It’s YOUR fault that I behaved badly.

There is a power that some people possess that has always confused me.  Certain people have an uncanny ability to avoid accountability for their actions by twisting and stretching the situation so that you are the reason the problem exists. These people are emotionally volatile and by the time they’ve finished, they can almost convince you that it’s not their behavior that is the concern. It is your REACTION to their behavior that is the problem.

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These people have a magical way with words that always manages to clear them of any responsibility or wrong-doing.  Their ability to  flip a situation around and make you feel guilty is mind-boggling. Usually it happens so fast that you don’t even realize it until all the drama is over.  I’ll give an example:

You have a friend you go to lunch with.  Maybe she realizes she’s being rude. Maybe she doesn’t, but when she wants the waitress  she waves her hand in the air, wolf whistles and shouts “Hey! Over here!”  It embarrasses you. When the waitress does come, she is really demanding and rude. “I know they give you onions on the side, but I want you to dice them for me.”  “I want lemon for my tea but don’t put it on the glass. Bring an extra dish for it to sit on.”  “This butter for my rolls is too hard. Go find some soft butter.” On top of all that, she leaves a lousy tip. $1. No matter what her meal costs, she always leaves a dollar. It’s gotten to the point where you don’t even want to go out to lunch with her anymore because it is so embarrassing. If you just avoid her, you know it will turn into a big deal. You decide to talk to her about it.

You tiptoe. You approach slowly. “There is something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about. When we go out to eat, you are not polite to the wait staff.  You ask them to go above and beyond for you. You whistle and wave at them. You only leave $1 tip.”  Probably you drag this conversation out a little longer but for the sake of the blog, that’s the gist of it.

Your friend immediately reacts.”WHAT? So you’re sitting here trying to tell me that I’m rude? So you’re taking the side of a waitress – someone you don’t even KNOW?  You’re saying that when I go out to eat I shouldn’t ask for my food to be cooked the way I like it because it’s TOO DEMANDING?”

You try to explain, but your friend isn’t listening. She’s intent on making this YOUR fault. Not hers “So I’m at a restaurant paying $2 for a glass of tea and when it’s empty I’m NOT supposed to signal the waitress?!? I’m supposed to just wait until she has the TIME to fill my drink while my food gets cold? That’s what you expect? That I shouldn’t order my food the way I want and shouldn’t expect my drink to be refilled?!? Why the hell even go? Fine. You win!! You want to be that way? Don’t ever worry about going to a restaurant with me EVER again!”

 


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You’re shell shocked. What just happened here?  You check yourself. You ask others if they would deem her behavior rude. Yes, they would. Yet she’s turned it around and made it so you are the jerk with unreasonable demands.

For all Aspies, these types of arguments are hurtful.  For some Aspies who experienced bullying or abuse, these types of arguments are even more damaging. Because so many of us were bullied or endured abuse from our families, screaming and yelling causes us to shut down. It mentally reverts us back to that small, scared child who cannot defend him/herself: that child that just wants to shrink into the pavement and disappear. We are so distraught by the anger and the yelling that we cannot even defend our position. We just want to melt into the wall.

What’s even worse is that for many non-autistic people, fighting like this is acceptable. They scream. They yell. The next day they are fine. We aren’t. We’re still trying to find a logical, sensible solution to the problem. We’re still trying to figure out what part of our approach was so repulsive that the person reacted the way they did. We’re swimming in a sea of lost. More than likely we are blaming ourselves because we’ve always failed at “reading people” that it never occurs to us that the other person is IN THE WRONG.

They say things like “I got mad. I’m  over it. YOU need to get over it too”  AS IF it were that easy for us.  We need to analyze. We want to know why. What caused it? We want to break it down into micro-particles so we NEVER make that mistake again. All the while, never realizing that it wasn’t our fault. 

We have been taught that we are the oddballs – the ones who are different, so when people react differently than we think they should, we automatically assume it was our error. It’s NOT. 

