got to set my own hours and it wasn’t the kind of job where someone was waiting for me to arrive so they could end their shift, so I figured it wasn’t a big deal, until one day my boss called me in to his office to talk about this and told me that his boss had been talking to him FOR OVER A YEAR about my being ~5 minutes late and that I needed to stop doing that. This was the first time I heard about it being a problem. His reason for not telling me sooner was that he was “protecting me.” He was angry with me, which I understand, but I think a lot of it was built of from silently wishing I would stop doing something that no one had ever told me was a problem. This bled over into him blowing up at me for other things that had never been an issue–I worked there for several years. We used to joke around a lot; suddenly this was me being disrespectful.–and eventually made things so uncomfortable that I left the first chance I got.

    • Erin said:

      Okay, that is really bad management on the part of your boss. Especially if you are in that kind of position, you can’t expect people to read your mind and you have to have a clear picture of what is ok and what not.

    • MamaCheshire said:

      I had this EXACT thing happen at a job once and something very similar happen in another job over a different issue.

      I really wish managers would manage better than that.

    • embertine said:

      H, something very similar happened to me at my last job. I moved up country to transfer to a different office, where the starting time was 08:00 not 08:30, but no-one thought to tell me. I got in around 08:15 every day and after three months, the receptionist asked me why I was always late. Not my manager, who had been silently fuming about it for THREE MONTHS but had never said anything. This kind of passive-aggressive crap went on for the next six years, and I have no doubt that, in his mind at least, I was a bitch eating crackers.

      Saying something is way kinder than building up a huge head of steamy resentment for something to which the other person is completely oblivious.

  11. LW said:

    Captain, thanks for your sound advice. I think this is one of those cases where I knew what the answer was going to be, but hearing it helped me uncover my real fears/question, which have more to do with how I will be perceived by everyone else if I try to enforce boundaries. I hadn’t thought about it previously in conjunction with this, but I had a bad experience growing up where my whole friend group was gossiping about one friend’s inappropriate behavior, but when I decided to be the one to stand up to her, everyone suddenly took her side and talked about how completely rude and inappropriate I was for saying something and how I needed to apologize. There are such heavy overtones of “keeping the peace” among our staff that I realize now this is what I’m most worried about.

    I think I can practice setting a boundary of saying, “It’s just going to be me and so-and-so tonight” in those situations. That seems like a good place to start. More common, though, are the situations where a group of 6-8 of us (about a third of the staff) are getting together to hang out. It seems more difficult to say, “Actually, these 7 other people are invited, but you’re not.” We do have parties or outings where the whole staff is invited once or twice a month, but just getting together with my smaller friend group happens a few times a week.

    • JenniferP said:

      Some other commenters have pointed out, so it’s worth saying, go slow and gentle. She doesn’t know it’s a problem, so she doesn’t have the agita built up around it that you do. She’s going to be hearing this for the first time. So give her some time to adjust. Treat the first time you tell her like the first time it’s happened.

      When you do the 7-8 people thing, is there a way you can a) be more private about arranging it b) go further off campus/meet off campus so it isn’t so obvious?

      • LW said:

        Right now we tend to arrange things through text message and then hang out in someone’s room, and mostly this works. (We do go out sometimes, but usually one or more people are on call so it’s easier to stay close.) But Coworker will often drop by or else text someone (or everyone) “What are you doing tonight?” 1) “Nothing” -> “I’ll come over!” 2) “Hanging out with some people” -> “I’ll bring some games over!” 3) “I have plans” -> “What are you doing? Can I come?” 4) Ignoring the message -> multiple more text messages/calls. I usually go with something like, “Oh, not much, I’m pretty tired tonight” but this only works so many times, and the next time I see her it’s “I haven’t seen you much, can we hang out tonight?”

        • monologue said:

          Is it possible to say less? Like I’m busy could be the end of the discussion? One thing I do in situations like this is say, sorry I’m busy and then leave a gap in replying as if you’re busy and can’t hold up a big text convo right now. (And maybe you actually are in the middle of something and can’t anyway, how does she know?) I find this keeps me from feeling like I need to keep on explaining and justifying why I’m busy. You’re not being rude and leaving her hanging if you’ve already given her a no.

          If you say you’re tired and she says I haven’t seen you can we hang, can you point to the next time you’ll see her? Like sorry, I need to catch up on sleep, I’ll see you at staff meeting tomorrow/lunch/next whole team party. If she answers that with No, I want to see you before then, she really is being pretty rude.

        • Sarah B said:

          How about ‘I’m busy hanging out with some people, I’ll see you tomorrow’?

        • Bunny said:

          If this is a habit she has, I feel like it’s something you can intercept before she does the self-inviting.

          “What are you doing tonight?” > “I’m having a quiet night to myself for a bit, I’ll see you [OTHER TIME].”
          “What are you doing tonight?” > “I’m hanging out with some friends, didn’t feel up to a big social. I’ll see you [OTHER TIME].”
          “What are you doing tonight?” > “Oh I’ve got something planned already tonight, but I’ll see you [OTHER TIME].”

          They key though, is to make sure you actually are scheduling things with her, and preferably that you’re doing it without her having to ask and wheedle you for it first. Now, I don’t know how regular you like to be social compared to not social, but for me for example I might make a point to schedule a fortnightly activity with her – maybe a fortnightly game night that she is explicitly invited to, and invited early. “X! Glad I caught you. Are you up for a games night next Thursday? I’ll be bringing Cards Against Humanity!” or “X! I know you like horror movies – I was thinking of renting a few next Saturday and getting some popcorn in, you feel like joining me?”. Then when she tries to hang out with you when you don’t want, you can be specific.

          “What are you doing tonight?” > “Oh, sorry I already have plans for tonight, but I’ll see you Saturday for movie night. Gotta go now, bye.” and then end the conversation.

          It does sound like part of this is her anxiety about not being invited to things manifesting as maybe a passive-aggressive attempt to scream PLEASE STOP AVOIDING ME AND INVITE ME TO THINGS SOMETIMES I AM LONELY.

