Non-confrontational aloof

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Non-confrontational aloof

Post by Bumble on Sat Aug 29, 2015 7:47 pm

I'm starting to notice a pattern in my interactions where certain individuals will offer me a lot of well-intentioned advice, and I'll be sort of receptive but for the most part I remain true to my own beliefs, values and tastes. I am extremely non-confrontational, but to my dismay I've managed to upset a couple of people because of this. I guess it looks like I don't value their opinions.

On the rare occasion that I get into an argument about politics or something, I feel like I'm up against peoples' egos so I tend to avoid those too--possibly seeming aloof.

Anyone have experience with this? Ideas?

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Re: Non-confrontational aloof

Post by eselle28 on Sat Aug 29, 2015 8:44 pm

Sometimes, I think acknowledgement + guidance helps. These are some I've had to use recently in cases where I thought the person actually might have good advice if they were given some parameters. They very likely don't apply to you and will probably need some tailoring for your situations:


  • "Oh, you know I actually used to own a house. I like renting better for the flexibility and I love where I live now. If you have any suggestions about living with two cats in a larger one bedroom apartment, I'd love to hear them, though!"

  • "Absolutely, the people I know who've combined an [MBA/MD/PhD] with a JD seem to be really happy with their careers. However, I've looked into some of those programs, and I think that most of them would be more beneficial to someone earlier in their career or with different a undergraduate background. Thanks, though! Do you have any suggestions that might help a person with my experience who doesn't have an additional degree?"

  • "Oh, that sounds like a really interesting recipe for [slightly different version of the thing I've just served you]. Maybe you can email it to me and we can talk about it after the party?"

Unsolicited advice is a bit different. If you don't want to upset anyone, complete deflection or (if appropriate) ignoring the remark might work better than sort of softly responding to it but coming across as negative to it. Something like, "Thanks, but I wasn't exactly seeking dating advice! How was that concert you went to last night?" might suffice.

If the advice seems mildly on topic but isn't really what you want to hear, you might want to structure your conversations more by saying something like, "I'm really frustrated by online dating right now and just want to vent a bit, not get suggestions. Could you listen for 10 minutes?" The answer might be no, but at least you know where you stand as far as that goes.

As for politics, a good firm, "I don't think we can talk about this," or, "I don't feel like we can talk about this right now," is often better-received than getting halfway into the argument and then getting frustrated.


Last edited by eselle28 on Sat Aug 29, 2015 9:40 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: Non-confrontational aloof

Post by Caffeinated on Sat Aug 29, 2015 9:07 pm

That sounds a little like me. There are areas where I absolutely do not want advice, but I can be very non-confrontational, so instead of bluntly saying I don't want advice I'll quietly wish they'd stop butting into something I consider too personal.

I've tried to incorporate the acknowledgement thing into my repertoire, saying something "thanks, I'll think about that". It works ok in some situations. With people that know me really well, I can usually just get quiet and say "hmmm" and they pick up on it. But that's a close relationship thing.
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Re: Non-confrontational aloof

Post by KitKat on Sun Aug 30, 2015 8:53 am

This probably isn't very useful advice but I think that your way of handling things actually isn't that bad since you're not giving people who want to turn the advice into an argument any wiggle-room by just going "I'll think about that" and then, having thought about it for 0.5 s, send it to your mind's garbage bin. Now, that might get cumbersome if people insist on following up and not letting go when you say "Yeah I thought about that but it doesn't really work for me, sorry. How about the game yesterday huh?", but then they're the ones stepping over the line and you can A. Keep redirecting the conversation until they get it or B. Leave them.

The politics one is difficult, same goes for religion or whatever current topic is on the table. If you're unsure about the interaction it might be worth examining why this person is trying to have that discussion with you. I think you're dead on with it often being a very ego-heavy thing. Some of the people I know are actively engaged in political groups and activities and for them talking about it is like talking about their workday but for others it seems to mostly be a self-validation thing and in that case anything you do that isn't confirming their opinions or their self-image is not going to go over well and you might as well not engage.

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Re: Non-confrontational aloof

Post by kath on Sun Aug 30, 2015 11:17 pm

You say you possibly seem aloof - I was wondering if you had any examples of why you think you might be coming off that way? Sometimes it's easy to be really sensitive about seeming aloof, and the other person is just like "oh we're tottling over to another part of conversation land! Great!" You may not need to worry about this too much Smile.

