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How to defend against frame imposing

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Hello guys,

yesterday I was at a dinner. A friend who’s kind of trying to one-up me said something. The context is that I think he feels inferior to me because I’m a doctor. So he feels like he has to show he’s right, even more in front of people. Insecurities I believe. He told me last week that his father wanted him to be a doctor (which he’s not). So it’s quite possible.

We were talking about our past. He said that we are our past. I said I believe we can select parts of our past that we remember consciously or subconsciously. I won’t go into the details of my thinking here. I did not care. It was not a debate. I did not care to be right. However I cared to be understood. That was my mistake though.

More context: he’s now doing a “therapy” with a philosopher. I think this guy is more like a guru. Because he’s not critical with what he’s learning from him.

So he repeats: “you are your past” (because he learned this with his teacher). He starts to yell: “you are your past”.

I said calmly: “if you speak like this it does not let me the opportunity to elaborate on my point”

That was too late. The psychiatrist friend at the dinner took the opportunity to play mediator and take some power. He could get my point across to N. (my fragile-ego friend who feels like he has to be right when talking with me).

The same point was accepted by N. so it was not the message, it was the messenger. I already seen him get pissed off while drunk and he can even show physical threats. (Slammed a beer mug on a table which splashed everywhere once).

So there is the drunkenness component and how he reacts to alcohol (he can become a dick). And it was towards me each time I saw him do that. So I do believe he has unexpressed hidden anger towards me.

However, here is my mistake in this case: I should have just asked: “Why?”

I think that the best defense towards frame imposing is to ask the person to justify their point of view. Then to ask them to give more details, to make them invest as we listen. This allows us to better understand their POV while getting in the judge position.

Then, we can say: « I understand better now, thanks for the explanation »

And we can close with: « I respect your point of view » and close the topic there.

It allows the other to save face (especially if he has a fragile ego) and prevents an unnecessary deadlock.

If one party is frame imposing it means they’re not willing to change their opinions or listen to the other party.

There is one only truth. That is what I’m finding that my friend still has a lot of black or white thinking.

So when I talk with him even sometimes I don’t agree I don’t say anything because I feel like he cannot take it. But I can see now that sometimes he goes back to certain topics we disagreed on in the past and he knows my position on them. He then states his position in the middle of another conversation. It’s only rarely that I remind him shortly of my position. Because I think it’s not that important.

I can see how this is covert frame imposing. He could not “win” an argument (where it’s really just two different opinions) so he sprinkles it here and there as if nothing happened.

For instance he thinks that you can date a woman with low self-esteem and that you can heal one another. I believe I’m not her therapist and that I prefer dating a woman who already has a good self-esteem.

So I think a lot of it stemmed from this conversation and now in his mind it’s about who’s right and who’s wrong.

I did my best to disarm it with listening to him and respecting his POV.

But he keeps coming back with sending me videos to be right about certain topics. I think he just selects low quality content on YT.

For instance I asked them yesterday if they believed in free will. We did not even go into this conversation as we changed topics and moved on.

This morning I see he sent me a link via WhatsApp from a YT channel about free will. Like he thought about it and this morning he sent me a link about a conversation we did not even had.

It felt like a covert power move. As in he gets to be right just by sending a link from a YouTube channel. And it was unrequested. He also sent it without any comment. There’s also implied tasking as in “watch that video”

So I answered:

Enjoy your weekend in Budapest!
We’ll talk about it next time 😉

I did not said thanks as it was unrequested. I build rapport, acknowledge the link sent and add a minor power move to re-balance the dynamics (the wink, a bit dismissive). I’m not going to watch the 45 min videos. I meant “talking about the topic”.

So here you go. I was not expecting to write all of this (not a nudge). I realized after writing all of this that my friend wants to be right over me. That’s where all the frame imposing comes from. He wants to one-up me. He’s not able yet to have an equal to equal relationship with me due to his inferiority complex (sees himself as a migrant, etc.).

Anyway, I’m happy to have a conversation with you guys on these topics of frame imposing, one-upping, inferiority complex, wanting to be right, anger, fragile ego.