          • LW said:

            I appreciate the specific scripts (from everyone) and I think the advice to follow up with “I’ll see you at [specific time]” is great. I’d love some help tweaking this in a way that makes sense. We have all-staff get-togethers once or twice a month (sometimes planned, sometimes unplanned) and all-staff meetings twice a month. But it’s not the kind of job where we’re going to be in an office at 9am together — sometimes I might not see her most of the week, sometimes I’ll work with her a few times a day to discuss issues and questions as they arise. So saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow” may not be accurate, but saying, “I can’t hang out tonight but I’ll see you at the party in two weeks” seems weird when I may very well run into her at lunch the next day. I’d love suggestions on using these scripts in a way that makes sense!

          • A-nonny-nonny-mous said:

            This is for LW, but I can’t reply below that comment. Maybe something like “I can’t hang out tonight, but maybe we’ll run into each other at lunch tomorrow.”

            Simple, I know, but maybe effective?

          • WT said:

            Something as simple as “I’ll catch you another time/Let’s meet up another time,” maybe?

          • JenniferP said:

            Right, the less detail when saying no, the better. Details can be quibbled with and negotiated with. “Sorry, not today!” doesn’t leave a lot of room.

          • Bibliophilian said:

            This is to LW. How about “I can’t tonight, but we’ll hang out at the get-together next Thursday!” or, “I can’t hang out tonight, but come find me at the staff meeting!”

          • TO_Ont said:

            You can also be nonspecific about when you’ll see her again ‘I can’t hang out tonight, but some other time!’. Although if you say you’re going to hang out another time, even non-specifically, I would then make sure I DO hang out with her another time, of course. If hanging out another time isn’t something you’re going to follow up on, better to leave that part out

        • dfwl said:

          What would people recommend if the CW shows up at someone’s room where the friend group is hanging out after one or several of them have given her explicit “I’m busy” responses? As in CW texts “What are you doing?” to LW –> LW responds “I’m busy, see you later!” + no further responses when CW continues texting –> CW texts someone else, rinse, repeat –> CW goes knocking on 8 or 9 doors or maybe not even that many since she knows Friend Group usually hangs out in someone’s room, often X or Y’s room.

          • JenniferP said:

            If you’ve told someone you are busy, and they go knocking on doors trying to track you down, this is the suggested protocol:

            As you open the door say “What’s wrong?”
            “What do you mean, I just wanted to hang out?”
            “But I’m busy, so if you came looking for me, something must be wrong.”
            “Nothing’s wrong!”
            “Great news! Well, I’ll see you tomorrow at work.” :shut:

            It will get awkward and she won’t like it, but this kind of behavior from her is really, really not good, and it doesn’t have to be tolerated.

          • dfwl said:

            This is a great response – like something you’d say if someone called or showed up at 3 AM, another generally inappropriate time. I was thinking there would have to be some big convo about boundaries or something. It might be awkward though if the rooms are set up in such a way that when someone opened the door, the CW could see that there was a largeish group that had deliberately excluded her. That would hurt, but it doesn’t sound like there’s any way that she couldn’t be hurt when boundaries start to be enforced in this situation.

    • NOLAroll said:

      Long-time lurker, first comment! I had a friend very much like this and after some rough patches, I was able to establish these kinds of boundaries (inviting herself, interrupting, leaning too close) with her. However, I still had many, many other friends continue to complain to me about these behaviors of hers. So I found it helpful to also enforce a boundary with the rest of the group: “If you are having that issue with [friend], I would appreciate it if you talk to her about it” or “If you are having a problem with her, you should talk to her about it.”

      Mostly, I think allowing the rest of the group continuing to complain about her among themselves, while also possibly not backing you up/enforcing their own boundaries is also a problem, and will make solving this more difficult in the long run.

    • TreeByLeaf said:

      While inviting herself along might be more tolerable if you liked her more, this isn’t something you really want anyone to do, right? And the natural groups that you’d hang out in are a little large and unwieldy for explicitly not inviting her, right? Then maybe try to change the entire culture of the group without directing it specifically at her. This will be easier if you can get a few people on board with you. Start hanging out in smaller groups, so that you’re not just saying ‘actually, it’s just me, X, and Y tonight’ just to her, but to friends you’d want to hang out with too. Be the one to not be invited sometimes – ask your friends if you’re invited, tell your friends that it’s cool to hear ‘actually, not really’ and model a good response.

  12. TO_Ont said:

    I would definitely avoid making any statements beyond yourself. I.e., don’t speak for other people, don’t say this bothers ‘everyone’, don’t make sweeping statements about what’s ‘rude’ or ‘polite’, or ‘things you should know’, as if these were universals and you had the key to them. (They’re definitely not and you definitely don’t).

    Stick to speaking about your own personal wishes and preferences and plans. Where possible, stick to the immediate situation (the plans for tonight, the conversation you’re having now). If you ever decide to speak in a more general way, always frame it in terms of what you’re more comfortable with or prefer, not what’s ‘the Right and Correct way to behave.’

  13. lasers said:

    Can you make it about behavior/assumptions, not your relationship? “Hey, I like you, but it stresses me out when you assume you’re invited to things” seems easier to hear/turn into positive change than “You’re not invited [because I like these other people better than you].” And based on how she reacts to that, you can make informed decisions about how/if you bring up other issues.

    • JenniferP said:

      I think the “I like you” part is a lie, tho.

      • lasers said:

        Mm, somehow I misread the letter to be more “We’d like her if she wasn’t so pushy.” “I’m not upset with you, but…”, “I don’t think you’re meaning to do this, but…”

  14. I worked in an office once where our much beloved boss was temporarily replaced by an outsider while she was on medical leave (without warning, we just showed up and there was a stranger in our boss’s office.) As if those circumstances weren’t hard enough to overcome, “Patti” turned out to have a very poor sense of boundaries, professionalism or office decorum. The animosity between her and my coworkers was VERY strong. I’m talking screaming matches in the hallway. But I’ve always been a “suck it up, be polite whenever possible and get the work done” person, which Patti mistook for me meaning, “BE MY BESTEST FRIEND FOREVER!!!!!” So she would come into my office and FEELINGS-dump whenever the others left her out of lunch invitations, weekend plans, etc. I would remind her that I had work to do, and she would say, “but you’re the only one I could talk to!” continue to complain about the situation, and then an hour later, complain that I hadn’t finished my assignments.

