The Dude and I went over to visit Sean and Chloe. Sean is the Dude's friend and I really enjoy the company of Chloe. Up until this evening, I've liked them both well enough. Sean is a pretty boisterous and aggressively opinionated and the Dude is also loud and talky, so I tend to find evenings out with this couple pretty draining overall because Sean, like my husband is the World's Leading Expert on Everything Ever.
The last couple of times we've been together, he's taken it upon himself to talk about how he's been mistreated by Giantcorp, which is a closely affiliated partner with my employer, Megacorp. We often get confused with one another, the work we do overlaps, but with different missions. I started at the ground floor, and worked my way through the ranks, and am considered an expert (expert was actually in my title for a while
). To add further background, very few people have positive experiences with the working level of Giantcorp or Megacorp. The entire industry is almost universally mistrusted and disliked; I don't generally take it personally, but I whenever it comes up, I try to add perspective to their experience, hoping that maybe a little understanding will prevent the same level of frustration in the future.
So, Sean starts his story of woe and misfortune and I made a critical error by engaging with him in my normal way.
He got pretty insulting (he was bragging about how confrontational and aggressive he got with the agent in charge of his processing,) I've done that job pretty quickly and I gamely tried to explain what might have been happing behind the scenes that he wasn't aware of. He dismissed what I had to say and continued. Loudly.
I tried to discreetly change the subject.
He ignored this. I ridiculously tried to change the subject. "ANTS DON'T LIKE CUCUMBERS!"
He continued, raised voice and full of rage. I said, "In case you weren't aware, I was trying to change the subject to something lighter because you seem pretty passionate about this and we probably aren't going to see eye to eye."
"I know you were trying to change the subject, but this is my house and I can talk about what I want."
"Fair enough. I'm feeling really uncomfortable by this conversation."
"It's not a conversation, I'm venting."
"Oh. I apologize. I thought it was a conversation. If you needed to vent, I should just let you do that." This was said genuinely.
He then changed from complaining about Giantcorp and turned his frustration on me, "I don't understand why you're taking this personally." When I tried to explain why I was
taking his statements personally, he kept interupting me. After about 5-10 minutes of that, I gave up.
I said, "Well, I apologize. Sincerely, if I knew you had just wanted to vent, I should have just let you. You didn't need to hear my take on the situation."
"I was just trying to have a conversation! You took this personally." I realize that this wasn't going to resolve itself because he entered Crazy Town and argued for the sake of arguing. He was not going to listen and I felt attacked and dismissed.
So, I put a genuine smile and said, "You know what? You're right, I wasn't there. I don't know what happened."
He resumed complaining about his experience. (Which FYI, would have been mildly annoying to me, had I gone through it, but he was making it seem like he was being raked over hot coals in the 9th circle of Hell.) I tried the Toots Special TM
and just started repeating, "You're right. You were there and I wasn't. I don't know what happened." I actually started thinking about what would you all would tell me to do on the eHell forums and that's what came to mind.
He then said, "I've never had anyone speak to me this way. I don't know why you're being so touchy!"
I smiled and said, "I'm passionate about this subject. I can see you are too. And you were there. I wasn't. I can't speak to your experience."
His wife didn't speak through this entire exchange and my Dude tried a couple of times to explain my experience/perspective to Sean too, which was also dismissed.
He tried turning the tables on me personally (my role, I shouldn't care about what happens, I'm too sensitive about this), but I just kept repeating myself, with a genuine smile on my face. I think it eventually worked because he seemed to run out of steam, the conversation shifted and the rest of the evening was fairly pleasant. Later, when the Dude and I were doing the postmortem of the evening I told him, "I hope you weren't embarrassed that I was arguing with Sean."
My Dude won a thousand husband points with me when he said, "I was getting pretty mad that he wasn't listening to you, but I was so proud of you for holding your own *and* being so polite and calm about it. I tried helping you out and he was a real [expletive deleted] to me too, but you were doing so well!" I told the Dude that if the conversation hadn't changed, my next step was to leave and he supported that.
I am not accepting any invitations from them for a while, but probably in the future. I need ideas/suggestions on how to disengage from the conversation earlier, because I know that Sean will bring it up again. Like, as soon as he wants to talk about Giantcorp, I want to disengage completely.
The reality is, I really hate it when people in general know where I work. Many many people believe this knowledge gives them the opening to complain about all the ways they've been maligned by Megacorp or Giantcorp (or even the unaffiliated, but tangential Medium Inc.)