Dear One Geek,
I have a question about how to deal with an issue in my gaming/social group.
There is a woman who was originally introduced to our social circle and gaming group because she was another member’s girlfriend. She moved to the area to be with him, and we accepted her as his partner, even though (to be honest) none of us like her very much. She’s not a great roleplayer, but that we could over look – heck, gaming’s more about the social aspect than the game anyway, for us. But she doesn’t really mesh well with the rest of the group personality-wise, and she’s not much fun to be around.
What’s really uncomfortable, though, is that they’ve broken up and there’s a huge amount of tension between her and her now-ex (who is our long-time friend and who we do enjoy both hanging out with and roleplaying with.) She is passive aggressive, saying things to make him (and the rest of us) uncomfortable, and god forbid if her ex starts to flirt with or even socialize much with others in the group.
On the other hand, we’re all she has. She has no other games, no other friends, and she moved away from a home she loved and friends she loved to be here. I don’t want to kick her out because I’m too chicken to confront her, because I would hate to leave her alone like that, because her ex would be really upset with me, and because it’s kind of a crappy thing to do. But it’s definitely becoming more and more clear that she’s never going to really fit in with the group.
Am I just up the creek without a paddle?
Too Polite for My Own Good
Dear Too Polite,
Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where there is no real win-win situation, at least short term. You either have to be up front with her, or you have to put up with her. Neither option is easy, but she’s not likely to just magically stop coming to your group gatherings, especially if she has no other social outlets. So, if you want something to change, you’re going to have to be proactive about it.
I would recommend speaking with the rest of the group to see if they’re all on the same page. If this is just an interpersonal problem between you and her, then putting up with it (or trying to find ways to make positive connections with her to help counterbalance the negativity) may be the best plan. If, however, the entire group recognizes this as an issue, direct action may be the better choice.
Come up with a firm statement of what the group wants, in terms of their interaction with her. Maybe she works okay in one setting or campaign, but not another. Maybe one DM is willing to have her in his game as a player, but the rest prefer not to. Maybe she’s a good fit for casual game nights, but not your ongoing campaign games. Or maybe she just needs to be asked not to return to the group, period.
Another thing that the group should discuss is if they are willing to give her another chance. If it’s a firm “No, she has to go”, then all the members of the group should agree that the only acceptable solution is for her not to be a part of the game any longer. If, on the other hand, they want to give her another chance, setting up a specific “trial period” (anywhere between a month and three months) might work. At that point, the group gets together again and decides if the situation has improved, or if she needs to be asked to leave for good.
If you can come to a cohesive group-view on what the group’s interaction will be with her from there on out, then she needs to be informed of what the group has decided. This won’t be easy. And, she’s likely to have resentment or anger at being removed from some or all of the games/social gatherings, which is why I recommend a group confab before taking action. It really has to be a united front, for everyone’s sake.
Firm but non-accusatory statements generally work best in this kind of situation. Establishing the stated perimeters the group has decided upon as a done-deal is best. “The group has noticed some tension and we’ve discussed how to handle it. We don’t feel that the current situation is working out. We would like “X” (where X is whatever preference you’ve established as a group.)”
While this is likely to be a tense conversation, there are things you can do to minimize the potential for escalation.
Be Clear – “We would prefer you did not return to our Friday night games”, for example, or “You are welcome to come to our open gaming sessions on Saturdays, but you’re no longer invited to be a part of the Thursday ShadowRun game.” Using a firm (but polite) statement of the group’s desire makes your expectations clear, and doesn’t leave much for her to argue with.
Be Firm – If she asks why, being polite but straightforward is the best option. “We feel that there are personality conflicts and incompatibility issues that keep this from being a positive situation.” If you’ve agreed to give her another chance, state that as well. “We’re willing to give this another month, but we really just can’t go forward with the tension and discomfort that currently exists.”
Be Focused – Avoid blaming the break up – from the sounds of things, this really isn’t about you choosing him over her – it’s about her not being a good match for the group.
Ultimately, as long as you’re being polite and not unnecessarily unkind about the situation, you don’t have a moral obligation to be this person’s support system. You are not responsible for her situation, and while it would be wonderful if she did fit into your group well, that is not the way things worked out. If some of you want to continue socializing with her outside of the game setting, that’s perfectly fine (as long as it can be done without tearing the group apart) but you having given her a chance to be a part of the group does not confer any obligation to continue that relationship if it is not working out to be a positive one for everyone involved.
Thanks for writing, and Good Luck!
Have questions about how to handle a geeky situation? Need advice on social etiquette relating to games, movies, fan groups, conventions or other geek-ful settings? Write us at OneGeek@jesshartley.com and your question may get answered in one of our future “One Geek to Another” columns!