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Hello!

First a short PSA: My friend Dana Norris is looking for relationship/dating-type questions at Role/Reboot. She is all full up on “How do I convince my wife to have a threesome?” questions, so, don’t send her those – she’s covered it. You can email her at deardana@rolereboot.org.

Second, I’ll be here until noon answering short questions that come in on Patreon or Twitter with the hashtag #AwkwardFriday. No comments for now (can’t keep up with both questions and comments at the same time, we’re all wordy motherfuckers). Question away!

What’s a good quick way to shut up brain weasels (shrieking that I am terrible and that I can’t do anything right ever) while I am at work and trying to function?

If you can, stop what you’re doing and take a 5 minute walk around the office or outside. Get drink of water. Come back to your desk. Make a to-do list with two things on it. 1. What’s the one thing you most need to do today? 2. What’s a quick, possibly cosmetic thing that will take a few minutes but give you a sense of accomplishment and momentum? Do #2 first, cross it off your list and then come back to the other thing. When you’re done with those two things you can call the day “good” – anything else you do is extra credit. See the next question also.

(What are) ways to motivate yourself to Do Basic Stuff (cleaning, self-maintenance, emails) when tired all the time?

Rachel Hoffman at Unf*ck Your Habitat has the best system for this I know, an adaptation of The Pomodoro Method. Set a timer for 20 minutes and do what you can of The Thing. Then take a break for 10 minutes. (If you can only do 10 minutes, do 10 minutes with a 5 minute break). On days when you have more energy, you’ll create some momentum and do a couple of cycles. On days when you have less, do one and call it a victory. Getting started is the hardest part, and the reminder “I only have to do this for a few minutes” can help push past that inertia.

For both #1 and #2, there is some evidence that for some people, the sense of accomplishment and momentum that comes from starting a task is its own positive feedback loop. That can’t magically fix physical tiredness, but it can quiet the feeling of “nothing ever gets done.”

How to talk to friendly acquaintances I think are reasonable but then they suddenly defend Trump and I’m shocked.

I’ve run into this a few times recently and here’s what I have done.

  • End the conversation – sometimes gracefully and sometimes not gracefully. “Um, ok, I have to go…to the bathroom” is graceful, right?”
  • Well, that’s one opinion.Result: Awkward silence, them changing the subject.
  • “Wow, that really surprises me coming from you.” Result: Awkward silence if I’m lucky, emotional vomit about how they have their reasons if I’m unlucky.
  • Wow, that’s not true at all, but I’m interested to know why you feel that.(When they get facts really wrong). Result: They repeat a bunch of stuff they learned on Infoshit or Shitebart, I keep saying ‘but that’s objectively not true, I’m confused as to why it rings so true for you,’ until one of us mercifully ends the conversation, perhaps with a sudden need to use the restroom.
  • “Lots of people didn’t survive, though.” (For the “We survived Reagan and Bush, we can survive this, it’s not that bad” crowd). Result: Awkward silence.
  • “My friends & students are terrified of being deported and I’m probably going to lose the ability to get meaningful health insurance for the forseeable future…forgive me if I can’t see any ‘bright sides.'”  Result: They reassure me that ‘It won’t be that bad’ and I say ‘It already is that bad’ and then one of us mercifully ends the conversation, perhaps with a sudden need to use the restroom.
  • Well, every non-rich non-white non-straight person I know is very concerned about (Issue X), so, that’s enough for me to be very concerned, too.” Result: You know what the result is. Awkward silence. Emergency bathroom break.

What I’m looking for is something short that indicates that I don’t agree as I mentally add this person to my “not to be trusted…about anything” list.

Edited to add:

How to politely ask people to call me by my first name, not a nickname? This is most awkward when it’s in passing.

Be boring and correct them. “I’m Katherine, not Kat.” They’ll say some version of “Oh, I’m sorry” and you’ll all go on with your lives. It’s awkward to correct someone, but it’s even more awkward the longer you let it go on without correcting them, so think of it as doing them a favor by speaking up early and often. If I had a dollar for every time I had to say “Actually, I go by Jennifer, not Jenny” I’d have a lot of dollars. In related news, I wish there was a magic spell that gave transgender and non-binary people money every time they had to correct someone about names and pronouns.

Speaking of which…

Tips for changing my brain’s default pronouns for (a transgender person who has recently come out)? Same name=Same pronoun for my brain, but I’m so happy for them!

What if you wrote out in a journal, longhand, a few paragraphs describing this person, how you know them, the history of how you met, and why you like them so much, using all correct pronouns and their name as appropriate? Like you were describing the history of your friendship in a novel or for a person who’d never met them? It’s a way to practice this without practicing *at them.* I know that actors have good luck doing a physical task along with trying to remember their lines, so I wonder if the physical act of writing can help re-wire you a little bit.

