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Miss Manners: How to Exit an Unwanted Acquaintance?

Jambalaya

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Over the course of a few months, I was seeing an acquaintance for coffee. I was very kind to her as she was down on her luck. However, she then took advantage of me in a way that was small but set the alarm bells ringing. This wasn't a problem as I didn't hear from her for two months, until she rang me out of the blue today wanting to get together for coffee. I've been very happy not seeing her and don't really want to renew the acquaintance.

My natural way out is to drift gracefully apart. She lives in my hood and knows some of my other acquaintances. There are two couple who might well invite her to a party they would also invite me to. I was going to text her after a day or two and say that I was really busy with work but maybe another time - just make excuses, basically. When a relationship isn't working out, I favor just drifting apart gracefully, and people usually take the hint. That way, there's no drama, no bridges are burned, and it's not so awkward when you run into each other.

But, I have a family member who is quite adamant that this person has treated me horribly and I should ignore her completely. This seems unnecessary to me. What she did wasn't so bad but it was very illuminating of her character and I don't want to carry on meeting up. But I know I'll bump into her sooner or later.

WWYD? Big Freeze or gracious drift? I'm a little thrown by my family member's insistence on the former. It's not really my way, but perhaps it should be! What do you think?
 

Jambalaya

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ETA: My way takes longer but there are less hurt feelings all round. My family member's way is immediate and is probably being truer to my real feelings, but it's harsh and can engender more bad feeling.
 

marymm

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Jambalaya, I think I'd do it your way, the graceful freeze... but also I'd change the text message to leave out "but maybe another time" and instead text something like: "Sorry I can't make it, too busy with work... take care!"
 

D_

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Hmm the way the question is framed is quite biased.
Some people call it "graceful drift".
I call it "conflict avoidance".
I'd personally prefer if people would just tell me straight to my face if and the reason they don't want to continue the friendship/relationship.
It opens up room for change/improvement.
Because perception comes into play. It's a two way street. She does/says something, she means it one way, you understand it another.
Bringing it up may clarify things.
Even it still doesn't pan out/not well received, then, well, you tried.

But then again, you may not care enough.
Then either big freeze or graceful drift will have similar result - the goal is to cut the tie, right?
Would favour the freeze though, at least the message is loud and clear and less wishy washy.
 

Jambalaya

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Marymm - thanks. I will definitely consider your input if I send a text. It sounds firmer.

D - thank you, too. When I know the relationship doesn't matter to me, I do practice conflict avoidance. The reason is that to get into it with someone raises my heart rate, my blood pressure, and my cortisol, all for someone I'm done with. When it's a relationship that I care about, that's different. But when I know there is no future in the relationship, I don't see why I should put myself through it. I always remember a piece of advice I read once - could have been on Pricescope, now I come to think of it - "It's not your job to teach someone how to be a friend." Of course, some people thrive on conflict. I'm not one of those people. I do the graceful drift with people I have good reasons to be done with, because I don't think they deserve the truth or the conflict you go through to impart it. Unless it's a really close friendship, which this isn't. Also, there aren't any misunderstandings here - her actions were clear. I just think the big freeze is unnecessarily aggressive, and it will hurt her feelings less to be gradual about it. I know she'll be hurt whatever, but I'm trying to soften the blow, even though she didn't care so much for my feelings in the last couple of months. (I don't hate her, I just know she's not my type after her illuminating actions.) But perhaps you're right about the value of being unambiguous. I'll need to think about it some more.
 

Jambalaya

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ETA: I can think of three occasions where I was very honest about why I was ending the friendship. One by letter, one by text, and one in person. It didn't make any difference. None of them apologized for their actions. (One of them insulted my sister after she died, one of them wasn't there for me after my dad passed away, and another one tried to seduce my boyfriend.) I was honest and got into it, it was all very unpleasant and made no difference. They weren't sorry. I'm not a great believer in conflict as a means of resolution. If the person's actions speak for themselves, having conflict isn't going to change someone's ways. You just need new friends! And I've always felt that the graceful drift is so often (but not always, of course) the least painful method all round. Most people can take a hint.