    She made it worse by inviting herself along on lunches and outings on a few occasions, leading to super-spy maneuvers to prevent her from finding out about the plans. And what was even worse, my coworkers started leaving me out of the stuff I’d previously been invited to because they believed I was besties with Patti.

    One afternoon, Patti found out that the others were going out for drinks for another employees’ birthday and she wasn’t invited and she wailed, “I just feel like you’re my ONLY friend here! You’re the only one I can come to with my feelings! I just don’t understand why the others leave me out all of the time! I feel like I have to force them to include me!”

    Finally, I very calmly told her. “Look, I don’t feel that we’re friends. You’re my coworker and my temporary boss. I’d like to maintain friendly professional interactions with you and that’s the extent of our relationship. As far as your interactions with the others, maybe if you would be less forceful, both in business-related conversations and socializing, they would be more open to including you. But for right now, could you please let me get some work done?”

    It probably wasn’t an awesome idea and it could have blown up in my face something awful. And t would love to say it helped a lot. But it didn’t. Patti still had screaming matches with my coworkers in the hall, though she stopped inviting herself along on lunches. But at least she stayed out of my office and she didn’t retaliate against me. When our boss came back from medical leave, I practically threw myself at her feet.

    • Linden said:

      Nicely done. It’s only recently that I’ve started experimenting with boundary setting, and I’ve been dismayed to realize how many inappropriate people have been sucking up my energy without my saying something to them about it. Now that I’m drawing harder lines, there’s been some explosions. What you did was gutsy.

    • John said:

      I think you almost perfectly described the Krista/Amy dynamic in Enlightened.

  15. Speaking as someone who fears that they are your coworker (not literally, but social anxiety makes me worry often that my friends are people who put up with me. I’ve had this happen, actually, and I had lots of Feelings and I was lonely, but after a few weeks realized that I was happier not hanging out with people who didn’t really like me and people whom I made uncomfortable. Clear communication has always been reassuring to me, and now I say things like “oh! That sounds like fun! Can I invite myself or would that be interrupting your bro-date?” And take whichever answer with grace.

  16. MrsMorley said:

    Hi LW:

    It’s hard to say no to “Can I come?” but you may have to.

    Your idea of starting with “it’s just me and so-and-so tonight” is good!

    Maybe when you say “I have plans” and she says “What are they?” you might be able to repeat “I have plans” and ignore the “Can I come?”

    Maybe you and the other people who don’t want her around will have to arrange to meet elsewhere?

    It sounds difficult.

    • Kiwi said:

      Could you go with “oh I have plans tonight but if you want to meet up the group is doing X on Y date?” and preemptivly answer her question?

      or break it up

      What are your plans?
      Im going out with friends tonight
      Can I come?
      We’re going out tomorrow night as well, you’re welcome to come then?

      Passive aggressive yes, but less room for feeling left out and FEELINGS DUMP

    • TO_Ont said:

      “It’s hard to say no to “Can I come?” but you may have to.”

      A lot can be done with a smile or pleasant language. (‘Sorry, not this time!’ said with a friendly smile – or even a smiley if it’s text )

      If you yourself act like saying no is a completely pleasant and reasonable and not-a-big-deal thing to say (which it is!), that can make a big difference.

  17. Bookwyrm said:

    “Sometimes you just gotta say the thing and let the other person deal with the thing. Working around someone’s terrible behavior while you grow to dislike them more and more and more isn’t actually kinder.”

    Oh god so much this. I had an experience from the other side where in elementary school I *was* the annoying friend, only no one *told* me this, or what I was doing wrong, and I got so many mixed signals and it pretty much permanently screwed up my friend-radar. I’m in my 30s now, and I still can’t figure out if my friends actually like me, but are socially anxious and awkward themselves and so don’t initiate making plans because of *their* hangups, or if I’m just kidding myself and I’m unlikeable and I don’t really actually have any friends.

    • TO_Ont said:

      God, yeah. It only takes once of someone telling you ‘you know what, these people you have thought for a long time were friends actually find you really annoying but are too nice to say so’, to make you start second guessing all but your closest friendships.

      These people appear to be being very friendly, they have conversations with me, they invite me to stuff, they laugh at my jokes and tell me theirs, they seek me out to talk to me… But maybe they’re just really polite people and secretly see me as a charity case? Maybe they think I seem desperate and don’t want to be mean? Maybe all along they wish I’d realise for myself that they don’t actually want me there and actually wish I’d just be quiet and go away?

      Politeness and civility and respect are all good, but acting a lot friendlier than you genuinely feel can sometimes cause a lot more problems and hurt than it helps.

    • lliira1 said:

      I am so glad to hear I am not the only one like this. I’m still trying to suss out how much I was annoying and how much I was an easy target, being nearly the only not-rich kid in a rich school. And the former friends were REALLY nasty to me. I went through most of my life just waiting for other people to make friends with me, rather than trying to reach out, which worked out for a while, but has some serious downsides.

      • JenniferP said:

        I would caution readers who have a history with feeling excluded against over-identifying with this particular coworker, who backs up any mildly irritating behavior with some fierce manipulation and a refusal to hear a soft no OR a hard no.

        • lliira1 said:

          I’m not really identifying with the co-worker so much as with the “please tell people things” contingent, especially with Bookwyrm and TO_Ont. This co-worker may not want to hear things. But it’s kinder to tell her if she’s willing to hear. If she’s not, then telling her is even more necessary in an attempt to set boundaries.

          • TO_Ont said:

            The kindest would be to be honest right from the beginning, and not respond to her requests for invitations in the first place. It’s the acting like you’re friends and THEN saying ‘actually we never were, my friendliness was an act’ that’s kind of harsh. Though if you do decide you need to say it, the earlier in the relationship, the better.

