Wednesday, 8 June 2016

What do you do about Gerald?

Come with me, Dear Readers, on a little thought experiment.

Imagine you know a person. Let us call him Gerald. Gerald does not know you very well, nor do you know Gerald very well, but he is in your life in the way that people sometimes are.

Gerald, blithe and bonny and with the very best of intentions, does something fairly regularly which you find catastrophically annoying.

Actually, annoying is not a very good word for it. You do end up feeling grumpy and resentful and annoyed, but at first the thing itself is not so much annoying as smothering, and battering, and even sometimes slightly alarming. There are moments, before you talk yourself down off the ceiling, when it feels as if it denies your very sense of self, your sense of agency, your sense of discernment. This, you know, is absurd, since the thing itself is so small as to be insignificant. So you end up not in an existential vortex, but just quite annoyed.

The problem is that Gerald has absolutely no idea of all this. Gerald thinks he is being kind and helpful. Gerald is kind and helpful. This makes you even more annoyed, because how can you be annoyed with nice Gerald and all his good intentions? You start to fear that you are not the decent human you pretend to be.

Well, any sane person is almost certainly saying, could you not simply ask kind Gerald to desist?

You could. That would be the Occam’s Razor solution. But the problem is that you don’t really know Gerald well enough. You fear that however politely you phrased it, the request would sound churlish and uncharitable. It would be a rejection, of sorts. It could come out all wrong, and cause pain.

Then you start to wonder: perhaps it is your very own problem. You reckon that if you put it to a straw poll, there might be quite a lot of people who think that what Gerald is doing is perfectly acceptable. Those people might look at you as if you are a bit nuts in the head. So maybe the solution lies not in confronting Gerald, but in confronting yourself.

You wonder whether this is the essence of being a grown-up. People are always going to do things that you do not like. They are going to tell you things that upset you, and neglect to do things that would make you happy, and carelessly trample all over your finer feelings without knowing what it is they do. Why is it their responsibility to put themselves in your rather eccentric shoes? Perhaps it is your job to butch up and deal with it. The world, after all, does not revolve around you.

Essentially, you have two choices. A: You ask Gerald not to do the thing, and you risk hurting Gerald’s feelings for no particularly good reason. Or, B: you work sternly on yourself and realise that you are not the star of your very own opera and that it is your responsibility to deal with your singed feelings and not other people’s job to step around your tender sensibilities when they have plenty of sensibilities of their own to be worrying about.

What would you do?

My feeling is: B.

Bugger. I’m pretty much convinced that B is the only answer. Which means that I have to be the grown-up. I like to think that I am a grown-up but the truth is that there are times when I find it very tiring. I quite want to be six years old and lie down in fury and drum my heels on the floor. But I am nearly fifty, and throwing all the toys out of the pram is not a good look, at this age. Bugger, bugger, bugger. 

Still, it's quite a relief to have worked all that out. Now I have to go and rummage for my sensible hat and put it on my sensible head and march out in my sensible boots to face the sensible day. 


  1. Maybe there are a couple more options:
    B) Prevent Gerald from doing the annoying thing(s) by subtly manipulating the situation or circumstances such that it causes him to stop and think before he does the thing. Head him off at the pass, as it were.
    C) Get to know him better and allow him to know you well enough to know that you'd be annoyed by this thing.

    Otherwise it sounds like it's Plan B. Which is probaly what life is mostly made of anyway :-)

    1. I meant C) and D) obviously!

  2. I'm happy with A. Sometimes you have to offend a feeling. They won't die from that, they may even grow, from that. Don't 'bash' them with it , just mention it. If it doesn't work, then walk away. Gerald will then find others. "Water will always find it's own level"

  3. Have you been watching my office & seen me gritting my teeth to not get very very (career damagingly given who they are) cross with my own Gerald?? I have opted for plan c, smile sweetly, seethe quietly, & wait it out knowing that I can outlast this person... Having driven me nuts for 6 months they have resigned & will be gone in 6 weeks. Of course I may then find I have someone much worse than Gerald, but then again I may not.

  4. I statements can be useful if the relationship is worth the investment... When you do X, I feel Y or vice versa said with a smile :)

    Otherwise it is B all day long (B for what Buddha would do!)

  5. Oh, Tania - I have Geralds too! Yes, PLURAL Geralds - some of whom I'm related to, which makes it worse. Here are my Geralds:

    1. Gerald who offers unsolicited "help" to strangers, and then moans, martyr-like, when these people don't "appreciate" him.

    2. Gerald who whispers to someone at work, then laughs loudly. For eight hours straight.

    3. Gerald who finds he has nothing to do during his quieter moments than bang out the tattoo of the drum solo of his current favorite song on his desk top, which is right next to my desk top, which makes my desk shake.

    4. Then there are the "generic Geralds" - the ones who stop dead in front of you on a public stairway or in a store doorway to tie their shoe or have a deep conversation on their cell phone. The ones who stand in line behind you and jangle the change in their pockets incessantly, as if it proves they are more impatient at having to wait in line than anyone else. The ones who scream past you in traffic, only to sit stock still in front of you at a green light, because they're texting and not paying attention to the light. The ones who pay for a movie theater ticket, then sit and talk to the person next to them or text on their cell phones instead of watching the bloody movie. The ones who pay for a stage theater ticket, sit next to you, and then sing along with the songs and quote the lines in your ear, just to make sure you don't leave without knowing they've been to the theater WAY more than you have, and they're SUCH fans of this show.

    See, none of these Geralds are doing anything really REALLY horrendous, are they? But do they get on my last nerve? Why yes, yes they do!

  6. Obviously B. And good luck with that! Because Gerald and his ilk are usually oblivious to any saintly behaviour called upon due to their VERY BEING!!!

  7. I probably have too many conditions...
    Is your physical space being invaded? Is Gerald touching you (not necessarily in some weird sort of "sexual" way; that would be easy or easier to deal with) or getting right up in your face or, in some way, crossing a physical boundary? (Because that would illicit an immediate yelp, followed by a growl & teeth baring from me.)
    Is Gerald simply (operative word that) being mentally taxing? Making regular, & crushingly inane "small talk" regardless of what you are or need to be doing? (Then I'd go with Anonymous' Plan C or D.)
    It seems obvious that Gerald is NOT doing anything that could in the least negatively affect the horses or dogs...because I can't imagine you going along with anything like that AT ALL.

    I'm a firm believer in taking care of my emotional self (I abuse the physical one a bit; too much dark chocolate & too many hours online). If someone or something is making you even the slightest bit physically ill, shut them out, cut them off (unless the act of doing that would make you even more ill! Then you're in real trouble!). You really do need to look out for Number One (so that you can then look out for others...if you so desire!)

    Good luck! XXX


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