Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My company doesn't want your misery

It perplexes me how, when something pleasant occurs to someone, while they may want to spread the news, the event generally is a bit of an egocentric one, such that the lucky person is justified to bask and revel in it.

However, when someone makes a negative revelation, they often feel the need to play hot potato. They are not content to keep this discovery to themselves, but rather need to fling it desperately at others, with the hope that they will catch it, too.

As they say, misery loves company.

Which is why, no matter what they may say in a job interview, some people are never content merely claiming "differences in perspectives" when bidding farewell to a job or even a friendship.

Instead, they feel the need to tear the entire edifice down, and lure in as many people to "their" side as possible to aid in the destruction, no matter how separate these people may be from this initial"difference in perspective".

Humans tend not to be too good at letting bygones be bygones.

The fact that this is directly relevant to me at this moment is probably pretty transparent at this point.

Today was my first day back in the lab after the holidays. I hadn't even gotten my first coffee of the day when I was cornered at my computer by PL.

(A bit of an introduction to PL: She is a Masters student in my lab. While her and I have developed a friendship, due to some circumstances out of the scope of the issue at hand, and her tendencies towards gossip, I try to remain a little in the sidelines in interactions with her. She also is one of those uber-proud Americans in Canada. While I have no problem with pride in one's country, I know she misses her home, and I find Canadian tendencies towards US-bashing tiresome, I don't need to be constantly reminded how much better and more glamourous everything-- down to the most miniscule detail-- is in the States. Stop pretending like we live in a clueless little hick town instead of a city of several million. You're the one who moved here after all.)

PL has not been subtle in her disdain for our supervisor recently. However, I wasn't prepared for the first thing out of her mouth after telling me how badly she wanted to connect after the holidays to be how she was sick and tired of everything, thinking of dropping out, etc, etc...

At first, I thought maybe this was her socially unskilled way of telling me she needed a sympathetic ear. However, it turned to a tale of how no one was happy in our program. R was thinking of dropping out because the program didn't provide enough money. T missed her partner. K was too stressed. There was only one person in her entire cohort who actually liked the program.

Then it went on to more problems with the university, the horrendous nature of our supervisor, how she had convinced our mutual friend N not to return for her PhD.

Every time she could steal a moment of my time, it went on.

And, gradually, I realized that she was not merely talking for the sake of hearing herself. She was trying to convince me that I had made the incorrect choice. That all these people couldn't be wrong. That there was something somehow wrong with me for being happy with my choice. That I was erroneous to be pleased with my relationship with my supervisor, for there was so many ways he was wronging me.

She was trying to make me feel guilty for being satisfied.

And I just wanted to scream at her. I wanted to shout that she does not merely have horrible luck, but that she attracts drama to herself. I wanted to scold her for being ungrateful for getting into such a well-known school with such a phenomenal and respected supervisor, especially when she was only wait-listed at this one grad school, whereas I got into multiple good schools and carefully chose this one. I wanted yell at her to stop being so unprofessional, that conflicts with a supervisor at this stage in one's career weren't resolved by underhanded gossipy techniques. I wanted to bellow that of course graduate school is insanely hard at times, of course money is tight, of course its hard to be separate from your loved ones-- this was all part of the package you signed up for, and if you can't handle it, that's fine, but don't act surprised and try to bring us all down with you.

Instead, I just nod, grunt something non-committal about how stressed she sounds, and pretend to be fixated by my computer screen.

And inwardly realize that it is to the sidelines for me again. It seems that even those planning to be responsible for the mental health of others cannot avoid petty drama. So, again, as I have done with other groups since grad school begin, I play neutral, and slowly back away.

Lab work is feeling more like an exercise in biting my tongue than productivity lately.

34 comments:

Psychgrad said...

You're wise to avoid the drama. It can be toxic. I prefer to stay obliviously content. It sounds like you have a good practicum (although inconveniently located) and you rarely if ever say anything negative about your supervisor (except maybe his deadlines and then not giving feedback for a month).

ana said...

