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Tricky social dilemma
Old 07-28-2016, 11:18 AM   #1
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Tricky social dilemma

I’d love some advice from the wise folks around here about how to deal with a particular, tricky social situation. The detailed version of my question is below, but here’s the quick version: How do you navigate being part of a mostly great, fulfilling social group when there is one really annoying person who’s also consistently present in that group and doesn’t take the hint that you would rather not interact with him or her?

OK, now for the long version. I’ve been going to various meetups and have met a lot of fun and interesting people this way over the past year. One meetup in particular has been really fulfilling for me, and I’ve always looked forward to being a part of this group’s one or two events each month. At the last meetup a few days ago, though, something kind of discouraging happened. There were about 20 of us, all at a long table at a local restaurant/pub, and I was at one end of the table talking to some folks, having a great conversation. Suddenly, a lady from the other end of the table came over to where we were sitting and plopped down in an empty chair next to mine (between me and the people I was talking to), and began to loudly interject herself into the conversation. Now, this is not inherently a bad thing, since meetups are intended to be a very open and welcoming forum for meeting anyone and everyone present, if you want. So in that spirit, we all happily engaged in conversation with her… for a while. Over the next ten minutes, though, we all began to grow quiet and start fidgeting in our chairs. This lady was loudly and aggressively dominating the conversation, hardly allowing any of us nearby to speak for more than about 15 seconds at a time before she launched into another loud, vulgar, 5 minute monologue. When I say “loud” and “vulgar”, I am not exaggerating in the slightest. Her voice was like a bullhorn on full blast, and her speech was strewn with the most off-color kinds of slang you can imagine. Every fifth or sixth word was the f-word, and she frequently made extremely vulgar sexual remarks. Now, I’m no prudish shrinking violet. I use “adult language” a fair amount when hanging out with my friends, and I can be as crude and juvenile as anyone when cutting up with people I know well. But this woman was essentially a stranger to us, and she had to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-65 years old. So when she’d say things about how she’d love to run her hands all over some 20-something guy’s body (referring to one of the men down at the other end of the table), we’d all sort of look at each other and cringe.

So this went on and on for well over 30 minutes. None of us seemed to know how to deal with the situation. We all clearly wanted her to leave, but even with all the obvious signs of annoyance and discomfort we were showing, she just blithely continued on. To me, it seemed like this lady had some sort of social disorder where she wasn’t able to read people and respond appropriately. It was like she was performing some kind of bizarre standup comedy routine (and honestly, a lot louder and more vulgar and wince-inducing, and less funny, than anything you’ve seen on cable TV before). Finally, thankfully, she got up and went back to the other end of the table at some point. I remember looking at someone sitting near me and saying “Well… that was interesting.”

Now, if I didn’t really care much about this meetup and socializing with this group of people, I would just stop going to these hangouts. But, on the contrary, this meetup is one of my favorites and I don’t want to avoid participating in future events just because of this one lady. The problem is that she is ALWAYS present at these meetups, and until now, I think I have been lucky in not having much interaction with her. My fear, though, is that she will be far more likely to come up and “talk” to me and whomever I’m conversing with at future meetups, now that she knows who I am and knows that I’ll politely listen to her as if she were a normal person.

What would you do in this situation if you were me? Is there a good strategy for avoiding this lady without hurting her feelings too much, or would you not be too concerned with sparing her feelings? I don’t think she’s a bad person deep down… just socially dysfunctional. How can I keep attending and enjoying these meetups if she’s going to be at every one of them?
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Old 07-28-2016, 11:26 AM   #2
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Oh man...I was afraid you were going to have a story about meeting someone who is also on this board and what an annoying idiot he was.

I can't offer much help, but perhaps she will stay on her end of the table next time? That's a tough one, for sure. I would be inclined to just tell her she's being loud and obnoxious, but then I might not be invited back. Perhaps this is why I don't function well in large groups!
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Old 07-28-2016, 11:32 AM   #3
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Is there some reason you sat there for 30 minutes? After 5 minutes I would have stood up, said excuse me everyone and found another person to talk to. Every time you see her spend 3-5 minutes in her company and then politely excuse yourself.
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Old 07-28-2016, 11:33 AM   #4
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You should "break wind" very loudly in her general direction. That should fix it.
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Old 07-28-2016, 11:34 AM   #5
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I doubt there's anything you could say to her that would result in a change in her behavior. I would probably just politely excuse myself from the vicinity ("Oh, there's John, I've just remembered something I want to tell him, excuse me") when she makes her next appearance. Maybe she'll get the hint, but I doubt she'll care, and certainly everyone else will understand (though they may hold it against you if they feel that you've made your escape and "stuck them" with her). I would be unfailingly polite to her, as any attempt to be honest with her about your feelings will certainly result in a bad scene with nothing to show for it.

