social philosophy

How do you deal with rude messages from friends?

The day after I published this post I message a friend to say that I’d shared the video that she’d shared in it.

In the post I described her as:

Before my diagnosis a hippy friend of my shared this video on her Facebook.

(I’ve since changed the term ‘hippy’ to ‘new age’).

Here’s the conversation that followed.

2015-07-01 21.02.26

It’s taken considerable deliberation about whether I actually post the screenshot and talk about it.

What I want to discuss here, is how I do respond to this kind of message? At the time I felt  offended. Looking at it now, about a week later, I have a more humoured approach, and it’s more just an interesting ‘thing’.

Let’s list out all the possible reactions or responses I could have:

  • Respond in kind – “Well fuck you too bitch!”. 😀
  • Ignore, never say anything about it.
  • Ignore the message and simply unfriend her.
  • Show my friends the conversation, talk about it, but don’t say anything to her.
  • Immediately apologise for apparently offending.
  • Immediately ask her what’s wrong or if she’s offended.
  • Let it cool for a few days and apologise then.
  • Let it cool for a few days and then strike up a conversation about it. “Hey what was up with this conversation? Are you ok?”.
  • Let it cool for a few days, then call her out on being rude. “Hey, that last message as a little bit rude hey?”
  • Write about it on my public blog.

The options I’ve opted to take was: I discussed it with friends, ummed and ahhed about writing a blog post about it, and now, here I am. I didn’t send any messages in response, and I haven’t unfriended her.

What I’d like to discuss first, is my reluctance to post about it.

I think there is a social convention to not acknowledge this kind of exchange, at least not publicly.

So let’s start by listing all the reasons I shouldn’t blog about this:

  • It’s unfair to her. It’s a minor enough social infraction that warrants a ‘free pass’ and shouldn’t be subject to critical analysis.
  • It’s not good for me. By talking about writing about it, I’m ‘holding onto it’ and ‘letting it get to me’ and that’s not good for my psyche.
  • It’s not good for me socially because it reveals that in some of interactions people don’t like me. This serves as an example of negative social proof and influences other people to adopt a similar attitude towards me.
  • It seems vindictive, which could make a bad social impression. The blog post could be interpreted as a calculated attempt to embarrass or vilify this particular person. Even though their details have been anonymised, so they won’t likely be publicly embarrassed, she could read it a still feel embarrassed or humiliated.

I think point one can be dismissed out of hand. Often social infractions do warrant a free pass, people do something a bit awkward and we don’t hold it against them. But that issue isn’t the point of me writing this post, I’m talking about dealing with these situations in general; whether we issue free passes or not, the general discussion about how we respond to these messages can still be had.

Point two is simply bunk. I enjoy writing. This is fun.

Point three is actually really interesting and perhaps valid. I would suggest that what I might lose in terms of social appeal by publishing this negative social proof, I make up in social influence by exposing my well thought out critical social analysis.

Point four, I think it is realistic that people would have this interpretation. So on this point I’ll just stress that this blog post is not intended to be malicious or make anyone feel bad. It’s more an interesting exploration of social interaction and how we best react and navigate it.

Here, it seems timely to bring up the first obvious caveat, the person might just be having a bad day. Perhaps they slept in and were late for work. Perhaps the kids were playing up at the moment. Perhaps they’re premenstrual. Perhaps there was no coffee in the house.

If this were the case, then the right thing to do from their perspective, would be to apologise later if they themselves felt like it was out of character. But at that point, they might feel embarrassed about it, and not feel like confronting it.

An alternative line of thinking, is to consider myself ‘Was I offensive? Could I have handled that better?’ I think the term hippy is often used quite pointedly, so it’s fair that someone might have interpreted it that way. I do think new age is definitely a better description. So yes,I think my immediate response could have been better, I was instantly on the defensive defending my position, rather than acknowledging her feeling of offence in the matter.  Having had the luxury of a week to thinking about it, my immediate response to her saying ‘I find that a bit offensive’ should have been something like:

Oh I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to sound pointed. I’ll change that term.

So there’s that side of it: What could I have done better at the time? Don’t consider your own feelings, consider their’s.

But the other side is, given that at the time you didn’t say that perfect thing, and that the ‘get fucked’ occurred – what do you do?

Well, to go back to the list of original options:

  • Respond in kind – “Well fuck you too bitch!”. 😀

I actually think this approach has it’s merits. Definitely not in a professional context, and not in a lot of contexts, but sometimes people do deserve to hear that back, and it can be quite refreshing, and dare I say fun, to engage in that kind of exchange.

The key here would be not let it snowball out of control.

  • Ignore, never say anything about it.

I’m not too fond of this option. I think this ignores that actually these kind of messages do affect you, and trying to ignore it, is not a healthy way of dealing with it. I think it’s better to do something about it.

  • Ignore the message and simply unfriend her.

Pretty reasonable.

  • Show my friends the conversation, talk about it, but don’t say anything to her.

Great option, if you’ve got the friends who will both tolerate and enjoy discussing it.

  • Immediately apologise for apparently offending.

Not fond of this option. As I previously mentioned, the immediate best first response would be to apologise. But an apology after she’s told me to get fucked sounds insincere.

  • Immediately ask her what’s wrong or if she’s offended.

Bad idea. If they’re already in an offended space, they’re just going to see this as more antagonism, and be further wound up.

  • Let it cool for a few days and apologise then.

This brings up a interesting question of social and serious politics.

I think that if apologising to someone, even if you feel you haven’t don’t done anything wrong, will produce a good result, such as that person will feel better and becoming a productive member of society, then apologising is the right move. I’m not sentimental about doing ‘what’s fair’ in this regard.

However, there might be problem of moral hazard and enabling here. The fear being that by apologising anytime someone is offended you validate their feelings, which isn’t the right result if their feelings are not reasonable or good for society. The better result is that the person matures emotionally and learns to empathise with other people and not be offended, and they may learn this by not receiving an apology.

  • Let it cool for a few days and then strike up a conversation about it. “Hey what was up with this conversation?”.

This is getting into difficult territory, because it’s such an awkward conversation, and not one I particularly feel like having. I think if it’s a good friend who you really don’t want to lose as a friend, then go for it. It’s possible that it will go badly, and they’ll push your further away – but given a few years, they’ll probably realise that you were being genuine.

  • Let it cool for a few days, then call her out on being rude. “Hey, that last message as a little bit rude hey?”

A reasonable option. I think if it was someone who I really cared about, like a close friend, and I genuinely felt that they were being unreasonable, this would be quite a good option. However, in this case we’re not close enough friends for me to care.

  • Write about it on my public blog.

Sure, all things considered, it seems like valid, interesting, creative expression.

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3 thoughts on “How do you deal with rude messages from friends?

  1. Maybe some punctuation would have prevented some of the issues…

    Before my diagnosis, a hippy friend of mine shared this video on her Facebook.

    She seemed to associate the word diagnosis with her not you!
    Or just avoiding a label altogether. “..a friend of mine” would have worked just as well.

    Like

    1. Interesting point, I don’t think that’s the case, given that the whole post is about me being diagnosed with ADHD. I think she was making a clever play at being offended at the hippy label.

      Like

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