#1021: “Pressured by a friend to hang out with someone I know doesn’t like me.”

Hi Captain,

I have a minor problem that as of now is entirely one sided. I am in college and have a group of friends who graduated ahead of me because I had to take a year off from school due to medical reasons. During that time they got close to another person lets call her N in my absence when I got back I tried to be friendly with her but she didn’t reciprocate but didn’t reject outright. I didn’t push and we are at best acquaintances. On of my close friends lets call her X moved to the area because of a job and while I was helping her move in. It slipped out that N doesn’t like me because of my voice and mannerism or something ridiculous like that. I felt vindicated because I got the feeling she didn’t like me. I was mostly annoyed but a little hurt, but I understand you have the right to choose who you want to interact with.

The problem is X is still close friends with N because she also lives near by and sometimes invites me to things for example N is having a barbecue and invited X and then she asked me to come. X said yes and asked me to bring cups and ect. When its the three of us N and X tend to talk I kinda get shut out of the conversation and I see no effort on N’s part to keep me involved these talks can go on for a while and leave me as a third wheel. When we talk and N is there I make efforts to keep her in the conversation. I really don’t want to interact with N  or hear about her at all because of how she wrote me off because of my voice and how she reacts when I am around. But X talks about her, the things they do together and invites me along with them some times i do not want to go and I can tell N doesn’t want me. An example was before i knew for sure she didn’t like me we were planning a bike trip, N “helpfully” asked me if I was physically able to go, she has never shown any concern about it and it came out of no where, I got the feeling I wasn’t wanted so I backed out of the plans. (turns out they wanted to bike and drink and I cant’t drink).

I want to stay friends with X but I don’t want to hear about N or what they do together or really interact with her at all. I am unsure how to bring it up with X without sounding completely petty or jealous because N has technically never told me this in person as I said I was talking with X and mention N didn’t seem to like me that much and she let is slip out. Do you have any scripts I can use or should I just suck it up. 

-Third wheeling it like a champ

 

Dear Third Wheel,

Here’s a six step process for disengaging from hangouts with N while nurturing your friendship with X to the extent possible. Ready?

1. Next time X invites you to do something with X + N, say, “No thanks!” and don’t go. Repeat forever. This is the most important, if you do nothing else, do this step.

2. Invite X to do something with just you. “I can’t make it to N’s, but I’d love to have lunch with you sometime soon, let me know when you’re free.”

3. Tell X “It’s cool that you are friends with N, but I don’t think N and I are destined to be close, so please don’t feel like you have to work so hard to bring us closer together or invite me to hangouts with her. Go enjoy yourself – I’d rather just fly solo with you when you have time.”

4. When X talks about N, make it boring. Don’t ask questions, change subject as soon as possible, for example by asking questions about things that just relate to X or to you and X.

5. If X tells you things N says about you, tell X “I’m not really interested in knowing stuff like that. It just hurts my feelings.”

6. Put your energy into other friendships. Meet some new people (college is full of opportunities to reset social groups), cultivate one-on-one friendships and smaller-group friendships with people you like. Don’t let N + X be the central hub of your social life or the only ones planning things or doing inviting in your group. Right now the equation feels like [(THE WHOLE GROUP (X + N))-YOU] but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Here’s a bonus script for anyone in X’s shoes:

Ns of the World: “I really don’t like your good friend, Letter Writer.”

Xs of the World: “Okay? Not everyone is destined to be friends. Good to know, though, I’ll stop scheduling group hangouts.”
 
Ns of the World: “It’s just, their mannerisms and voice annoy me.”

Xs of the World: “Weird, why on earth would you tell me that? Letter Writer is my friend and I don’t know why you think I’d want to hear you insult them, especially something they have no control* over.”

Ns of the World: “It’s just that their voice…”

Xs of the World: “Let me cut you off right there. Y’all don’t have to be friends, but you should drop this.”

*If N thinks the Letter Writer/friend-of-friend was mean or had mistreated someone, that’s a different script, but “I just don’t like this person” is reason enough – you don’t have to elaborate on the details to someone that likes that person!

Also for X, when you know two of your friends don’t get along, stop trying to be the social director pushing them together. You can like two people who don’t like each other. You can expect that they’ll do some adjusting for your sake, but be kind to them and yourself and make separate plans to see them. (This goes for every “my best friend and my romantic partner don’t get along what should I do” letter btw. You can’t force it!)

