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Setting boundaries


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Hi everyone,

I have a hard time standing up for myself in some situations, and it has happened to me twice that someone was not nice to me (not the same person), and I didn’t say or do anything. And later I felt upset that I didn’t say anything in the moment.

So both times I was part of a small group of people, we were having dinner, and one person would just start making fun of me, interrupt me while I was speaking, basically trying to be “funny” on my expense. As I said, I didn’t react in that moment, I just let it be because I didn’t know how to react. I knew it wasn’t cool but I didn’t know what to do. I was scared to stand up for myself because I didn’t want to ruin the dinner. I think I would say something if it was just me and the “mean” person, but since this was a group thing, I didn’t want to spoil the mood for everyone.

I don’t know why I end up in this kind of situation, I’m usually the more quiet/shy one, definitely not someone who wants a lot of attention. I am not close to the people who were not nice to me – the first time it was someone I barely knew, and the second time an acquaintance – so not my friends, just part of the group.  

My question is - is it okay to say something when someone is treating me like this? I don’t think I did something that would trigger this behavior, I avoid conflict and heated arguments, I feel that these people choose me because I am the shy one/the nice one. Like they know that I won’t say anything, and they can continue being mean to me.

I don’t mind teasing or when my friends are making fun of me in a friendly way, that’s fine, I just don’t feel comfortable when someone clearly chooses me as a target to make fun of me, in front of everyone else.

I would like to learn how to react in these situations and what to say to these people, so they stop this behavior. I don’t want to be quiet the next time this happens. Also, both times I felt that something was wrong, but I still wasn’t sure if I just wasn’t overacting in my head, and it was only after my friends told me that that person was mean to me that I realized that my feelings were valid.

I’d just like to be more self-confident and learn how to set boundaries. I know this is long, sorry, I hope it makes sense!

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People usually do this thoughtlessly to keep a conversation going. If it was a party conversations flow from one topic to another.

All you have to do is speak up and disagree with what they’ve said with thoughts of your own. Keep it measured and even and don’t raise your voice. You’re a smart gal. You’ll know what to say. 

Another approach is to agree with what they’ve said and make a counter comment throwing off their point completely. The crowd will likely laugh at that point and the rude person looks like a real jerk/fool. I don’t recommend this if you want to keep it light hearted. Some banter is to be expected. Without knowing what they’re saying exactly it’s hard to determine whether you’re sensitive to a certain topic or whether they are truly offensive.

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Please don't be so hard on yourself. It's so hard to say the right thing at the moment and you probably felt blindsided -seriously sometimes you have to "rehearse" in anticipation!

Here is what I would say.  Use body language/eye contact as your emphasis - let the jerk interrupt.  Then sit up tall - or stand tall if standing - look at the person in the eyes, and state without tone "I wasn't done speaking" and finish your thought.  And/or depending on what Jerk said, say "I feel uncomfortable hearing what you said.  I'd appreciate you not making comments like that about me again. Thanks."  Say it matter of factly.  Make it with I statements so the person isn't "attacked".  

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You have to be able to "read" people in a situations like that. For example did they said to to be interesting at your expanse or just to be malicious toward you. Its a skill you pick up during social interactions. You watch out how they behave, what they say and talk about etc. And based on that you would need to "throw them out of their balance" if you want. And for that you would need to be bold, sometimes even rude. Something you might not have it in you. If they make fun of you then its perfectly fine for you to turn the table on them. Even if they get mad in the process. But again, not everybody has that inside them. From your words you are somebody who doesnt. 

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3 hours ago, kim42 said:

it was only after my friends told me that that person was mean to me that I realized that my feelings were valid.

Sorry this happened. How did the others react to the obnoxious person? Is this part of a friendship group?🦥

What exactly was the setting? Coworkers? Do you have to see this bully again?

