Author Topic: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation  (Read 3359 times)

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dharmaexpress

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Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« on: August 16, 2013, 07:16:50 PM »
Somewhat overly simplistic B/G: I caught a friend and colleague of several years, let's call her Nellie Oleson, in a slanderous lie about a colleague.  The catch was completely accidental, but the lie was intentional and something of a whopper.

The friend who accidentally facilitated the catch in a casual conversation was likewise surprised by this development.  (I didn't know at all that I had been lied to, so I kept trying to clarify what had happened and asked for more details, which led to us figuring out at the same moment that this was a fish story.)  Let's call this friend Mary Ingalls.  Mary Ingalls and Nellie Oleson are still friends, but I have done the drift and disappearing act on Nellie.  Part of the reason I have kept my distance is that I am angry, and part because I don't wish to continue the relationship, but also don't want a big confrontation.  Mary and I have agreed that should Nellie ever ask for an explanation, I will be truthful with her, but none will be offered if she doesn't ask.  (Mary feels a little bad that she unintentionally helped the lie come to light.)  I am quite good at dodging conversations I don't want to have, but I'm not sure that's the right thing here.

So, Nellie and Mary and I will be at a function together.  We all work in the same industry, which is one reason I don't want a giant confrontation.  In the event that there is an inquiry (she's asked another friend if she'd "done something" to upset me) - I would like a gentle, polite way of saying I know about the lie.  I don't think I need to say this is why I've been scarce, because I think that's self-explanatory.  I just want to convey that I know and she can think it over and do what she wants with that information (hopefully learn and not repeat behavior).

Is there a way to do this briefly, gently, and not be ugly?  For one thing, if I make a vague reference to the incident, she is quite likely to feign forgetfulness - it was 2 months ago now.  I don't want to lie if asked directly, and I also don't want to blow her hair back, so I'm trying to prepare myself.  Any ideas?  Or should I handle it in an all together different way?

dharmaexpress

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Re: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2013, 07:58:19 PM »
I am heartened that so many have read and no one has an idea yet - does that mean this is really a poser of a question?  Because it seems difficult to me.   ;)

If it makes it more interesting or easier, a secondary question would be: is there any situation where you have done the drift or fade away and do not wish to reignite where you would tell the other person why you made that choice?  Or is this an inherently rude thing, even if asked?


Phoebe

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Re: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2013, 08:08:14 PM »
I'm a bit stunned that Mary is still friends with Nellie, to tell you the truth. 

dharmaexpress

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Re: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2013, 08:12:46 PM »
Whew, well that's validating.  ;)

Me too, but I'm trying to MMOB.  All my friends stayed friends with Nellie - and most of them know what happened.  Weird, I agree.

JenJay

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Re: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2013, 08:13:39 PM »
I wouldn't say anything unless she backed me into a corner and demanded to know why I'd cooled the friendship, then I'd be honest. You don't have to mention Mary, you can say "I'm aware that the story you told about Joe was a lie." and leave it at that.

I hope the lie has since been straightened out and the victim's name cleared.

delabela

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Re: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2013, 08:26:26 PM »
Wow.  Just wow.  I think all you can do is try to avoid, and if you can't, just say "I know XYZ isn't true."  And then leave it. 

I have no idea what you do if she wants to protest, explain, etc.

In other words, I agree with JenJay.

CrazyDaffodilLady

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Re: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2013, 09:35:03 PM »
A work function is not the place to deal with this issue.  If she approaches you there, refuse to discuss it.  If she actually cares about your disappearance, she'll contact you at another time, another place, and then it's fine to say "You lied to me about Joe.  I don't like to be lied to. and I don't like people who intentionally hurt others".
It takes two people to play tug of war. If you don't want to play, don't pick up the rope.

gramma dishes

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Re: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2013, 10:11:08 PM »
...   (Mary feels a little bad that she unintentionally helped the lie come to light.)   ...

I don't understand this sentence.  Are you saying Mary feels bad that she accidentally exposed Nellie for being the liar she is rather than being concerned that Nellie was telling stories that weren't true about someone else? 

I would think Mary would be concerned that one of her friends has told a blatant and perhaps damaging lie about someone else.  If she'd do it to that person, she'd do it to you. 