Agreed that "Thanks, I'll think that over" is a good one to use liberally. With people I know better (but who I don't want advice from right now, especially if I often do go to them for advice) I try to just say something like "thanks for the input, but I'm really just looking for a sympathetic ear right now" (as mentioned earlier). Sometimes all I can do is "Could we talk about something else now? How about ..." but that works best with people you trust.

Depending on how you feel about the conversation about religion, politics, etc, I have a lot of success with "hmming" and then redirecting the conversation. Especially if you don't feel like it's necessary for you to correct a misapprehension they have. Sometimes I end up in conversations where I feel like neither of us actually have enough background to really talk about it, in which case I use a lot of "I really don't know enough to comment about that" until I can redirect the conversation, or go for a "yeah, I'll be really interested to see what happens with that" or "I'm hoping everyone can come to a mutually beneficial decision" or some sort of "I hope that works out for the best" statement. I was in a conversation like that on Friday - there's a big shift underway in a local social justice group that I'm not involved in, and I've heard bits about it from one of my friends who is in its community, and then one of my other friends who works in that building was talking about it with me, and they seemed to take different readings from the situation. As I know basically nothing about any of it, I was pretty much doing the "hmm, I'll need to get better informed about this" type thing and "oh yeah"-ing. I was oh-yeah-ing more to the person I feel is like really good with her social justice barometer.
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Re: Non-confrontational aloof

Post by Bumble on Tue Sep 01, 2015 10:23 pm

kath wrote:You say you possibly seem aloof - I was wondering if you had any examples of why you think you might be coming off that way? Sometimes it's easy to be really sensitive about seeming aloof, and the other person is just like "oh we're tottling over to another part of conversation land! Great!" You may not need to worry about this too much Smile.

I've had multiple people become offended over time that I don't appear to follow their advice. Maybe that's not my problem, though. The thing is I'm not used to people being upset with me so I found these incidents to be really stressful.

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Re: Non-confrontational aloof

Post by kath on Tue Sep 01, 2015 10:58 pm

I do think that's a them problem. Even if you asked for advice, said "I'll give that a shot" and then said "eh, I did something else" when they followed up, I don't think it makes sense for them to be offended.

When they give you the advice, maybe saying "Thanks for your advice, I might try that. I have a few possible solutions lined up, so I'm going to work through each as needed. I wasn't so much looking for advice, just wanted to commiserate, is that OK with you?"

Or if they are giving you advice about something you don't think needs to be fixed, maybe, "Thanks for that perspective! I'm pretty happy with the current situation (/my current plan), so I probably won't go in that direction, but I appreciate the point of view from a new angle." and then maybe you could tell them your perspective / plan if you think they're just being clueless, or steer conversation to something less advice-y.


(On a not really related note, I do think advice-givers can reasonably be offended / upset if someone like mines them for advice and then whines a lot about nothing working, or complains about how hard their suggestion is, or demands advice if they won't try a thing advice-giver suggested and won't take ending the conversation ... but it doesn't sound like any of that is happening)
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Re: Non-confrontational aloof

Post by Bumble on Wed Sep 02, 2015 6:00 am

Yeah it's pretty much all unsolicited.

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Re: Non-confrontational aloof

Post by celette482 on Wed Sep 02, 2015 7:14 am

Yeahhhhhhh that sounds like an "on them" problem.

I mean, I think you, Bumble, should quit your job/school and move across country to become a freelance fire-eater. That's really the only way you, or anyone else, could be happy. What? You're not even remotely considering that? Rude.

One thing we say a lot on these forums is to consider the source of the criticism. Is it coming from your own self, potentially some sort of Jerk brain situation? Is it coming from other people? Are they people who have previously demonstrated care and concern? Are they people who are undermining you? Are they just really oblivious people (other people can be as bad at human interaction as we know we are) who don't realize they're wrong? Before we start taking criticisms to heart, it's important to decide whether those criticisms are coming from a valid source.

In this case, it sounds like the people who were upset were *possibly* interpreting your silence/ non-committal noises as "Oh yes, you are the smartest bestest advice giver EVER and now my life is complete!" Which.... well without hearing how they were interpreting things, I can't get into motive, but it's definitely a "Several leaps of logic necessary" interpretation. Makes me less inclined to think that they are revealing some truth about Bumble.

I am however interested to hear more about why you interpret it as "aloof." That seems like a strange word choice for "I didn't do what they wanted me to do and now they're mad"
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Re: Non-confrontational aloof

Post by Bumble on Wed Sep 02, 2015 3:07 pm

I guess the main thing is when I soft-reject someone's ideas over and over I'm afraid it looks like I think I'm better than them or that I think they're an idiot.

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Re: Non-confrontational aloof

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