Ultimately, you'll have to decide if, on balance, being there with her is worth it.

Edit: Ooops, I cross-posted with ivinsfan.
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Old 07-28-2016, 11:43 AM   #6
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No problem, but for the OP to get a minor point across, I wouldn't saying anything besides, Excuse me, when I left her company.
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Old 07-28-2016, 12:07 PM   #7
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You should "break wind" very loudly in her general direction. That should fix it.
And then blame her!

Seriously, I would just walk away when she starts up. If asked, I'd tell her the vulgarity offends me and that's not what I was looking for in the group.
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Old 07-28-2016, 12:20 PM   #8
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I would stay until she completed her initial story and then excuse yourself and go to her vacated seat.
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Old 07-28-2016, 12:25 PM   #9
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I like the advice of breaking wind.

Do so, then screw up your face and look accusingly in her direction. the others will catch the drift.
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Old 07-28-2016, 12:28 PM   #10
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Was alcohol involved ?
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Old 07-28-2016, 01:12 PM   #11
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From your post we cannot tell if this is a one time thing or it has happened more than once...

There are some people who just do not get it... I used to work for someone who would talk on and on (not vulgar or anything, just drone on)... some people would tell him to his face they did not want to hear it, but that did not stop him as he would just face someone else and keep talking.. if you walked away and he was talking to you he would follow!!! The women had an out as they would go to the rest room and he could not follow....

The thing that we did is help each other out... if we saw him in someone's office we would call after awhile to let them say they have to take the call... he was one who would leave if you had a phone call...


So, yea, walk away next time when she plops down... do not even wait for her to start up...
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Old 07-28-2016, 01:29 PM   #12
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It's much easier for us to sit here and give advice than it would be to actually deal with a situation like yours, but here's my 2 cents.

With her behavior she has, probably unwittingly, gone on the offensive, putting you (and probably others in the group) in the awkward position of having to decide how to react. You can either respond in one of several relatively benign ways, such as just sitting there and taking it until she goes away (very passive), or excusing yourself and moving (less passive). Alternatively, you could decide to go on the offensive and act as a mirror to her behavior. An ex co-worker is very good at doing this. Whenever he wants to attempt to coerce someone into confronting their own words, he will fix his unflinching gaze upon them, and respond with phrases such as "Oh really?" He does it swiftly and with great aplomb. When done well, the effect is quite disarming to the offender.

If you think you have the mettle, you could even take it further. The next time she says something awkward about another member of the group (I'm referring to her comment about running her hands all over one of the younger members) you could respond swiftly with something like, "Wow, no kidding. We should tell him. I bet he'd be very flattered!" and then follow-up by calling out to the other party and saying something like "Hey Bob, you'll never guess what Nancy just said about you. Nancy - tell him!" Granted, it takes a certain confidence and spirit to pull this off effectively without turning yourself into a group pariah, but it can be done.

I feel for you. This sort of situation can be awkward to deal with, but she's the one who has caused all the awkwardness and, IMO she should, in some way, be made aware of that.
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Old 07-28-2016, 01:40 PM   #13
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Is anyone sort of in charge of these meet-ups? Some sort of informal organizer/chairperson?

A group of you might ask them to take the offender aside and nicely tell her to chillout.
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Old 07-28-2016, 01:46 PM   #14
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One of the guys in a group I occasional meet for lunch starts talking and everyone gives him their full attention. The problem is that he talks in a low mumbling voice and you have to really strain to understand what he is saying. When he starts, all I want to do is be anywhere else. I think the others are being polite because he is old and becoming disabled. Last time we had lunch I couldn't take it any more and so I grabbed the conversation early on and just kept talking. It worked but now I wonder if I just replaced him as someone everyone wished would just stop talking.
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Old 07-28-2016, 01:48 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Major Tom View Post
It's much easier for us to sit here and give advice than it would be to actually deal with a situation like yours, but here's my 2 cents.

With her behavior she has, probably unwittingly, gone on the offensive, putting you (and probably others in the group) in the awkward position of having to decide how to react. You can either respond in one of several relatively benign ways, such as just sitting there and taking it until she goes away (very passive), or excusing yourself and moving (less passive). Alternatively, you could decide to go on the offensive and act as a mirror to her behavior. An ex co-worker is very good at doing this. Whenever he wants to attempt to coerce someone into confronting their own words, he will fix his unflinching gaze upon them, and respond with phrases such as "Oh really?" He does it swiftly and with great aplomb. When done well, the effect is quite disarming to the offender.