That's very diplomatic of you, and god knows we all could use a little more diplomacy and a lot less drama in life.

eric1313 said...

Great title! Especially after reading the body of the work.

Ignore her completely, and that will break her heart. She sounds like a old-fashioned drama queen, so that is the best medicine for her.

Seriously--she talked a person out of returning for their PhD? She's daft and the person who took her advice is perhaps more so. She's pulling others into her dafty little black hole of bottomless self-pity.

You chose your path for a reason--psych masters are everywhere. The PhD will make such a huge difference in your life, and in the process of getting it you will add to the pool of knowledge in your field in general. Everyone who comes here to read what you have to say admires your resolve and strength. Even that girl is jealous of your willpower and ability.

Rock on, Princess!

Beth said...

Even if you had said all those things to her, they wouldn't have convinced her. Her mission is to be RIGHT and to convince you as to the error of your ways. In doing so, she would then be able to justify her own stance. These kind of people are actually very insecure. Avoid her, (as you have been doing) as diplomatically as possible.

Ant said...

Sheesh, yeah you're wise. If you get drawn into that kind of confab you can either find yourself questioning your choice (unreasonably) simply because of her incessant wittering, or worse, you can find yourself co-opted onto her "side" against your supervisor (depending on how political she is). Watch this one.

lspoon said...

I sincerely dislike people who feel like it's their duty to make you see the imperfections in your life. There are some bandwagons most people don't want to jump on and it's irritating that other's cannot understand that!

Miriam D said...

I want to yell at this girl FOR you! Stop whining! Be happy you even got into grad school!! But I think you were wise in keeping your mouth shut and staying out of the drama.

And, yes, I did get your email, and am going to respond soon, when I have time to sit down and think!

La said...

I agree to just avoid the drama. Life is far too short to deal with stuff like that.

:)

Deutlich said...

In your shoes, I wouldn't have bit my tongue. I'm not good at that anyway.. especially when it starts coming into my own stratosphere.

Hopefully things will calm down soon.

autobiographyofmyfeet said...

I agree, avoiding the drama sounds like the route to go...

nicoleantoinette said...

This does not sound like someone I would want to spend ANY time with. I, however, am not so good at the tongue biting, so.. kudos on that :)

Hope said...

Good on you for not getting involved in her little drama.

Oh and oh! I also get so irritated with people who compare and complain about a country they have chosen to be in.

I also loved your title!

All Mod Cons said...

Personally, I blame George Bush.

CANADA ROCKS!

Michelle said...

ignoring the drama is definitely the best way to go. biting my tongue has saved me from many a quarrel.

Yoda said...

You are far too patient. I'd have told her to stuff it long time back.

I've been to Canada only once (Montreal) and I rather liked it. It was much better than most US cities, and the people there? Oh so friendly. I felt so much at home. I personally think Canada's awesome.

Damsel in Digress said...

first of all, hello! happy new year! i have missed you!

i loved this post. and, doy, it made me realize why i have missed reading your stuff so much! so insightful and accurate.

this girl? there are too many like her in my office as well. you are wise to stay away from her gossiping ways. these are the type of people that turn on you in a second. i try to stay away from this stuff as much as possible, but it's no wonder i often feel like my soul has taken a beating for the worse after two years in this kind of environment! good luck, pp. stay strong.

Steve Marks said...

Hey, thanks for stopping by my blog!

When you said "she does not merely have horrible luck, but she attracts drama to herself" I think you hit the nail on the head.

Way to go in flying above the fray on this one. It's so hard not to jump in and give someone like that a piece of your mind. But that's probably what she wants anyway -- more drama.

PrincessPolly said...

Frankly she sounds like a pain in arse and you're right to just back gracefully away from her. It seems like jealousy that you're happy with your choices - she clearly isn't and it's a clear case of trying to psych someone out, methinks!!! Silly cow. :( Incidentally, I think the whole Canadian/American relationship is a lot like the Scottish/English one. Doesn't really have anything to do with anything you have said I know, but the only person who is allowed to talk shit about my country is me!

brandy said...