I wish I could tell you how to deal with individuals like this. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. It’s hard when they are your ‘friends’ but it is even harder when they are your family.  Maybe some day I’ll know how to approach them better. Maybe some day I’ll be able to stand my ground. But for now…I’ve taken the first step by realizing that at least this time… this time… *I* am not wrong.

Have you had an experience like this?  How did you react?

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31 thoughts on “It’s YOUR fault that I behaved badly.

  1. Ugh, I know people who do this. I never find this type of fighting acceptable. I don’t deal well with yelling—I have a tendency to freeze up. I believe it is never acceptable to yell at anyone, and if I feel like I am going to do that, I walk away and come back to it later when I am calmer. I expect others to do the same. If someone yells at me, that person is not my friend. Unfortunately, some people feel very defensive at the very first hint of criticism because they are not confident in themselves, and they lash out at others because of this. I feel sorry for them, but not sorry enough to want to be around them and be subjected to abuse. It doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong (or whether anyone is wrong)—what matters is that people should always treat others with respect (including children). I believe we need to surround ourselves with positive people in our lives. It’s hard when it’s your family – I am lucky that I had wonderful parents who have always been supportive of me. I wish you all the best in dealing with these experiences, and I hope you have very few of them in future!

  2. Love, there IS no “figuring it out”. It boils down very simple without figuring.

    Lady Wife was on a gun range where essentially the same toxic-to-others behavior was indulged in. “What do you do about a jerk like that, waving his piece around so carelessly he surely doesn’t even know where it’s pointing?” Her mentor told her “there’s nothing you can do about it. You simply get yourself out of there while you can.”

  3. I guess the reaction we get from people related to how we raise the concerns. I tend to ask questions rather than making a statement. I also provide the context. So in the above situation I would point out that the waitress has a lot to do and then ask your friend if she could be a little more patient with the waitress by saying “isn;t she a wonderful waitress with so many customers to deal with”. Some people lack insight and do not perceive that their actions can be viewed as rude and will take offence at a statement. Also, perhaps point out the etiquette that is involved in tipping, such as that the norm is to tip 10% or whatever the percentage is. Perhaps indicate out loud how you are calculating your tip with “So my share is $20 and the ten percent tip on that is $2 so there’s my $22 including the tip”.

    • Thanks Glenn. 🙂 The issue I have had in the past is that these types of situation “twister” people don’t want to change. I think it’s almost a bullying tactic. They want to do what they want to do completely guilt free. If you say anything, you’re the bad guy. They don’t want anyone to tell them how to tip or that the waitress is busy. This type of person would scoff if you said the waitress has many customers to deal with and say “she has just as many as anyone else” or “if the job is too hard for her she should get another job.” This type of person would not care that you’re leaving a 10% (too low by the way) tip. “You really think she’s worth TWO DOLLARS. Ha ha ha.” Because it isn’t about the situation an the restaurant.

      It’s about the way they deflect any kind of criticism as a personal attack. Even constructive criticism. It’s about their inability to hear another person say “what you did hurts me” because they are NOT WRONG. They are more concerned with being RIGHT (in their mind) than not being hurtful. It’s about a lack of accountability because everything is always someone else’s fault. It’s about a lack of respect for your feelings because they can’t honestly inspect their own behavior.

      They are emotional bullies. The problem is no one wants to confront them or they get written off because “that’s just they way she is.” Well maybe she is the way she is, but if that’s true then I am the way I am and I can’t tolerate that type of behavior.

  4. This may sound harsh, but over the years I’ve made myself much happier by simply cutting negative people out of my life. The way I see it, if you don’t respect me, if you only drag me down, I’m not going to waste my time with you.
    Now, I don’t know how applicable this is to you, as you may value this person’s friendship and not want to lose them, but I just thought I’d give my two cents, as I can totally relate to where you’re coming from.

    • Thanks for the advice 🙂 I agree. With friends and acquaintances, I do remove them. I have no time for that sort of behavior. It is harder when it’s family. Thanks for reading my blog!