            In any case I’m assuming we’re talking only about telling someone how YOU feel. Not other people – which you may be wrong about anyway, but even if you’re right it’s not your business, it’s theirs.

    • Likewise. The situation in this letter has clearly festered and gone toxic, but the initial assumptions that led to this point are not all that unreasonable. LW is effectively going to have to convey “yes, everyone in this office is friends except you, everyone here enjoys socialising with everyone except you.” The reaction of “asking to join in” is not unreasonable, and if someone wrote in worrying that none of the people around them like them, it would probably be laughed off (under the assumption that if they didn’t, they’d say something) and suggested. What makes her behaviour unreasonable is her persistence and her strong reaction to being excluded. LW and colleagues have done her the opposite of a favour by not speaking up before.

  18. sunshine and lollipops said:

    Perhaps it might be useful to differentiate between doing a fun thing because fun! or doing a fun thing as a medium for spending time with your friends. “We are all going to the cinema to see How to Train Your Dragon 2!” vrs “Ahmed and Loretta and me are going to see a film together”. Or bar because alcohol, music etc, vrs “I’m going to have some cocktails and catch up with my good friends Steven and Mae.”

    This might be just me, but I see it like the difference between literary and genre fiction* – genre fiction is about exploring the genre, and having fun inside those constraints, like going to a museum, because museums are fun. However, literary fiction can be technically any genre but is seen as exploring the human condition, like going to a museum as a background to meeting up with a friend you haven’t seen in ages.

    This is an addendum to boundary setting, obvs – it just might be a good way of making it clear that you aren’t excluding her from everything fun, but you are asking her not to invite herself to things which have a different purpose to what she intends.

    *Of course, the whole notion of literary and genre fiction is elitist, classist, sexist, and quite probably racist, as hell,

    • LW said:

      I’m not really sure that it would make much difference. This is where the GSF5 thing comes in — if someone’s going to hang out with not-work friends, she wouldn’t invite herself, but if it’s hanging out with work friends, well, then, obviously I’m invited too! It doesn’t really matter what it is or if it’s something she would enjoy — she went with some of us to a scary movie and spent the WHOLE time with her eyes covered asking my friend to tell her what was happening.

      • MrsMorley said:

        As you give more and more details, I’m inclined to ask: Are there other people you can hang with LW? Because the more you describe the work/social group, the more toxic it gets. Everyone has a hard time with Inappropriate Coworker, no one is willing to change the group dynamics openly, you’re getting little if any management support.

        I feel you LW, and hope hope hope your other friends are nearby.

        • LW said:

          Everything is good otherwise. I love the work I do, love not having a commute, love that the majority of people I work with are awesome and that I consider some of them friends who I get to hang out with on a regular basis. There’s just this one person who is annoying and thinks she’s everyone’s friend, and I feel like my coworker friends and I have collectively spent too much energy trying to plan things around her or having conversations while we’re hanging out that get interrupted with, “Coworker is texting me, asking what I’m doing / if she can come over” or “Sigh, Coworker just texted me she’s on her way over.” Our manager isn’t bad generally, but I think they’re concerned about harmony, appearances, etc., and I think would be considered about the impact on our work if there was “drama” among the staff. So I wouldn’t call it a toxic situation. Just an annoying one that I’d like a better way of handling.

          • JenniferP said:

            With the texting of “whatcha doing?” I suggest saying as little as possible. “I’m busy, see you tomorrow at work.”

            No details about what you are doing and where. Zero. None. And if she follows up, don’t text her back. Let her text, call, etc. and teach her that she gets one answer, like you would do for any human, but not continued attention-on-demand. If you are out with a group, make this de rigeur as she texts everyone in turn. “Not tonight!” “Plans tonight. See you tomorrow.” etc. She may get paranoid that everyone is hanging out without her. That’s okay, and not your fault or problem.

            It sounds like she’s a super-extrovert, which, fine. Get a Netflix subscription, Coworker! Learn to handle down-time, solo-time, “I’m bored” time. Your coworkers and even your friends aren’t emotional slot machines.

          • chinchilla said:

            Do you have to reply? I know that people are on-call at different times, but why does she gets to expect a response her constant ‘what are you up tonight?’ messages. If they’re not work-related then maybe even on call people can ignore them?

            I have a couple of friends (and not-friends who for various reasons I can’t actively get rid of) who have at one point or another done this and I’ve managed to get them to stop by being the not attached to their phone, or otherwise busy/forget to reply person.

            I know that feeling of oh god she’s texting me what do I say SO HARD, and I’ve found one of the things that works for me is realisation that people are not owed responses to their messages, especially when they’re being obnoxious (sending repeat messages and calls!!)

          • MrsMorley said:

            I’m with the captain on this. Don’t answer texts.

            In the most generous (to her) interpretation of manners all you “owe” her is one “Can’t. Busy. Maybe next time.”

            You certainly don’t owe her a response to “Watcha doooing?” If you want, though, you can offer her one “I’m busy. Catch you next time.”

            You can even say to the other coworkers: “I said I was busy. And then ignored her. Let’s get back to Apples to Apples”. (Or whatever you were doing.)

  19. I remember a Miss Manners column from ages ago about turning down invitations and people who then press you for Reasons. She said it’s perfectly acceptable to say “I’m sorry. I just can’t.” This seems perfect for the texting solution.

    • Courtney said:

      Yes, yes, yes! The more details you give someone who doesn’t want to take “no” for an answer, the more ammo they have for their attempts at negotiating around your “no.” This is true no matter what you are saying “no” to.

      • TO_Ont said:

        Yup, and people sometimes do give very specific reasons for refusing something when they actually WANT help brainstorming for solutions, or are actually hinting that it would be nice if others could help by changing something (e.g. I would like to say yes but have this conflict – can you guys help me resolve the conflict so I can say yes?). Usually we can figure out the difference, but it’s easier if you can avoid leaving that interpretation possible.

        Less detail is often less ambiguous.

