Diversion and evasion are two effective means of deflecting concern or confrontation about problem behaviors. It is axiomatic that the person using these tactics has no intention whatsoever of taking responsibility for a behavior or of considering changing it. Rather than be accountable and responsible, what the issue-dodger and subject-changer really wants to do is to advance their own agenda at the expense of yours while simultaneously managing your impression of them.
I’m working through some of the instances of a flawed friendship using this article as a framework.
It’s amazingly instructive to write down things that have happened, especially when dealing with depression or other mood disorders. A large part of therapy is introspection, checking that your perception of reality is trust worthy. Dishonest, manipulative, or cruel people may use this aspect of mental health to try and distort your perception and memory of reality. Especially in confrontations of bad behavior, they may try to evade and divert, often denying objective reality [where they purposefully hurt you] for emotional twists and turns [where you become defensive or question yourself].
I had put up with a number of backhanded compliments such as in speaking of not displaying one of the portraits I had painted: “You know you’re no good at portraits. You’re alright at landscapes.” After my flatmate said something particularly cruel, I brought up the problem:
‘Don’t insult me in my own home. It’s a waste of both our time.’
Her response ‘You are the most negative person I know! I feel like I don’t even know you! You never take responsibility for your actions! Leave me alone! I just want to move out!’
Many times, attention is shifted toward the person trying to bring a problem behavior to light, thus effectively not only throwing that person on the defensive, but also prompting them to lose focus and become derailed in their pursuit of their own agenda.
‘The negative person’ comment is meant to make me feel defensive due to my depression. Of course, I’m not ashamed of my depression – I write about it and am working on it. I also know that I’m doing better. To say something like this, meant to hurt me and maybe even trigger me, didn’t do anything when I knew the words were totally false. Similarly, I’m not ashamed of the fact that I’m changing. Everyone else recognizes and has encouraged my healthy growth.
When I said that was too bad that she felt that way, rather than being hurt by it, she changed tactics. She said that I didn’t put any effort in our friendship, that I took things for granted. Again she was trying to change the focus to my failings when she had just insulted me at our dining room table. When I pointed out that we had just left an event about planning for graduate school in the future where I had asked her about her career goals and said that it was a good idea to work for them, she tried to turn it around again.
She described my negativity as basically being PC police. That I called her out on referring to her bf’s hiking trip and decision to pursue higher education as a vision quest and a revelation of a spirit animal. She said I’ve become a negative person and she has to watch what she says around me.
It’s funny that she says she doesn’t know me while also this is a change. How can you recognize a change if you knew nothing about the situation before? Also I have run a tumblr blog for years now; I have always written about not using racial slurs and concerns about appropriation. More so, she misrepresented what happened. She claimed a conversation that took place on the last 5 minutes of a walk home was a half hour of yelling. It’s hilarious the lies people will tell when it is so easy to verify the truth. It’s even more hilarious how a positive trait – being unwilling to tolerate harmful racism – was meant to be a negative.
If you try to confront an issue head on, a person who wants to manipulate you will do their best to side-step the issue. Evading a matter of central concern is a great way not only to dodge responsibility, but also to keep the light of illumination from shining on the behavior needing attention.
More so, I asked ‘So you don’t want me to talk to you? I may mess up at first because I considered you a friend and I’m used to talking to you. I also can’t only be in my room because I don’t get internet there. But I will try not to speak to you’ to clarify what she wanted and what I should do.
‘Just leave me alone! Stop talking to me!’
She abruptly ended the conversation when I was stepping forward to solve both her and my problem. She showed her hand. She wasn’t actually concerned with actions nor even acknowledging that her needs were heard.
Her goal was not to fix a problem, not of me being negative nor of her trying to repair the friendship.
The goal was to put me down and back on the defensive.
When it was clear that I was focused on accountability and actions that would work for both of us, she wanted to exit the conversation as quickly – and dramatically – as possible.