7

My question is similar to this one but the details are a little different.

I have a friend D who takes things too seriously. Examples include:

  1. In our group (me, them and another friend O) we would often lightly tease each other. We never try to be mean. Myself and O take it in stride but whenever we tease D he would get defensive and try to explain why we are wrong.
  2. Very often when he debates an issue he wouldn't do it calmly.
  3. Recently we were playing a game where you explain a word to the other person. D was almost shouting and cursing when his teammate wasn't getting his explanation.

In such situations D becomes very intense, uses loud voice and often interrupts other people. It gets worse when he is drunk and he likes to drink.

It doesn't bother myself that much. However he got into shouting matches at the last two parties he attended and O got really upset when we met yesterday. Thus I think it is a problem which needs to be addressed.

How best to tell D that his behaviour makes us uncomfortable and that we think he should talk more calmly?

Edit 1: We haven't tried anything so far. Sometimes he later apologises for his behaviour. Sometimes we joke about it. Sometimes I awkwardly tell him "you could have handled it better". I want to know how to talk to him in a way that really brings the point across. After all he is already aware that there is a problem but that doesn't stop him from becoming loud and intense.

He wasn't always this way, it started about a year ago.

All of us are around 20 years old.

  • 1
    Did you ever try to tell it to him like that? – Anne Daunted Jan 22 '18 at 15:56
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    Please include what you've tried so far in the question. – Arwen Undómiel Jan 22 '18 at 15:57
  • Might be off-base here but is D on the autism spectrum? – Em C Jan 22 '18 at 16:15
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    He wasn't always this way, this started about a year ago. Did you already try to find out what caused his change in behavior? – Anne Daunted Jan 22 '18 at 16:31
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    What you've described is not more confident behavior. Rather it appears to be a decrease in confidence. – Dan Anderson Jan 22 '18 at 16:55
10

The last line of your question really stuck out to me.

He wasn't always this way, this started about a year ago.

So we can safely assume that something has happened which makes your friend sensitive to teasing and otherwise appearing less than. . . whatever his ideal is.

To address the issue you need more information. Preferably from the source. Since you are good friends, I would invite D out to do something (without alcohol, because you will both need your wits about you).

Then ask him something like this:

Hey D, I've noticed that you've changed a bit in the past year. Is there something going on that I've missed?

He'll probably ask what sort of changes you've noticed. Just keep it simple.

Oh, you get angry much more quickly, and you get real defensive when teased. You didn't used to do these things. So I was wondering if something happened that I should have noticed and could help you with.

The key to the presentation here is that you are NOT accusing him of anything, while you ARE asking him how you can help. You want him to know that you are his friend and you are on his side. If he gets angry just reply "Hey man I'm just trying to help. You're not acting like yourself. "

Also, consider asking him while doing something mildly active, like while he is driving. I've noticed in myself and my male friends that we seem better able to talk about feelings when our hands are active.

Hopefully he opens up to you and can get a better insight into why he has changed his personality in this past year.

Depending on if D is an open person, you may have to ask the question more than once. If you have to ask him what's wrong more than 3 times, you may need to be more stern, for example:

Hey man this is not like you, I know something is up. What's wrong?

If he continues to refuse your help and the behavior continues, you may need to consider either just putting up with the behavior or telling him that you are cutting off the relationship until his behavior improves.

Once you understand the reason behind his behavior change, you should be much better situated to come up with a solution that will help your friend improve his behavior. It's possible that the mere act of your making a big deal about his behavior will be incentive enough for him to behave better.

As a side thought, I'm wondering when he started drinking, was it at the same time as the behavioral changes? If so it may just be that he reacts poorly to alcohol.

Good luck.

  • Thank you for your answer! We've discussed it with O and came to the conclusion that it could be any number of things: drinking, his girlfriend, home situation etc. In the end finding reasons for this change is the job of a therapist. Perhaps we will suggest getting an appointment when we talk about the situation with him. – ThatOtherGuy Jan 22 '18 at 19:34
  • @ThatOtherGuy That's good. If you really want to know what's going on though, you have to ask D. He is the person with the most information about himself. – Dan Anderson Jan 22 '18 at 20:17
2

It's possible that D has deeper issues that require professional help. But there's a possibility that D just isn't aware of the way his interaction style affects others, and alcohol would only worsen that lack of awareness.

To raise his awareness, try taking a short video clip when he's drunk and loud, and show it to him when he's sober and calm. The clip shouldn't be posted online anywhere, and should be deleted upon request. It's meant to help him, not to shame him.

You can also take a video (with O's consent) of you and O disagreeing civilly about something, and point out to D how you considered each other's perspectives and concluded your disagreement without things getting out of hand.

Given D's pattern of behaviour, you might be faced with loud protests when you do this, so try pre-empting it by starting with something like:

D, we feel that we might not be looking at yesterday the same way you do. Would you mind having a look at these recordings with us? You'll need to agree to not say anything until the whole video is over. But after that, you can tell us what you thought and why you reacted the way you did.

This approach lets everyone re-examine the tense interaction more objectively at a later time when everyone is calm, and also allows D to point out things that you might have not been aware of but which served as triggers for his outburst.


Note and disclaimer in response to a comment (Thanks @ale10ander!) pointing out a legal aspect of this answer:

I am not a lawyer. There is some controversy regarding the legality of mechanical recording.

In Australia, there appears to be some provision for private recording:

These cases underscore the requirement that a covert recording be made for the protection of a party’s lawful interest and not for their own personal advantage or convenience in order to be considered lawful. Whilst there has been substantial consideration by the Court of the ‘lawful interest’ exception to the prohibition, given that each case will turn on its own facts, the legal position is still not completely clear nor predictable. - McCLEODS Barristors and Solicitors

More generally:

In many places, it is common for the recording of public property, persons within the public domain, and of private property visible or audible from the public domain to be legal. However, laws have been passed restricting such activity in order to protect the privacy of others. To make matters even more complicated, the laws governing still photography may be vastly different from the laws governing any type of motion picture photography. - wikipedia

I have no idea how this interacts legally with the recording culture spawned by the prevalence of mobile phone cameras. The intent is not a public airing or commercial profit; it is to document the interpersonal interaction for the private study and benefit of those recorded.

  • Thanks for the answer! We've discussed it with O and so far this looks like the best course of action. – ThatOtherGuy Jan 22 '18 at 19:38
  • 1. Make sure you're in a one party consent state before taking a recording of someone without asking. 2. Be wary of coming off as patronizing when you do this. – ale10ander Jan 22 '18 at 20:48
  • @ale10ander Thanks. I've added a note about the legal aspect of this approach in my answer. – Lawrence Jan 23 '18 at 0:11
  • @ThatOtherGuy Glad this was useful. All the best with D! He's lucky to have friends like you who are willing to take the effort to work through things with him. – Lawrence Jan 23 '18 at 0:17

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