Today’s perfect image provided by CA reader Red Sonja! (Definitely read the mouse-over text).
Dear Captain Awkward:
I got a message from a former friend with whom I don’t want any further individual contact, and I wish they hadn’t sent it to me. It should be a hint to somebody if their opening paragraph is “Please don’t worry that this email represents any attempt to re-establish a contact that you clearly do not want, or recreate a relationship that you have ended. I simply want to clear a few things up, hopefully to park things in a somewhat less painful place for you,” that hitting “send” is doing exactly what they’re saying not to worry about. Telling me they’re doing this for my benefit just creeps me out more.
I’ve taken the step of making a message filter so that I won’t see anything else they send me. I just still feel very creeped out and besieged. It’s hard enough navigating an on-line social circle where this person is, and trying to do it gracefully and courteously, without this. (The content of the message is about like you’d figure, after an opening like that. And no, it didn’t “park things in a less painful place for me.” It parked more things right on top of me, and I am not willing to be a parking lot any more.)
I know that screaming LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY JUST STOP IT STOP IT is extremely unlikely to help. Answering back at all is extremely
unlikely to help. I’m not sure what is, except for finding unrelated constructive things to do, and trying to grow back, and staying away from any individual interactions with this person. Which I’ve been trying to do. And then this.
The ironic thing is that I do get the part about wanting to explain. There’s the part of me that also wants to explain… if explain equals “get them to stop [doing x thing which feels really icky] to me.” Why do some of us believe so passionately that if we could just find the right words, the other person would go, “Wait, what? That thing I do is hurting you? I Shall Stop Doing It Immediately And Forthwith! Sound the trumpets!” In reality, not so much. But I do recognize the urge. But if I give in to the sympathy elicited by recognizing the urge, I’ve got three rounds of evidence that I’ll be signing up for yet another cycle of badness, and I am not up for any more of that.
Oh. Wait. Have the sympathy, but don’t stick my head back into the trap.
Is that the way out, then? Well, that and email filters?
Not Willing To Dance That Dance With Them Any More, But Still Kinda
Shaky On This Whole “NO!” Thing
Think of this as the dying cry of the dragon after the hero has shot an arrow through its eye. It had one last jet of flame to shoot, and it shot it at you, and it still had some power to burn, and it came from a place of pain.
Have you explicitly told the person to stop contacting you? If not, your answer is:
“Please do not contact me again, under any circumstances, for any reason, using any method of communication.”
And then you ignore them for the rest of time, no matter what they do. If mutual friends ask you what’s up, tell the close ones why this person pisses you off and creeps you out, so you’ve decided to break off contact. Tell the less-close ones “_____ and I aren’t in touch anymore” and change the subject.
If you have explicitly told the person to stop contacting you, then do not respond to the message in any way. The person is looking for a reaction – don’t give them one. Your filter is a good idea. Tightening up privacy settings and blocking them on social media is another good step.
Either way someone who sends a “I know you don’t want to talk to me ever again, but I thought I’d have the last word and pretend that I’m doing it for your own good!” FEELINGSDUMP isn’t someone you need to worry about offending, right? Trust the instinct that made you not want this person in your life anymore and stay your course. Eventually this person will find a new person to “helpfully advise.”