I hope things get better and simpler for you soon, Third Wheel. I think they will as soon as you stop putting yourself through these awkward three-person hangouts!

 

68 comments
  1. Indie said:

    Ahhh geek social fallacies; the definitive proof that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I say that in the hope X is just clueless, wants ‘everyone to get along’ and will be relieved at the ‘You can leave me out of that and we’ll just hang out later’ reprieve.

    That said, was it X who passed on N’s mean girl comment about LW’s voice? If she did, I’d want to know how to reconcile passing on spite with good intentions. Like “Hey why would you tell me that? How is that supposed to make me feel? Also I hope you just didn’t stand there and let her talk smack about your friend”. But I’m really hoping it was another friend (one who isn’t trying to engineer a weird triangle of unfriendlyness) who was just letting LW know that a) you’re not imagining it and b) it’s a stupid reason so she could steer clear and rest easy.

    • Third Wheel said:

      Hi this is the letter writer X told me this and because I mentioned putting in more effort to try and be closer since most of our friend group was elsewhere. She told me kinda as a way to say yes its not you and I think sometimes silly things about you bug other people its not your fault it just kinda happen.

      • Lizards80 said:

        If X is the one who told you about N’s mean girl comment about you, why does she keep inviting you to events with N?

        I think the Captain’s advice is perfect. And the bonus script is great. Do you feel comfortable telling X that you’d prefer she not tell you N’s mean things in the future, and also that you’d like if she would also stick up for you to N?

      • Charlene said:

        Third Wheel, I suspect X is trying to influence you to change your speaking style and mannerisms because X doesn’t like them, and N is an excuse.

        • Charlene said:

          And because I can’t edit but can reply to my own reply: X is not your friend.

          • Lou said:

            Agree.

          • newlife said:

            I disagree. X could be the LW’s friend and just be unskilled at friendship. How they respond to CA’s advice is important. Do they back off or double down? Or, as has been done to me, act like the whole conversation never happened? A clumsy, yet well meaning, friend will learn from this situation.

          • twomoogles said:

            Yes, I disagree too! I think it’s easy to jump to a conclusion that someone has bad intent/isn’t really a friend, but we’re only seeing a piece of the picture. If someone messing up socially meant that someone wasn’t really a friend I’m pretty sure I’d have none! Not saying that intentional influence/manipulation isn’t a possibility, but I don’t think it’s as simple as just “She’s not your friend, end of discussion”.

          • Purps said:

            These people seem to be of an age where skill at friendship/social stuff yaws wildly from person to person. X may genuinely not know how to be discreet, or how to not invite everyone to everything/mash people into a friendgroup regardless of their compatibility. This behavior will probably eventually cause X real drama (and LW saying “enh, she doesn’t like me and so I’m just not into us hanging out” is NOT drama), but I’m going to be frank, this sounds a lot like my own social flailing at twenty*cough* years of age.

            LW, the thing I wish I’d known/done differently was understand how normal it is for people to not be each other’s jams, and also understood that people only hang out in one big friendgroup no matter what on sitcoms because they’re contractually obligated to appear in every single episode. In real life, friendships do take one on one maintenance, and expecting someone who’s really your friend to make one on one time is reasonable.

            A heads up: I used to be part of a really dysfunctional friendgroup that was terrible at this so I know that people can take wanting to hang out one on one as COSMIC BATTLE FOR FRIENDLOYALTY! WHO DO I CHOOSE!?? The further from that nonsense you can stay, the better. It is not a referendum. It is a day hike. It is fine.

      • Lou said:

        Third Wheel, it’s this aspect of your read on X’s telling you that reaaaallllly doesn’t sit well with me: “I think sometimes silly things about you bug other people its not your fault it just kinda happen.” That sounds A LOT like what Charlene suggested: that X is trying to influence you to change your style because X doesn’t like it and N’s not liking it is an excuse for X to say it.

        If it had been framed “sometimes silly things about a person randomly bug other people it just kind of happens” it wouldn’t bother me, but it seems like X may have been saying “sometimes these specific silly things about you but other people” which sounds a lot more like “this is a YOU problem, but I’m pretending I’m not saying that and that it’s a THEM problem instead because that feels less mean.”