    • My grandmother used to say, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t. I have a bone in my foot.” She did it in the same tone one would use to say “I have a bad headache” or “I have a cold.” It was hilarious.

      • Jessica said:

        – My grandmother used to say, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t. I have a bone in my foot.” –

        That’s beautiful.

  20. twomoogles said:

    Like a lot of posters here, I’ve been on both sides of the “this person is annoying me” problem. For some reason I end up as the ‘tells person unpleasant stuff’ person…partly because people will come to me for advice, and partly because I tend not to hide it if I don’t like somebody. I don’t mean I’m mean, but just…I don’t act like I’m friends with somebody if I only like them at an acquaintance level. This is partly because I myself have a major fear of being ‘that person who thinks they are well liked but really is just tolerated’ and partly because for me to consider someone friends I need to actively *like* them, not just *not dislike* them, which is different from how many people I know operate. (Geeky circle, how did you guess…)

    It is definitely true that it is a kindness to tell somebody when they are doing something to put people off! Especially if they very clearly want to be included. There are a lot of people, though, who I will probably never like, and I sometimes have a hard time telling the line between ‘this person is doing something irritating that is putting people off and should probably be told’ and ‘this person just doesn’t click with me/my friends, but isn’t actually doing anything wrong’.

  21. Windward said:

    Ehhh, wow, this hit uncomfortably close to home. So, yeah, I’ve been the annoying coworker in this letter. I’d like to tell you the whole sordid story including my exhaustive list of all the reasons why none of it was my fault, but frankly, who cares.

    Having lived that side of this story, I have to agree with the captain. Just tell the coworker to stop inviting herself, you’re truly not doing her any favors, nor are you actually saving her feelings. It took me an embarrassingly long time to work out that my coworkers were not my friends, because none of them would tell me to stop. By the time I figured it out, it was LONG past the time when I could have reconciled with any of them.

    Look, she probably won’t take it well, because frankly who likes being told the person they think is a friend isn’t? It’s the same thing as being rejected. If my former coworkers had told me I wouldn’t have taken it calmly. But I think I would have gotten over it after a couple of days, and I definitely would have stopped tring to hang out with them. And probably that job would have ended with me sill being on polite speaking terms with them, instead of the gut-churning mess it actually turned out to be.

  22. Amy said:

    Working around someone’s terrible behavior while you grow to dislike them more and more and more isn’t actually kinder.

    Amen, mon capitan. A-freaking-men.

  23. dancerdc said:

    I did read through the comments, but I might have missed it: How does LW know that everyone wants to exclude CW but doesn’t have the nerve? It’s possible that this is the missing stair group member, true. But I’ve also seen the dynamic where there are two high maintenance group members and one of them takes it upon themselves to exclude the other, claiming to speak for the group. And yes it did result in drama and feelings talks, passed on to people outside the group, but that’s not proof that excluded person can’t take a hint. In another example, I have a relative that everyone complains about, and yet they also admit that they find entertainment value in the drama. And even while people say she’s too nosy and loud and gossipy, it doesn’t stop them from gossiping right back. So she functions as the kid who brings the pot to a good kids’ party, and they just had to smoke it to be polite. Or, to put it another way, in every large enough fishbowl, there will be a least liked fish, and getting rid of one person is going to make someone else that guy you don’t want to be around. This feels more like an African Violet situation, where LW has been so polite to CW that she thinks the two of them are friends. I don’t think LW can exclude CW from mid sized group events she did not host, but she can establish that CW doesn’t over share or ask prying questions with her. Like this relative, I can skirt the overly detailed medical problems conversations while still giving basic how are you today answers. She could spend hours discussing supplements, herbal remedies, food as medicine, and I let her have those conversations with someone else.

    • DeepRiver said:

      It could be both missing stair and the dynamic you’re talking about where the people who allegedly want the villain gone don’t really. I have a boss who is a total missing stair — the most routine phone calls have to be made outside her earshot because otherwise she’ll listen in and tell you while you’re on the call that everything you’re saying is wrong, any order she gives you is contradicted by its opposite within days, et cetera — and also cannot get fired because of who she is married to. I also have a lot of co-workers who I would have nothing in common with at all and could easily drift into conflict with if we didn’t have complaining about the missing stair boss to bond over.

    • Anon today said:

      Well, in the letter, LW talks about other coworkers complaining about CW’s behavior. In comments, LW mentions other coworkers using an exasperated tone when announcing that CW had texted them an wanted to come over or was on the way.

      Also, what’s up with commenter suddenly wanting “proof” of the claims made by LWs? That happened in the ummfriend post too? This trend feels icky to me. Maybe I missed it before, but it also feels like a newish thing.

      • JenniferP said:

        I also really do not like this trend.

        • Courtney said:

          Yeah…it feels different from the, “I think I’m also hearing X, have you considered that?” comments, which are still in the spirit of helping the LW. The calls for proof go into the land of silencing and victim blaming.

          • uttereast said:

            Srsly, these are anonymous letters, this is not the venue for exhaustive fact checking and internet detectives.

    • dfwl said:

      There can certainly be bonding over shared negative experiences or disliked people – I once had a friendship that was probably 90% hatred/mocking of George W. Bush. I also had a friendship where the friend and I would often complain/vent about Mutual Friend X (it definitely would have been better to bring things up with X, but I didn’t for a very long time because she had genuine physical/mental issues; when I finally did and she gave an ‘it’s just the way I am’ answer, I was at the eating crackers stage). We both did slow fades from X, but we remained friends after – our friendship wasn’t only based on irritation at X. While LW and their friends might have some “OMG, she said what????!!” interest in the situation with CW, this really doesn’t sound like a case of two people fighting over the group.

      It’s possible that other people in the LW’s friend group might find CW less annoying, but in general it sounds like a number of efforts have been made to not include her in their hangouts. It doesn’t sound like LW is the only one wondering what they should do about texts from CW inviting herself to the events. LW specifically said there had been discussions with coworkers about how to handle the situation, so there must be others in the group who don’t want to invite the CW.

