“I’m staying neutral.”
This phrase, or some version of it, gets used all the time when adults within a community or friend circle have drama, fight, or have some sort of awful friend breakup. It needs to end.
First of all, people use it to mean any number of the following things:
- I have too much on my plate to think clearly about what is happening.
- I just don’t want to deal with it.
- I don’t care, figure it out.
- I’m a complete fucking coward who doesn’t want to do the work it would take to help all parties get the help and validation they need.
This is valid when one of your friends is not causing harm to another. Be adults. Figure your shit out and don’t track it in my home. Same with utter lack of spoons—if you can’t deal, and others can? That’s just how it goes.
However, I see this constantly when somebody has harmed or is in some way doing something really fucked up to somebody else. And when poor treatment, abuse, cruelty, resentment, shit-talking, lying, and other behaviors are involved, and people stay “neutral” I kinda want to vomit all over their shoes.
Because the thing is, you don’t have to stay neutral to remain friends with the person causing harm. It is okay to recognize that your friend is being an asshole and still be friends with them. But when you do decide that neutrality is your best option, here are some things that can happen:
For the person being wronged:
- They are likely not getting the level of emotional support and validation from you that they deserve, if you are calling them your friend. You might even be gaslighting them a little, making them doubt their own experience.
- It’s likely you aren’t actually talking to them about what’s going on, and thus any assumptions you make about what’s happening is coming second- or third-hand and is likely not terribly accurate. This can cause extra harm.
- They get to see you continue your friendship with the person hurting them through all of this. Although nobody has the right to tell anybody who they can be friends with, that can also be traumatic, and talking to them about it is useful.
For the person who is doing the harm:
- They often don’t get the real help they need because mutual friends are too busy being Switzerland to address the issues at hand and try to get through to them.
- Again, not talking + assumptions = bad.
- They get constant reassurance and validation from your continued friendship-without-challenges and you never really help them learn how fucked up they are being and therefore never help them grow. We become better humans when we can learn from our shitty behavior, not when people help us sweep it under the rug.
This has been something I have been fielding a little bit lately, but it’s also something that has come up repeatedly in stories friends have told about people allowing others to treat their friends atrociously under the guise of being “neutral”. Come the fuck on, y’all. This shouldn’t be how we operate, not as true friends to each other. It’s just another path to the missing stair (which, while specifically used to describe the issue of sexual harassment, can be broadened significantly).
To the various individuals who regularly name themselves “Switzerland”, instead of telling people you are “neutral” try thinking about what you really mean by it, deep down. And say that out loud instead. Because “neutral” is nowhere near the entirety of what you mean by it.
The fact is, being “neutral” helps nobody but yourself. And that’s cool. We have to indulge in self-care. But let’s call it what it is.
June 1, 2015 | Categories: Politics, Relationships | Tags: awkward, communication, friends, friendship, neutral, neutrality, relationships, social anxiety, social awkwardness, switzerland | 3 Comments
SHHHH. I’m thinking.
Now you can talk.
One of the generally accepted fundamental differences between extroverts and introverts is that extroverts recharge their batteries through human interaction and introverts recharge their batteries through quiet/alone time. I need a lot of alone time, or I get socially, emotionally, and mentally strung out. When that happens, I stop hanging out with my friends. I stop enjoying that moment when my girlfriend gets home. I am overwhelmed at the thought of making plans. My social anxiety stops hovering at 5-6/10 and goes to 11.
But I live with an extrovert who doesn’t quite get the value of alone time for me. She doesn’t understand the full extent of the necessity. This has caused some trouble between us—partly because she doesn’t understand that my need for alone time isn’t just about needing time apart from her (and if you guys can come up with a way to make that really, really clear, your comments are welcome), and partly because the need itself is esoteric. Explaining the difference between enjoyment of alone time and the need for it is difficult.
We live in a tiny 1-BR apartment in SF in which the layout is such that, if there are two people home it is impossible to have alone time. My mental health has been deteriorating for months because in a given work day I get at most 20-60 minutes of alone time between when I get home and when she gets home. On the weekends, unless she goes out of town, I get none. I finally made it as clear as possible that I need to live in a place where I can have my own room: a Whiskeypants Cave. But we kept running up against the same problem in communication about it. She could not fathom the idea that I would need alone time so badly that it was worth stretching out our budget as much as we would have to in order to afford a 2-BR in this city. I couldn’t fathom the idea that she could not acknowledge the fact of my need.