    • hi max 🙂
      I like your advice … and I’ve heard that same advice myself many times. in theory it “makes sense”. but in reality as we know it, it isn’t always desirable – or even possible – to just cut all the negative people out of our life. what if its a family member? or a colleague? or a boss? or some one else we are obliged to deal with. we often aren’t in a position to remove them from our life, unfortunately.
      do you have any advice for those kinds of situations? 🙂
      thanks

  5. I have have encountered this more times than I can count. I am also hypersensitive, and very, very easily guilted…even when it is clearly about something I haven’t done, and have no control over.
    You can not control how others are going to behave ot react, especially not with the people who refuse to admit personal responsibility. All you can do is minimize your contact with them as best you can. And if possible, cut ties with them.
    Believe me, I know that’s a helluva a lot easier said than done. But you need to protect yourself. Always.
    Hugs for you. 🙂

    • Wonderful advice. You are right. It IS hard if you love someone who behaves this way because if you love someone, you hope that they will love you enough to want to listen. To want to care. To want to understand. You keep hoping that this time they will see that you aren’t attacking them and that you care about them. They are like bitter, wounded animals that just lash out because their lives are so miserable. You hope that you’ll be able to convince them you love them, but it doesn’t happen. They have to love themselves first and that is the hardest step.

  6. “Why do you always have to start an argument?!”
    That was said to me countless times by my mother. Most of my life I actually believed I was causing arguments with her. I also excused much of her behavior towards me as just who she is, but I am not willing to do that any more. It takes me days to recover from a 20 minute encounter with her being volatile, while she’s back to her “normal” self the next day (maybe even after a few hours, I don’t know). After years of unpredictably being screamed at – not understanding that I didn’t do anything wrong – I catch myself feeling the need to apologize for the fact that I have things to say. So, as far as a friend acting like that, there’s not much question. I would methodically distance myself from that person. I’m leaning towards doing the same with my mother.

    • I had to distance myself from my mother for the same reasons. I couldn’t take the constant negativity. I thought I would miss her. I thought I would go running back, but I didn’t. Once I completely distanced her, it became easy to forget her and I felt free for the first time in my life. I send you my best wishes. It’s a tough battle.

    • My husband says those words to me each time we disagree on something or if we argue. Today he said I it in Walmart while I was helping him look for his size briefs. I didn’t realize we were having an argument, but he says those exact words ” why do you always have to start an argument over stupid things?”
      I couldn’t take it today, I walked away from my car full of stuff and I left, I went out into the parking lot too just escape the put down.
      It’s like living with my alcoholic mother all over again, I’m a always to blame, even for things I don’t realize are happening. A discussion is always an argument if we aren’t in total agreement. It’s mentally draining to live like this.

  7. Your words and the “aspie” take – I just realised tonight it is not an aspie take. It is a loving take. Your blogs are a mirror of how so often we each do to each other in a way which is taken as “normal” – taken for granted as the way it is. When all along behaviours such as you write about are not to do with the confusion it causes an aspie. Rather why does it not cause confusion to each and every one of us human beings. Because it should. Always.

  8. Honestly, I don’t even know how to handle it myself. A certain authority figure in my youth was (and still is) a master at the art of turning my complaints about his behavior that concerned me that was in the wrong into a problem that was my fault, so I understand perfectly what you mean by this. Although it’s easier for me to walk away from the conversation and still know -he- is the one in the wrong here, it was always super frustrating that I couldn’t address the issue and get a solution. And I never, ever got a solution. If I managed to firmly keep my ground and insist that the way he treated me was a problem, he turned the tables by accusing me of being selfish and immature and ended the conversation. And to add insult to injury, if I ever agreed with him on anything later, suddenly comments about how I was becoming mature or at least making a mature decision.