But I wouldn't call this a friendship, exactly. More an acquaintanceship that I want to extricate myself from as delicately as possible! At least, that's my instinct. But the value of the Big Freeze is that I don't have to deal with her again. But maybe I should tell her why, so she's not left wondering. Not that she was bothered about my feelings in the last two months. I don't know what to do, to both protect myself from further interactions with this person, while also being civil and hurting her as least I can. You might ask why I care about her feelings. I just don't like hurting people - but also won't carry on a relationship that I don't want.
 

ponder

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In this situation I would do the graceful drift as there is the possibility of future social interaction through a third party. Why make it even more awkward. Not that awkward bothers me terribly. I have a coworker who I have not spoken to in 4 years.
 

Jambalaya

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Thanks, Ponder.

Awkward does bother me because I always seem to get stuck alone in an elevator with someone I'm not speaking to!!!

It just occurred to me that since this was only an acquaintance, and since we've had no contact for two months, perhaps I don't even need to do the graceful drift - perhaps it could be considered that we've dropped out of touch and that's that. But she left me a voice message this morning and it just seems so darn rude to ignore it.
 

kenny

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Just cease contact.
Screw Ms. Manners.

I'm perpetually-astonished how miserable people make themselves as they struggle against their nature to "be nice".
 

Jambalaya

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But being nice is about treating people how you want to be treated - I mean, you probably like it when people make an effort to be nice to you, right? But you're correct, I'm making myself miserable over this due to a desire to hurt her as little as possible while still not having to see her anymore. That's because I know how it feels to be hurt, and I can't help but imagine how she will feel. I guess I could tell her why, but then I'm into a whole back-and-forth and I'm pretty determined to avoid that stress.

Since she has cared nothing for my feelings over the last two months, maybe I'll just ignore her. I was really kind to her, so perhaps it will help me to remember that she had her chance.
 

azstonie

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Acquaintances are by definition not friends.

Never justify, argue, defend or explain. Being too busy or uninterested says it all! Why insult someone with your list of their shortcomings??

If I really value a friendship, I talk before I break it up. If my concern isn't important to the other party, it's drift.
 

kenny

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You don't like this person.

Just end contact.
 

Jambalaya

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Azstonie and Kenny, both great, succint advice. Thank you. I guess I'll sleep on it. God, I do hate it when these people re-appear after you thought you were rid.
 

kenny

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Jambalaya|1443150412|3931545 said:
Azstonie and Kenny, both great, succint advice. Thank you. I guess I'll sleep on it. God, I do hate it when these people re-appear after you thought you were rid.

They have no power over you, unless you give it to them.

After you end the relationship they may be physically there, but they matter no more than strangers.

Your life belongs to you.
There are many people and orgs who desperately don't want you to find this out because then they have no power over you.
 

Jambalaya

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I agree with all of that, Kenny. They are truths which take practice to remember, though. You are right - I just hate having certain people in my life, and I've purged most of them, but then occasionally they come out of the woodwork again. Ugh!
 

Jambalaya

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I've made my decision - I'm just going to ignore her. I'm tired of having to deal with people I don't want to deal with. It's true that I try not to hurt people, but I was real kind to her and she treated me in a very high-handed way in return. It's been two months since we've had any contact anyway, so I think I'll keep it that way. I don't like her at all after what she did, so yeah, who cares. It's her fault - she blew it.
 

D_

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You are right, sometimes conflict avoidance is the way to go.
All the best, Jambalaya.

And I think in an effort to "be nice" a lot of times people end up doing things in away that benefits none.
Agree w/ other re ceasing contact.
 

kenny

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Jambalaya|1443150936|3931551 said:
I agree with all of that, Kenny. They are truths which take practice to remember, though. You are right - I just hate having certain people in my life, and I've purged most of them, but then occasionally they come out of the woodwork again. Ugh!

If you respond to them coming out of the woodwork with, "Ugh!" ... then you have not really 'purged' them out of your life.

You are hanging onto 'niceness garbage' that someone taught you in your past.
 

Jambalaya

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Generally I believe in treating others the way you want to be treated, but I really don't want anything to do with this person and I thought she was gone for good. In view of her behavior, I am just going to ignore her.
 

tuffyluvr

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Jambalaya said:
Generally I believe in treating others the way you want to be treated, but I really don't want anything to do with this person and I thought she was gone for good. In view of her behavior, I am just going to ignore her.

