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Embarrassing Guest

Embarrassing Guest


Dear Rachel,

There is a woman in my community who, although good-hearted, is quite aggressive in the way she speaks to people and has offended friends of mine at events in the past, because she tells everyone how she thinks they should live their lives. A woman I greatly respect has told me that this woman is known to be unstable, and although I try to be friendly, it is hard to avoid her. I hope to be making an event myself in the near future which my boss's wife and co-workers will probably attend. I don't want her to offend them and harm my reputation at work, but I cannot prevent her from coming. What should I do to avoid mutual embarrassment?

Miami, FL

Dear R.L.,

The situation you are in is tough as you don’t want to hurt or embarrass anyone, and yet, if you do nothing, then most likely that is exactly what will happen.

For starters I would suggest finding out who this woman speaks to and will listen to. Perhaps this person can speak to her about how she behaves and gently explain that not everyone is able to really receive her advice, as good meaning as it may be. Being that you state that she is known to be unstable, it could be that people ignore a lot of what she says based on this. At the same time, it may make it even harder to approach her directly or try to explain the situation or sensitivities to her if she is unable to understand them.

What I would try to do at any gathering where this happens, and yours included, would be to assign someone the job of keeping an eye on her, and ensuring that she doesn’t approach certain people or engage them in conversation. This is clearly not something you can do at your own event, but is something that someone else can do for you.

Find someone who is discreet, sensitive and trustworthy, and explain the situation and the dynamics to them. This person should then make sure to step in and try to distract this woman or pull her away from the conversation. If she refuses to leave and makes a scene, the fact that she is unstable will become perfectly clear and if anything, people will hopefully feel sorry for her rather than take offense to anything she might say. If a scene does ensue, there is no problem with you or someone else politely apologizing for her behavior.

I would also go to great lengths to sit her at a table with people who know her and will not be offended by her. The more people she has to speak with and spend the evening with, the less likely she will be to begin new conversations with others. Try to keep her busy and occupied and make sure that you also ask some of your friends to spend time speaking with your boss and his wife so that they feel welcome and included, and then even if she does somehow approach them and says something inappropriate, it won’t reflect on your “friends” but will rather be the behavior of one individual.

And being that you are sensitive to this situation, I would try to do the same for others as well. When you are someplace that she is present, try spending time with this woman, try steering her away from conversations that she shouldn’t be having. You must realize that it is not only important that she doesn’t offend others, but also that she doesn’t embarrass herself. If you focus on helping her and being concerned about her and how she feels, then there will be a positive atmosphere and one of caring as opposed to one of avoidance.

As Chassidic philosophy teaches us, when there is a problem, there are two ways of handling it. We can either try to push it away or we can add so much positive energy that the negative naturally dissipates. In your situation, this will be your win-win. You need to make sure that there is so much kindness, warmth, happiness and comfort at your event, that there will be no room or place for someone to be offensive. When people are busy talking to your new guests and likewise people make sure to speak to this woman and make her feel welcome, then everyone will feel comfortable and simply be able to enjoy the evening!

Hope you have a beautiful and joyous event!


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Anonymous USA via March 22, 2016

That I'm afraid that I am THAT person in a group!

It helps to read the comments and know how it looks from the outside. This is especially true since it is obvious something repels people but even the few close friends I've had wouldn't tell me, perhaps out of kindness.

I can only speak from my perspective and say that I was not raised in a healthy or social family environment, and my gregarious but loving temperament means that there are probably some boundary issues. It is to reflect think on this when alone, but in a group I am often self conscious, so I try to over connect where I might otherwise be typically very invisible.

This has caused me much loneliness and sadness, and reading this was a good mirror. If only more people took resonsibility for the care and comfort of others socially as well as their own behavior as we once did...

I would like to thank those who left constructive comments, such as giving the guest a job to do, making sure they felt included, etc... : ) Reply

Rishe Deitsch Brooklyn January 8, 2013

agree with Ojai Yes, I too admire how you advised Reply

Malkah Israel December 31, 2012

Assign her a job! Let her help with the event! Give her a task that she can do - taking coats, bringing drinks, something which will not let her tarry around people for too long, but will earn her compliments and praise for her helpfulness. Reply

Anonymous December 30, 2012

dealt with the same thing recently I spent too much time agonizing about a person like that prior to a family simcha. I was sure that the person was going to make some of our less religious guests feel uncomfortable about their clothing styles. Some astute family members were busy watching out for that, with plans to intervene if necessary. Luckily, because we gave the person some positive attention, the person did not prey on anyone. Unfortunately people like that probably realize that they have the power to ruin someone's simcha and seem to need that kind of control over others. Very sad but we realized that every simcha has it's cast of characters. Reply

Hanalah Milwaulkee, USA January 14, 2011

Insightful loving reply You have dreamed the impossible dream and made it come true.

I would welcome an update on how this event turned out. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 13, 2011

Embarrassing Guest This woman may be kind-hearted, but she has serious problems and may not know how her behavior affects everyone else around her.

Did you ever try to talk to her about this? She needs to know that her aggressive talk and telling people how to live their lives is a no-no! Maybe she's lonely and doesn't know how to earn the respect of others.

Whatever the case, she needs counseling, and I hope she gets it! Reply

phyllis June 10, 2008

Wow! incredibly brilliant.

You have found a way where there was no way.

A chain of friendship surrounding her and discharging the problem safely. Reply

anonymous ojai, ca May 8, 2007

what a beautiful What a beautiful and respectful way of dealing with this issue. Reply