I guess I'm just confused.  Your feelings I understand and agree with.  Mary's I don't get.

sweetonsno

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Re: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2013, 01:24:50 AM »
The vagueness in this question makes it a bit difficult for me to answer. Can you give some more specifics, even if you invent the particulars?

Are you sure that Nellie is the one who created this lie (and did so with malicious intent)? It sounds like you discovered it when either you or Mary may have mentioned it and you figured out that something didn't add up. Is it possible that Nellie was just repeating a rumor that she had heard?

Anyway, I'd just be polite but distant. Don't give her the cold shoulder, but don't be anything more than civil. If she demands to know why you've cooled towards her, then I do think you can tell her that you found out that she gave you bad information about Joe and don't wish to continue the friendship.

Danika

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Re: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2013, 02:08:29 AM »
I have the same question as sweetonsno. Are you sure that Nellie is the one who manufactured the lie or might she just have been repeating it?

If you are sure that she's the one who came up with it, then you are wise to distance yourself from her.

In your shoes, I'd want to do the same thing - not confront her, but reply with something concise, firm and honest if she questioned me directly. You have to be prepared to say the same phrase to her whether you are alone or she asks you in front of witnesses.

I'd be brief and clear. I like the wording "I am now aware that what you told me about Joe is completely false" or "I know that what you said about you and Joe is a lie." I wouldn't outright say "you're a liar. I hate liars. I distrust you and don't want to talk to you" but I wouldn't protect her either. I wouldn't skirt around it. If there are witnesses and they gather that she's a liar, or that she's been gossiping about Joe, let them.

And if the lie was about Mary, you can still say "I now know that what you said to me about Mary and situation ABC is a blatant lie." If she tries to deflect and yells "What did Mary tell you?" don't focus on the fact that you talked to Mary. Maybe you debunked it somehow else. Don't let her lead the subject elsewhere and get mad at Mary or you.

LifeOnPluto

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Re: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2013, 02:17:50 AM »
I'd be inclined to look her in the eye and say "You know what you did", then walk away, leaving her to stew on that...

dharmaexpress

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Re: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2013, 02:41:08 AM »
Thank you, I know this story doesn't make it easy.

Quote
I don't understand this sentence.  Are you saying Mary feels bad that she accidentally exposed Nellie for being the liar she is rather than being concerned that Nellie was telling stories that weren't true about someone else? 

The former, yes - she feels bad that the lie came to light because she innocently clarified details about an exchange I was also innocently asking about.  We were not trying to catch anyone in a lie. She is professionally affiliated with Nellie, and I am not - harder for her to cut direct or drift away.

Quote
Are you sure that Nellie is the one who created this lie (and did so with malicious intent)? It sounds like you discovered it when either you or Mary may have mentioned it and you figured out that something didn't add up. Is it possible that Nellie was just repeating a rumor that she had heard?

I am positive it was her, but her intent was to protect someone else so I'd call it more careless and stupid than malicious.  She probably wouldn't see as slanderous and a little despicable the way I did.  I was so shocked when she told me the story to begin with, I actually asked her to repeat it (twice!) and in retrospect, I should have noticed that there were additional details with each telling.  I didn't because I had no idea she would lie.

Quote
In your shoes, I'd want to do the same thing - not confront her, but reply with something concise, firm and honest if she questioned me directly. You have to be prepared to say the same phrase to her whether you are alone or she asks you in front of witnesses.

Yes, exactly.  I was even thinking of asking her if she remembered telling me (insert doozy here) and then saying, "I know that isn't what happened," and literally leaving it at that.  She'll know exactly what I'm talking about, I have no doubt of that.

The details are ridiculously convoluted:  in the course of sharing very private, personal information about a different colleague with me (that I already knew and had not told a soul), Nellie claimed she received this information from "Charles," someone in a position of power and trust who should never, ever be talking to Nellie or anyone really about such private matters.  I suspect my reaction at her knowing the information made her panic and want to protect her real source, so she threw Charles under the bus and for several days, I thought a man I like and respect and trust was a low down dirty gossip about his own close friends.  Also, the subject of the gossip is also a close friend of mine, and I was not pleased to hear Nellie tell me with such relish about "scandalous" bits of her private life she'd discovered, only to then realize she'd lied about where she'd gotten the information.  I knew my friend had told Charles the information in the strictest confidence because she trusted him and wanted his guidance - so I believed he'd broken the confidence when Nellie told me he was the source.