I think this is totally fine. You treated her as you would want to be treated in your previous interactions, and in return she treated you poorly. A friend would deserve cordial treatment. An acquaintance? Hell no! You don't owe this person a second of your time or an ounce of your energy!
 

chrono

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Jambalaya|1443156111|3931569 said:
Generally I believe in treating others the way you want to be treated, but I really don't want anything to do with this person and I thought she was gone for good. In view of her behavior, I am just going to ignore her.

I would want to be told the truth at all times, so if following this life precept, the be honest with her about it.
 

Jambalaya

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She doesn't deserve my honesty, with the tense discussion and defensiveness/denials that will inevitably come about from her, and the raise of my blood pressure, cortisol, etc. I find that when confronted with bad behavior people rarely admit to it - they deny, pass blame, etc. and you end up having a lot of conflict. Why should I go through that for someone who has returned my kindness with the way she treated me? She has cared nothing for my feelings since she took advantage of me at the beginning of August, I can tell you that.

Kenny's advice made it all clear. I don't like this person so end contact.

Also, I don't think she really wanted to see me anyway. After not speaking to me since the beginning of August she gave me five minutes notice - I was still in bed, and the message was that she was going for a coffee now if I wanted to see her at the coffee place. Like, now! I think she was just bored and wanted someone/anyone to talk to, and doesn't really care about me, per se. I was so kind to her about her problems, too. I think she mistook that for weakness and thinks she can treat me any old how. Why do people mistake kindness for weakness? It is perfectly possible to be a person who chooses to be kind to others yet is a strong person.
 

partgypsy

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I think it depends on how close you are with this person. If it is an aquantince, most of those types of relationships die by slow or quick natural deaths, and it is OK to end it that way. I am also a conflict avoider "smoother over" person. However there were a few cases where someone close to me either said or did something that really bothered or hurt me. In those situations, though it was hard to do, in order to have any future relationship with that person, I needed to tell them what they did and how I felt. How did it go? In a couple cases (both men) they were completely surprised and forgotten/didn't realize what they did and apologized and it was a good thing. In the couple cases with female friend or family, it, ah didn't go so well. But either way I was glad to get it off my chest and be honest with both myself and that person, and each know where the other stood, for example keeping some emotional distance from that person.
 

Jambalaya

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I don't consider myself a conflict-avoider because there have definitely been times when I've told someone exactly what they've done. But there are other times when someone has behaved so badly that they don't deserve my honesty. Let them wonder. The answer is there in their behavior. Also, there are times when I suspected the behavior was maliciously done and to know they'd hit the mark in hurting me would have satisfied them.

I do resolve conflict in relationships that matter. But in relationships that matter, I don't generally experience high levels of grievance because the other person cares, too. It's mostly annoying, thoughtless things, not real mean stuff.
 

telephone89

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I see you've made your decision, but figured I'd put my $0.02 in anyways - I usually respond to these people with 'Nows not a good time, sorry.' Rinse and repeat. I don't think there is a way to have no hurt feelings. You may feel like ignoring someone is not hurting them, but they will be hurt. You may feel like telling them straight up and being honest will be better, it won't. You may feel like pushing off their invite to another time isn't hurting them, but it still will. So, I just do whatever is best for me. I would rather respond at the first ask, rather than this person (depending on the person) decide, 'oh she didn't answer my email. I'll text. She didn't answer that, I'll call.' etc, etc. and be bomboarded/more annoyed with this person! That's just my personal way of doing things though :)
 

partgypsy

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It's funny your post about her texting to hang out in next 5 minutes, is the kind of thing one of the people I was talking about does. Again another overture to do things on nice superficial level, I let her know a week ahead of time I was taking a certain day off, and it would be nice to see her, do lunch or dinner, but since I have kids need to schedule ahead of time (husband was home that afternoon but often will plan things or get out of house unless I schedule things in advance). She blows me off, doesn't even respond. So, assume I have to day free and don't take a shower, spend it at home doing art related activities. After husband goes to work, I was walking our dog to the grocery store to get a couple things to eat, and she calls me around 6:30.
That she had taken bike with another friend to this one place and is listening to this incredible band, and that I should "drop everything" and come meet her there. And I'm like, "um, I'm unwashed, haven't eaten yet, and am walking to the grocery store. And her response "But (name), I was SOO busy this week. I guess you need like a week's notice to hang out now, huh?" And I said "what about a day?". She is unmarried, no kids, works part time while I work full time am married and have two kids but she always lets me know how much more busy (and important) her time is by her refusal to make any plans but call me with 0 notice. A couple years ago she offered to organize a birthday party for me, and then did nothing, didn't plan anything or invite anyone. She offered this year again to organize a birthday party for me and I said no thank you.
 

ame

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kenny|1443148429|3931532 said:
Just cease contact.
Screw Ms. Manners.

