Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: A woman in my general friend circle is the worst. She doesn’t have a grasp on reality, every choice she makes I would make the opposite. She’s boisterous and loud. My boyfriend is great friends with her husband, and I don’t think it’s fair to exclude her when we do something together, but I feel like a “mean girl” because the minute she leaves I just complain to my boyfriend about how annoying she is and her latest tacky faux pas. I am not a mean girl normally, but ugh this woman grinds my gears!
She isn’t leaving the friendly circle anytime soon. So (1) how can I deal with this extremely difficult person for the foreseeable future (two to three times per month) when cutting her out is meaner than bashing her to my boyfriend? (2) Any tips for how to get past this mean behavior? I feel stress relief when I bash her, and knowing that about myself is upsetting!
Am I Catty?
DEAR CATTY: So, no Bridget-Jonesian charm to her loud awkwardness?
Seems like there might be something interesting to why this person finds all your raw nerves. She’s not mean, apparently, she’s not harming people, right? Not undermining your friendships with others in the group? Not shouting you down politically, not abusing her husband, not isolating him from his loved ones … ? So why such an issue?
Or, the same point from the other side: Doesn’t that leave room for you to find something to like?
If you’re just repulsed at some animal level you can’t justify, or if she is in fact harmful and you merely didn’t specify that in your question, then putting up with her in service of the friendship with her spouse, and then allowing yourself to blow off some steam afterward for a brief, fixed amount of time, seems like a workable coping mechanism to me.
FOR MS. CATTY: I was doing this to a couple people who grated on me – silently counting up the ways they annoyed me and then bashing them to my husband afterward in the car. But I didn’t like the way it made me feel either, and finally I realized I was mostly snarking on them in order to feel better about myself.
I’m sure there are lots of ways to deal with that (like therapy, probably) but the most effective thing for me has been to spend the drive to each event imagining how I would react to them if I genuinely liked those people, and then acting that way – as if they were my sisters and I loved them in spite of their quirks. For instance, I forced myself to mentally recast the “loud and boisterous” girl as “playful and outgoing” and to appreciate what she brought to each gathering.
It took some time for me to break the habit of complaining afterward, but wow do I enjoy those parties more.
RE: CATTY: I tend to be quiet and reserved. I actually enjoy the company of boisterous people. I think it helps keep me grounded to realize there are different ways of being, and lots of ways work and are fun. Makes the world interesting.
I love these perspectives, thank you.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.