Are you sick of people asking you personal questions and insulting you to your face? Do you get annoyed at how the right comeback always seems to come to you later on? You’re not alone. Unfortunately, in the past couple of years, I have increasingly experienced both of these. I’ve also been badly hurt by people very close to me and gossiped about in the neighbourhood. I have written a short post on this subject, which you can read here. I wanted to share some further thoughts in order to help others who lack the confidence to speak up in these situations. Intrusive questions often mean that you have to give away more than you want to reveal and you end up compromising your privacy. My poor aunt was forced to tell her busybody next-door neighbour about her son’s recent separation from his wife, even though it was something she didn’t really feel ready to discuss. When people insult you, it can be very upsetting. I used to work in biglaw, surrounded by educated, high-achievers who didn’t behave in this manner. They had much more class. Since I developed schizophrenia, my life has completely changed. No longer protected by the corporate bubble and now living in a low socio-economic area because my condition has impeded my ability to work, I have become exposed to people from all walks of life. While this is character building on one level, it has also made me realise that not everyone is quite as refined as the people I am used to associating with. But no matter how educated you are or where you work, you might still not be able to protect yourself from a family member or neighbour who behaves like this. When I was younger, I avoided confrontation at all costs, because I found it awkward dealing with these situations. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become very straight down the line and call it as I see it. The good news is that it does get easier to speak up when people upset you. By opening up about my experiences, I hope I can help others to learn how to as well.
1. When people ask you very personal questions
This has been a problem with our neighbours, who are very nosy and were all over my mental illness even though we didn’t discuss it with them. They all saw Counties Manukau visit me when I wasn’t well in a health board vehicle. They’re always peeping out of their window, spying on us! They have asked us the following questions:
At the time, I was very unwell, so I just politely said that I would prefer to keep some professional distance between us. Now that I’m much stronger, my attitude has hardened and I take the view that if people behave like uneducated trash, they will be treated as such. In this situation, I think it’s fine to respond by saying:
Another little tip - if you limit contact with people who are nosy, they don’t have the opportunity to ask very personal questions!
2. When people gossip about you behind your back
In my experience with our neighbours, people who ask extremely personal questions are probably gossiping about you behind your back. Unfortunately, you can’t really do much about this, except be flattered that people find you interesting enough to talk about. Some people have no goals and hobbies. They are not looking to improve and challenge themselves in life. I’m not one of those people and find it difficult to understand how people can be like this, but there are a lot of them in this world.
If people are always talking about you behind your back, it’s fine to refuse to speak to them. Diplomacy doesn’t work with people like our neighbours. If you pretend as if nothing is wrong and talk to them when they see you, they will pump you for information about your life and continue gossiping about you behind your back. If you cut all contact with them, it will actually drive them nuts as they won’t know what’s going on in your life!
3. If someone close to you really hurts you
As I have mentioned in a previous post, my ex-best friend set me up with a guy behind my back. I went to a restaurant with her, thinking we would be having dinner together only to have my “date” walk in, unbeknown to me! Not only did she trick me, but she also picked someone that was way beneath her own standards, which said a lot about how she perceives me. I also found it extremely condescending that she chose someone with health issues on the grounds that we “could relate to each other”. She rationalised her behaviour by saying that she went behind my back because I might have shut the door on a possibility. I was outraged that she went over the top of me rather than respecting my right to say no. I ended the friendship.
4. When someone insults you to your face
Incident one. We used to go to a local beauty salon for eyebrow threading. The beautician’s husband was often lurking in the waiting area, despite the fact that it is a female beauty parlour, ironically reflected in the name of the business. As I have mentioned before, I have really struggled with my weight since the onset of schizophrenia, due to the side-effects of anti-psychotic drugs. The beautician’s husband told me that I was overweight and also pointed out that I had pimples. At the time, I was very unwell and too shocked to respond, but later burst into tears. On a side note, he doesn’t exactly look like George Clooney himself. I stopped going to that beauty salon and didn’t say anything to the owner, but the incident bothered me for a long time. A week ago, I actually returned there. I asked if I could speak to the owner in private after my treatment and told her what had happened. I explained that was why I stopped going to her and asked if she could sort it out for me so I was able to return to her, without the same thing happening again. I felt proud of how far I have come, even though it took me a long time to learn to speak up when people upset me.
Incident two. The Combat instructor at my previous gym always used to single me out on my technique in class. He would get off the stage each time and come up to me during the class to correct me. I hated being picked on and it destroyed my confidence. I didn’t like being put down infront of others. I couldn’t complain to the manager because he was the manager. I stopped going to that gym and re-joined Les Mills in Howick. I’ve never looked back. I also run and swim outdoors for cardio mostly, so I don’t leave myself open to being put down in classes. If I do a class, I try to make it a virtual one so there isn’t an instructor present!
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t come up with the right comeback straight away or say nothing at all like me. It’s natural to feel shocked and upset if people behave like this. You also might be weaker if you’re not well, like I was at the time of these incidents. As incident one above illustrates, you can always sort things out later on, even if it’s not as effective as nipping it in the bud straight away. It’s certainly worth doing if it’s still eating away at you as it did for me for a long time. As for the beauty salon, I’ve decided to continue going to the other place I found. It’s a bit like the incident with my ex-best friend. Trust is fragile. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. If someone really hurts you once, there is a chance they can always do it again.