      • Jane said:

        I do think it’s valid to be concerned about a dynamic where a lot of bonding is happening over gossiping/complaining about a mutual acquaintance (i.e. someone who is not in a position of power over the people concerned.) Even when the concerns are totally valid, it is way more productive and less soul-souring to take those concerns to the person who is causing them than to build up a fantasy fort righteousness where the walls are all Bitch Eating Crackers bricks.

        I have had that happen to me a couple times, where I became the chosen person that someone vented to about some other friend’s bad behavior. It sort of engendered an “us against the world” or a “you’re better than X friend, you really get it,” attitude which, though not abusive by itself, can be very isolating and be a very ripe breeding ground for scary ways of thinking.

        LW, take this with a grain of salt, because you know what is relevant in your situation. But if I were you, I would enforce boundaries as strictly as possible with CW and then keep discussion about her sins to a minimum in your friend group — better not feed the resentment and make it more poisonous.

  24. Great advice from the Captain.

    This situation can also occur with roommates who are part of the same general social circle: you’re heading out the door and it’s “So? Where are we all going tonight?” and if you mention it is with friends in the circle, then it’s assumed they are invited. And if you are not inviting them, they just contact the other friends to line up the location, not realizing you want to have a break from hanging out with the stay-at-home-all-the-time roommate who relies on you for their social life.

    It sucked the first time having to mention it, but it had to be done. Stay-at-home-all-the-time-stay-up-all-night-owl roommate creates a huge presence in the house, not realizing that the only way to get space from them is for us to go out without them. Yet no effort on their part is made to arrange social outings any other time, and they default to you, relying on you for conjuring happenings-with-other-people-time.

    (The particular roommate I’m thinking about was also a long-winded monologuist/interrupter… to the point it was impossible to have guests round–that was their signal to come out of their room and dominate the visit with updates on their project/latest conspiracy theory/next start-up idea all the way through to demanding visitors to watch a spread-sheet power point display while we just want to shoot the breeze/socialize)

    “Sorry mayey. I live with you. As in, I live here with you. But I can’t spend my entire life with you. Even if you were my lover, we’d have nights that I do my own thing, so don’t be upset. If you want to go out sometime, organize something, and perhaps I’ll be interested. But tonight’s (show/spectacle) was organized by somebody else two weeks ago. I can’t guarantee there are even tickets available. I need a ‘room-mate free’ evening and since you are home most of the time, it give me no option but to plan some space alone, away from all this.”

    Suggestions to give a heads-up to the boss might backfire. Some bosses just want you as a group to ‘sort it amongst yourselves’ and it has happened in my experience where it was easier to get rid of all of us (under some pretext) than deal with what they see as some ‘petty’ dealings amongst people who are “supposed to all just get along.”

  25. I am so far onto the opposite end of this – I always worry that I’m pushing in, and so never invite myself along to things because I dont want to be this “friend”.
    Which means I am stuck with not socialising very much.
    I suspect your friend is extroverted and socially anxious – needs regular socialising with other people, and wants to be involved all the time.
    I’ve had a few times where I have accidentally pissed people off by trying to be involved in what I had not realised was a conversation I wasn’t invited in to, and it was crushingly painful when one of them had it out with me rudely rather than being polite about it. Things like that are why I’m now nervous to insert myself into social groups and conversations.

    So LW, please be gentle to start with. Your friend is probably completely unaware you are all getting peeved at her, because she sees herself as being friendly.

  26. Karen said:

    Yes, it can be kind to tell a person what you want them to do. However, it can also be a good thing to rethink your own reasons to insist on certain social ways. To recheck the standards you are setting towards that person and to see whether they are necessary. Sometimes people act like their standards are the only ones going. I guess in a group of friends that likes to hang out in a certain way, this goes. But otherwise…

    • dfwl said:

      Honestly, the LW’s “standards” for friendship behavior sound extremely reasonable. In general, people don’t like it if one person dominates the conversation and makes it all about them. Sometimes people and groups have different standards for what is intrusive and inappropriate. LW doesn’t specifically say how the coworker is inappropriate, but it’s possible that it’s just a mismatch of what CW and the group are comfortable with. Since the CW hasn’t been picking up hints, body language, reactions etc. from people when she says those things, Captain Awkward and people here have suggested explicitly saying it’s not okay. Hopefully, CW will realize that those kind of questions and comments aren’t welcome in the group and will modify her behavior. Of course, if CW really wants friends to talk to about, say, sexual history, medical history, politics, religion, and dysfunctional families, it would be better for her to seek those people out, not try to force that conversation on people who have already indicated they are uncomfortable with it.

      It’s fine if CW wants to talk about sex and medical history. It’s fine if LW doesn’t want to talk about it. But CW shouldn’t be talking about those subjects to LW if she knows LW doesn’t want to. Also, LW’s standards for being LW’s friend really are the only ones going (obviously LW would have to meet any potential friends’ standards as well). I’d recommend looking at your standards in certain situations (if you’re finding it hard to find friends, if your friends treat you badly or irritate you in some ways – though this might be something with too low standards – or if you make large generalizations about how certain groups of people would be as friends), but LW’s doesn’t sound like something with a standards problem.

      • Karen said:

        Yeah, yeah. But sometimes it is not easy to find anyone at all who wants to talk about whatever your subject is, who is going to enjoy your way of being, or who will be warm and loving even if you don’t adhere to the common social rules for some reason (of ineptness or psychological need or whatever). I guess what I am looking for is honest conversation about the problem and willingness perhaps in both persons to find a way to live together more pleasantly.

        • duck-billed placelot said:

          Karen, it is not LW’s job to make the world a kinder gentler place for her co-worker at the expense of LW’s comfort and happiness. Maybe CW has a Condition, which would suck for CW in some ways, I am sure. LW still would not owe CW her friendship, her private time, the warm sweet succor of her friendly embrace, etc.

          Everyone who is tiptoeing toward the ‘but what about the co-worker??!’ line*: let’s be on LW’s team, ok? S/he wrote to the captain for advice. S/he is part of our community. Let’s trust her version of events. Let’s assume she is acting in good faith. Let’s be on her team.

