23

I am living in a flat with 3 other persons, 2 females and 1 male. I am a 25 year old male too.

I have some romantic feelings for one of the female flatmates, Alice, but we have never spoken about it nor do I think she knows it.

Alice was having a little party yesterday at which I did not attend, however my door was open and she knew I was here.

During the party I suddenly heard my name a few times and then I listened closer and heard her talking about me - more precisely about an incident about which I'm not particularly proud. I didn't come out well in that story. It felt very awkward for me to sit in my room and know there are people I don't know talking about me while I can't say anything about it myself. I didn't want to interrupt the party and let the group know I can hear them and that I am not comfortable with them talking about me.

I'm not good with feelings and am not quite sure if insulted is the correct word, but this certainly hurt me and I guess I will behave differently in front of her in the future because I fear she will keep telling stuff to her friends, which also makes me sad since I like her.

How can I best let her know that this incident hurt me and probably damaged our (non-romantic) relationship without her connecting me with negative emotions?

I was thinking about sending her a little text message, that I don't feel comfortable about them talking about me, since a text message shows that it's not a biggie for me. But I fear it might be just swept under the carpet in that case.

We are having a social event with the flat today and she is participating, so I would like to resolve the issue soon enough so we can all have fun. I don't know if I will see her before that event, so that's another reason for a text message.

Edit: for now I'm happy to keep a non-romantic relationship. In the long term I might want to change that, however that is not important now. The incident was me being aggressive and rude to someone else. She was around while this happened. I'm sure I didn't scare her. I never showed any sign of violence nor did I ever do that in any other circumstance. The incident was a few months ago already and we have kept a normal relationship since then. It wasn't that big a thing. I don't want to get too much into details because of privacy concerns.

  • What kind of relationship do you want to maintain with her? Should it become romantic? Should it stay non-romantic? Do you want to burn bridges? – XtremeBaumer Mar 15 '18 at 9:44
  • @XtremeBaumer: for now I'm ok if it stays non romantic but yes, at some point I'd wish a romantic relarionship. – user14300 Mar 15 '18 at 10:04
  • @Raditz_35 I think you misunderstood. She told people a story about me, in which I didnt behave well. I became loud and kinda insulting to some other guy. I couldnt understand completly what she was saying about me or if she extended it by judging me i just recognized the story. – user14300 Mar 15 '18 at 10:08
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    @Raditz_35 Ah, now i get what you mean. Sorry indeed it was me who misunderstood. I have edited it. If i can edit in a better way, like including it in the text instead of appending it let me know. – user14300 Mar 15 '18 at 10:38
38

Non-violent communication approach

I'm a person with a strong aversion for arguments and violent discussion, so here's how I would approach her with this:

Hi Alice, I heard you saying my name last night during your party. I couldn't help but listening to your conversation and I would like to say that when I heard you telling the story of the incident, I felt embarrassed and sad because I don't feel that this story gives a good image of me. I wouldn't like strangers to have a bad opinion about me before we even met. Is it possible that you avoid mentioning this story in the future?

In non-violent communication, there are 4 parts of the process:

  1. You mention the event that made you feel the way you felt (→ "when I heard you telling them about the story..."). Use the "I" pronoun, it is very important to put yourself in the main lead. If you start saying "when you told this embarrassing story", then you're judging how she behave, and she could get offended. Obviously we don't want that because if she gets mad about it, she's less likely to answer positively your request.

  2. You explain how the event affected you and how you felt, so she can understand why this bothered you. (→ "I felt embarrassed and sad").

  3. You express your needs (→ " I would like this not to happen again"). You explained why you didn't like the situation and explain what could be the situation in the future instead.

  4. You ask your request (→ "Could you please stop telling this story"). This is the final step of the sincere speech and the moment when she has the full background: what she did that made you say this, how you felt, what you wish for the future. Now be careful, she might not agree to your request. But with this method she's more likely to be open to discuss another way to solve the problems of you both (e.g. she could offer to keep telling the story but not mentioning your name).

10

Good answer by @avazula on how to approach it directly. If you want to get that off your chest, go that way.

I think you should also consider an indirect approach. It is just a fact of life that people like to gossip. They will always do it and the only thing you can do by confronting them that way is the make it more secretly. Also, you will add another story where you eavesdropped on her party, which can be perceived as creepy. It would be another thing if that story was untrue, but as I understand your post it probably is not.

Now you had the rare chance to hear some of this gossip, you could also try to take it as a honest form of feedback and seek to improve Alice´s perception of you.

  1. You can try address the incident yourself to put it into perspective. Do this when it fit in during casual conversation. Something along the lines "Remember that time I became loud? Wow I am really not proud of that, would not handle it this way again. I really hope this incident is forgotten soon."

  2. Make your stance on gossip known by being a good example. For instance:

    • if somebody tells a embarrassing story about someone in a group of people, counter with something good.
    • If somebody tells you in private, gently state that you do not care too much for gossip.
    • I even had a friend of mine once say in kind of an outburst "Sorry, but this a dear friend of mine you are talking about right now. He is not here to defend himself, so I really appreciate you all stop talking behind his back. If you have something to say about him, go tell him directly!"

I still remember this vividly as it impressed me deeply an got me to get a great deal of respect for him, standing up for his friends that way. If people respect you that way, they will automatically tone down the gossip about you, as they will feel guilty when they talk about you. Also make sure that you yourself never tell something bad about somebody behind their back!

If you keep that route you should be fine in replacing past incidents with present experiences of you. They will still gossip from time-to-time but most people know not to take gossip too seriously and will form their own image of you once they engage with you.

