As I patiently listened to her tell me the same story for the fourth time, I didn’t interrupt. I didn’t say, Ummm, you’ve already told me this. I did wonder briefly if she was forgetting she’d told me or repeating it hoping for added effect… It didn’t seem to matter anyway though, every time I attempted to speak, she just spoke over me. That’s okay though, I know what it’s like to have so much to say.
But in sharing something that was obviously some type of traumatic experience for her, I could never have made her feel badly or self conscious by saying, You’ve told me that three other times already.
I just listened every time, as though I hadn’t heard it before. I didn’t really see how it was such a traumatic thing, but between the repetition as well as her indignant tone of voice each time she repeated it, I sensed it had been traumatic for her… Trauma is quite subjective and relative to every individual. It’s not my place to decide what someone else’s threshold might be.
In addition, this was a new friendship and I don’t risk many of those anymore and I’m sure I repeat myself, especially sometimes when first getting to know someone. So I would have listened to it 1,000 times as though I’d not heard it before, if she needed to tell it that many times to feel heard; to feel validated.
I had texted her the day prior to ask if she had time for me to share a few odd incidents around my dad’s death and just get her opinion or thoughts about them. She had been too busy that day, but then texted and called several times this day to say, yes, she’d love to give me her thoughts/opinions and had the time to talk.
I was grateful for this! I let her know it was nothing urgent, just some old stuff I hoped to get a totally objective outside opinion on, pretty trivial in the big picture really and I’d told her not to worry about it if she didn’t have time; that it truly wasn’t any crisis or anything vital or time sensitive.
So when she called, I was in the middle of something and she called two more times in a row, so I stopped what I was doing, went to get my phone and returned her call. I was glad she was willing to listen and give her thoughts especially since it was nothing of great importance at this point, yet very sensitive and bothersome to me over the years. It would be great to get someone else’s, someone totally unrelated, perspective!
Yet when we finally connected, she seemed to have much to say herself…much to repeat… much to advise… on entirely different things about my life and her own…
So I just listened mostly for the first 30 minutes or so. I had pretty much decided she might need me to listen today far more than I needed to share what I’d asked to discuss with her, when she finally asked me what I wanted her opinion on.
I reminded her that it wasn’t anything urgent and might even seem rather silly as it was all said and done and in the past. Go ahead and tell me, she says.
Okay. I begin listing the various odd circumstances that I’ve not been able to wrap my head around since they happened five years ago, eager, excited, and grateful to talk of them and finally get someone else’s thoughts on these things.
I told of the first point. I told of the second point.
She interrupts me here to say, Why are you telling me this? My opinion is you have to stop living in the past.
Umm…okay. I’m not living in the past. When I asked if I could discuss this with you, I told you it was from the past. I can’t get your thoughts on them if I don’t tell you these things that happened….in the past…without talking of the past…?
I’m not sure even what to say here. But that was okay because she had plenty to say here… She began to get quite aggressive and blatantly condescending.
I don’t understand why you’re telling me this! I’m not going to listen to this! I just listened to you talk for five minutes about things in the past. WHAT do you want my opinion on?
I say, Well, I was trying to tell you what I wanted your opinion on, but you’ve just told me you don’t want to listen to me talk about that, so I’m not sure how I can get your opinion, but it really wasn’t anything important..just some events I didn’t understand and I thought you may have a fresh perspective about them. No worries. I really wasn’t important and it was all in the past, so let’s just discuss something else, ok?
Here she goes on a 5-10 minute rant about there are good and bad people in the world but she thinks most people are good… blah blah blah blah…. Sometimes people are mean. There are givers and takers in the world and if you’re not giving then you’re a taker and if you’re not taking then you’re a giver but she thinks most people are takers…blah blah blah…and that’s my opinion!
I’m thinking, umm…? Huh?!? This is starting to feel incredibly awkward, nearly nonsensical, and gruffly condescending to boot! I don’t even know how to respond to this, as nothing about these incidents was related in any way whatsoever to “givers and takers” nor “good vs. bad people”. These were just a few random incidents from years ago that were rather bizarre and didn’t make sense to me. Nothing was mean. Nothing was giving or taking…
I sensed hostility, which I couldn’t understand, but I carefully said, I’m a little confused now because I didn’t get to finish telling you what I wanted your opinion on because you said you didn’t want to hear it and that’s okay, Shari… but nothing I shared or wanted to share was about anything “mean” anyone did or about “taking vs. giving”, but I appreciate your opinion and I’m grateful for your time and your thoughts.