        • spd said:

          I disagree. If X (incorrectly) got the sense that LW wanted to try and be friends with N, or (more likely given the repeated group hang invites) x WANTS LW to become friends with N, x might pass along N’s complaint in order to tell LW what to change in order to make N like her. These aren’t helpful pieces of information and X should learn not to pass them on, but there’s not enough data here to conclude that X is passive aggressively attributing a complaint of her own to N; it is equally plausible that X is passing on N’s complaint to give LW information about how to make N like her, or to show LW that N just doesn’t like her for inherent unchangeable characteristics. (I know both people who think your voice is your voice and you can’t change it and people who think voices can be consciously changed, so it really could be either).

        • Elsajeni said:

          I think that’s reading in intentions that we don’t really have enough information to guess about — I don’t get the impression from that comment that Third Wheel is quoting X on that “silly things about you” phrase, and even if they were, I mean, I’d phrase that with a “you” myself and mean it as “the general you.” Third Wheel, I think it’s worth being aware that X might actually be the root of the drama here — it could be that she’s passing on mean comments because she secretly agrees with them, or just because she enjoys sowing chaos, or whatever — but at this point I wouldn’t conclude that she must be; I’d follow the Captain’s advice on telling her to knock it off, and then think about whether she’s acting like a good friend based on how she responds to that.

      • Indie said:

        You seem to have good gut feelings about your friend’s intentions so go with that. She’ll only want what makes you happy and would never call you petty or jealous right? Free her from the worst of the the world’s feminized clean up roles – the role of social group fixer and smoother over.

      • TootsNYC said:

        “sometimes silly things about you bug other people”

        Wow! Way to sabotage you.
        That would be the phrase that would have me turning down ALL invites from X.

    • lurker said:

      I had an X who was my best friend at the time and told me about N’s weird complaint (feeling very upset herself), but she accompanied it by hanging out with just me more and asking N why she’d told her that.

      N even visibly felt bad about thinking it was a good idea to complain to X about me in future large group hangouts (which became much rarer). That made those hangouts much less shitty in a weird way, I’d already known N didn’t like me anyway.

      • TootsNYC said:

        I think that’s the thing X blew in Letter Writer’s situation. If X is going to create a wound, or perhaps make it worse (since you and the Letter Writer already knew N didn’t like you), X should be ready with some serious balm.

        • thathat said:

          Yes, thank you, that is what I noticed too.

          Like, ok, not everyone’s social skills are stellar, but while it can be mean enough (possibly even deliberately drama-llama-ing) to tell someone that the other person in your social circle dislikes things about them that, y’know, make them them (voice and mannerisms), what really makes me wonder just how good of a friend X is is that when she pressures LW to hang out together WITH THE PERSON SHE KNOWS ACTIVELY DISLIKES LW, and with the person she KNOWS LW KNOWS DISLIKES HER…she makes no effort to help LW feel included in the conversation.

          If she hadn’t told LW “yeah, N doesn’t like you,” then maybe she just didn’t notice that N disliked her and didn’t really interact with her. But she *knows.* She’s made sure LW *knows.* But she keeps putting LW in this situation and not doing anything to make it better.

          I’m not even saying that there’s necessarily malice on X’s part, because that’s reading tea-leaves.

          But I hope LW can expand their social circle to folks not connected to X.

  2. Oh, there are few things worse in the world than hanging out with people who clearly don’t enjoy your company! I hope X understands this and backs off.

  3. It’s not petty or jealous to not wanna hear about N or hang out with her. It’s completely reasonable.

  4. Charlene said:

    I honestly don’t think N is the problem as much as X. I suspect X is desperate to change LW, and is using N as a way to manipulate LW into being more conventional (by her lights) without having to admit that she doesn’t like you as you are. In fact, I wonder if N didn’t invite you at all and has no idea why you’re intruding on her.

    Which makes me wonder what X has really told N about you, as opposed to what X claims to have told N about you. Is she spreading stories to both of you to put you against each other?

    • Third Wheel said:

      From what I understand N invited X and then X asked if I could come to which she said yes. I don’t know if X tells N anything about be because X doesn’t usually repeat things about how one person she know feels about other people she knows nor specifics on conversations.The conversation when I found this out was like it you need help you can always come to me or N for help and I said I have tried to get closer to N but she didn’t seem so interested and I don’t thinks she really is my friend. To which X said kinda sheepishly yeah theres just something about your voice or mannerisms that reminds her of someone she doesn’t like and because she doesn’t like that person she doesn’t like you so she more of a friend of a friend to you. Then she had an expression that read to me like oops i maybe shouldn’t have said that and changed the conversation. That in the two years of interacting with X that N was in the picture that was the first i heard something like this.