One day after arguing about this, on the drive home I finally found the words:
Imagine that the way you recharge is through sleep.
You try to sleep every day, but you can only get an average of about an hour with an absolute maximum of 2-3.
Even when you lie down to sleep, you know that, no matter where you are, you will be woken up by the person you live with.
Imagine that, day after day, week after week, month after month. This is what alone time is to me, to my brain, to my emotional buffers and my ability to enjoy time with you, with my friends, and out and about.
She went home that night and found us the place we are moving into at the beginning of next month.
Introverts who date extroverts and vice versa: how do you communicate your needs to each other?
August 19, 2013 | Categories: Observations, Relationships | Tags: alone time, being social, communication, extraverts, extroverts, friends, introversion, introverted, introverts, relationships, social, social anxiety, social awkwardness | 5 Comments
For the record, I know how this flowchart ought to look.
February 15, 2012 | Categories: Dating, Diagrams and Charts, Humor, Observations, Relationships | Tags: charts, communication, compliments, flirting, flowchart, friends, friendship, geekery, graphs, humor, looks, Rejection, relationships, self-esteem, shy, social anxiety, social awkwardness, taking compliments, women | 7 Comments
Nobody believes that I am shy. In fact, when I tell folks that I am shy, they tend to tell me that they think I am full of shit. This bothers me, so I am going to explain a few things, in far too much detail.
Admittedly, these days they have no reason to believe me—except for the fact that I tell them, and that it’s the truth. I’m shy. I have, over the past decade +, managed to overcome socially crippling levels of self-doubt and low self-esteem and to mask my shyness in more social behaviors, such as actually getting out of the house, introducing myself to people, and then talking to them afterward. I have managed to tame and control the sarcasm and snark that seem to be part of my genetic code in such a way that they are no longer hurtful defense mechanisms, but are instead tools for bringing more laughter into the world.
All of these things felt virtually impossible when I was younger. Terrifying, even. I was an extraordinarily lonely child, a fact I tried to hide under a too-tough and too-cool exterior. I escaped a problematic and troublesome childhood through books. I read more books in a week than some children read in a year. Books saved me from having to talk to people even as they refined my understanding of language and how to listen to people. They were part of my armor, yet another way to say, “Stay Away.”
At some point I began to look up from my books and realize that I wasn’t in high school anymore, that I wasn’t a child anymore, and that the conscious and unconscious cruelty of youth was not nearly as dangerous to me as it once was. And when I did that, I realized that there were people in the world I wanted to meet, and know, and hold close to me as friends, or as lovers, or ultimately as members of my chosen family.
But if I was going to find them, I was going to have to change.
It took years. Years to learn how to shed the armor. Years to learn how to break down the walls and fortifications I had put up (with good reason, by the way). Years to realize that my self-esteem was growing as I became the person I wanted to be. I was, after all, not always the funny, kind, loving, dead sexy Whiskeypants who writes this blog today. I did not always have the same amount of integrity that I do now. I was not always as considerate as I am now (when I’m considerate, anyway). Everything I am is part of a conscious effort to improve myself. Of course, none of it was easy. And of course, I’m far from finished.
However, I never shed the shyness, not really. It’s always there, behind my handshake when I meet somebody new, behind my requests to get to know somebody better, behind every flirtation. It’s there in the books I never leave home without, to this day. Every time I leave my house, there’s a moment when I know that some part of me really just wants to stay, because every time I put myself out there it’s a risk, and I have never really gotten over my fear of that risk. I just bulldoze over it, because my will is stronger.
In short, I am a great example of fake it ’til you make it.
Gentle reader, when somebody who appears outgoing and friendly tells you he or she is shy, don’t call bullshit on them right away. You don’t know the path that person has taken to get to that moment, and you don’t know what it took for him or her to get out of the house that day, and place themselves among people, and take the social risks that so many people in the world take without a second thought.