How do I avoid someone without being rude?


#1

Looking for your experiences and advice here.

I have a neighbor. Let’s call her Jane. Jane has emotional problems - a difficult personality. She is also a gossip, and needy. What some might call a “psychic vampire.” She wants friends, but runs anyone off who is friendly because of her passive-aggressivity. I pray for her frequently, but experience has taught me that I need to distance myself from her in order to keep my own sanity.

Jane wants to be my friend. Not just a wave-at-you-when-I-pass-you-in-the-street-friend, but a talk-to-me-every-day-friend. I don’t want that. I have worked very hard to let Jane know that I don’t want to be an intimate friend. For example, when she leaves a voice-mail message inviting me to something, I don’t respond. When she sends cards or letters I don’t respond. When I see her in the street I wave, then quickly leave.

The problem is, she won’t take no for an answer. Every chance she gets, she tries to put me into a position where I will have to interact with her or appear rude. It is complete and total manipulation, but I need some help in dealing with it. The latest attempt, which prompted this post, is that she left a voice mail message that she had gotten a big load of compost, that it was more than she needed, and would I like some. Sure, I would like some…but I know that if I call her back and say yes she will be over at my house in a New York minute and won’t leave…she will want to gossip about everyone in the neighborhood, and bubbling right under the surface, ready to come out in tearful sobs if given half a change will be “why don’t you want to be my friend? What have I even done to you? You are sooooooo rude…”!

I would appreciate any suggestions as to how to deal with this. I don’t want to be rude, but I cannot be friends with this woman.


#2

How about phrasing it not in terms of her, but in terms of gossip? The fact is, while everyone talks about other people to some extent, malicious gossip (which is what it sounds like she does) is not kind and is not consistent with the spiritual life you want to lead.

Maybe you can sit down with her briefly - at some event that is time-limited, such as a coffee break, and explain that while you appreciate her overtures, you are really not comfortable being friends b/c you’ve noticed that she talks about others a great deal and your religious (or spiritual or whatever) values don’t permit you to take part in those discussions.

It sounds like she will be offended no matter what. But since she is continuing to reach out in a fairly aggressive way, you might want to do this.

The one thing I would not recommend is leaving a message on her machine stating that you don’t want to be friends. Not only is that something she can play back if she decides to nurse a grudge, but she might feel angry that you don’t care enough to talk this out with her in person.

There is a Jewish story about a woman who goes to a rabbi and asks what she can do to make up for spreading rumors and he said take a feather pillow outside on a windy day and cut it open. After the feathers have flown away, try to collect them again. You can’t. The point is that once things are said, there is no taking them back, and it is not possible to know how far the information will be spread or who might be hurt by it.

Again, I’m not talking about the casual “did you hear what’s going on with so-and-so?” but more the way that some people seem determined to see the worst in others and spread rumors which are often about the negative parts of other people’s lives.


#3

[quote="Abigail, post:1, topic:183262"]
Looking for your experiences and advice here.

I have a neighbor. Let's call her Jane. Jane has emotional problems - a difficult personality. She is also a gossip, and needy. What some might call a "psychic vampire." She wants friends, but runs anyone off who is friendly because of her passive-aggressivity. I pray for her frequently, but experience has taught me that I need to distance myself from her in order to keep my own sanity.

Jane wants to be my friend. Not just a wave-at-you-when-I-pass-you-in-the-street-friend, but a talk-to-me-every-day-friend. I don't want that. I have worked very hard to let Jane know that I don't want to be an intimate friend. For example, when she leaves a voice-mail message inviting me to something, I don't respond. When she sends cards or letters I don't respond. When I see her in the street I wave, then quickly leave.

The problem is, she won't take no for an answer. Every chance she gets, she tries to put me into a position where I will have to interact with her or appear rude. It is complete and total manipulation, but I need some help in dealing with it. The latest attempt, which prompted this post, is that she left a voice mail message that she had gotten a big load of compost, that it was more than she needed, and would I like some. Sure, I would like some........but I know that if I call her back and say yes she will be over at my house in a New York minute and won't leave.....she will want to gossip about everyone in the neighborhood, and bubbling right under the surface, ready to come out in tearful sobs if given half a change will be "why don't you want to be my friend? What have I even done to you? You are sooooooo rude......"!