She sounds like a nasty insecure idiot. Was she drunk? Keep in mind no one stood for you during this, so rethink going out with these types of people.🐷🐗🐭🦧

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*Sigh* .. yeah, there's all kinds out there 😕 .

I was also thinking the 'body language' thing or even giving them 'the look'. I'm good for that, lol.

And if they interrupt you.. when they are done, say "Anywaysss" ... and carry on.  I do have a son like this and he does it only because of his short term memory issue's.. so he either speaks up then about a subject or it's gone.

But yes, sometimes we need to just let some things go.  But if they are always like that, they may need to be told of their unacceptable behaviour.

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Posted (edited)

Thank you everyone for your replies.

This was a group of friends, not coworkers. I’m not close with this person, she was sober. There were 4 of us, all girls, and my good friend texted me the other day that she felt bad for not saying something, she didn’t like how that person behaved to me, but she didn’t know what to do.

Banter is okay, I would not mind friendly teasing, but I think this was too much.

Some examples – we were discussing something, and after I expressed my opinion – the subject wasn’t heavy or anything – she said several times “that is not true” in a rather condescending way. Now I don’t mind if someone disagrees with me, that’s fine but I didn’t like how she said that, and she didn’t react like this to anyone but me.

Also, when I was telling a story, she would interrupt me at least three times with some “funny” remarks – she was trying to imply that my story wasn’t relevant.

I don’t think I was being oversensitive, there were more moments like this, but now I know that I will try to speak up if this happens again. The thing that bothered me the most is that she was like this only with me, not with the 2 people. And as I mentioned, this is not the first time that I find myself in this situation, that someone is mean to me, and it was always a woman that I would barely know. I was always friendly with these people, so I’m not sure what I did to “deserve” this behavior.

I don’t like confrontation, but I am determined to say something if I find myself in this situation again.

 

Edited by kim42
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I think I am afraid of speaking up in such situations because I don’t want to come off as someone who is “difficult” or doesn’t have a sense of humor.  But I’m almost 30 so I should learn to say something, I think I can’t avoid confrontation forever.

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They're expecting you to either get upset or clam up and look intimidated. I make it a point to NEVER react the way those kind of people expect me to. So I usually say "OMG that's hilarious!!" To see the look of shock or disappointment on their face truly is hilarious. Or say cheerily "That's not true? OK, it's not true because you say so!" Keep agreeing and pretty soon that person is arguing with themselves which totally takes the wind out of their sails. It's hysterical. You come across as having a sharp sense of humor instead of looking mousy or easily intimidated.

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9 minutes ago, boltnrun said:

They're expecting you to either get upset or clam up and look intimidated. I make it a point to NEVER react the way those kind of people expect me to. So I usually say "OMG that's hilarious!!" To see the look of shock or disappointment on their face truly is hilarious. Or say cheerily "That's not true? OK, it's not true because you say so!" Keep agreeing and pretty soon that person is arguing with themselves which totally takes the wind out of their sails. It's hysterical. You come across as having a sharp sense of humor instead of looking mousy or easily intimidated.

I like this, I'm not sure if I am confident enough to react like this but I feel more prepared now, thank you! 

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1 hour ago, kim42 said:

I like this, I'm not sure if I am confident enough to react like this but I feel more prepared now, thank you! 

Definitely a fake it till you make it. I have to do this at times to be Mama Bear and protect my kid. 

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My son is short. At least three times typically at a playground- years ago - an adult would ask me how old he is. When I said let’s say “6” the adult would say “6????”  So I said “oh I know right?? You thought he was 16 RIGHT???” - and there’d be this look of confusion and sometimes some sort of clarity that they’d better back the — off.
One time this mom wouldn’t stop. She kept saying “noooooo I didn’t mean that “ until I finally said “how old is YOUR child ?”  She told me and I said “how nice “.  And walked away. So you can’t always show up a jerk. But it made me feel better to at least throw her off some.  like others said it’s also about tone and posture and body language.  I’m a particular fan of the wide eyed look as in “you cannot possibly have meant to be that rude….