As they are all intertwined in my friend.

So the challenge for me is to keep rapport while a friend imposes a frame while allowing him to save face while not submitting to him.

What I found with him is that since I don’t want to get into a debate with someone who’s not interested in debating (sterile). Also on topics which are not that important, basically just our own opinions about things, it has happened to me to backtrack to keep the peace. However this is submissive. So I’m looking for smarter ways to deal with this.

Looking forward to hear from you guys!

Edit: he apologized the next day when he slammed the beer while drunk. He also challenged me to a fight that night, which I refused of course. He’s a joyful person but I saw he could become violent when drunk. He knows this about himself.

MMC has reacted to this post.

Hello guys,

I’m reviving this thread in case it slipped between the cracks.

I’m really curious about your opinion on this if you would like to share it with me.


My thoughts John (and of course you know better, this is what comes up in my mind in reading about this situation from my POV):

Your friend is simply abusive. He is trying to condition you to not challenge him in front of other people, and is subtly communicating the message that you are to defer to him socially. This is a very subtle, but also very damaging, conditioning technique.

Indications in this direction are:

  • the fact that when another person relayed your point of view to him, he accepted it without a fuss (this indicates both that he was not really interested in the content of the discussion, buy only in "subjugating" you, and that he deliberately wanted you to think that another person was more effective than you in making him "think about other perspectives": he wanted you to think you are incapable of communicating with him properly, to keep you off balance in future interactions);
  • the fact that he subtly mentions "past discussions" he had with you in front of others restating his point of view (this is done to try to lower your self-esteem relative to him, communicating that he can control you socially);
  • the fact that he hinted at physical violence against you (the slamming the beer incident, again done to keep you deferring to him socially);
  • the fact that he is hiding his real personality behind "getting drunk" (meaning both that he, very probably, gets drunk on purpose just to obtain justification for his immediately subsequent bad actions, and that what you see when he gets drunk is how he really is; the "kind" part is just a mask);
  • he is alternating between "keeping rapport moves" (i.e. apologizing perfunctorily) and "one-upping moves" (i.e. challenging you to fight him): this push-pull is done to make it more unlinkely that you are able to challenge him and see what he is doing, and to keep you walking on eggshells because of the "unpredictable behavior"; and the one-upping moves are also probably escalating in nastiness with time, because he is trying to get away with more and more;
  • the fact that he seems to be somewhat succeeding in making you think that if you don't challenge him, you can keep the friendship: you are stopping yourself from expressing your POV because otherwise he will probably react abusively, to you or in front of everyone;
  • he is also trying to keep you confused and busy in thinking about the "content and means of the communication" (meaning: how to address him properly, when to speak, when not to) instead of seeing and addressing his abusive behavior.

He is not insecure, he is just abusive. He wants you to think he is insecure so you worry about how to "protect him", help him save face, and so on, while he tries to damage you socially (you are worrying about how to help him save face, while he has no qualms yelling at you, and even challenging you to a fight in front of everyone!).

And you are not making "mistakes" in addressing him. He is deliberately making you think you are making mistakes. In other words: there is nothing you can do to "address him properly", because he is not interested in having a healthy friendship with you. He is just interested in keeping you in the frame of mind where you need to keep trying to address him properly.

My suggestion would be to get away (i.e. stop talking to him completely, remove all warmth and friendship, fake not even hearing him if possible, or just one sillable answers when you cannot not answer. Shame him socially.). Optional if you send him to fuck off kindly and hint at having understood what he was doing to you (but not reveal it to him: keep the power of making him confused as he is now making you).

When you do, my prediction is that you will both better be able to see what he was doing, and also see that he will probably simply start picking on someone else.

John Freeman, MMC and Mats G have reacted to this post.
John FreemanMMCMats G

Thank you very much Bel.

I think you’re right. Once we were at the race karting and he bumped into me just out of pleasure to hit me. It hurt me. It was just mean.

It’s true that he actually hurt me emotionally many times. He made a joke about me being a pedophile because I work in Pediatrics.

He said “jokingly” last time that I was a manipulator.