I car share with people whose driving frightens me. It would be draining to not car share. My terrified squeaking when they drive crazily doesn’t seem to deter them, how can I make them drive sensibly :-/

You can’t make anybody do anything. You can say, “Could you please slow down?” or otherwise name the specific behavior you observe (use turn signals, be more careful about cutting people off, pay more attention/don’t be on the phone). Have the conversation when they aren’t driving, and say “You probably don’t realize it because you’re so used to driving, but sometimes you (do specific behaviors) and it really frightens me. Can you (stop doing those things/pay more attention)?

If they don’t listen to you and don’t change the behavior, don’t ride with them anymore. I know it’s not what you want to hear, but if this is about your safety it’s your only play – drive yourself, ride with someone else, use a taxi or public transit or other service. “It would be draining not to car share.” It is draining now, in the form of you being terrified to ride with them.

How do I tell my friend her tone is (probably unknowingly) making me feel dumb/condescended to w/out hurting her?

She might be hurt but you still gotta tell her, so, be direct and kind: “I’m sure you didn’t intend to, but when you (name one specific thing she said and did), it felt like you were talking down to me.”

If she apologizes and is more careful in the future, then, good. If she self-justifies or otherwise gets super-weird about it, it doesn’t cancel out the fact that she was hurting your feelings and needed to be told about it. If she keeps doing it, refer back to the initial conversation. “Remember when I talked to you about being condescending? That right there is what I meant. Can you not?

I’m good at being single, but want to also get good at romantic relationships. How?

If you can make other connections (family, friends, colleagues), if you’re generally a kind and considerate person who pays attention to your own needs and the needs of others, if you’re good at speaking up for the things you want and setting boundaries, if you know yourself sexually (whatever that may look like), if you know yourself and the kind of life you want to have, then you already know what you need to know to be good at romantic relationships when the right person comes along. Time to skip to the practical exam, ie, dating some people and seeing if you can find a person who is worth your time and attention.

The missing stair is a prof and also sponsors my organization. Tips?

  • Believe people when they tell you sketchy stuff about this person.
  • Warn new people about what this person does.
  • Use the buddy system and don’t leave people alone with this person.
  • Set boundaries to the extent you can within the organization, like, “Don’t touch people without permission,” “Don’t make sexual jokes or comments.” Document breaches.
  • Document what you observe and talk to your school’s Title IX office? If you don’t know how to do that, find your most-feminist-prof-with-tenure and start there. (Someone with tenure will be less likely to be subject to having Prof Missing Stair on their tenure committee or in another supervisory role. Ugh, I hate academia right now).
  • See also: Student Affairs, Office of Student Organizations. It’s very likely that your school has extensive codes of conduct for student organizations and if this person is violating those they can be removed from supervising the organization.
  • Is it possible to disband and re-found an alternate organization without this person’s involvement?
  • Remember always: Campus organizations, student organizations, are there to SERVE YOU as part of YOUR EDUCATION. You and your fellow organization members are not there to serve Prof Missing Stair. Harassing students is wrong and illegal. It is okay to “ruin the career of an important man” or whatever – it would be actually awesome if terrorizing and harassing students did fucking ruin more people’s careers.
  • Remember also: If some asshole professor harasses you, s/he is not the only prof you will ever have and not your only route to recommendation letters or your career, etc. Other people will support you and help you, and you are not beholden to this person for anything. Never believe people who say “I alone hold the key to what you want and you have to put up with being harassed to get it.”

Top tip for interrupting a man telling a story he’s sure you care about (you don’t) while remaining professional?

Say “Sorry to interrupt you” + ask a work-related question OR excuse yourself from the vicinity.

“Sorry to interrupt you, but I’m on a deadline right now – can you direct me to [needed work information]?”

“Sorry to interrupt you but I need to excuse myself for a second.” + go to the restsoom/go refill your drink/go do whatever.

We’re taught that interrupting is rude and that we’re never supposed to do it and my friends, THIS IS A TRAP. It’s rude to interrupt all the time, it’s rude to interrupt someone’s story with your own much better story, it’s rude when your conversation partner only wants to talk about their stuff and never your stuff, it’s rude when men constantly interrupt women (but not each other). But sometimes you gotta interrupt people, like, when your friend starts that shame-spiral for the 1,000th time or when your coworker won’t stop listing how many calories are in your lunch food. Stop your colleague, refocus the topic back on work or throw down a smoke bomb and disappear.

That’s all for today. Comments are now open. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, it’s about 10:00 am on Friday in Chicago. From now until noon, I’m going to answer as many short Twitter questions as I can under the hashtag #awkwardchat. Patreon patrons can also submit questions to the post comments there. Turning off comments here until the chat is over to limit confusion (and # of characters/words).