I would appreciate any suggestions as to how to deal with this. I don't want to be rude, but I cannot be friends with this woman.

[/quote]

Your definition of "rude" is very unusual in my opinion. I would consider myself rude if I told the woman you describe to "get the f*** out of my face". Telling her, "sorry I'm busy, take care" and walking off, or closing the door in front of her is not rude, because you're not obligated to be her best friend.

There is no way to do it otherwise. If you think it's rude to fail to make her feel welcome, you'll never get out of this.

I knew a guy a while back who couldn't get the hint that I didn't want to be friends with him and kept messaging me online. I put him on ignore. I saw him on the street not long ago, and he ran over to say hi. I said "I have to go", turned my back and walked away.

Maybe by your standards that's rude, but I said it very politely, I did not swear, and most importantly I didn't have to endure a minute of his company.


#4

Thanks for the replies!

Silentstar - you are right on with your analysis about gossip. The reason I don’t want to be her friend is because she does this. Sitting down with her and talking about this won’t do any good, because she doesn’t think what she is doing is wrong.

Flyingfish…THANKS! I don’t think what I’m doing is rude. The problem is that if I turn down her offer of compost, something any sane person in the neighborhood would accept, she will then tell anyone who will listen (and there are quite a few), that I am rude because I ignore her and don’t even return a polite telephone call offering me something valuable. Then I get a reputation in the neighborhood of being an ogre. I get that reputation because Jane talks to everyone, and I mind my own business and don’t gossip. :ehh:


#5

But Abigail, I hope your neighbors would have enough common sense to consider the source. When people are that negative, consistently, I think listeners who are at all perceptive learn to distinguish between the factual information (she did not accept the compost) and the interpretation (whatever negative statements she makes). If it were me listening, I would respect the person who was not gossiping. If other people get the wrong impression from listening to her, I would say they have a problem. Of course that's easy to say, and harder to live with.


#6

Thanks, Silentstar. My first response to the voice mail message was that I didn't want to respond. Then I realized that Jane would tell anyone who would hear, "Who would be rude enough not to return a telephone call after I took the trouble to think of her, and offer her something valuable?" And that is just what she will do.

On the surface, it was kind of her. But it wasn't really - it's manipulation. Since I know that, I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and ignore her, regardless of the consequences. As long as she continues to think this is going to work, she's going to continue to do it. Of course, I have one very kind neighbor who is her friend, who will take her part and say "Oh, how much trouble would it have been for you just to return her telephone call? She was only trying to be friendly."

Oy. Vey.


#7

I think you have to ask herself if you’re willing to endure this woman’s presence because otherwise she might gossip about you to someone, and that person might believe her and might think you’re an ogre.

Where does this end? It’s not just the compost, next you’ll be worried that unless you hang out with her every day that she’ll gossip about you.

This woman is a gossip, and sensible people will recognize that. And if they do not, so what? It’s much better in my opinion if someone in the neighborhood thinks you might be unfriendly to a crazy lady then actually have to endure the crazy lady on a regular basis!

I would just keep ignoring her. It’s the best way to make people like that go away. If you ignore them, they will usually find someone else to bother.


#8

Thanks, Flyingfish, for validating what I think I already know. I wish there was a way out of this without me seeming to hurt someone, but as you so wisely point out, it’s a question of whether it’s going to be a quick death or a slow one!

I think I may feel somewhat vulnerable here, since I am a single woman without any “back-up,” and Jane is very active in the parish and makes it her business to be social. People ARE aware of what she does, but they are also afraid of her and what she might say about them, so they are likely to try to keep her on their side by being “friendly” and siding with her against me, since I am no threat. It isn’t fair, but if I don’t take a stand there will be no end of imposition. Hate this. Comes with living in a small town, I guess. :frowning:


#9

Out of curiosity, what kind of things does she say about people? The way you are describing her, she is sounding like some crime lord whom everyone obeys and bows down to out of fear!

I would not fear, it’s not as if it’s some lawless country where this woman can actually harm you.

Now if I were you, and she actually gossiped about me and I later happened to be in the same room, I would probably publicly call her out and put her in her place. It seems like she need this.