      • That sounds like N is hoping that with sufficient exposure to you, X might realise you’re different from your unknown voice twin and start liking you for yourself? It’s clearly not working, though, and by this point I doubt you like X, so yeah, drawing a polite line seems like the best idea.

      • This sounds reasonable to me, and I don’t agree with the people who say “X is not your friend.” X is young, and still learning how to be a friend. She didn’t do this maliciously, and sheepishly changed the subject afterward, realizing that it probably hurt your feelings.

        She didn’t try to get you to change your voice, so no manipulation. She even said, “It’s not you, it’s this other person N hates, and you sorta resemble.”

        I’m afraid this is just one of those times that no one is at fault for not liking someone, and it’s OK to just say, “Well, this isn’t going to work. Let’s just be acquaintances and stay out of each other’s way.” Right now, N can feel uncomfortably reminded of “person she hates” when she’s with you, but can also know, intellectually, that you are not that person. If you try to force the relationship, there’s a rather large chance, she’ll see MORE of that other person in you than actually exists, plus whatever quirks you have that are just yours, not similar to the other person, but that would annoy her, anyway, and will come to really hate you, too.

        Now, it’s possible that given a few years, you might be able to become friends with N, eventually, once maturity kicks in. Maintaining the acquaintance could be worthwhile. But don’t push for friendship.

        I think the Captain’s script is great, and you’ll be fine. Just soothe N’s feeling about the Geek fallacy, and let her know that friendship doesn’t have to be transitive, and you can have a relationship with X completely separate from N, and that’s fine.

        I think X is feeling guilty that she hasn’t managed to heal the world, yet, and it will take a bit of effort to make her see that it’s not her job. Once she realizes that, everyone involved will peace out and things will be much better for all concerned.

        • apricity said:

          I agree with this. Just young people trying to do the best they can but lacking a bit of experience in dealing with these situations. Third Wheel, the Captain’s advice is great. Decline the initiations, invite X to other things alone, and the whole situation will settle down.

  5. Amy said:

    OP, I think your actual problem here is really with X, not N. N sounds like they’re being civil-but-distant towards you, which is generally how I would tell someone to act towards someone who they don’t like but who is connected enough to them to make civility useful. You sound like you understand N isn’t going to be friends with you and are fine with that. If X would just get out of the middle and stop trying to get you two in the same place at the same time, you and N could continue being civil not-friends basically forever.

    I think it’s worth telling X to cut it out, honestly. This can be as simple as, “As you know, N and I aren’t going to be friends. I’m fine with that–there are plenty of potential friends out there! But I’m noticing that you keep inviting me to hang out with both of you, and that creates a really awkward dynamic, since we don’t really get along. From now on, please enjoy your time with her without me there, and let’s plan separate times for us to hang out together.”

    Hopefully that will be enough to get X on the same page as you, and your ‘relationship’ with N can turn into a comfortable ‘we’re sociable when we run into each other but mostly we don’t see each other’ nothingness. And when X is busy doing a thing with N, you’ll have time to focus on other friendships (I’m guessing you probably have some people you know on campus still–maybe it’s time to get closer to them).

    • Third Wheel said:

      I think your right if it weren’t for X, N would have been faded from my life and I assume me from hers. The funny thing is I think X thinks N and I could be friends as we get along fine in our group text and if we hang out long enough the three of us and I can get myself into the conversation we can have nice talks together and be pretty friendly like N forgets that she doesn’t really like me. We also have a few things in common, I think this may be why X is trying to get us to hang out together. That and she wants all of her friends to get along.

      • Amy said:

        All the more reason to be direct! N doesn’t seem to want to be friends with you. You don’t seem to want to be friends with N (beyond wanting these awkward interactions to stop). You guys both managing to be civil and sociable in a group setting doesn’t change that–rather, that’s what non-friends with friends in common normally do, it doesn’t mean anything. I really think it’s time to tell X directly, “N and I aren’t friends, we’re not going to be friends, and that’s how we both want it. Please don’t try to force something that isn’t going to happen–it’s just awkward all around.”

      • X wants all her friends to get along. This is not a bad desire, in and of itself, but her forcing the issue is *selfish.* She’s not doing this for you or for N; she’s doing it for herself. So she can feel warm and fuzzy and surrounded by a larger friend group that are all happy fluffy shiney friends.