Now, her hostility rose and she went straight to demeaning, I have two kids! I had a car accident this week! I’m NOT going to listen for 20 minutes while you tell me every mean thing anyone’s ever done to you in your whole life. WHAT are you asking me here?
I’m floored. Just floored. What????? I hadn’t even told her and none of it pertained to people being mean to me…much less “every mean thing anyone’s done to me in my life”?!? It wasn’t even about anyone doing ANYTHING “mean” to me?! Now, I’m getting really discombobulated and trying to walk on eggshells with every reply. I really just want to end this conversation, yet I had the distinct sense of being pushed up against a wall, cornered and bullied, with no polite or delicate way to tiptoe out.
I say, Okay. I totally understood you when you said you didn’t want to listen to me tell you about this and that’s perfectly fine. It wasn’t anything really important, just some old stuff I wanted to get your opinion on, but since I didn’t get to tell you about them, you can’t give an opinion because you don’t even know. None of it was mean or related to anything mean anyone’s done to me, so I’m not sure where you’re getting your opinion, but I really don’t want to discuss it anymore. I feel like you’re pushing me in a corner and I don’t know what to even say, but let’s just forget about that now, ok?
Her hostility rises again.
HOW LONG IS IT GOING TO TAKE YOU TO TELL ME CHLOE? 5 MINUTES? 15 MINUTES? AN HOUR????? I GAVE YOU MY OPINION BUT YOU DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT. YOU’RE PUSHING MEEEEEE IN A CORNER HERE!!!!!!!!
Ummmm holy mother of God…whaaattt??
At this point, I realize I can’t get out of this gracefully or by any other means either.
I literally don’t even know what to say anymore!
I say, I’m not pushing you in a corner, you said you aren’t going to listen to it, I said that was fine, and asked if we could drop it… Shari, I honestly don’t know what to say here… Can we forget about it? It was trivial…and I’m feeling uncomfortable even discussing it at all right now. You’re busy and it was just a silly thing.
She says, I asked you a direct question and you won’t even answer it! Why won’t you just answer my question?!?
OMFG… is this really happening?? WTF IS THIS??
I say, Shari, I can’t answer your question because I don’t know how long it would take to tell you. I’ve not timed myself telling anyone before so I’m not comfortable saying it will take such-n-such amount of time. You’re busy and don’t want to hear it and I really no longer want to bother with discussing it.
I asked you a simple question and you can’t even answer it and you don’t seem to want to hear my opinion! WHAT are you asking from me here??!??!! Do you WANT my opinion or not?????
OMG…I just want to hang the phone up on her now.
This is maniacal and senseless and I’m just getting more and more
confused by the second.
So I say, I keep asking if we can drop it. I can’t seem to find the right answers for you here and you don’t want to hear what I wanted to tell you. Your opinion had nothing to do with the scenario since you don’t know the scenario, but I’m really grateful for your time, though. I really think I should go.
Shari says, We could find a resolution to this Chloe, but you just don’t seem to want to resolve it with me? Do you want to resolve this or not?
I say, I’m too confused about this entire conversation right now to keep discussing it and you’re busy, so I think I just need to go.
Okay Chloe, if you’re not willing to resolve this, there’s nothing more I can do.
Okay, Shari. Well, thank you so much for your time. I really do appreciate it. Bye.
When I finally hung up that phone, I felt exhausted, terribly disoriented, and almost slightly bruised and battered… as if I’d just ridden in a tilt-a-whirl and been spun hard and tossed around from all sides . So mentally disoriented that my physical equilibrium even felt off! And my feelings were slightly hurt as well. None of that had been necessary. I’d told her in advance what it was about. I’d asked to discuss it when she had the time, and only if she didn’t mind.
Just yuk… total yuk. And yet rather grateful I hadn’t finished sharing about this… or anything else either… with her. Not sure what her deal is, but she clearly is not a safe person to share personal or sensitive things with!
I could never presume to know enough to diagnose Shari as a pathological narcissist, but holy FUCK this was exactly like the circular, impossible, confusing as HELL madness of trying to have a conversation with a narcissist!