#10

First I would like to say I sympathise with you because I have often been in situations where people took 'Jane's' side because they were scared of her. I understand the isolaton but.... It also deeply shows the character of Jane's allies. If Jane was to leave town, don't go thinking 'now that the bully is gone my neighbours will be supportive of me. If they can't support you through Jane, they will NOT be there when you loose a job or a loved one. Their character is week and has nothing to do with Jane.

Now for the part that humiliates me to admit. I am sure there are some people from my past who could read your post and say 'I wonder if she is talking about CM' I have trouble making friends and have used the excuse of 'giving someone my extra compost' to get them to like me and often did not take a hint that my friendship was not wanted. Once a girl just blatantly said out of desparation 'I though you would have gotten the hint a year ago I have nothing to say to you'. And when I think of what she said I remember vivdly the pain I felt. However, that was the type of pain I had to go through to mend my ways. I am not proud of having been like that but I do thank God that I did not repeat the mistake to the same extent. I am getting better but still stumble at times.

Catholics do need to hold each other accountable to each other ie you do need to stand up to her. The only part you really have to look at is (am I mean this in a polite tone of voice) 'Do you have a people pleaser issue that perhaps God would like you to work on' It sounds like you have been more than patient with her

I hope this helped

CM


#11

Here is some insight into manipulation that I found on-line and thought was helpful.

"Manipulation is not the same as influence. We all use influence with other people to advance our goals, and this is one of the hallmarks of healthy social functioning. Influence recognizes the rights and boundaries of other people, and it is based on direct, honest communication. Influence recognizes the integrity of the other person, including the right not to go along with the attempted persuasion. Manipulation, on the other hand, depends on covert agendas and an attempt to coerce another person into giving in. Even though it may appear that the manipulator is strong and in control, there is usually insecurity under the facade. The tendency to exploit others and disregard their rights is a sign of unhealthy personality functioning. In fact, people who manipulate others have difficulty in maintaining good interpersonal relationships.

 Those who manipulate other people are good at spotting people to control. If they feel unable to manipulate someone, they usually give up and move on to somebody else who is more likely to be receptive to the attempted manipulation. Once you recognize the features of the manipulation, the next step in correcting the situation is to discover your own contribution to the problem. (This statement may seem a bit difficult to accept. After all, it's the manipulator who has the problem, you might say. But realize that manipulation cannot occur in a vacuum. As is true of any relationship, it takes two people.) You can come to understand your contribution to the manipulative situation and then take steps to correct it.
 Here are some common traits of those who are vulnerable to manipulators -

      **You feel useful and loved only when you can take care of the needs of other people.** This goes beyond being nice to other people. Your sense of worth is tied up in doing things for other people. In fact, you take this so far that you please other people at the expense of your own well-being. For example, you might buy something especially nice for your partner or a friend when you would never spend that kind of money on yourself. Manipulators are drawn to this type of person and have no qualms about taking advantage of this particular personality trait.

      **You need to have the approval and acceptance of other people.** Although most people appreciate being accepted, a problem occurs when you feel that you must be accepted by everyone at all times. The core problem here is the fear of being rejected or abandoned - and it is so strong that you would do anything to avoid the feelings associated with this fear. The manipulator works by giving you the acceptance that you need - and then threatening to withdraw it.

          **You fear expressing negative emotions**. Although expressing anger and engaging in a conflict are never pleasant, some people will go to any length to avoid a confrontation. They want things to be pleasant at all times. They fear that they will fall apart in the face of negative emotions. Manipulators have an easy task in this kind of relationship - all they have to do is to threaten to raise their voice, and then they get their way.

           **You are unable to say no**. One of the characteristics of a healthy relationship is appropriate boundaries that clarify who you are and what you stand for. In order to maintain healthy boundaries, however, you must sometimes say no when someone attempts to push your limits. If you are afraid of the conflict that may arise when you say no, you play into the hands of the manipulator. Learning effective assertiveness techniques is a way to regain your sense of control in a manipulative relationship.

            **You lack a firm sense of your own self.** A clear sense of self means that you know what your values are, who you are, what you stand for, and where you begin and the other person ends. If you have an unclear sense of self, it is difficult to trust your own judgment or to make decisions that work in your favor. Without a clear definition of your self, you may be an easy target for a manipulator."