We laugh and have a good time. However I am now questioning if he has my best interest in mind.

What I’ll do is observe him more and invite him less.

It’s always a pain for me when I realize that someone I trusted and I like also tries to hurt me.

I’ve excluded from my life many people like this. A friend recently came into my life because I could see that after a period of time of being afar he changed his behavior towards me.

It’s quite a challenge to find people of high quality.

I’ll answer in more details later.

Bel has reacted to this post.

Basically what he does is social climbing.

Hi john i know exactly what you mean i've had to cut a couple of people out of my life recently for similar behaviour.   For me i found it an emotional hit two ways.  Firstly i suspect like you i am quite discerning on  who I let in  so have to admit i made a big bad mistake.  Secondly people i do admit have high potential and i guess i have more investment.  So bit of frustration that you couldn't fix them and   of course you cannot fix anyone and a slight pang of what might have been.

You just have to remind yourself that there are billions of people out there you haven't met and so you can always find some better ones to hang with.


Lucio Buffalmano and John Freeman have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn Freeman

IMHO he's using the cover of alcohol to do things that benefit him socially.

He's in an abusive relationship with you and you are enabling him if you continue to joke around the moves.

You cannot call it out because with a fragile ego he would melt. More so that he already does.

He has a chip on his shoulder because you are a doctor and he's not.

My gut feeling is that this relationship is not working unless:

  1. He becomes a more developed person
  2. You stop being a doctor (lol) or in any way a social challenge for him

I'd say cut him out but I understand how this could be difficult, more so if you live in a tight community and you will see each other no matter what.

Something to think about: Hacking/fixing social groups! It comes up often here how someone (a POS usually) takes over a group (say Whatsapp) or a community by doing things like these. Sometimes it's not worth it to fight it (even though you might have spent considerable time to build said social group), because the troll has more destruction power than you have healing power. It's easier to destruct than it is to create.

Lucio Buffalmano and John Freeman have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn Freeman

Thank you very much Transitioned and leaderoffun for your answers.

We had a board game night yesterday. So I changed my mind a little bit:

  • He admitted he's an opportunist.
  • I would say he's still insecure and a bit self-entered. I think he lacks maturity. However I can deal with it.
  • He did not social climb on me yesterday, so I think it stems from insecurities. Now that he sees how difficult is my job, he's not so envious anymore.
  • I have to be careful not to make excuses for his behaviour based on his past trauma
  • He's joyful personality can hide jester power moves.
  • He says what he thinks will give him a good image (lies in my mind).

For instance:

He broke up with his GF 6 months ago, he talked about it for months. For hours on end. I listened to him. Yesterday he told me that he actually cheated on her with a prostitute a couple of days before she broke up with him (his ex GF did not know about this). So he played like he was the victim of a narcissist (He was, I knew her: very negative person) but he was also dishonest. He also was dishonest with me because I did not know this important information about their relationship.

He is currently trying to have a relationship with another crazy woman (true) with the same first name as his previous GF. However he had a date with another girl, a Tinder date with another girl and a handjob from a Hungarian masseuse over the past week. When he arrived in the group yesterday he did not mention any of this because of the girls. He pretended he was in love with his supposed GF. I understand but he's trying to paint himself in another light to the group and when in private he tells us the truth. I understand. However, it feels dishonest to boost his status. I understand it's machiavellian in a way though. So it's all about the image he's trying to paint of himself.

He's a teacher for radiology technicians. However he exaggerates his own status according to this.

He's supposed to go with Doctors without Borders in Yemen to work there. He said he's going to be the "head of the Radiology department". I corrected this because this title belongs to a Professor of Medicine, which he's not. He's going to be managing the X-rays done by technicians, which is quite different. So just like nasty social climber A. He does status boosting a lot.

Yesterday, another friend was talking about his own problems in a private group (3 of us) and we were listening to him. Twice, N. took the stage, not to answer my friend's problem, but to talk about himself totally unrelated to the situation. I asked him calmly in what way this was related to my friend's situation. He was dumbfounded because that was true.