          *Not those who say, ‘I identify with co-worker. TELL HER!’ You guys are great.

          • TO_Ont said:

            I think it’s possible to identify with both!

        • dfwl said:

          It really does suck if you can’t find your people or all the people you want to be friends with don’t want to be friends with you. Definitely some traits will make it more difficult for people with them to find friends. The coworker isn’t writing in, but this site has a lot of advice on finding, making and keeping friends. Captain Awkward has also written a lot on ways to interact pleasantly (or tolerably) with people you don’t like or who do irritating thing X but who you are required to interact with (family, coworkers, roommates).

          For the LW, it seems like following the advice/scripts and enforcing boundaries + inviting the coworker to the occasional thing would be the best way to keep things pleasant. Then the LW isn’t building up tons of anger which will one day be released in a horrible FEELINGSBOMB. At present, it seems like any honest conversation with the CW would be something along the lines of “These are all the ways you are annoying + no one wants to hang out with you” which would be very hurtful. The coworker probably wont’ be happy when she learns that there are hangouts that don’t include her and that her previous methods of getting invites stop working, but in this situation there is no way for the LW to enforce boundaries without the CW getting hurt. The LW seems willing enough for compromise.

        • TO_Ont said:

          To me it makes a big difference whether we’re discussing how to interact at work vs during off-duty hours. At work, yes, they both have to be there, so standards of conversation either need to be mutually negotiated, or set by management.

          But off-duty, I think it’s different, because they don’t need to hang out together, they can freely choose who to go out with or hang out with after hours. And they can each choose to not hang out with people whose behaviour they don’t enjoy. Or if they wish and think they might otherwise want to hang out with a person, to let the person know so they can decide for themselves if they want to change the behaviour, or just not hang out. (I.e., you also get to decide that you don’t want to spend your free time with people who want you to change)

    • TO_Ont said:

      Well, the most basic standard to be friends with someone, I think, is that you enjoy being around them. So I don’t think they need to try to justify in any way disliking her behaviour. The fact that it makes them uncomfortable or stressed out is more than enough.

      But I do agree that it’s a mistake to assume that just because you and most of your social group dislike a certain behaviour or find it rude or awkward, that it’s actually -objectively- so, or that your own idea of what’s polite is actually superior to other people’s. There are plenty of social groups where NOT interrupting others and sitting quietly waiting for someone to make space for you in the conversation just just ends up looking like you’re very shy or lacking in social skills and need to be babysat.

      It varies immensely. But I think the point is, it’s irrelevent anyway. You don’t _need_ to invoke some kind of higher authority or ‘laws’ the person is breaking, or imply that there’s something objectively ‘wrong’ with her. Her behaviour is making people uncomfortable, and they don’t want to hang out with her socially, and you get to choose your friends, and liking spending time with a friend is hardly an unreasonable standard for friendship.

  27. Lurkasaurus said:

    I’ve been reading this blog for a while now but this is the first time I’ve felt the need to comment.

    And wow, reading this is painful. I’m trying really hard not to over-identify with this girl but It’s creeping in anyways. Is this an issue of “I really do not like this person at all and do not want to hang out with her ever” or “If these annoying behaviors stopped I wouldn’t have a problem including her sometimes”? Because if it’s the first, and everyone at on your team feels the same way…tell her NOW. If I were her I would probably quit after hearing that. Spending most of your life in a place where everyone likes each other but hates YOU? No. Not healthy. In fact, I had something similar happen to me…except I received a 7 page letter detailing all the ways I am a bad person, and people who I had been having a great time with less than a week before suddenly stopped speaking to me overnight (some of these people were my roommates, others my neighbors). I still do not have or trust close friendships years later.

    Like the captain said, I think it is important that your group regularly has outings where EVERYONE is included, no questions asked. Be explicit about inviting her. If there are types of outings that she was previously invited to but you don’t want to include her anymore, understand that that can be confusing and hurtful even to manipulative inappropriate jerks. Excluding her from small groups that she didn’t previously participate in and private conversations isn’t the same thing though and you don’t have to be gentle about that.

    Is she OK to be around one-on-one? Are there members of your team that do enjoy her company? I wouldn’t even bring this stuff up except she lives AND works in this place. If someone likes her enough and can help her to expand her circle so she isn’t relying on people who don’t like her to meet all her social needs, it can only be a good thing for the rest of you.

    Also worth noting that with some people, having an honest talk will result in a one-time FEELINGSBOMB, but the behavior will change and it won’t be an issue after that. Nobody should be expected to absorb something that uncomfortable, but if you think you can handle it one time, it might be worth it. If you know from experience that she isn’t likely to stop at one, ignore that tidbit.

  28. dfwl said:

    I’m sorry, that sounds like a really painful experience. It must be horrible to be blindsided like that. A lot of the advice Captain Awkward and the commenters gave seems designed to prevent hurtful, eating-crackers, angry FEELINGSMAIL like the one you got. I don’t know if LW and others would be fine including CW some of the time provided she modified the behavioral things mentioned, but it really seems like telling her “We all don’t like you + you should quit” is extremely problematic.

    The whole group already some does social stuff together and LW and friends are tolerating the CW, although unhappily. Polite, direct enforcement of boundaries will definitely be hurtful – it sounds like the CW won’t be able to participate in some smaller-group events that she used to force her way into – but it will be better than a “We hate you” revelation. Enforcing boundaries would also be a good place to start so that they could have an honest talk. Right now, it sounds like any honest talk would be of the “We hate you” variety. If LW has told her several times “That’s inappropriate” when the CW brings up Topic X, it will be a lot easier to have a talk about “Hey, can you stop bringing up X? It makes me uncomfortable”. Also, if LW has been enforcing their boundaries, they will feel less prone to anger-vomiting all the problems when talking with the CW.

