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Recently, a person in our group of friends, let's call her Rachel, was involved in a car accident.

The problem is, she was drunk and driving a stolen car. To give a bit more details : there were two people in the car, both of them drunk, when they collided with another car, inside of which were 4 teenagers (their driver was not drunk).

Luckily nobody died, but one of the people involved was badly injured. Obviously Rachel is now in a whole lot of trouble, with the police, as well as with the family of the people she injured.

And now Rachel is reaching out to our group of friends for emotional support. While I have been very clear that I will not show any of support to her, the rest of my friends are showing her a lots of support.

Everyone in our group knows of the circumstance of the accident, and her responsibility in it.

My problem comes from the fact that our common friends are trying to pressure me in being more empathetic towards her, and more understanding.

So I'm trying to make them understand that this will not happen, ever.

Here is what I tried :

  • Explaining to them my point of view: she decided to drink, she decided to steal a car, she decided to drive said car, she caused an accident, hence she is responsible, and should act like it.
  • Tried pointing out the fact that she caused harm to 4 teenagers, who were driving responsibly, as well as the fact that she could have killed them.
  • I also explained to them that, to me, drunk driving is the same as voluntarily putting others' lives in danger.

None of this has worked, no matter my argument, our group tend to respond with something along the line of

But she is our friend

How can I make them understand that I will not show sympathy, nor empathy towards Rachel, no matter if she was a friend of mine or not, knowing that :

  • Cutting ties with them is not possible
  • Being harsh with them is possible
  • I do not have the option of simply ignoring them for a while
  • I will not change my point of view on this matter

Edit To address the comments :

  • What my friends are expecting: they're expecting me to act like them, which is to act as moral support for Rachel, to 'stand by her side' and help her with the situation both morally, and financially.
  • What I want to happen : I want my friends to stop pressuring me on this subject, and leave me be, they're always trying to include me when they plan an event to support Rachel, and when I tell them that I won't be going, they spend hours (literally hours) trying to convince me, I want that to stop.
  • Do I want to stay friends with Rachel? No, no I do not.

Also, a few more contextual details :

  • Rachel is an adult, who's going into her 30s
  • This is not her first drunken driving (though it's the first time she's been involved in an accident)
  • She has a long history of not owning up to her mistakes
  • Do you consider Rachel as your friend or as your friends' friend? – Frederi ROSE Nov 20 '19 at 8:43
  • @FrederiROSE Rachel was a friend, albeit not a close one, but I do not consider her as a friend anymore – user3399 Nov 20 '19 at 8:50
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You don't have to change your view, or condone her actions to feel empathy.

Empathy is extremely broad, and has a place everywhere. You can feel empathy for the worst people on the planet, because you can take a minute to understand how they must feel right now.

Pablo Escobar was a mass murderer, but it's perfectly reasonable to feel empathy for him when learning that his best friends and family members were killed. That his downfall alienated those he loved the most.

Empathy doesn't require an overarching context, as you only need to recognize feelings. You can empathize with this girl because she's injured. Because she's in trouble. Because her friends and family are angry at her. She's likely considerably more miserable today than she was before the accident. Ask yourself why? Does this girl feel HAPPY that she injured these people?

I have a feeling you may be mixing up sympathy with empathy. You mentioned both, but if you understood the difference you would see how easy it is to feel empathy for literally any living creature that's in pain.

To answer your question, "how to ask the friend to stop pressuring them": You said "Being harsh with them is possible." That will be your only option. You already explained to them why you cannot feel empathy toward her (though you described sympathy). The vast majority of people can feel empathy. If you're not able to do that, you should already understand they will not take it well.

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    Thanks for taking the time to write an answer! However, this doesn't seem to address OP's question of how to ask their friend to stop pressuring them. Please note that answers on IPS must respect the OP's request and answer the actual question asked. Can you edit to directly answer the question? – Ælis Nov 19 '19 at 17:11
  • @Ælis Updated with a more focused answer. – coinbird Nov 19 '19 at 21:21
  • That's a nice improvement but note that we require answers here to be backed up by personal experience or external sources. So, could you edit to tell us about a similar situation you were in the past? Who was involved, what did you say and how did the other person react? – Ælis Nov 20 '19 at 9:09
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    @Ælis I dont think a personal experience is required here. The main focus of coinbird's answer here was OP's misunderstanding of the word empathy. I think websters definition of empathy perfectly backs up most of coinbird's points: That empathy is thinking about how someone might feel and does not imply sympathy, loyalty to that person and their situation or compassion. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy – Jesse Nov 22 '19 at 6:19
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I think that your goal here, although a good goal, is not possible. Why? You cannot ever really make someone else do anything. (If that were the case, crime would be non-existent). You can help others do do something, but generally can't make them do what you want.

What you can do, however, is control your reaction to other people. I'd also add that generally, when people want to know "why" I take a position on something, that they generally don't care why or want to learn as much as to argue.