If you think you have the mettle, you could even take it further. The next time she says something awkward about another member of the group (I'm referring to her comment about running her hands all over one of the younger members) you could respond swiftly with something like, "Wow, no kidding. We should tell him. I bet he'd be very flattered!" and then follow-up by calling out to the other party and saying something like "Hey Bob, you'll never guess what Nancy just said about you. Nancy - tell him!" Granted, it takes a certain confidence and spirit to pull this off effectively without turning yourself into a group pariah, but it can be done.

I feel for you. This sort of situation can be awkward to deal with, but she's the one who has caused all the awkwardness and, IMO she should, in some way, be made aware of that.
I had a friend who summed up persistent annoying behavior by others in social situations as "Once a cannibal. always a cannibal." I think he was correct. Once in full adulthood these people know their craft pretty well. They tend to know when their prey will be socially or legally constrained from taking effective counter measures. Meetups are a good place to find these people. When I encounter someone like this I refuse to engage with him or her, and just move on.This is one of the good things about a cocktail party, as you are standing and making an escape is easy.

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Old 07-28-2016, 02:00 PM   #16
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Next time, I'd key on the vulgar language, interrupting her every time she used it, say it's not appropriate language for the group. Eventually, she'll get the hint, move to talk to others who don't mind it and hopefully will avoid your area in the future. It's likely interrupting will bother her more than the subject of the interruption.
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Old 07-28-2016, 02:07 PM   #17
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I knew I'd get some lough-out-loud funny replies and some sage advice here, so thanks for living up to my expectations.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ExFlyBoy5 View Post
Oh man...I was afraid you were going to have a story about meeting someone who is also on this board and what an annoying idiot he was.
Hahaha, no way ExFlyBoy! This lady makes even the most annoying person on this site (which is definitely not you -- far from it!) seem like a wonderful, pleasant friend, by comparison.

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Is there some reason you sat there for 30 minutes? After 5 minutes I would have stood up, said excuse me everyone and found another person to talk to. Every time you see her spend 3-5 minutes in her company and then politely excuse yourself.
Believe me, I wanted to get up and get out of there within the first 5 minutes. But I felt that a) it would be rude, as she seemed very happy to be in our midst, "conversing" with us; and b) I didn't want my other new acquaintances to think I was bailing on them or that I was somehow antisocial. Next time, I have no intention to sit through more than a few minutes of that torture.

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Originally Posted by latexman View Post
You should "break wind" very loudly in her general direction. That should fix it.
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Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
And then blame her!
Love the concept. But honestly, I don't see even something like that doing the trick! She is so vulgar she'd make a big joke out of it, and probably gleefully take credit for it. I can almost hear her now: "Whoa, that was a doosey! Bet none of you can top that! Guess I shouldn'ta ate all those beans last night!"

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Originally Posted by samclem View Post
I doubt there's anything you could say to her that would result in a change in her behavior. I would probably just politely excuse myself from the vicinity ("Oh, there's John, I've just remembered something I want to tell him, excuse me") when she makes her next appearance. Maybe she'll get the hint, but I doubt she'll care, and certainly everyone else will understand (though they may hold it against you if they feel that you've made your escape and "stuck them" with her). I would be unfailingly polite to her, as any attempt to be honest with her about your feelings will certainly result in a bad scene with nothing to show for it.
Yeah, this seems like basically the right approach. I'll just have to explain things later to the others who get stuck with her. Saying something to her directly would do nothing other than result in a lot of hurt feelings and maybe even get me a black mark within the group.

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Was alcohol involved ?
Yes. We were all drinking (I had one beer the entire evening), but I got the feeling she's not one who can hold her liquor. She told us that her husband is always getting on her case about "drinking too much and talking too much." Umm... that would be a slight understatement.

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Originally Posted by Texas Proud View Post
From your post we cannot tell if this is a one time thing or it has happened more than once...

There are some people who just do not get it... I used to work for someone who would talk on and on (not vulgar or anything, just drone on)... some people would tell him to his face they did not want to hear it, but that did not stop him as he would just face someone else and keep talking.. if you walked away and he was talking to you he would follow!!! The women had an out as they would go to the rest room and he could not follow....

The thing that we did is help each other out... if we saw him in someone's office we would call after awhile to let them say they have to take the call... he was one who would leave if you had a phone call...