    • Lurkasaurus said:

      I get what you are saying, but the point is that if they really dislike her and do not want to be friends, will not include her even if her behavior changes, that needs to be made clear. Not in an “I hate you” way but in an “I want us to be co-workers but not friends” and “please look for friendships outside of work” way. She can probably tell that she is treated differently, but doesn’t seem to get that it’s because these people are not her friends. I do not think they should tell her to quit, but that I would quit in that situation and be healthier for it. Correcting specific behaviors is good, but it doesn’t fix the problem if the problem is “I don’t like you and that’s not changing any time soon”.

      If the LW wants to scale back the intensity but be able to keep living and working with this person pleasantly, with the occasional friendly interaction and group outing, that is different from what I described and Cap’s advice works wonderfully for that. I’m just not sure that’s what the LW feels. Kinda sounds like in the LW’s ideal world this person would quit or be fired.

      • TO_Ont said:

        Yeah… or even if they don’t hugely dislike her, but don’t like her enough to want to be friends. It’s the kind of thing where the earlier you make it clear, the better. And the easier it is to say it gently, too, and to remain friendly if not friends (since that’s something that’s easier to hear from an acquaintance you were getting to know than from a close friend). Although I guess if you did get in that situation with someone where it went on for long enough that they felt like you were really a friend (and not a friendly acquaintance with friend potential), you could also leave out the ‘we’ve never actually been friends’ part entirely, and just focus on the future.

        People drift apart all the time, people hang out less with people they used to hang out with, people become less close to people they used to be close to, or see them less often. It doesn’t have to mean ‘I hate you now’ (let alone ‘I’ve always disliked you’). It can just mean relationships change sometimes.

  29. TO_Ont said:

    Maybe I’m misinterpreting it or just missing that part, but where’s the bit in the letter about the coworker being manipulative, or ignoring a no? I’m just not really seeing it.

    I read it as people only ever drop ‘hints’ which they hope she’ll know how to decipher, or do things secretly, or occasionally try to ‘have an honest conversation’ with her – which to me basically does sound like an invitation to talk about things and to share her own feelings about how everyone’s getting along. Sharing your own thoughts or feelings doesn’t in and of itself sound like a wildly manipulative response to someone starting a conversation about your relationship.

    From what I’m reading, it doesn’t sound like they actually ever just pleasantly say ‘no’. The letter kind of gave the impression that if she says ‘hi guys, can I join you’, they always say some variation of ‘sure, this is where we are’. It sounded more like they give her very mixed signals but hope she’ll figure it out anyway.

    I mean maybe she is manipulative or has ignored people actually telling her no, but I don’t really see it particularly in the letter.

    • JenniferP said:

      “From past experience, I have a feeling that trying to have an honest conversation with her would lead her to drop by everyone’s rooms to try to have hours-long FEELINGS conversations”

      My reading of this is that past attempts to set boundaries carry a lot of friction with them, so the LW is afraid to set boundaries b/c they do not want the hours-long feelingsmanagement or the coworker complaining to the boss (that is outlined in the LW’s subsequent comments) that comes along with attempts to dissuade the coworker from hanging out, bringing up personal topics, etc.

      My recommendation is 100% “Pleasantly say no” without apology or explanation. My sense is that the LW and the coworkers are very, very, very conflict averse and it’s contributing to a Minnesota Nice situation where they are “nice” but not feeling it, so it will be an adjustment in habits to say “No thanks!” and let the coworker take care of their own feelings in the aftermath.

    • LW said:

      Yeah, to be clear, I think “manipulative” is too strong a word to use, since that comment I made wasn’t based on a prior boundary-setting conversation. The past experience(s) I was basing this on was 1) a general tendency toward, “I don’t understand, you must explain and justify your feelings to me in detail” (e.g., if someone was offended by something that happened at work), and 2) an experience that happened when she and her significant other had a “define the relationship / should we go on a break” conversation. She dropped by my room unannounced and spent literally several hours processing her feelings out loud to me. (I didn’t know how to end the conversation, and she didn’t take hints of me eventually getting up and starting to do work.) Sometime later it came out from talking to my friends that she had done this all week long to about half the staff — stopped by to “visit,” plopped down, and then ended up staying for hours to process her feelings out loud about her relationship. And overall she just tends toward immature reactions to things. So I am making an educated guess about how she would react if it was made extremely clear that she was being excluded from certain things.

      • h said:

        Ha, I have a friend who does this! She genuinely is a friend, and I like her a lot. I would not like to live with her though. I see a lot of commenters concerned that your pushy co-worker “can’t make friends.” A lot of time people like this CAN make friends, and DO make friends, because being forward that way can be a great ice-breaker! But if it’s not connected to a certain amount of sensitivity to others, it can be just Way Too Much in large doses.

        In the specific case above where you let her into your room without knowing what you were getting into and then could not get her to leave, here are some phrases to try out:
        -It was good to see you, but I’m ready for some quiet time now.
        -It was good to see you, but I have some chores, so I’ll catch up with you again tomorrow/whenever
        -I have a phone call to make, so I need privacy now.
        -I’m turning in early. (If she stalls and stalls, and if you are comfortable leaving her unattended in your room, you can go into the bathroom to brush your teeth, shut the door behind you, and leave her there to get bored. Then when you come out, say, “Good night, I’ll see you later, and walk to the door and open it.)
        -Sometimes you can shift to an event like getting coffee or going for a walk, and that breaks up the constant monologing, and also gets you out of your room, which gives you an excuse to not let her back in when you return.

  30. OpheliaDev said:

    Something that might help is for you and your friends to remove yourselves from the dorm and other shared spaces from time to time. I think a huge amount of your problem here is stemming from “easy access”. Perhaps the first step can be controlling and limiting her access to you. For example, keep your dorm room locked. Make it a habit to check the peephole before opening it. Set your phone to silent for her calls and texts.

    I think you may have more luck arranging things with smaller groups. When you are talking about a group of 8 people who live and work together going to do something, then not including a 9th person who wants to go does feel mean and exclusionary.

    If possible, call her out on her behavior when it’s just you two. For example, “Listen, you sent me 10 texts in a row last night. Please don’t do that.”

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