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I was out with a group of friends listening to some music. A couple of them were grilling me and asking why I made decisions that I now regret. For example, I said I wish I had gone to a different school. They asked why I didn't transfer. I said my boss made us do something silly at work. They asked why I didn't convince my boss to do it a different way. When I'm telling these stories, I'm not trying to vent or be negative, I'm trying to share an interesting story or opinion. (as an aside, I know some people who only ever focus on the positive and I find this disingenuous).

They acted like this on another occasion too. I don't appreciate it and I definitely don't think a social environment like a pub is an appropriate place to have these conversations (if anywhere is). I respect them a lot and think they think they are helping me. I am going to talk to them about this, but I'm not sure how? I'm imaging myself as coming off as aggressive and putting them in a defensive potion. How can this be avoided?

Joe and Bob, last time we were out you were asking me a lot of unpleasant questions, such as why I didn't transfer schools and why I didn't convince my boss at work to do something else. I know you meant well but please cut back on grilling me.

I sense they might argue after I say this.

Also, I know no one likes being rolled up in what someone else did, but both of them were doing the same thing. Should I speak with them individually or as a group? I find situations like this tricky because if they did it once I'd ignore it, but the problem is they're doing it too much. How do I point this out?

  • Welcome to IPS. I know how this feels. I have a number of uncles who made it their job to do just this to everyone in the younger generation. Are these friends patronizing with everyone, or just with you? Are they more experienced or older than you? Not sure what you mean by " but both of them were doing the same thing". Maybe you want to edit that part of your question? – yo9cyb May 6 '19 at 3:45
  • Approximately how often do these conversations come up, and how many times do you describe the same incidents or same type of incidents? Advice may differ if this is the response to any expressed regret, versus if you rehash the same regrets over and over again, versus if you give the impression of regularly making decisions that make you unhappy. – Upper_Case May 6 '19 at 15:58
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I think bringing it up after the fact is likely to lead to an argument where they say they were trying to help, or it wasn't that bad, or you were asking for their advice, or other justifications for the lecturing. You have to let go of those incidents and put them behind you.

The next time you're out and you vent a little and they try to fix your situation - you should quit, you should tell that person xyz - you can react to that with any of these:

  • "I'm not looking for advice, just letting you know what's up with me"
  • "That's way too deep a conversation for pub night"
  • "I appreciate you thinking about what I should have done on this."
  • "Thanks, I'll think about it." [For something in the past where they have asked "why didn't you X?" this could be "Interesting. I'll keep that in mind in the future."]

Each of these is to be followed by an obvious and non subtle changing of the subject. Did you catch the game last night? Do you have plans for the long weekend? What happened with that interview you were trying to schedule? Have you heard from X lately? Oh, I love/hate this song! Anything that firmly changes the subject.

When you argue "yeah, but that wouldn't work because" or "no, I couldn't have done that because" you are continuing the conversation. Since this isn't a conversation you want to continue, don't do that. Heck, when you sit silently with a polite look on your face and listen while they know all about something that is actually your thing, you're continuing the conversation. Instead, say something to acknowledge they said something, and then move on. The bullets above are ordered from most rejecting (don't tell me what to do) to less rejecting (don't tell me what to do here and now), to neutral, to slightly positive but still not continuing the conversation. You can choose what position to take, but what really counts is that subject-change immediately after.

If the subject-change doesn't work and they come back to the topic, move up the bullet list. So if you had started at thanking them and saying you'd consider it, the second time perhaps you just thank them for the thought. The third time you tell them it's not for here and now. The fourth time you're super clear. Of course, you can start at "not looking for advice" if you want.

Should you have a group of friends who keep returning to a topic that upsets you, even when your natural emotional reactions should tell them not to, and after you have clearly and simply declined that topic multiple times, you might consider expanding your circle of friends so you have some you can go to the club with and just have a pleasant evening.

  • "I think bringing it up after the fact is likely to lead to an argument" that's what I mean it's tricky to address the issue because if it's once or twice I don't mind, but when it because some sort of theme of discussion for the whole day I find that rude and annoying. Also I'm not sure if this affects your answer at all but when I say some of these things, I'm not meaning to vent, I'm just trying to tell it as an interesting story. :-) – user24255 May 5 '19 at 23:58
  • Your "first bullet" answer could easily include that. "I'm not looking for advice, I'm telling you an interesting story," In general I think it's best to address annoying behaviours when and as they happen, rather than having a separate conversation later about "these things you did the last 3 times we got together." Now, if it happens, and you do this, and then it happens again, you can add a sort of "bullet 0" which would be something like [deep sigh] "you're doing it again, telling me what to do while I tell you a story. Just listen!" – Kate Gregory May 6 '19 at 0:07
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    Hi Kate! Can you please take a look at our citation expectations? Right now, this answer reads like it's just your opinion on what should be done, instead of answer that explains what can be done and how that turned out. Can you mention if you have this yourself, who was involved and how this turned out? Or do you have any other sources that recommend/support this approach? – Tinkeringbell May 6 '19 at 9:14

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