So, yea, walk away next time when she plops down... do not even wait for her to start up...
It was basically a one time thing (so far), but I have had brief interactions with her before at previous meetups. I remember she did something kind of similar at a meetup back in April, only that time it was much shorter (like 3-4 minutes), and I could easily walk away because we were all standing up mingling at a house party. After that brief encounter, I remember thinking she was kind of a loud-mouth loon, but I also figured I'd be able to avoid her pretty easily at future meetups by sitting (or standing) far away and that she'd probably get the message. Nope... didn't happen.
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Old 07-28-2016, 02:11 PM   #18
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Spot on. Excusing myself was how I dealt with the male version of your boor, when I was one of the 20-something bodies being referred to.

You can bet the group are with you, but you can also bet they won't like anyone who tries to "correct" or reason with the boor. And she will see it as a challenge!


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I had a friend who summed up persistent annoying behavior by others in social situations as "Once a cannibal. always a cannibal." I think he was correct. Once in full adulthood these people know their craft pretty well. They tend to know when their prey will be socially or legally constrained from taking effective counter measures. Meetups are a good place to find these people. When I encounter someone like this I refuse to engage with him or her, and just move on.This is one of the good things about a cocktail party, as you are standing and making an escape is easy.

Ha
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Old 07-28-2016, 02:22 PM   #19
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Lots of good advice given.

I might target the swearing as that's easy to identify. Whereas calling someone out on being a loud mouth in general is a little harder I think. I for one don't mind my friends swearing. So when with old college friends, and we are drinking, people swear... a lot. However, if I were in the midst of a nightmare like you describe that might be a way to throw her off guard. That is, "I appreciate what you are saying but could you please tone down the swear words? I find them unnecessary." To me it's a way of separating yourself from her. Maybe she'll think you are not cool and won't want to talk to you anymore. Or, better yet, maybe she'll go on some other chat board and talk about this square she met at a meet up group and how they don't like her saying a few swear words.
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Old 07-28-2016, 02:29 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Major Tom View Post
If you think you have the mettle, you could even take it further. The next time she says something awkward about another member of the group (I'm referring to her comment about running her hands all over one of the younger members) you could respond swiftly with something like, "Wow, no kidding. We should tell him. I bet he'd be very flattered!" and then follow-up by calling out to the other party and saying something like "Hey Bob, you'll never guess what Nancy just said about you. Nancy - tell him!" Granted, it takes a certain confidence and spirit to pull this off effectively without turning yourself into a group pariah, but it can be done.
Well, this might be hard to believe, but she already did this herself! After making that comment about the 20-something guy, later in the evening he walked by our end of the table. She stopped him and repeated what she had told us... right to him! He looked incredibly embarrassed and really aghast that a woman 40 years his senior would be so sexually lewd with him, in public, in front of numerous people. It was mind boggling.

Quote:
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Is anyone sort of in charge of these meet-ups? Some sort of informal organizer/chairperson?

A group of you might ask them to take the offender aside and nicely tell her to chillout.
There is an organizer, yes, but he's just someone who posts a notice about the meetup, where it's going to be, etc. He's not like a leader or chairperson who has any sort of special position or power. Even still, it might not be a bad idea to talk to him privately one day and ask him what he thinks about the situation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by haha View Post
I had a friend who summed up persistent annoying behavior by others in social situations as "Once a cannibal. always a cannibal." I think he was correct. Once in full adulthood these people know their craft pretty well. They tend to know when their prey will be socially or legally constrained from taking effective counter measures. Meetups are a good place to find these people. When I encounter someone like this I refuse to engage with him or her, and just move on.This is one of the good things about a cocktail party, as you are standing and making an escape is easy.
Yes, I was thinking about it earlier and wondering if there's any way she could actually be unaware of how she's coming across to people. You'd think after so many years, she'd know on some level. And I'd agree that she probably loves these venues where we're all trapped in our seats around a big table, kind of unable to move. Like I said, it must be a genuine personality (or social) disorder or dysfunction.

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Next time, I'd key on the vulgar language, interrupting her every time she used it, say it's not appropriate language for the group. Eventually, she'll get the hint, move to talk to others who don't mind it and hopefully will avoid your area in the future. It's likely interrupting will bother her more than the subject of the interruption.
Something worth considering, although I'd take a slightly different tack. I was thinking of interrupting her long monologues with very boring, stupid, insipid questions or comments, and also not laughing at any of the intended, appropriate "laugh moments". Maybe if I did this, she would not get the feedback and reinforcement she desires and would seek it elsewhere. Hmmm... definitely could be worth a try.
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