I'm perpetually-astonished how miserable people make themselves as they struggle against their nature to "be nice".
I gotta agree with this. If you reply, you are inviting her to continue contact and you won't be able to let it drift. She contacted you out of the blue after two months. I'd just let it lie without a response. (You don't have read receipts on, do you? If so, turn that off like now.) If you see her around, fine, you can just say "Sorry, I am just not going to be able to right now and then not say anything about another time, and not respond if she says another time then." Just let it sit there. You don't owe her an explanation. Don't make it a thing.
 

kenny

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Long post apology, but for me this subject is huge.
Bad childhood and all, as a young adult I was an over-the-top people pleaser.
I wanted acceptance and love and I really twisted myself into pretzels to get it ... from everyone.

Certain people took advantage of that and I did not notice I was morphing from just a people pleaser into their doormat.
Around age 40 did I gradually got it.

It took me 2 years and gob$ of p$ychotherapy to end a 13-year relationship.
Get a load of this ... I needed and wanted a divorce, but stayed so I wouldn't hurt his feelings. :roll: :roll: :roll:

MY NEEDS & FEELINGS DIDN'T MATTER, ONLY THOSE OF OTHERS! :errrr: :errrr: :errrr:

Recently I ended a very close 40-year relationship with a woman.
We were so close she introduced me to people as her 'second son'.
In high school I dated, and was engaged to, her daughter.

Problem is this woman was a dominating control freak, micromanaging every aspect of my life ... SO-relationship, job, health, diet, politics, books to read, cars to buy, even financial decisions.
I got sideways eyeballs when her advice on the interior decorating OF OUR HOME was not taken.
I kept telling her I didn't want them but she kept giving me me house plants she propagated from hers.
Then she was devastated when one was missing from our house. Literally crushed, tears and all.
She told me when she dies she's left instructions to be cremated and some of her ashes will be put into wind chimes which be given to all her children, including me.

In her eyes/culture/religion/family when you really love your son it is your job to make sure everything is right with them (uhm ... HER right).
In my eyes it's boundary crossing and it was suffocating.
Over the years I repeatedly told her I didn't like or want that, but to no avail.
... BTW this woman was a highly-educated psychotherapist!
You'd think ... :whistle:

Around three years ago I told her, "I'm really sorry but I don't want to be friends any more."
It was the hardest thing I ever did ... harder than that divorce but this time I had tools from therapy ... like ... oh ... a sense of self.
My SO is still livid.
He still visits her, which I'm of course fine with, none of my business.
Her daughter is still my best friend and knows and complains about her mom's narcissism and dominance.
She told me her mom was deeply hurt.

I just could not include a toxic person in my life any more.

I DO believe in treating others how I want to be treated ... BUT not everyone.
I come first, then others and then only those worth my time, then strangers.
After people demonstrate they are toxic they get the boot.
A person toxic to me may not be not toxic to everyone.
I get to decide and don't have to explain or justify my decision to anyone.
I think in a healthy family you develop a sense of self and you learn to people-filter as a teen.

BTW, when trying to end that 13-yr relationship this best friend (the daughter) gave advice that I, at the time, hated her for.
She bluntly said, "Get your sh!t and get out!".
That seemed so mean to my SO ... but of course it was exactly what I needed to hear.
At that time I had no sense of self.

Jambalaya, sorry to go on and on about myself but perhaps it puts my blunt advice into perspective.
 

Jambalaya

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Thank you, telephone! That's often been my way, too - and mostly, in the past, people take the hint and you drift apart without having to have a whole big thing. Not talking about busting up longtime friendships here - just when you've realized that someone's not really your type or they've changed or are doing something you don't agree with, or whatever. I've been on the receiving end of it, too - I expect we all have. Sometimes it's been obvious that I'm not the person's type for whatever reason, and there's no point in trying to make them like you! You're not going to please everyone.