6

K.I.S.S.*

Keep it short and simple:

Hey, I prefer to keep that [storyname] story at a low profile, could you please refrain from telling that story?

You keep it in the middle that you overheard her, or where you heard it. You're simply stating you prefer that that story doesn't get told too often. Not at a party nor in a small company.

If she asks how you know about it, just mention you heard someone mention your name which got your attention, which isn't a weird response at all.


*I Appologise, but I had to pun that.

4

How can I best let her know, that this incident hurt me and probably damaged our (non-romantic) relationship without her connecting me with negative emotions?

Your desired outcome is for your housemate to be aware that she has lost your trust (as per your comment elsewhere) and damaged your friendship. Let’s look at how that might go:

Besinnungslos: Housemate, you have lost my trust and damaged our friendship

Housemate: How did I do that, besinnungslos?

Besinnungslos: by talking to your friends about that time I was aggressive and rude

Housemate: And how do you know about that?

Besinnungslos: My door was open and I was listening

Housemate: Well, a trustworthy friend might have let me know he was there and closed his door. You, besinnungslos, have lost my trust and damaged our friendship, which frankly was a bit shakey already after that whole aggressive and rude thing you did that time.

Besinnungslos: ………..

And while that is a deliberately not a realistic ‘script’, it does contain the essential reactions which your broaching this with your housemate are likely to provoke.

The underlying issue is that this tale doesn’t begin with her talking about you to her friends, it begins with you acting in such a notable way that people are still talking about it months later. People are reacting to your behaviour, and asking them to react differently is asking them to go against their natural instinct and give you a pass. If you want them to react differently, you probably have to try to change how they think about your behaviour subsequent to that previous incident.

Obviously we don’t know enough about that to give specific advice, but here are some things to think about:

  • Did you and the person you were rude and aggressive towards talk afterwards to patch things up?

  • Did you apologise to the target of your aggression and to everyone who was around the incident?

  • Have you sat down and thought about why you reacted aggressively and rudely to that person and how you can avoid behaving in that way again?

  • Did you ever tell the others who were there that you are not proud of what happened?

In short, did you ever do things to reassure the people who experienced that incident that you regretted it and any effect it had one them and wanted to make amends and to make sure you never did something like that again?

If you have done some or all of that then you might approach you housemate and explain that you heard part of the conversation from her private party from your room and though you really didn’t hear what they were saying, you could tell it was about that incident, perhaps something like:

I really just heard my name, you know the way that catches your attention, and enough to know you were talking about the time I blew up at Joe Bloggs. So I just wanted to say again how sorry I am for that. I really surprised myself, to be honest, and I’ve thought a lot about it since I apologised to Joe. I understand how I can avoid making the same mistakes again and I really appreciate how you guys have been so cool about it. And I’m really sorry I didn’t close my door sooner when I heard you talking, I’ll be more careful about that in future.

That should be enough for her to understand that:

  • You have taken that aggressive incident seriously.
  • You want to avoid it happening again.
  • You know others were affected and have sought to make amends.
  • The fact that she was talking about it has upset you.
  • You realise that eavesdropping isn’t cool.

Thereafter you can only trust to her good nature to recognise that you have not been accusatory, or tried to dictate her behaviour, but that you continue to regret the original incident and that you know eavesdropping is a jerk move.

If you hadn't, in fact, given a though to the aggressive/rude incident since it happened, don't pretend you did. Be honest and admit that:

I really just heard my name, you know the way that catches your attention, and enough to know you were talking about the time I blew up at Joe Bloggs. So I just wanted to say that it was a bit of a shock to realise that incident is still in people's minds. I've been thinking about it since I heard you talking and I'm going to see if Joe will accept my apology, and of course I want to make amends with all of you that were affected and work on myself to make sure I don't mess up like that again.

Essentially, in that scenario, you have to offer something to get something. You can't demand that something which made people uncomfortable is set aside and never mentioned, but what you can do is try to demonstrate that you have learned that actions have consequences for other people as well as you, and sometimes you have to make amends.

Trust breeds trust so you have to give her reason to trust you.

0

How can I best let her know that this incident hurt me?

I would not tell names. But let her know that I know in a less formal manner. When you can talk to her 1:1, I would say something along the line of:

Last time there was a party, I heard people talking about [ incident ]. It really made me look like an idiot, and it makes me sad... (with your own words, and the sad look/face that goes with it).

If you go straight to the point, and tell her that she hurt you, then you open the conflict. If you just say "I heard that...", you show the pain you suffered, but soften the guilt she might feel. Maybe she didn't do that to make a fool of you. By keeping things cool and low-leveled, you'll give her a chance to understand she did wrong, and apologize.

That also leaves the option of escalating or not, you either open the door or close it. It will depend on what she feels when you let her know, and her reaction. Tell, wait, and see...

0

I'd say:

Yo, Alice. I overheard you talking to your friends the other day, about me getting mad a few months ago. It made me feel sad, because I don't want you to see me as such a person. It really really hurt me. I could have handled that situation better. How do you feel about it?

This will let you know your feelings, while also having concern for her feelings. I wouldn't try to limit her freedom of speech. Generally, people don't like that. She is absolutely entitled to reinstate events that have happened and have an opinion about them. Many people feel uncomfortable about aggressive situations. It stressed Alice enough to still be talking about it two months later. Laughing and talking with friends about such events is a way alleviate stress.

To change her opinion about you:

  • say you're sorry: Take responsibility for your actions and don't seek excuses.
  • willing to improve. You could also confide with her and ask her for advice how you've better could have handled it.
  • create a positive atmosphere in the house: organize parties with your house mates, buy a plant or a goldfish

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