Let’s do this!

“What do I tell myself when I have to memorize, for an exam, things that have proven to be inaccurate or false?” 

Howabout: “Once I make it through this class I will devote my life to setting the record straight. Now, my white-hot anger shall be my memory aid.

Depression, anxiety, and lingering grief and anger from a bad breakup are wearing on me, but I still need to Get Shit Done(tm). How do I approach doing that without ignoring how I am feeling? 

Give yourself permission to grieve for a short time each day. Maybe set a timer for 20 minutes and free-write in a journal in the morning  so that you can indulge the yucky feelings and get them out on the page. When the timer goes off, make a choice to put that aside and focus on the things you need to do. The journal will be there later, or tomorrow, when you need it. If you can make a ritual like this where you have permission to feel your feelings, you might also be able to give yourself permission to put it aside when you need to get things done. When that fails, I’ve heard the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear is pretty good.

I’m working through a poly/metamour communication issue. Any tips on balancing different personalities and needs? Also, I’m an “everyone needs to like me gal,” and I often put that in front of whether or not I actually *want* to be friends with this person. The answer to your question is in your question: You’re considerate of other people’s needs, sometimes at the expense of your own. You’re probably a fantastic partner and really good at the negotiations of poly life as long as everything is going your way. What if for the next little while you tried an experiment, where you gently/kindly state your own preferences and let other people do some of the work of balancing? “I don’t want to hang out this weekend.” “I like our friendship just how it is.” “I’m glad you and (Partner) are having fun, that’s great! I don’t want to join your hangouts/hang out with you one-on-one.” “I prefer waffles to pancakes.” 

How does one combine introvert and a very extrovert job (e.g. teaching) without feeling exhausted all the time? Dude. I wish I knew.

Ok, that’s not true, I *know* some ways, I don’t always *do* those ways.

Some strategies:

  • Remember to eat & drink – regular meals, bring a snack, drink water, plan to refuel.
  • Get up early on class days and use that time to prepare/wake up all the way.
  • Use the class breaks to get *away* for 10 minutes. Sometimes I go to the bathroom on a different floor so I can have a few minutes free of interaction.
  • Track energy levels and look for patterns. It’s okay to plan something social for right after teaching – when I’m on and in that mode, I’ll stay on for a while. I will need some downtime the next day, though, so, plan for that if possible.
  • Schedule blocks of time when I look at email/work with students.
  • Simplify other stuff I have to do that day as much as possible.
  • Have lots of teaching strategies on hand – get students working in small groups, get students presenting & sharing clips, get students moderating discussions & their own critique sessions, to give my voice/energy some built-in breaks.

Do you ever regret starting an advice column?

Rarely, if ever. Sometimes I regret that it took me off the road of making movies for a good while, but I love the work and the community. If I could do this as my main job, I probably would.

Ever regret answering a question?

Yes, a few. That one from the anxious guy, which I won’t link to, but if you remember it, you know exactly what it is. A few where I fucked up the advice, missed something really obvious, or didn’t think it through all the way. Some where the Letter Writer quickly became overwhelmed by All The Opinions of The Internet rolling in on their fragile life situation.

I’d love some Ask A Manager-style updates from letter writers. How likely is that too happen with CA?

I do get updates every now and then, some private, some with permission to post, but I never want letter writers to feel obligated to update us. I like Ask A Manager’s updates, too, and I know the woman who wasn’t allowed to pee haunts us all to this day. If you’re reading, we love you and hope you are okay. This sounds like a good January project, though. I’ll see what I can pull together.

HOW IS YOUR CAT SO CUTE? ARE YOU WILLING TO SELL? HOW MUCH $$$?

Her cuteness is a mystery – if only it came as a serum we could spray on not-cute things to make them cuter! As tempting as cash offer is, she is wrapped around my head like a tiny hat right now and winter is coming.

How do I overcome Resting Friendly Face?

I share your curse. Headphones. Always having a book with me. Helping people when I can, saying (while probably still smiling), “Forgive me but I have no idea! Good luck!” when I can’t. Basically, I can’t overcome it, so I try to live with it and then write a website about boundaries.

I’m going to be out of work to donate a kidney. I don’t have to tell my coworkers why. Pros/cons of telling?

I don’t have pros and cons, just questions.

  • Do you like your coworkers?
  • How gossipy are they? Do you think they are speculating about why you’re out of the office and coming up with weird reasons for it?
  • Would you tell them if you were having another kind of surgery, like, “I broke my foot, need surgery”?
  • Are any of them doing a giant favor by covering for you?
  • Are you going to need any kind of specific help or recovery time when you come back?
  • You sound like a person who is pretty private and who doesn’t a big deal made about you, which seems like a good reason not to tell. Maybe hold off on the specifics until after the fact.