So although most people can take a hint, I've had one or two in my time that have been very persistent, and I'm just tired of dealing with people I want nothing to do with. I do think this person has thrown my kindness in my face, so I'm just going to ignore her. Least effort on my end, too!
 

Jambalaya

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kenny|1443195584|3931711 said:
Long post apology, but for me this subject is huge.
Bad childhood and all, as a young adult I was an over-the-top people pleaser.
I wanted acceptance and love and I really twisted myself into pretzels to get it ... from everyone.

Certain people took advantage of that and I did not notice I was morphing from just a people pleaser into their doormat.
Around age 40 did I gradually got it.

It took me 2 years and gob$ of p$ychotherapy to end a 13-year relationship.
Get a load of this ... I needed and wanted a divorce, but stayed so I wouldn't hurt his feelings. :roll: :roll: :roll:

MY NEEDS & FEELINGS DIDN'T MATTER, ONLY THOSE OF OTHERS! :errrr: :errrr: :errrr:

Recently I ended a very close 40-year relationship with a woman.
We were so close she introduced me to people as her 'second son'.
In high school I dated, and was engaged to, her daughter.
Problem is this woman was a dominating control freak, micromanaging every aspect of my life ... SO-relationship, job, health, diet, politics, books to read, cars to buy, even financial decisions.
I even got sideways eyeballs when her 'advice' on the interior decorating OF OUR HOME was not taken.
I kept telling her I didn't want them but she kept giving me me house plants she propagated from hers.
Then she was devastated when one was missing from our house. Literally crushed, tears and all.

In her eyes/culture/religion/family when you really love your son you make sure everything is right with them (uhm ... HER right).
In my eyes it's boundary crossing and it was suffocating.
Over the years I repeatedly told her I didn't like or want that, but to no avail.
... AND this woman was a highly-educated psychotherapist!
You'd think ... :whistle:

Around three years ago I told her, "I'm really sorry but I don't want to be friends any more."
It was the hardest thing I ever did ... harder than that divorce but this time I had tools from therapy ... like ... oh ... a sense of self.
My SO is livid.
He still visits her, which I'm of course fine with, none of my business.
Her daughter is still my best friend and knows only too well that her mom's narcissism and dominance is legendary.
She says her mom was deeply hurt.

I just could not include a toxic person in my life any more.

I DO believe in treating others how I want to be treated ... BUT not everyone.
I come first, then others and then only those worth my time or strangers.
After people demonstrate they are toxic they get the boot.
The same person may not be not toxic to everyone, but toxic to me.
I get to decide and do not have to explain or justify my decision to anyone.
I think in a healthy family you'd learn this as a teen.

BTW, when trying to end that 13-yr relationship this best friend (the daughter) gave advice that I, at the time, hated her for.
She bluntly said, "Get your sh!t and get out!".
That seemed so mean to my SO ... but of course it was exactly what I needed to hear.
At that time I had no sense of self.

Jambalaya, sorry to go on and on about myself but perhaps it puts my blunt advice into perspective.

Kenny, thanks so much for your post. It's not going on about yourself - you've obviously learned a lot about this topic through bitter experience. There's no substitute for experience and I'm grateful when others share their life lessons. Yours and other advice here have given me the strength to cut her loose and not feel bad.

It's such a pity about the woman you were so close to, but some people really are so domineering and they ruin their relationships and yet cannot see it. It really is an emotional disability as they go through life alienating people with their high-handed personalities.

When you told her you didn't want to be friends anymore, weren't there recriminations and drama? Did she at least ask why, and did you get to explain to her how bad her behavior was? Or did she just take offense and deny/pass blame etc?

I totally agree about toxic people and treating others how you want to be treated.....but not everyone. I am learning that last bit.

The part about staying in a r'ship so as not to hurt someone's feelings....I get it. I haven't had many r'ships but have definitely done that in friendships. I stayed in the worst friendship ever which affected me badly for seven years.

ETA: Man, imagine if you were straight and you had indeed married the daughter! Can you imagine having a mother-in-law like that!!!! Talk about a lucky escape. At least you were able to cut her loose - not so easy if it's your spouse's mother!
 
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