In my experience, you're taken the major step toward ending this debate already. You've decided on your position. And now it's a matter of standing by your beliefs. When I get asked to engage in behavior I don't want to, my response is "that's not possible." I don't explain why; I don't defend my position; I don't debate it. It's just not possible. And when the "why" question comes up, my response is "why is not important; this is my belief on this matter. But thanks for asking."

You have made your decision: 'I will not show sympathy, nor empathy towards Rachel, no matter if she was a friend of mine or not'. Now You can add your other statement 'I will not change my point of view on this matter'. Your friends may not understand it, but without anything to argue about they will eventually choose to either accept it or not. And really, that's about all you can realistically hope for. If they accept it, then the debate is done. If they reject it, then you have a decision to make about whether you want friends who support this kind of behavior or not.

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2

Explain your friends WHY you do that. They might even change their minds and be on your side.

Make it clear that you refuse to ease the burden of responsibility from her shoulders, and that she actually has to learn from the experience, in order to avoid even greater troubles in the future.

However, it would be nice of you to assist in "cleaning up the mess":

  • help Rachel get the help she might need, convince her about it (nicely) if she is reluctant;
  • help the injured person(s), if you are inclined to.

You are right that it is not helpful (long-term) to show the wrong kind of empathy to Rachel: make her believe that it was not her responsibility, and that it is OK to continue having a life of "crime".


I learned how to deal with it (unfortunately) in my family. My father was reckless and damaged some things around, had some minor injuries. My mother was angry at me for supporting him - she thought I told him that whatever he did was OK. I explained her the discussions I had with my father, and that even though I had a calm voice, I actually told him what he did wrong and how he can to better in the future - to avoid damaging stuff and to avoid harm, to himself and to others.

I even had a follow-up discussion with my father when my mother was present, so he understood hes "lesson" better, and my mother understood that I was not minimizing what happened.


Note: I found out (from my mistakes) that it is always advisable to show empathy. Not necessarily because the person deserves it, but because it is good training for yourself, to deal with future actions, when empathy is the key to fix things.


You need to understand that your situation has changed (I did not understand it myself, initially). In the past, you only needed to show empathy to Rachel. Now you have the new experience, to show "another" empathy to your friends, who do not understand WHY your attitude changed. You need to understand their point of view, and talk to them from there.

It will help greatly to keep any anger / revolt you have under very strict control. Even if you mention it, do not act on it. Control your voice, body movement, etc.

I understood this while (re)reading the article on Wikipedia about empathy.

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  • While I can agree that showing empathy is usually a good thing, I just can't do so for someone who willingly put others like in dangers. As for trying to help her, this is not the first time she drives drunk, she's been arrested for it, several times, we tried to help her, offering to drive for her when she goes to party, but she still continued to drive drunk, at this point, I don't have any help I can, or want to, offer her. – user3399 Nov 20 '19 at 8:54
  • That is good attitude. Just explain to your friends (and herself too) that she must deal with her own problems, and that you past help was useless. And that you are unwilling to spend energy (money, inner resources, whatever, ...) for something which is out of your control. Do what you can, don't do what you cannot not (or is useless). – virolino Nov 20 '19 at 9:05
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OP here.

While there was a few good answers, what worked for me was a little different, so I'm going to post it as an answer, in case it's ever useful to someone.

One of my 'friend' had the idea to contact the mother of the person who has been severely injured, to try and convince her not to charge Rachel (which I'm pretty sure is illegal).

So I asked that friend for the mother's phone number, contacted her*, we talked about the situation, and she agreed to come with me to meet with my group of friends.

She took that opportunity to describe, in details, what happened to her daughter, the extent of the injuries she sustained due to the accident, the consequences on her life short term, mid-term and long-term.

I think that facing the other side of the accident, and hearing the extent of the harm caused by some stupid decision really cooled them off.

I also decided to cut ties with them (my group of friends), as I don't see myself staying friend with people who can condone, even tacitly, something like that (by 'that' I mean driving drunk, and injuring someone, while not taking responsibility).

*contacting her was not the most ethical thing to do, I did not do it to get myself out of this situation, since I was already planning on cutting ties with them, but I know how stubborn my friends can be, and I didn't want the mother to deal with that on top of everything else.

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    I'm confused. In your question you state that cutting ties is not possible, but then you say you cut ties in this answer – Kevin Nov 21 '19 at 22:07
  • Can you explain who exactly you are cutting ties with. What did who condone? Your friends tacitly condone the mother? It isn't clear what you mean, expanding and clarifying might help. – Jesse Nov 22 '19 at 6:04
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    @Kevin I ended up changing my mind after one of my friend tried to convince the mother of someone who had been gravely injured to not press charges against Rachel. – user3399 Nov 22 '19 at 8:13
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If I understand you correctly, it seems like, so far, you have only explained to your friends why you didn't support this kind of behavior but you haven't yet told them that you wish them to stop pressuring you.

So, I believe this is the first thing you should do.

From my experience, when you argue with someone, they tend to think that talking to you about this is fine. In fact, they might even believe that you are glad to have an opportunity to talk about this.

Since you actually don't want to talk about that anymore, you have to express this. For example, by saying:

I don't want to talk about this, could we stop please?

