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[m/17] My parents recently got me a personal tutor for my exams who is maybe in his late 20s. I had the first class recently, which was three hours long. Within the first 30 minutes or so he asked me if I had a girlfriend, to which I said yes. He proceeded to tell me that it wasn't worth it and to "bang her and then leave". Throughout the duration of the class topics that came up were smoking, drinking, weed, among other, more normal things. (I don't smoke/drink/do drugs, but I have several friends who do and I'm no stranger to those type of people).

He actually does his job pretty well, which is teaching me concepts in a way that I can understand.

But throughout the class I was somehow unable to concentrate because of this feeling in my chest. I was thinking more about the things he was saying than what I was studying.

Once he left, I realised my chest and back were terribly aching. Turns out, I had been clenching my chest and back muscles for those three hours.

I don't know how to describe what I was feeling, but it wasn't fear or anything. In fact, he looks like a really nice guy too.

What can I do to make myself more comfortable around people like this, and is this a cause for concern?

**What I ended up doing : ** I ended up telling my parents that I did not want him as my tutor because of his teaching style. This turned out to be slightly problematic seeing as during a previously held demo class I had expressed to them that I enjoyed his style of teaching. Eventually they ended up getting convinced and they "fired" him. Thanks to everyone that helped me figure this situation out. Looking back, the solution seems blatantly obvious :)

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    I am voting to close as "Deal with" is really too broad for us to answer. While your concerns sound perfectly valid, we can't answer a question like this unless you are able to identify what your goal is? Try and be specific about what you hope will come out of "dealing" with this person – Jesse May 1 '18 at 16:26
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    I'm voting to reopen because the question is quite clear as it is.. It is in fact obvious. – bobflux May 1 '18 at 23:21
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This isn't a straightforward "intimidating" person. If I met an intimidating person who has a very strong opposite opinion from me (and we're both adults), I can very easily look at my options of removing myself from the situation or dealing with it in other ways.

There are a couple of reasons why this is different:

  • This person has influence and authority over you.
  • You have to be there for 3 hours and can't remove yourself from the situation.
  • They are not behaving in a way appropriate at all for an authority figure.

As such, you do not need to get accustomed to dealing with this. It is not normal or appropriate.

Remember, your parents are (I assume) paying him to perform a service. They pay him, he teaches you. If he is doing a bad job, and his service is not working for you, then it's perfectly okay to find someone else. There is no obligation to stick with one person. So you can tell your parents that this isn't working for you and you want to try someone else.

How much you tell your parents is up to you. You can say to them what you've said here, if you feel comfortable doing so. Or you can simply say that his tutoring style doesn't suit you and you want to find someone else.

I don't feel like this tutor is working out for me.
I don't think we get along.
His tutoring style doesn't really work for me.

Or:

He talks a lot about other things and gets distracted.
He gets side tracked talking about other stuff.
We waste time taking about other stuff.

And this skill - saying "no" to people - is a very good one to practice. There will be many many times when someone offers you a product/service and you try it and say no. This is a good thing to get used to doing.

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Inappropriate comments from someone in authority over children, such as a teacher, are always a cause for concern. Since your parents hired this person you should talk to them about this behavior. I don't think they will consider it acceptable, and they will want to find you another tutor.

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First of all, the feeling you have is anxiety. This isn't a normal emotion to experience around a tutor so don't just dismiss your concerns about him as you overreacting. It's a valid problem and should be resolved. I think there are 2 possible ways to tackle this problem.

The first (which I highly recommend) is to talk with your parents about his inappropriate behaviour as a tutor. From what you describe they have plenty of reasons to "fire" him and search for a better tutor for you. Stacey already described this nicely in her answer so I'm not going to repeat it here.

The other approach is to just stick with your current tutor but block off any possible interaction about your personal life. Preferably while at the same time reminding him of his position as a teacher. You can use phrases like:

I'd rather not discuss my personal life with my teacher, so can we continue with the lesson instead?

How is this relevant to the exams?

I really don't think < weed/alcohol/... > is going to help me pass my exams so can we go back to actually teaching me please?

Note that this will only solve your anxiety issues if you're confident enough about yourself to stick with it.

If you have some doubt about this I would again advise you to talk to your parents about you being anxious around your tutor. You can suggest that you want to give this second approach a chance but that you might not be able to stick with it. They might come up with different solutions to alleviate the pressure. For example having the tutoring take place in the kitchen where they'll be casually walking in every once in a while to take something from the fridge while inderectly check up on you without directly disturbing the lesson.

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Your conflict likely comes from the conflict between some of the issues being discussed and your parent's attitude toward them. You fear for the fate of your tutor would your parents find out he is discussing such subjects with you, especially if it is within a neutral, positive or gratuitous sphere.