Speaking for myself I went through a period of acquiring "friends" such as this which would make me so miserable I would have to end the friendship. When I asked my husband what it was about me that attracted these women he said 'You're nothing special they do this to everyone, but you responded". What a light bulb moment! These type of personalities CONSTANTLY behave in this manner fishing for a vulnerable soul, if you respond with interest, compassion etc. then they get their claws in and don't let go until you literally tear yourself away.

My own weakness from this list was a "fear of expressing negative emotions". You are not a bad, unChristian person for refusing to respond to your neighbor. You are wise and healthy. Keep your boundaries intact and keep her on "ignore" until she finally gives up. I had to go through about 2 or 3 of these "friendships" before I learnt my lesson and understood that its OK if she thinks you're a terrible person for not doing exactly what she wants. The irony was that I am a very strong person with strong boundaries but I was lured in by these women's great sense of humor which I am a sucker for, I love fun out-going people. There is a reason certain personality types have developed a very charming persona. They are narcissists who must have a constant supply of attention to keep functioning.

I suspect she sees what a kind and generous person you are and that is why she has not given up yet. I'm afraid you may have to bite the bullet and accept that even "nice girls" can be "rude" sometimes. Allow negative emotions, you are not wrong to have them. Be a hard-nosed grown-up and stick to your guns.


#12

well in all my years of wiccan i have learned that kindness is the best way to avoid someone....but sometimes i want to be rude but then i just walk away and say being kind and walking away is safer for everyone :)


#13

Thanks, Kindness, for that great information! I do see where I may be partially responsible for this situation. I DO tend to be easy-going about others’ peculiarities, and to give people the benefit of the doubt. Although I am strong in other areas, I DO dislike rejection. And it also pains me to think of causing another person the sort of pain you experienced, but as you put it so well, it was necessary for you to grow.

BUT, could it not be argued that as Christians, we are to love others as ourselves, and turn the other cheek, and walk the extra mile, etc. This is the argument Jane uses. She says “I know I have emotional problems, but I can’t help what I do. How can you, as a Christian, reject my friendship when I need friends so badly?” BUT, friendship goes both ways. And since she has continued to do things after I have asked her not to do them, I cannot understand how she can claim she “can’t help it.” It’s pretty simple. Stop doing the things or you won’t have a friendship. And I don’t think Christian charity obliges us to do anything more than pray for them. AND, if people are going to think I’m an ogre, it’s probably better that they believe I am and not come around me! :smiley:

Thanks for all the replies. It’s really helped me work through this. :thumbsup:


#14

Yes Abby, I’m not suggesting you do anything unChristian. As you rightly pointed out at the beginning this woman is over stepping all boundaries and attempted to emotionally manipulate you into giving the response she wants. Most healthy people when they don’t get much of a response from the other party when attempting to form a friendship get the hint and move on. Its OK and it’s normal. We can’t be close friends with everyone. It is not normal to constantly be badgering you and not accepting boundaries.

Therefore you have been polite and now you are just ignoring her because you know her behavior is not normal. That’s what I meant by “being rude”. She is attempting to guilt trip you into changing your behavior. Her behavior is not loving or kind. It can be challenging for a normally giving, generous person like yourself to hold your ground when someone is trying to imply that your behavior is rude.

You are not being rude, she is - by not leaving you alone. Don’t allow her to bully you with guilt trips.

I am someone who loves meeting people and has a high tolerance levels for “eccentric” behavior. I find almost everyone interesting and entertaining in some way. You’re so right I had to learn that in fact there are certain behaviors that are a “Red Flag” and beyond just eccentric. I had to learn this as an adult with other adult women that sometimes people have other motivations for “befriending” that are not healthy. After going around the block a few times I finally recognized what was happening and could spot the patterns.

Another “Red Flag” is someone who tells you intimate details of their life when you have just met. This is another technique to “test” you and see if they get the response they want. I used to be flattered if a funny, outgoing person started to spill all their problems to me on the first or second meeting. Now I see it for what it is and walk away. They don’t have to be flamboyant and witty that is just my personal weakness. It was heartbreaking but I learnt a lot. I also recommend you read about Personality Disorders. My MD husband switched me on to them and that helped a lot too. There are definite patterns to the behavior.

We should be Christian in our behavior as much as possible but letting another person invade our personal space by force is not loving.They can take advantage of our compassionate and forgiving nature.