Not that I said "could we" instead of "could you". If you use "you" it could seem like you are blaming the other person for the conversation. By using "we" you acknowledge that you have a part of responsibility for the conversation and you are sharing the blame. This might not reflect how you feel, but it will help reduce the hostility that the other person may have against you.

Asking the other person to just drop a subject might not be enough (I know it's often not enough with my family). In those guess, what I do next is to physically remove myself from the conversation.

I just stated that I don't want to talk about something, if the other person isn't ready to respect that, then I just leave. If it's a phone call, would say "Bye XXX, kiss you" before hanging up. If I'm stuck in a car with the other person, I will put some headphones up, launch some music and look away. Ect, etc...

The point is to clearly show that you are disengaging from the conversation by using your body language. If you do that every time someone brings up the subject, then they will (probably) quickly get tired of it and stop bringing up the subject altogether.

I often use this technique with my family and it works pretty well. My family knows that there are some things that I'm not ready to discuss and, if they do try to bring up the subject again from time to time, a cold glance from me quickly convinces them to switch subject again.


Not being open to talk about something is likely to make others see you as stubborn and/or close-minded but this is still the best technique I have found so far to get someone to drop a specific subject.

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-1

To sum up the situation :

  • OP has an opinion about a situation ;
  • OP has clearly stated their opinion about said situation ;
  • OP's friends disagree with OP's opinion and want them to change their mind.

(Clarify your point of view)

From what you have already tried, you might want to highlight the fact that you do not feel responsible for Rachel in any way. When your friends come up with a

But she is our friend

point, remind them that your point of view differs. Being too blunt about Rachel not being considered your friend anymore might put you apart from that group of friends if they consider Rachel from their own ; thus be careful. You might want to emphasize this with the following reason :

  • You think Rachel unacceptable Rachel doesn't grant any empathy towards the people whose life she puts at risk with her actions ;
  • Thus you cannot grant her any sympathy (which is some degrees higher than empathy) when she cannot take responsibility for her actions ; what's more, you could be the next one she rams into while being drunk.

Make it clear that it is a settled and unimportant matter

You've made it crystal clear that you won't comfort Rachel in any way. She's made her decision, you've made yours, and if your friends can tolerate Rachel doubtful life choices, there is no reason why they should not accept yours.

Thus, you should handle any action from their part to change your mind like a settled and unimportant matter following the Polite Ways To Avoid Unwanted Conversations :

  • Leave the group. Give some reason for leaving. For example, “Oh, I just remembered that I have a phone call coming in to my office in a few minutes. I’ll catch up with you later.”
  • Change the subject. Ignore the question and start talking about something else. You could say something like, “That reminds me, I wanted to talk to you about…”
  • Be polite and powerful. You could say, assertively, “I am uncomfortable discussing this. Thanks for your concern.”

EDIT

From this site the difference between empathy and sympathy can be described as follows :

  • sympathy : You feel bad for them … but you don’t know what it is like to be in their shoes ;
  • empathy : the capacity or ability to imagine oneself in the situation of another, experiencing the emotions, ideas, or opinions of that person ;
  • antipathy : a strong feeling of dislike (from this site). The difference between empathy and sympathy

Thus, empathy is not something you show, but instead something you have : an ability. This ability can be displayed through sympathy or antipathy through sharing your emotions, but not necessarily.

From that point, when the OP says in a comment

I can agree that showing empathy is usually a good thing, I just can't do so for someone who willingly put others like in dangers

they clearly state they cannot understand the reasons behind Rachel's tendency to risk other people's life (lack of empathy), yet they surely can understand that Rachel feels bad now, if not for others, at least for herself because of the situation she got into.

From

I don't have any help I can, or want to, offer her

I understand that, after trying to help, the OP stopped trying to have empathy and gave up on showing sympathy to Rachel because of Rachel's apparent selfishness, turning their feelings into antipathy.

Thus, when the OP's friends ask them to feel empathy (which they cannot) or show sympathy towards someone they only have antipathy for, clearly stated the rational reasons behind, and were turned down by 'but she is our friend' (which is not felt that way anymore by the OP) arguments while they won't

stop pressuring [the OP] on this subject

I believe I would act as described in the source before my edit with something along the lines of

We already talk talked about this and I believe I made myself clear. Please just stop. [and leave the conversation]

With this behaviour, I expect to highlight OP's opposition to the (already) discussed matter and show resolution (and not aggressivity) towards OP's friends, before coming back a while later like nothing happened.


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  • Can you please explain why do you think this will work? Did you do something similar in the past and it worked? Did you read something about it in a book? To be honest, I find your way quite (passive) aggressive towards the friends. I would feel uncomfortable if someone would just shoo me, only because they have a right. There are several points I disagree with, and before me going into the details, you should make an update, to explain, as I mentioned. – virolino Nov 20 '19 at 10:12
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    my post was not based on personal experience but sourced. I added additional sources to clarify my point of view. – Frederi ROSE Nov 20 '19 at 17:31

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