        It ain’t gonna happen. She is not casting for a TV sitcom. The more she tries, the more it will annoy both you and N.

        She probably doesn’t realize she’s being selfish, but she really is.

    • MsM said:

      +1 for being direct. If X has no problem passing along N’s unfiltered attitude, she ought to be able to handle “I understand she’s your friend and she’s going to be at big gatherings, but she apparently doesn’t even like me enough to tell me she doesn’t like me herself so we can just have it out and move on, so why do you keep putting us in scenarios where we have to awkwardly maneuver around the elephant in the room?” If she gets more protective of her own feelings and actions than she was willing to be protective of yours, that’s important information.

  6. Q-chan said:

    X is really not being a good friend here. Why on earth would you pass on mean messages from one friend to another and then expect the both of them to still hang out? Does she not notice how incredibly awkward this dynamic is?

    I’m agreeing with other commenters in that X may be the problem here, not N.

    • In my past experience, the Xs of the world often create big rifts where none really existed before by magnifying offhand comments into actual dislike. Chances are N could have taken or left you but since X has told her that you dislike her by this point she has decided to reciprocate. Usually this kind of thing can be cleared up with a little direct communication with N but is only worth doing so if you have to spend time with each other like with a work situation. (Comment similar to Epi down below.)

  7. thebewilderness said:

    It was the not being able to go drinking that tripped a reminder for me. Some people who drink do not like to be around people who do not. They can’t maintain their self image if they admitted that, so they substitute something like maybe your voice or your mannerisms.
    It is quite possible that this has nothing to do with your circumstances.

    • the815 said:

      That could be. That’s a pretty common phenomenon where you say you don’t drink or smoke weed or whatever (and you just say, “No thanks” and don’t make a big deal about it) and people project all sorts of negative crap onto you because *they* feel uncomfortable partaking around you. Like, suddenly you’re the bad guy because *they* have issues. *shrugs*

  8. Epi said:

    Maybe N acts weird around you because X told her that you don’t like her. We know that’s the sort of thing X does. Does X seem to have a lot of drama in her life?

  9. ‘Also for X, when you know two of your friends don’t get along, stop trying to be the social director pushing them together.’

    LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK.

    I suspect I am a lot of people’s N. I dislike people for often very minor reasons and I try hard not to make this their problem, but I am terrible at faking liking people so it’s a victory to even make it to neutral convincingly.

    Unlike N, if someone consistently tries to make me hang out with people they know I don’t like, the end result is that I don’t hang out with any of them. but I think it would be better for everyone just to, like, let me not hang out with people I don’t like?

    • Indoor Cat said:

      Exactly!

      I mean, obviously it’s rude to say, “I dislike Jane because of her voice,” but I can’t make myself like someone I dislike, any more than I can make myself enjoy food or music I dislike. No need to be rude, but, also, please stop trying to make me like your friend.

      • stellanor said:

        I finally had to give up and tell some of my friends that I didn’t like hanging out with a particular friend of theirs because every time I saw him he buttonholed me and regaled me with tales of tabletop roleplaying campaigns past without any regard for whether or not I was listening, not listening, or ACTIVELY ATTEMPTING TO WALK AWAY (he’d followed me to the bathroom once and stood outside the door and kept talking), and if I had to listen to one more word about Vampire: The Masquerade I was going to stab myself in the ear.

        Fortunately they were like, “Oh. Well! Okay then.”

        • Ren said:

          We have a ‘friend’ like that, I found out I was only invited to some events because I let him talk at me thus freeing the group from the burden. No one ever asked him to stop, just invited the least popular girlfriend at the time to keep him busy :/

          • MoragLachlanMaclachlan said:

            GAH! I’m so sorry. :/

          • Cactus said:

            My husband’s family used to do that, back before I knew him. Whenever they visited his maternal extended family, they would throw his girlfriend-before-me at his grandmother, who had a tendency to talk and talk and talk about random health issues and random second cousins in a monologue that everyone else found unpleasant.
            They told me about this whole setup like it was hilarious…I didn’t really get the joke.

        • I knew a guy like that once. He wanted to marry me. After three days, he wanted to marry me, because I was the only one polite enough to keep listening. I felt I had to be polite and keep listening to him, because he was my houseguest, and had, in fact, specifically come to meet ME (my sister had set the whole thing up as a sort of long-distance blind-date). I was “hostess,” and everyone else “just lived there,” and made their escapes as soon as they could, leaving me alone with the guy, despite the fact that I asked them not to leave me alone with the guy.

