Social Question

Matcauthon's avatar

How do you handle a dysfunctional member of a social group?

Asked by Matcauthon (39points) June 8th, 2015

I started hanging out with a group on people a few years ago including many quality individuals who I would be loath to lose.

There is one member whom I worry about. He’s incredibly bizarre, and I worry about what the future holds for him.

Here are some characteristics:
– He is ABSOLUTELY fascinated with Freddie Mercury. He owns multiple shirts, strikes the poses, sings the songs in public, etc.
– 90% of what he talks about ends up referring to music, incredibly obscure movie quotes and scenes, homosexual sex or animal sex.
– He speaks very very softly, to the point where you have to lean into him and concentrate if you wish to actually hear what he’s saying.
– He engages in attention seeking, inappropriate behaviors that fall short of actual injury. For example, at a recent get together he snuck up behind someone there and attempted to stick his finger in their ear. After his hand was slapped away, he continued to try.
– He doesn’t present himself well. He dresses poorly and has somewhat poor personal hygiene.
– At every social gathering, he’s always the one who takes the most pictures in order to post them on FB.

He is tolerated by the group, and as it seems he has a good heart and doesn’t wish anyone harm, the group in general thinks that getting more social interaction will do him good. Everyone seems to agree he’s mentally challenged, but they deal with it.

I worry that he’s sexually repressed and attention seeking, likely from poor self esteem and an inability to express himself adequately. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear that someday this will lead to inappropriate (probably sexual) behavior that really will hurt someone.

It has been suggested to me that someone has to sit down and explain this all to him directly and discuss how his actions make others feel. I don’t know if this strategy will accomplish anything.

I would be curious to hear your opinions.

Thanks in advance

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14 Answers

Mimishu1995's avatar

I think you should take that advice of talking to him. If he is truly a kind person like you said, he may not know his action annoys people. Maybe you can get to know what his problem is too.

Some people are just bad at social interraction and annoy others without knowing it.

zenvelo's avatar

In old style, Miss Manners would say the best way to handle this is to use “the cold shoulder.”

The way to handle dysfunction, or inappropriate behavior, is to not get drawn into it in any way, not to react, and fail to recognize the behavior.

The exception is if it directly involves you because of physical contact. Then you must firmly but directly tell him, “don’t do that, don’t do that ever again. Do not touch me in any way.” And then move away from him. Don’t engage in any argument or discussion, just repeat, “do not touch me.”

Just because “the group” sort of tolerates his behavior, does not mean you must. But you do not have to be condemnatory either. His behavior will be a minor annoyance if you ignore it and don’t get involved in it positively or negatively.

Ignore him. If someone asks why you don’t seem involved one way or another, just say,“I prefer not to get involved in his drama.” If he speaks quietly, don’t lean in to hear, and don’t ask him to repeat himself. If he gets upset at that, just say, “You were talking to yourself, so I was trying to not intrude in your conversation.”

And don’t be the one to volunteer and have a conversation with him. That will be frustrating to you and get you involved with him, but there will not be a positive response, people like this do not appreciate the effort, in fact they resent it.

Mariah's avatar

How old are you guys? This to me sounds like young teenage behavior that he will probably grow out of.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think @zenvelo nailed it.

ucme's avatar

By throwing things at them, soft furnishings mostly, but never rule out brass candlesticks & such like.

janbb's avatar

It sounds like he has some form of mental illness or a personality disorder that is probably beyond the power of anyone in the group to improve. It might be useful to establish some clear boundaries with him – either personally or as a group – and let him know when he has stepped over them. It is nice of the group to allow him to be a member so he has some social outlets. Just realize that much of his behavior is beyond his control and protect yourself from over-involvement with him.

marinelife's avatar

I doubt that talking to him will help if he has mental and emotional issues as serious as his behavior suggests. If he is just immature, it might.

It won’t hurt though.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Is he worth saving? Meaning, is it worth your emotional angst and effort – with no guarantee of success – to even engage with this guy? Only you can make the decision.

Some people don’t want to be ‘helped’.

Matcauthon's avatar

@Mariah: We are all in our thirties, including the person queried about. He has some sort of mental/personality dysfunction. He even seems to be aware of that. Yet the outlandish behavior continues.

@Zenvelo & @elbanditoroso: I am tempted to take your advice, as I don’t think anything I say will really help, and it might give him an excuse to attempt to get more involvement from me. My only reservations are what effects this strategy will have with the rest of the group, which I value; and whether there is anything I CAN do which may prevent others from being hurt down the road.

Dutchess_III's avatar


Can you discuss it with the rest of the group? It would be a whole lot more effective if everyone was on the same page.

Mariah's avatar

@Matcauthon Oh jesus. Original statement retracted.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I agree with the bandit. You should assess the level of involvement you are prepared to commit to the “project” and if still motivated, consider that the job is probably one for experts. Which brings up a point worth mentioning. It is unlikely that your friend could manage to arrive at his 30s without a diagnosis of some kind regarding his condition. Ask him about it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Sorry. I was told that “effects” is used as a noun in that sentence, therefore it was correct.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

You said “He is tolerated by the group, and as it seems he has a good heart and doesn’t wish anyone harm, the group in general thinks that getting more social interaction will do him good. Everyone seems to agree he’s mentally challenged, but they deal with it.” The man obviously has issues. It would seem the rest of your group are kind enough to overlook his obvious flaws and let him continue to be part of the group. That’s commendable. As has been said, you don’t have to engage with him beyond what’s absolutely necessary.

Other than that, if he has a close friend who can let him know that his behaviour is bothering people, that might help but it might have no effect at all. I don’t think you (or close friends) can do anything apart from letting him know when he crosses the line and continuing to be patient. Or cut him loose.

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