    The closest I ever got to a viable solution to this ridiculous problem was to call out the act. “Hold on. You’re turning this problem on me. We are not discussing me right now, and I’m not trying to attack you, I’m trying to address an actual problem. If we can’t resolve this problem, our relationship will be damaged. Is it more important that you don’t have fault than that we continue our relationship?”
    Something along those lines. It doesn’t always work. It did help with my authority figure sort of eventually (that’s actually a complicated one).

  9. Someone I was very close to in the past could have achieved a degree in playing mind games. This person did it knowing exactly what they were doing to me. I think it was done because they enjoyed my utter confusion and frustration. This person also twisted things expertly so that everything became my fault.
    I send you a big hug Pensive
    Tracey xxx

  10. Your first paragraph describes my ex husband perfectly. He would talk circles around me and turn every single thing I said back onto me. I tried to fight it and work through it for way, way too long and would get so frustrated because I just couldn’t seem to get a handle on it no matter how prepared I thought I was. Thank you for writing this! You’re so right that about how stressful it is. Finally cutting him out of my life completely was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also the best thing. I didn’t realize how bad things were with him until I escaped it.
    I’m just really starting to realize that I am most likely an aspie. Your writing is helping me make sense of a lot of this, and to remind me that my quirks are also my strengths. For so long I was told that I was broken, it’s such a relief to find out my gears just turn differently than most people’s.
    Thank you.
    Peg

  11. I relate so much to this blog. 🙂
    I was raised to believe that how others treated me was what I deserved. if someone was rude, insensitive, invalidating, aggressive or even abusive it was MY FAULT. and if someone did or said something wrong, or was unhappy in any way it was ME who was to blame. and I’ve had a lot of people over the years convince me (very easily) that it was ME who was wrong for being hurt, or being offended, or asking them not to be rude and insulting to someone (or to me).
    I’m in my mid forties and only worked out in recent years (and thanks to therapy!) that this is simply not true! (Y)
    but for anyone raised like this (and in an abusive environment) old habits of thinking die hard. that natural instinct to blame ourselves rather than identify responsibility in those who refuse to hold themselves accountable still lives on. and must be battled with.
    Ironically, just last night I was watching an episode of a reality tv series with police officers dealing with “difficult” drivers, with my NT hubby (ie; not aspie). I asked him “why is it that when someone has said or done something which is so obviously wrong that your average 5 year old could work it out, that instead of being honest and acknowledging it they get aggressive and try to pretend that THEY are the victim. that they have done nothing wrong, and that the other person is the one who is behaving badly??. I mean this guy was doing 133kph in a 70kph zone, and he didn’t stop for a stop sign. your average goldfish could see he was in the wrong yet he’s getting aggro and saying the police are harassing him and have no right to ticket him? why?”
    my NT was either unable or unwilling to explain this in a way I could understand. all he would say is “not everyone has aspergers like you. not everyone is honest. not everyone sees things the way you do”.
    if anyone has a magic wand to try to “fix” these people (ie; people who blame us/others rather than accept they did/said something bad) so they correct their stinky attitudes and behaviours then please add me to the list of those who wish to borrow it! 😉

  12. It’s even worse working as an aspie at a customer service desk. What helped me most was hearing Bill Cosby in my head saying “She had the *brain* **damage**.” I never saw myself as the one with the problem until I was diagnosed, I just labeled the world around me as stupid. My psychologist said that kind of narcissism might be what saved me from being suicidal as a teenager, because my home life was so restrictive.

  13. My partner has recently been diagnosed with Aspergers at the age of 50 and I am NT. He is finding it very difficult to come to terms with,as I suspect most people would. The problem is that he displays this behaviour to me. Every time anything goes wrong it is my fault. I am not quick thinking enough to turn it back round and explain that it is not my fault. It leaves me very hurt and upset and struggling to deal with him so I always feel as if he is bullying me. Yet when I say anything he throws at me that he is autistic and he can’t help the way he behaves. On the one hand he is an amazing man with many wonderful qualities and I love him dearly, but I feel so downtrodden and overuled by him.

  14. Hmm it appears like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any tips and hints for first-time blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate it.

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