          Then on Saturday, he told every member of my family that he planned to propose to me on Sunday (we had literally MET on Wednesday, people!). I got up really early, and went to church really early, and made myself as busy as possible (fortunately, I actually had work at the church that could accommodate this), and stayed really late, and when I finally got home on Sunday afternoon, my mother told me that he had told them at breakfast that he had a dream that he should go back to his old girlfriend, so he wasn’t going to propose to me, after all.

          I was SO relieved, because as a young woman, I had been socialized to let a man down easily, and was not looking forward to that. Now I didn’t have to do it, at all.

          If it happened today, I’d be more in the “Look, dude, BACK OFF!” camp, and leaving him to be entertained by others in the household, rather than taking on the role of sole hostess. We ALL live here. We can ALL entertain a houseguest for the agreed-upon duration of the visit, and we can ALL say, “No, pushing yourself onto a person for unwanted romance is not appropriate. How about a game of Monopoly?”

          On the plus side, whenever the world tells me that I am a failure as a woman, since I am 45 and still single, I can remember this, and know that I had at least one (actually more) opportunity to get married. But I chose to stay single, rather than marry the wrong man and be miserable with him. And even when I get lonely, I’m still glad and still know that I’m better off single than tethered to the wrong partner. We’d both be miserable.

          He wound up marrying someone else, and last I heard, they were happy together.

          • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

            Was his name …

            [spoiler space]

            Mr. Collins?

          • Oh, I laughed so hard! Thank you!

            As a character, he is one of the best in literary history. Probably because everyone knows a version of him, in real life. He is, as my sister says, “Deeply shallow.”

          • Why on earth would your sister think that setting this guy up on a blind date with you was a good idea?

          • CommanderBanana said:

            Holy noodles, a “long distance blind date” sounds…horrific.

          • Thanksforallthefish said:

            All of this sound awful but I’m so glad you escaped!
            Side story: I grew up socialized to play hostess, be very Christian, marry a good Christian man and be a dutiful daughter, have lots of babies and all that..I once had a terribly vivid dream in which I was stranded on an island with this one Christian classmate (who I had just realized liked me but was a terrible blowhard, rude, mean and outrageous liar among other very unsuitable things). Ultimately in the dream we married or something because we were the last people on the island/earth or something.
            I woke up with this sense of dread and resignation for about 5 minutes before remembering it was a dream. Like, my subconscious decided that I would probably HAVE to marry this dude just cuz he checked of some arbitrary boxes in my mother’s list.
            I still full body shudder at the thought of that happening.

          • Was his name … [spoiler space] Mr. Collins?

            Ran out of nesting, Friendly Hipposcriff, but you beat me to it – I have a lovely youtube clip of Elizabeth Bennet mouthing “don’t leave me alone with him” as Mama hustles everyone out of the room… and then the dreadful proposal where NO means “I’m so modest I can’t say yes.”

            Sad that it is still STILL so apropos.

    • lurker said:

      Yes please. There were still people in N’s group I liked in my situation (sadly N was the leader) and I was glad my X was there as a friendly presence when I chose to go, not somebody BEGGING me to come along.

  10. I love the Captain’s advice.

  11. DJ said:

    I do wonder why X persists in asking LE along when N doesn’t like her. And why is N agreeing to meet ups arranged by X with LW.
    I have an N in my life who doesn’t like the way I dress and I suspect an not in corporate or high paid enough work. Thankfully N is very choosey on who they mingle with so I rarely see N in the group of friends we are both a part of. I make no contact with N outside the group meet up nor put myself out for N.

  12. johann7 said:

    There are a few people whom I can’t stand to be around because of their voices (one of whom worked in my office for two hellish years where I had to cope as best I could). I can’t control that any more than they can control their voices (less, actually – people can control how we speak, though I don’t think anyone should have to do so to that degree). It’s nobody’s fault, and they may be lovely people otherwise, but it’s not really reasonable to think people should endure the subjective equivalent of nails on a chalkboard because it’s not a ‘fair’ reason to dislike spending time with someone.

    Captain’s hypothetical conversation is one possible way that could go down, but because X keeps scheduling time with LW and N at once, despite knowing that N dislikes LW, I suspect it’s less a case of N shit-talking* LW and more a case of X pressing N for Reasons when N suggested not hanging out as a group with LW. Since N has the issues with LW, it’s unlikely she would want the group hangs, either.

