This roomie I have often says things that trigger me emotionally. I feel terribly introverted and don't know how to ask him not to say these things. I have been tolerating this for a couple months now and it's really annoying me. I feel indebted to him because he has helped me once in the past (I didn't need the help, but he just did it without me reaching out to him even), so I can't just kick him out. The help wasn't a big deal; I just feel indebted to people for anything that anyone does without me asking or that doesn't promote towards his own benefit.

How can I let him know (indirectly) that what he's saying is triggering for me so that I can get him to stop (though I'm pretty sure that he knows it well)?

  • 2
    Hi charlesh, welcome to IPS! I'm sorry to hear that you are having trouble with your roommate, unfortunately I'm not quite sure where to begin helping you because your question is a bit unclear. I'd highly recommend visiting our help center page for guidelines on the amount of information we need to help you. In the meantime, can you explain a bit more what sort of issue you are having, what your goal is for resolving it, and what you have tried thus far?
    – Rainbacon
    Nov 13 '19 at 21:09
  • Hello and welcome to IPS! I have a few questions to understand the situation.. so you haven't yet talked to your roommate about this? Do you have any guess if he realizes that it distresses you? Is the issue with the help he gave you just personal (so it's possible he didn't think it was a big deal), or does he bring it up (could indicate a manipulative or abusive situation)?
    – Em C
    Nov 13 '19 at 21:13
  • Not an abusive situation yet. We just live our ways and often talk, except for the fact that we have different schedules and are busy. He certainly knows that it distresses me but often (not too often but enough to get on my nerves) keeps blurting out similar stuff. The help wasn't personal at all. I needed some help and he happened to do it without a second's thought and that just makes me feel bad every time I feel like having replying back to him Nov 13 '19 at 21:21
  • So he says things that are emotionally distressing for you, and you don't know how to talk to him to get him to stop, is that correct?
    – Rainbacon
    Nov 13 '19 at 21:25
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    Hi charlesh. I voted to close your question, because it is really not easy (for me at least) to understand the problem. What do you mean when you say triggering. is it in some way offensive and insulting? Swearing? Or is it casual denigration of something important to you? Here is an example; if your roommate was trying to convert you to a religion, I'd advice one particular answer and if your roommate was calling you something offensive or denigrating, it would be something else. Just right now the problem seems very unanswerable. Nov 14 '19 at 12:40

Sorry about the problems you're having with your roommate.

To answer your question, if you want to be indirect, you could give him negative feedback (as opposed to positive feedback which will encourage the conversation) when he says things that trigger you. For example:

  • changing the conversation topic

    • you could say, "let's talk about something else" or "I don't want to talk about that" before changing the topic, or just change it without preface
  • withdrawing from the conversation. You could, as above, give a verbal indication of your displeasure with the topic before retreating to your room, for example, or focusing on something else

These options have worked in my past with dealing with a friend who brings up politically charged topics we disagree on. We're still on good terms and are able to view the situation with a degree of humour. I think trying to keep a lighthearted disposition (even though your emotions may be boiling) helps.

However, I might suggest that the more mature/advanced thing to do would be to bring up the subject directly. This doesn't need to be confrontational if you broach the topic in a comfortable, emotionally relaxed setting, and use "I Statements" to explain that that subject makes you uncomfortable. This is useful if your roommate's social ability may not allow him to pick up on the more subtle cues above.

Direct discussion has worked in the past between my sister and I. Whenever she brought up [thing] I would get uncomfortable, mumble an answer, and change the topic. But she kept bringing it up. When I finally told her that [thing] was triggering to me, she was surprised and said she had no idea, and said she'd try to avoid it in the future. I've had to remind her a few times since, but other than that, she doesn't bring up [thing] anymore.

Finally, I'm not clear on the subject of your indebtedness to him, but don't let that be held over your head. A good friend won't continuously talk about things that bothers you if he knows it.

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    I felt the same way with most of people I know, but your answer helped me a lot. Thanks
    – Masood
    Nov 16 '19 at 22:29

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