Nellie told me Mary had been in the room when Charles told them this fish story.  Mary actually hadn't seen Charles in over a month - the accidental reveal.  So Mary told me who really shared the private information, and it was Nellie's friend.

Clear as mud?  Sorry, it's labyrinthine.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2013, 02:43:40 AM by dharmaexpress »

m2kbug

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Re: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2013, 06:06:57 AM »
I'm having a hard time understanding the dynamics here and how your professional life works, I'm just going to work on my own experiences here and hopefully you can get something useful out of it. 

First, this is a perfect example of why we keep our personal lives and our professional lives separate.  This "colleague's sharing very private, personal information about a different colleague" is questionable. 

In the interest of preserving my own career and ability to function within the industry, and the fact this "triangle" is affecting Mary, I think I would just let this one go.  This sounds like a one time deal, hopefully lesson learned, as this is known to Nellie what is going on, and just move on.  You can maintain friendly relations, while keeping up boundaries and minimizing personal discussion about yourself and anyone else. 

I honestly don't think I'd have a discussion about this lie at all.  This does not sound like a continued smear campaign, but if it is, I'm not sure how much you should involve yourself in this.  I would go to my supervisor or HR. 

Danika is correct, that whatever you say, do not present it as confrontational or accusatory or put her on the defense.  "I was lied to, I didn't appreciate it, and I'd really like to just put this incident behind me."  If confronted at this function, it really is not an appropriate time, and say so.  "We can discuss this later." 

I know you said you have every intention of explaining the "why" if you are asked, I just really wonder what the benefit is at this point in time.  What's done is done and you now know to be cautious about whatever information Nellie may share with you in the future.  This could have and probably should have been discussed way back when it happened.  If this is one of those nasty situations, you probably need to go to HR or your supervisor.

secretrebel

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Re: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2013, 06:16:20 AM »
I think I get it. This is what happened, am I right?

"Cora" told Nellie something personal and private about "Patsy".
Nellie told OP the same piece of gossip but said she had heard it from Charles while Mary was present.
OP was shocked and thought less of Charles who had a relationship with Patsy that should have preluded him sharing anything so personal.
Mary later told OP that it was Nellie's friend Cora who had gossiped about Patsy.
Now OP is angry with Nellie for sharing the personal information and for lying about where she heard it.

I think the whole thing is too convoluted to respond in a straightforward way saying "I'm angry with you because you did X" because X is related to other people and their personal information and has become very gossipy.

CrazyDaffodilLady is right, in my opinion when she says:
A work function is not the place to deal with this issue.  If she approaches you there, refuse to discuss it.  If she actually cares about your disappearance, she'll contact you at another time...

If Nellie does contact you then I think it would be right to say: "I was made uncomfortable by a gossipy conversation the two of us had. I don't want to go into the details of what was said and what is true but I don't believe that what you told me was correct or right to share. Please don't talk about people like that around me again."



dharmaexpress

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Re: Preparing to have (or avoid) an awkward conversation
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2013, 11:01:30 AM »
m2kbug, sorry, it's a hot mess, I know.  Thanks for your suggestions.  You're right that it's not ongoing, and you touched on something I've wondered: is there any point in telling her why.

Secretrebel, you got it exactly with your recap.

The function isn't work-related and we don't work together - we're in a small subfield of a field and we all work in the same industry.  Part of my distancing from Nellie was to protect myself professionally, not in an immediate way, but in a "you're going to damage your reputation with this kind of behavior" way.  People in this field have these long-standing affiliations based on projects and/or friendships, and I wanted to make sure ours ended immediately.  Nellie just isn't the kind of person I want to associate with.

I think there may be nothing to be gained by telling her, so I will continue to "shine her on" if you will.  I'm always polite and friendly, but I stay away.  I return any call she makes to me with a brief text, answer emails briefly, and otherwise avoid.  I know that can drive someone crazy when they don't know what's happening, and right now, I'm guessing she doesn't know at all what the reason is.  As soon as I said a couple names to her, she'd remember - but maybe there's no point in doing that.

Thanks for trying to understand this very convoluted story!