    LW, I think you have an X problem more than an N problem, perhaps thanks to GSFs as others mention. Captain’s scripts are, as usual, excellent for addressing the problem.

    *”I don’t like LW’s voice/mannerisms,” is not actually shit-talking or in any way insulting. It owns the sentiment rather than making an essentialist judgement a la “LW is an awful persin because her voice/mannerisms is/are irritating.” Depending on how the sentiment was expressed, N may not be at fault at all.

    • Cactus said:

      Thanks for saying this. There are definitely people whose voices I dislike. More exposure to them just throws me into bitch-eating-crackers mode. The people with the voices aren’t bad people, but dislike of a voice is not a bad reason to not be someone’s friend.

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        Agreed that there’s an X problem more than N. My Grandmother and Grandfather were once rescued when they were in a bind on a roadtrip by a family because Grandma had a “well modulated voice”…for some reason she loved telling us that story. People do get to have opinions on many things.That doesn’t mean you should pass along someone’s personal negative opinion to someone and then try and force them to hang out a bunch…

    • Temperance said:

      +1

      I dislike loud, gregarious, attention-seeking people. I don’t think that they’re morally lesser than me, or somehow “bad” for having mannerisms that I don’t like, I just prefer not to spend time with people who exhaust me.

  13. Dear Third Wheel,

    I think telling X directly that you don’t want to hang out with N might help matters. That is:

    X: N and I are going to do Thing. Want to join us?
    You: No thanks, N and I don’t get along. But you two have fun.

    X: I’m going to N’s house to do Thing. C’mon!
    You: No thanks. You know N doesn’t like me, so we prefer to not hang together.

    You: I’m making lasagna tonight, you like to come for dinner?
    X: Sure! Is it ok if N comes too?
    You: Just you, me, and Kim tonight, no N.

    You and N might bond over how much you dislike hanging out together, but I doubt it.

    Good luck, and Jedi hugs if you want them.

    Meqmwh

    • TootsNYC said:

      I worry that throwing the conflict into every situation like that will just raise the likelihood that X will feel more of a need to fix it. Or she’ll repeat it to N.

      It just stirs up the drama every time.

      Have a one-time conversation (“you know N doesn’t really like me, and as a result, I don’t feel that close to her. We’re not enemies–and we can certainly be pleasant company in a bigger group. But it’s not fair to either of us for you to keep trying to put us into events where it’s just the three of us. So please, stop asking. I’m going to always say no from now on.”
      This allows you to frame things in a low-drama way.

      And then always say no–but never reference the reason again.

      • You are probably right about leaving the reasons out after one conversation.

        I admit, I was writing from my own occasional frustration. For me that tends to come out as “but I told you!” and “you know why!”

  14. Me said:

    It definitely sounds like X likes you, and likes N, and wants her friends to be friends with each other. I suspect it’s part good intentions with a bit of convenience – it can definitely be easier when your friends like each other and are happy hanging out together. But the reality is that you and N do fine as friends of friends. You don’t hate each other, you can do group chats or attend the same parties with no issue, but that’s it.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if N is frustrated with the situation too, because she’s got a friend who is trying to force her into a friendship that *she* isn’t interested in. And I also wouldn’t be surprised if N was pushed into admitting why she isn’t interested, via X asking “But why don’t you want to hang out with/invite Third Wheel?”

    So maybe say that directly to X – that trying to force a friendship between you and N is simply not going to work, and that you aren’t interested in hanging out as a threesome, or going to events that N is hosting, because you don’t enjoy it. Then turn down invitations to events N is hosting, or where it would be just the three of you.

  15. Mercutia said:

    It may be that X is just a bit naive though well-meaning, but somehow this seems to me like the platonic version of Letter #1,018. It may well be that X is playing the N and the LW off against each other, or something equally unsavory, for her own amusement. I’m…not convinced she’s totally benign. N may well just honestly dislike the LW and X isn’t just letting it lie. I suggest LW try to develop some new friendships, stat. (I know, easier said than done sometimes, but I think they’ll probably end up doing a spectacular job).

  16. I’m not necessarily advising this, but I do rather wonder what would happen if Third Wheel contact N, directly, and said, “N, I’m sure you’re a good person, but you and I just don’t click, and that’s fine. What’s not fine is how X keeps trying to push us together. What do you say you and I get together just once, and talk to her, as a team, to tell her to back off, and let us be polite friends-of-friends, instead?”