Yikes. People like that are just exhausting aren't they? Good for you for staying out of the fray. It's been my experience that any other comment other than a non-committal nod/grunt just adds fuel to their fire.

Maxie said...

I know how hard it is to stay away from the drama... keep it up... it does pay off in the end!

Larissa said...

Good job on the tongue biting. It's usually hard (but wise) to not let yourself get sucked into someone else's mess.

Sheila said...

Wow! Over the years I have met and worked with a few people whom I swear enjoy being miserable. They love the crowd mentality - it proves to them how right they are.

Good for you for not letting her draw you in to her pit of despair!

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

Playing neutral and slowly backing away is about the best tactic to avoid trouble.

Just look at Switzerland.

Case closed.

Andrea said...

I gotta go the other way here. I have found that people like that want a sounding board and if you don't disagree with them, in their head, you're agreeing. I think it's better to disagree but oh so sweetly (to cut out any added drama) and refuse to get into a discussion as to why (then they get off on trying to convince you over and over) A "well, I have to disagree with you on that one, I love this program" (with a sweet smile) and a follow up "well, we'll have to agree to disagree on this one" (another sweet smile) ..or my standby "that's why God made chocolate and vanilla." If it keeps up you can say, oh so nicely and concilitorily, "You know, we just seem to disagree on this topic and I really don't want to have anything unpleassnt between us beasue I enjoy working with you so maybe we shouldn't talk about this." How is your ____going?" Change the topic to something else about her.

I had a friend like this and I would start the conversation when she came into my office with "Tell me something that is going well for you" and when she would start on her harangue I would laugh and say, "no,no, no I said something that is going well." She soon stopped coming by to complain because she didn't want to talk about something good.

A Margarita said...

There will always be those who want others to feel their misery. What can we do but tune them out and grin and bear it? It's a rather sad existence - I pity them.

mcgee said...

I think you made a very smart and diplomatic decision to stay away from the drama and gossip. As long as YOU are happy with where you are, that's all that matters.

Eve said...

That sucks! She sounds like a pain, but it just validates her dissatisfaction if there are others who aren't satisfied either.

Sounds like a good plan to back off.

I'm a complainer, but if someone is happy, I (like to think I) try not to be too much of a wet blanket. It's just a way of venting and commiserating.

Bjforsberg@new.rr.com said...

ARe you sure she didn't just need to be slapped out of her hysteria?

"I feel pretty stressed out, too, sometimes, but overall, I'm thinking that's part of the package with grad school, and I'm happy here. I've got to get back to work. I hope you feel better soon." :) Didn't you feel comfortable saying something like that, or do you mean that you actually don't want to engage her at all? (just curious).

This is my last comment on your blog, because I didn't realize you are a CANADIAN! JK!!!

Tina Vaziri said...

That sounds very unpleasant, and familiar, I know people like that.

A few times I've tried to help people and it's only brought shit into my life.

captain corky said...

She sounds like a good candidate for electroshock therapy. A few thousand volts should do her good.

Lisa said...

I have to admire your restraint. It's something I'm sorely lacking in my life. I would've gone off on her and attempt to shut her up, but I think it's safe to say nothing will. Good luck. :)

Therapeutic Ramblings said...

"She was trying to make me feel guilty for being satisfied."

This really stuck out for me. I see it a lot in grad school. I'm sure everyone in grad school has gripes about it (i.e. my supervisor was constantly changing when we met), but that's expected.

If someone is constantly negative, I tend to not deal with them, or if that can't happen...I just let them know that I don't want to hear it.

Therapeutic Ramblings said...

http://bp2.blogger.com/_a7jkcMVp5Vg/R4miseRyj3I/AAAAAAAAD64/DmU-6V5XICc/s400/greatwhitenorth.jpg

Abbey said...

I too hate it when people speak poorly about where they are living, when the choice is completely theirs. Course, I'm also a native Floridian and have often said, then go back to your crappy ass midwestern state. So, I'm biased I guess.

Being one that seems to draw drama to herself as well, I'm not sure what it is that can be done differently to avoid the drama. You know, if one were to want to do that.