You're probably being tutored in your parents home, which makes discussion of such subjects even more troublesome to you. I would simply tell your tutor that you don't feel comfortable discussing potentially illegal and/or immoral subject matter with him.

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  • That's exactly it, I fear that if I tell my parents, they would not take it lightly and it would end up being very bad for him (he is part of an organisation, and one bad review is all it takes for him to get fired) – Rumble down May 3 '18 at 12:22
  • @Rumbledown What if your parents are right about not taking it lightly though? If that tutor really isn't suited for the job isn't that exactly what those reviews are for? – Imus May 4 '18 at 9:10
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But throughout the class I was somehow unable to concentrate because of this feeling in my chest. Once he left, I realised my chest and back were terribly aching. Turns out, I had been clenching my chest and back muscles for those three hours.

Amus talks about anxiety, I will bounce on that. What you felt was amygdala triggering.

That's a part of your brain that's very old (it is present in many animals also), its purpose is basically to keep you alive by performing fast pattern-matching on incoming stimuli and hijacking your conscious thought in order to make you do whatever it is you need to do in order to survive. For example, if your eyes see a snake poised to strike, you will jump back and maybe even start to run before you consciously realize there is actually a snake. It works like that because conscious thought is too slow to react to predators and immediate threats. It is much safer to jump back first, and then think about taking the time to identify if the species is venomous or not...

Some say "the amygdala is the fear center" but it would be more accurate to say that it detects things that needs immediate attention, and either makes you move your muscles directly by triggering a panic reflex ("get away from snake" subroutine), or it focuses all your attention on what is needed by eliciting anxiety, fear, or sensations of dread, like "something's terribly wrong", or "I need to get out of here", etc, which will cause you to act. So, it's more like your sixth sense hardware.

Now, your muscles tensed because your amygdala decided that something was wrong, but the threat wasn't obvious (ie, no snake in front of you), so you didn't jump, rather you got a feeling of dread, and your body got ready to either fight or run from a dangerous situation, thus increased heart rate, adrenalin, etc. You can't stay in this state for long, it is extremely stressful.

I don't know how to describe what I was feeling, but it wasn't fear or anything. In fact, he looks like a really nice guy too.

I'm gonna bet on a rather vague feeling with a bit of dread and "there's something wrong, I don't know exactly why, but it might be important". It's very hard to describe, so feel free to elaborate.

It can be a false positive. In fact, from an evolutionary perspective, to a certain extent it is much safer to have a low threat detection threshold and run away from imaginary threats than it is to not be scared, and then get eaten by a predator. However, there is a compromise between "fearless" and "overly anxious". For example, people with anxiety/panic attacks/PTSD have oversentitive amygdala that mislabel normal everyday events as immediate threats, and this is a very difficult condition to live with.

Anyway. The reason I'm going on this evopsych and neuroscience ramble is simply to attract your attention to the the fact that this weird feeling comes from somewhere (evolutionary programming), and for a reason (it's there to help you), so you must consider it, and find the cause.

IMO, I'd point to: there is a conflict in the tutor's behavior.

  • On the one hand, he is totally unprofessional and inappropriate, and does not notice your distress.
  • On the other hand, you say "He actually does his job pretty well" and "he looks like a really nice guy too".

What your instinct is telling you is that you need to figure out if this is a good guy or if you're in trouble. That's what you're describing:

But throughout the class I was somehow unable to concentrate because of this feeling in my chest. I was thinking more about the things he was saying than what I was studying.

Now to answer your question:

What can I do to make myself more comfortable around people like this, and is this a cause for concern?

You should investigate and find out if it was a false positive (ie, your worries are not justified) or if the guy is actually toxic. I have no way to know. This might be nothing at all, for example the guy could be attempting in a misguided way to sound "cool" and talk about sex and drugs and rock'n'roll and everything. You could be worried that your parents overhear you and the tutor talking about drugs.

Or he might be an abuser or a pedophile or a narcissist or any other kind of trash you don't want anywhere near you.

Since you ask "how to make yourself more comfortable around such people", well if you don't suffer from excessive anxiety (ie, your amygdala is functioning properly) the correct answer is to not get comfortable, or at least not completely, and instead be on the lookout for clues that this guy might be trouble. This is very useful practice, because one day you will meet someone who is actually trouble, and you will be able to spot them and avoid them.

You can record the lesson, and listen to it afterwards. If the tutor adamantly refuses to have you record the lesson, this is a clue.

If you have doubts, talk to your parents. Since YOU are the one taking the class, and not your parents, you're the most qualified to decide if the tutor is adequate or not...

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