Sometime ago, he told me that he actually failed his driving license twice before succeeding. I was surprised because he told me he only failed once. I challenged him and he said angrily: "you must remember wrong". I backtracked and doubted my own perception because of his anger. Classic gaslighting.


So I could say he's mildly narcissistic. However, not as bad as nasty social climber A. Due to the number of people with this problem, I decided I need to be able to manage them and not have them too close to me. I won't exclude them but I won't give them priority or anything.

When I was in the seduction "community", I also happen to be dishonest. But this is years ago and I changed a lot since.

So overall, he's a joyful person, with insecurities who tries to get people to like him and mildly narcissistic (5-6 out of 10 if this makes sense). So it's the kind of person I have to keep in check when he's around me. However, like all fragile ego people, if he thinks I like him he's not as aggressive. If I say things that looks like I'm criticising I'm becoming the "bad object". So he cannot be a close friend as he can turn against me if he feels threatened by me. Now I have the intel to back it up.

Also I noticed when people tell me stories about doctors it's a way to hurt my status. If I criticize other doctors, it's an indirect way of criticising you. Next time people criticize doctors in front of me I will defend better.

So, again as I improved my character, I feel the need to find higher quality people. I won't make the mistake as I made in the past to exclude them. I will keep my friends and also look for other people. This is not my current priority but I will do it later on.

Finally, I think it's all about Power. If you're able to have enough Power, you can manage these people. I say manage because you won't change them. But they can be friends, not close friends, but friends or acquaintances.

Contrarily to many people like this, I think he has the ability to mature. I won't hope on it but it's my evaluation. Nasty social climber A, I would not bet a kopek on him maturing for instance.

Long unexpected post and several topics in there.

In Summary, my lessons learned that I can share with you:

  • If possible, avoid narcissistic persons at all costs
  • If already in your social circle, build a relationship where they like you and keep the right distance to them. They can be nasty enemies. Don't let them know you realised how narcissistic they are. Don't let them gaslight you. Be careful of the lies and the manipulation. Be careful of the gossip. Don't let them diminish you or your self-esteem or your World view, learn from them but don't let them mold you (be careful of their influence). Address every power move from them. It's a balancing act: being aware while still engaging in the relationship. Narcissistic people can be charming and joyful, this makes it more difficult to spot them.
  • Extend your social circle as to find better quality people
  • Spend more time with the highest quality people and less time with lower quality people: we have to start somewhere. It's unrealistic to be surrounded only by high quality people from the start. It's a process. As we become higher quality we tend to like to spend time with higher quality people. So there is new desire there that springs from this new self-development.
  • High quality gives you leadership traits and desirable traits. People want to be around you just by the way you treat them.
  • It's perfectly normal not to spot all personality traits of someone at first. We need time to know people.
  • Everybody is imperfect. If we expect perfection from our friends we will end up alone (I did). So it's a matter of what imperfection and what traits we tolerate and to what extent.
  • It's important to get respected in our social circle. We have to demand respect in our social circle, especially.

An important takeaway:

A key to social circle is to invite people at your place: you can choose the people, set up the mood, etc. It's at your place that you have the most power. So you can create the positive frame and expectations of behaviour.

Another important takeaway:

When I excluded nasty social climber A. I did not do it smoothly at all. And this is why they told me I overreacted. When excluding someone, it's better to fade the person away slowly. It's more Machiavellian and more effective.

Lucio Buffalmano and Transitioned have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoTransitioned

Some great insights there John.  Thank you for sharing.  It's going to be helpful for me because sometime next few years will be starting over in another country again.

Social circles for me have just happened and i have put up with a lot of crap people over the years so this opens up new possibilities to me about how i can be more mindful on who and how.

When you said you corrected him on lying about being head of radiology.  I can see why because that is indirectly devaluing the status of doctors saying anybody can do that type of job. Tricky situation. I m curious. How did you go about that?

John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman

Nice! Where are you going?

I just said: "Head of Radiology? This is more like for a Professor of Medicine." and he said: "Yeah, I'm going to manage all the X-rays".

I spoke my mind calmly and factually. Assertively.

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