Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have a colleague in my workplace who I will call Kevin. Although I have given him zero encouragement of any kind, Kevin feels the need to confide the vast details of his inner life to me at every opportunity.
Since he does so without my permission, I will reveal what he has told me without his. He has a very tumultuous relationship with his fiancee, who seems to be some kind of monster. Or maybe she is wonderful and Kevin is the monster, which seems as likely. The two argue often, and my supervisor has even reprimanded Kevin for raising his voice on his cell phone.
Despite the fact that I never engage with him in conversation, Kevin constantly asks me for advice and coworkers see as a pair. This is counter to all of my aims and probably not great for my career. At the same time, pissing Kevin off is going to make work even more unpleasant and difficult, so I need him happy. Can you help me?
If you attempt to get Kevin to help you with an even more unappealing problem, he will probably be less likely to involve you in his own. This is a very risky road to take however, since there is a possibility he will spin you even more fluidly into his sick web. You can test the waters in this direction and see if this gets him off your back, since many people are as naturally uncomfortable being involved in others’ affairs as they are comfortable talking about themselves.
What Kevin may find useful about your presence is that you require nothing from him. If in fact this only draws Kevin closer, you can now take more extreme measures. It is best that you use another coworker, preferably female or male or if you are gay, and bring him or her into your confidence. You can replace Kevin; it is like when Indiana Jones switches out two idols of the same weight on a pressure sensitive podium. Sidenote: why was the treasure sitting on a pressure sensitive podium in the first place?
If you can make Kevin’s problems seem insignificant in comparison to the ones your other coworker is suffering through, he may genuinely understand his don’t need to be confided to you as often. It is up to you to determine how little emotional intelligence this disturbed creature has before selecting your choice.
Recently, it has been bothering me how snobby my girlfriend is. She always has some elaborate explanation for whatever is going on, and it generally places her far, far above whatever is going on, like in the stratosphere. Even though we have a similar education, and I have technical knowledge she can only dream of, she finds a way to talk down to me about it. I have spoken with her somewhat about this, and I am not even sure she understands she is doing it.
What should I do?
This behavior most likely masks some basic insecurity developed in this person’s life where someone told her that she was stupid. Given how arrogant she is acting, you are probably even more unlikely to praise whatever actual acumen she possesses, so maybe try going overboard in that direction. If she feels you understand and appreciate your intelligence like no one else ever has, she will be less afraid of seeming stupid or foolish. Introduce her to anime.
Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.