ADVICE 07: How to Confront Someone
To send in a question, please complete this short Google form. All submissions are anonymous, even to the author.
(Questions have been modified for space and clarity.)
I am in a text roleplay with various other people, which I am quite enjoying. However, the main game-master has relentlessly abused his power, creating a group of unhittable, indestructible, omnipotent characters. In addition to being unstoppable, these characters also constantly spout rhetoric about the evils of free will and the purity of chaos. I want to approach him about stopping, but I would like to know if you have any suggestions as to how to do it.
— Zeliak-Ian-El; Somewhere in the U.S.
While I’m unfamiliar with role-playing games, I’m all too familiar with people who overstep their bounds. We all are. Whether it’s a workplace nemesis or an out-of-line friend, we’ve all felt the need to confront someone. And regardless of setting, the rules of engagement are the same.
Because, I’m assuming, your communication with this person is text-based, that’s how I’d keep it. Write him a message. This is always my preferred method, at least initially. My thoughts are more scrambled than eggs, and writing allows me to try out different ways to say things before I have to say them.
I’d also make sure to contact him directly. Can you send a private message? While you’re probably not the only one who’s having these problems, and others are likely dying for someone to speak up, it’d be wise to not call him out in front of the group. Not yet, anyway. You don’t want to gang up on him, and you don’t want to put him on the defensive — which will get you nowhere, or someplace worse.
As for what to include in the message, think about the issues you mentioned in your submission above, then ask yourself the quintessential therapy question: How does all that make you feel? How do you feel when he abuses his power? How do you feel when his characters spout offensive rhetoric?
Your answers to those questions are what you want to write in the message. And as insignificant as it sounds, you want to avoid the word “You” as much as possible. “You” is accusatory. “You do this,” and “You do that.” People don’t hear that very well. “You unfairly created these unstoppable characters,” sounds better as, “I feel it’s unfair that unstoppable characters have been created.”
This shifts the focus from his mistakes to your feelings. And by focusing on your feelings, there’s a better chance he’ll read it as constructive concern as opposed to a personal attack.
You both enjoy this game and want it to continue, so you share a common goal. The more that’s made clear to him, the more likely he’ll be open to your thoughts.
And if that doesn’t work, can you rally the other players, stage a coup and overthrow his free-will-hating ass?
Brent Stoller is a writer for the Huffington Post and others, a devoted Texas Longhorn and adheres to the wisdom of George Costanza: It’s not a lie if you believe it. Follow him on Twitter at @BrentJStoller.