    Faced with a united (divided) front, surely X would stop, if only because she’ll realize it’s futile with these two people, even if she does the same thing with others. And what she does with others isn’t your business, anyway.

    • JenniferP said:

      I do not advise this. It stirs the pot. Just talk to X directly and decline invitations that involve N.

    • Temperance said:

      Eek. What this will do is more or less force N to explain that she doesn’t really dislike LW, and make excuses because, well, no one wants to be confronted like this.

  17. TootsNYC said:

    Regarding this: 2. Invite X to do something with just you. “I can’t make it to N’s, but I’d love to have lunch with you sometime soon, let me know when you’re free.”

    Don’t say “let me know.” Say, “What about drinks after work next Wednesday?” Or, if you can’t schedule on the fly, say, “I’m going to give you a call.”

    And then do so.

    Be concrete in your planning.

    And….

    Reach out to X on your own to set things up. Don’t, by your passivity, force her into the position of having to be the one to schedule get-togethers.

    Two reasons: 1. She has shown that she will double up–maybe because she feels bad to like N more than she likes you; maybe because she has limited time for socializing and is trying to combine things in some logical way.
    2. You want to send her the message that you really enjoy spending time with her. One does that by issuing the invitation. A specific invitation, one she can actually act on.

    And I’m totally on board with the idea of saying to X, “Look, N and I don’t really click–please stop trying to push us together. It’s not fair to either of us–especially since you know, more than anyone else, what the situation is.”

    I might also, at some point, say to X, “You know, I’ve been thinking–it turned out to not be helpful at all when you told me what N said about me. That damage is done, and I do appreciate that you were trying to look out for me, but in the future–that kind of stuff hurts when it gets repeated.”

  18. This letter was incredibly hard to read, punctuation-wise.

    • JenniferP said:

      Critiquing spelling or grammar of commenters or letter writers is expressly against the site policies. https://captainawkward.com/site-policies-and-faqs/

      If you have something relevant or interesting to add do come back sometime.

  19. Virginia said:

    I was LW, and X was my Fella. I came into an intact friend group, and they were all, “oh, you and N have so much in common! you’ll get a long great!”

    And we did have a lot in common! We also had WILDLY different communication styles, and I was as jumpy & wary as a feral cat, still being in recovery from an abusive marriage. There were also some weird territorial things going on.

    Like you, LW, I did try. I for sure wasn’t always *good* at my trying, and the more time I spent around her, the harder it was to pretend that I didn’t want to bite her and take off running. I was not exhibiting my best self, by any stretch of anybody’s imagination, tying myself up in knots trying to not cause waves in this friend group.

    When Fella finally said “enough, this mediating between you two is wearing me out,” it was occasionally a pain in the butt to keep straight all the planning of who was going to the bar to play pool vs. who would show up for board games. But it DID work, and everybody was way more relaxed. I’m still friends, 15 years later, with a couple of those people.

  20. tipplefarts said:

    I am X. (I’m not actually X but in my life, I am X.) My “N” equivalent, who is my closest friend, has a very high bar for other people to clear in terms not just of friendship, but even of casual acquaintancy. I, on the other hand, have a bottomless capacity to like people and am in recovery for Needing All My Friends To Be Friends, but I don’t always get it right. Our “third wheel/letter writer” is a person I really enjoy but who drives N batty. N had to sit me down and be like “Never again invite me to a social situation with Third Wheel without telling me they will be there ahead of time, because Third Wheel’s personality literally makes me unable to enjoy anything ever.” If N hadn’t told me this expressly, I would probably have kept imagining that the two of them could just do what I do in social situations with people i’m not wild about — tolerate them in small doses, move around, be polite but distant, etc. So I stopped doing mutual invitations and started hanging separately whenever possible. Of course, TW noticed this and asked me if N disliked them. I had no idea what to do. Tell the truth and be a jerk or tell a lie and be a lying jerk who is ultimately hurting both of them (and myself) by doing the lying? So I was honest with TW and was like, “You’re putting me in a really bad position here but I am not going to lie to you, N doesn’t like you, I’m sorry.”

    TW was really hurt and I feel super awful about it. I am nearly 40 years old and between the two of them, I really felt like I was back in high school and the whole situation made me like both of them a little bit less. There is nothing on earth I am less interested in than negging people behind their backs, so I’m grateful for the Captain’s scripts and will use them liberally.

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