A friend of mine has a new boyfriend whom she idolizes. He seems no different from her last two husbands, but, as long as she’s happy, fine. The problem is that whenever she drops by with him in tow, he snoops through my stuff while she and I talk. My friend and I sit on the couch, and he wanders through my living room, dining room and kitchen. Here and there, he’ll interrupt to ask about something on my dining-room table, inside my (closed) bookcase, etc. I don’t like answering his questions. The guy is annoying, and my friend never seems to notice or think it’s odd. How should I handle this?
Stand on the porch and chat? If that doesn’t seem like a viable option—and I’m hoping you don’t think it is—try being direct. When they arrive, invite them both to sit with you in the living room. If he gets up to meander, ask where he’s headed (in a lighthearted tone, of course). He might say he just wants to look around or stretch his legs. You can respond, “I would be more comfortable if we all stayed in the same room together.” If he wants to know why, be honest: “I don’t like answering questions about my personal stuff.”
It’s likely he has no idea he is so annoying. He may not even realize he snoops. It could be a nervous habit, a neurotic compulsion or residue from a former career as a thief. (OK, strike the criminal thing, I’m kidding.)
Your girlfriend may be too blindly into him to notice it, or she’s simply accepted the behavior. And that inspires me to point you toward a different perspective: What are you afraid he will find? While I completely agree that it’s disturbing to have someone sifting through your belongings, it may also be triggering a deeper issue. Do you have bills open on the dining-room table and shame about your financial situation? Are there personal journals on the bookshelf with details of your emotional life that would deflate your public image? Respect yourself by accepting your own shortcomings. Then remove personal items from the public spaces of your home or get comfy letting it all hang out.
We have an office pool to buy cards and flowers for colleagues who have lost a loved one, birthed a baby, etc. A longtime employee intimidates us into giving money. I dislike her guilt-inducing announcements at staff meetings and her e-mails to those who have not contributed. But this is worse: She only buys stuff for people she likes. I don’t know how to deal with this issue without looking like the bad guy. Any ideas?
The usual office shtick would be to have a committee to decide who warrants a card or a gift, but I dislike meetings because they’re mostly about posturing and preening. My preference is to create criteria to determine who receives congrats or condolences. One easy formula is simply to recognize literal births and deaths. Symbolic deaths, like an employee who leaves to seek career fortune elsewhere, can be celebrated by that person’s circle of in-house pals. Your human-resources department can fete an employee who is retiring.
So, the next time your colleague pleads for contributions at a staff meeting, follow her. Stand up, thank her for organizing the effort and encourage others to open their wallets. Then suggest the birth and death criteria. Offer to write it up and e-mail it to everyone. If that works, great. If not, adopt the responsibility of sending a card to those unrecognized by your colleague. After all, that’s what love does, right?