I apologize for the long posts! This situation definitely hit a nerve with me! :wink:


#15

In toxic relationships like this, sometimes you have to be what you feel is “rude” to be understood. I am currently dealing with just such a situation. I do not answer the phone when this person calls, I have removed her as my friend on facebook, I don’t attend events she invites me to. We have a few mutual connections, so I don’t think I can ever completely avoid her (how wonderful that would be!). So, she takes the opportunity when I do see her to guilt trip me, or corner me so I’m “forced” to have a conversation with her.

I thought that the “active avoidance” method would get the point across to her, but it didn’t. Now, I have to be “rude”. When she asks me why I didn’t return her call, I just politely tell her that I’m not comfortable being close friends with her. I’ve had to do it waaaaayyyyy too many times…you’d think she’d just get it at some point, but she doesn’t. She will repeatedly text me and when she figures out I’m not responding, she calls. I don’t like to be badgered all day, so instead of just ignoring her, I answer, and have to again explain that I do not desire a relationship with her. Then she turns on the waterworks. I handle that response just like I do with my three year old…I’m sorry you feel this way, but it’s best for me if we do not have a close relationship. I wish you the best. Goodbye.


#16

Yes, you are obligated to love this woman. No, you are not obligated to be in a close personal relationship with her they are completely separate things.

Say you are the victim of a crime…are you obligated to try and forgive that person? Well, yes you are. We are all obligated to love one another, to be kind and to forgive. Are you obligated to go out to dinner weekly with the person that victimized you? Of course not.

Your obligation to her is to be kind, however putting yourself in the situation where she continually behaves in a sinful manner towards you is not your obligation. You will need to ignore her completely and yes, she will likely spread rumors about you.

Remember when you are frustrated and feeling picked-on injustly by her and your neighbors think of Christ. Remember Jesus and the people that told lies about him and spit on him and kicked him. Take this opportunity for yourself as a chance to grow in grace and virtue. When your neighbors accuse you of being unkind remember Jesus when they accused him unjustly of things and his dear friends abandoned him. Unite your suffering to the suffering of Jesus, he will help you through this. Jesus loves you so very much, you are his little girl! He knows what you are going through he went through it himself, turn to him. Hope this helps.


#17

I had a friend like that once too. If you ignore her long enough, she will get the hint. Hope you have caller ID.

Long-story short: I had a friend, I will call her Geri, she would come over and befriend my neighbours and other friends. She would get their phone number and chum up with them. She would talk bad about me and when she visited she would bad-mouth them. She was a royal- pain. She was passive-agggressive and had problems with just about everyone she knew.

I know the type and fortunately have never had to see her again. Unfortunately if this “Jane” is a neighbour, there is no rule you have to talk to all your neighbours.

Good luck


#18

maybe for this particular instace, you could wait till you know “Jane” is not home then call her back and leave a message. say, Thank you for the compost offer but please go ahead and offer it to another friend.
this way you are returning her call, you are being polite, and you are avoiding her, all at the same time.


#19

Abigail,

I didn't know you were neighbors with "The Bucket Woman" (for those who know the TV reference)


#20

Tell her, 'I am not being rude, I am just making boundaries." I knew a woman like this once. A real pest to everyone. Some people who are manipulating and needy like this need to have things spelled out clearly. Friends are pretty special and should be chosen carefully. Its okay to not want to be friends with someone. You can love someone with Christian charity and not want to be their friend. Tell her, "I do not want to be friends. I want to be a friendly neighbor, a polite neighbor, but that's different from being friends. Not freinds. Neighbors." If she gives you the Christian line let her know sincerely you will be praying for her. You can even send her a Mass card at Christmas. That would be kind, and make her feel like someone cares, to count on a yearly card. Whenever she persists the friendship thing, remind her you do not want to be freinds. Just freindly neighbors. You might have to tell her what friendly neighbors do. They wave, they smile, they watch each other's houses for prowlers when they are away, they might even take care of each others cats or plants when away, or take the mail in - whatever you think you are willing to do. What if she was stuck for a ride somewhere becasue her car broke down. You could tell her, I will give you a ride but I don't like gossip about anyone.

As uncomfortable as it is, making clear boundaries is a good skill and this is good chance for practice.


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