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Just remember, they're the ones being rude. If anyone should be feeling unconfident it should be them, not you.

Always keep in mind, those kind of people look for who they perceive as weaker people to pick on. Show them you're not weak. They'll knock it off once they see you're not interested in playing their games.

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2 hours ago, boltnrun said:

Just remember, they're the ones being rude. If anyone should be feeling unconfident it should be them, not you.

Always keep in mind, those kind of people look for who they perceive as weaker people to pick on. Show them you're not weak. They'll knock it off once they see you're not interested in playing their games.

Yes, this is something I need to to - to show them that I'm not weak. This is why I started this thread because I don't want to be the one who gets teased/picked on.

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3 hours ago, spinstermanquee said:

I usually ask questions with pleasant curiosity, as in "Can you please be more specific," or "What did you mean by that," etc.  

Great list. Funny, when someone tries a backhanded snark my kneejerk response is also "What do you mean by that?". It puts them on the spot and turns the tables.

Kim, yes read the list and try the suggested retorts.

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9 hours ago, Wiseman2 said:

Great list. Funny, when someone tries a backhanded snark my kneejerk response is also "What do you mean by that?". It puts them on the spot and turns the tables.

Kim, yes read the list and try the suggested retorts.

Yes, I've read that list, it is incredibly helpful 🙂 

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17 hours ago, boltnrun said:

If you just sit there staring at the table or the floor when someone picks on you, that is a clear signal that you lack the confidence to stand up for yourself.

I'm not sure why you're focusing on trying not to be "rude" when these people clearly don't worry about that.

If you don't want to be subjected to this, then something has to change. Practice responses in the mirror if you have to. Or practice on an understanding friend, a sister or cousin. This is what public speakers do. They weren't born knowing how to speak and be assertive in public. They practiced.

I definitely want to change this, I want to overcome this fear and stand up for myself - I know it's strange to be afraid of this as an adult.

I think it has to do with how I was raised as child, I was told that I was being oversensitive and somehow it has stuck with me, so when I am in a situation when someone is rude to me, instead of defending myself, I start to question what's going on, and I feel bad for saying something.

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18 minutes ago, kim42 said:

when someone is rude to me, instead of defending myself, I start to question what's going on, and I feel bad for saying something.

Ask yourself if that rude person "feels bad". They obviously don't, so why should you?

And don't defend yourself. Instead deliver a comeback that makes them understand clearly you're not intimidated, fearful or a pushover.

Something like "That's hilarious. Have you been practicing that?" Or "It's my truth, it doesn't need to be yours."

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28 minutes ago, boltnrun said:

Ask yourself if that rude person "feels bad". They obviously don't, so why should you?

And don't defend yourself. Instead deliver a comeback that makes them understand clearly you're not intimidated, fearful or a pushover.

Something like "That's hilarious. Have you been practicing that?" Or "It's my truth, it doesn't need to be yours."

that's a good point, I never thought about it like that, I would be so focused on the fact if I'm not overreacting. It's almost as if I needed someone to tell me that my feelings are valid and to confirm that person was indeed rude to me - if that makes sense.

Thank you for all your help, I feel like I understand myself more 🙂  

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Posted (edited)

You don't speak up for anyone else.  You do it for yourself.  

Some great advice and I can be the same way.   When blindsided I feel overwhelmed and can't think fast enough for a quick come back.  With some practice, a one word response, or a pause, smile, direct eye contact along with confident body language is a good place to start.  The reaction you get reinforces you are on the right track to protecting yourself.

Other than that, a friend called you the following day to check on you.  Good to know that it didn't go unnoticed.  There are always those occasions that you need to remember "if you smell a rat, everyone else does too"   She made herself look petty.  Though you don't need to help her, you can practice sticking up for yourself. . for you.

Handled respectfully,  you don't need to worry what other people think.  

 

Edited by reinventmyself
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