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Is it possible / advisable to reengage later a "friend" that has been "faded/dropped"?

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Hi Guys.


I had a friend for several years. Last year, I started understanding he was playing nasty games with me.

He was not only a friend, but also a fellow lawyer, and we were (at least in my perspective) trying to collaborate after having both got out of our respective law firms and started working on our own.

Just at that time, when our "friendship" started getting closer, I started paying attention to manipulation and power moves, and slowly realized he was playing some on me.

What he did

He basically did the following:

  • he told me several times "I'll call you tomorrow at x" and then didn't;
  • he told me "let's meet day x since we will be both in Court", then that day he didn't call me;
  • we were working together on a case; I sent him a draft pleading for his comments and he wrote to me he would answer "today"; he then waited two weeks and answered me the day before my filing deadline, saying "I'm sorry I am answering after so long", and simultaneously asked me to do something for him in the very same email;
  • I asked him to help me in a witness testimony for one of my clients; he came to the hearing and helped, then afterwards, in front of my client, he said to me loudly "Bel, I would seriously consider settling this case out of courst, otherwise you probably won't get anything"; I afterwards reflected on this, felt he was giving me counterproductive advice, did not settle and went to judgment, and the case was won;
  • I had a feeling he was making me work on unproductive cases of his, but expected to be involved in serious cases of mine;
  • I had a feeling he was somewhat envious I had clients;
  • all the above started to become a repeated pattern somewhat.

When I started to realize all this, I also started withdrawing from him and stopped answering his calls/email.

Last episode: we were working jointly on a case of his. He invited me via email to go to court with him for the last hearing of this case. I waited two/three days to answer, and then said I would go. When I got there for the hearing (in time), he was coming out of Court. He told me:

Him: "Hi Bel! Since the counterpart lawyer was here early, I just did the hearing myself. Let's get coffee".

I felt very disrespected that he made me go to court and then appeared at the hearing without me. I answered:

Me: "Good! It's optimal actually you did it yourself, since I had only 5 minutes for this and now have to go immediately! But it's always a pleasure to see you, see you soon!".

And I went off and didn't answer his calls / texts anymore. He even texted me to offer to pay me for my work on his case, I just didn't answer.

My question

Months have gone by since then. I am working on a difficult case for a client of mine where he is co-lawyer. We started collaborating on this before I realized all the above.

When I "got" his behavior, I got enraged, and even thought about asking him to withdraw from representing this client of mine. Ultimately though, I did not say anything to him, and just stopped communicating.

Now the case is going on. A part of me is asking if I should try to reestablish contact with him and continue to involve him in the case, for example by sending him an email and mentioning that "the next hearing of the case has been set for day x, and if you want we will speak soon to arrange how to go".

I could go on on the case by myself, I don't need his signature or appearance as our representation as lawyers is not joint. It is more of a question if the problem was, at least in part, myself (that I did not know how to get respect); and if maybe now, having grown a bit, I may be able to maintain a superficial work relationship with a person like this.

I will try to answer my own question: probably not worth it. I feel he would just start again abusing me and probably even escalate more to punish me for having faded him.

Guys, as always I ask for Your external perspective on this, if you wish, including on any mistakes I made here.

In my opinion, more people than not change for the better once they're checked.

Change their behavior more than their personality, of course, but still a step forward.

Whether this particular person was going to change if the poor behavior was addressed earlier and more assertively is impossible to say for certain and you probably have more knowledge to guess correctly.
Seeing at how he chased you and considered he seemed to need you more than the other way around, it's very possible.

But no other way of being sure than doing it.
All we can do is to enforce our boundaries of fair conduct, respectful behavior and win-win dealing and see how it progresses.

If you don't strictly need him, I wouldn't write him now, or it seems like you're only re-opening because you needed him.
That would make you lose power and also look sneaky.
Better to go on your own now, then write later on in case you want. You can even just say "frankly, I thought it was not cool you did XYZ".

John Freeman and Bel have reacted to this post.
John FreemanBel
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thank you Lucio, your answer is enlightening.

And the suggestion on not writing to him to re-involve him in the case.

In essence it would be best to check with him outside of any doings, if I wanted to.

That’s enlightening.

I’ll think about this.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Yeah, plus if you write him now in connection to work this guy will think:

Oh, he needs me now, I'm power up

And that'll be his signal to playing games again.

If you then draw your boundaries during that interaction it won't be nearly as powerful.
The frame will be "I don't like you and wouldn't have contacted you, BUT... I need you now" (so much so that I wouldn't even do any straight talk or high assertive behavior under those circumstances or you risk a flare-up at the worst time).

Instead when you write "outside" of any case, the frame is "I don't need you, but I'm contacting you again to give you one more chance to play it straight (don't fuck it up)".

Bel has reacted to this post.
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Clear. It basically means it’s over, as the case will likely last two more years.

Or I could call him up just to talk, even though the case is still ongoing, without mentioning it. But I understand it would not be optimal.

I find it very difficult to understand when I must do straight talk and when I must play dumb.

I remember years ago I used to talk straight all the times, and usually the responses I got were always superficial deflection followed by more power moves and an escalation of abuse.

Then I switched to keeping my thoughts for myself all the times, and simply getting away. Which is where I am mostly coming from now.

I think I am still missing the optimal middle ground.

Maybe talking straight now could have a different effect.

Unfortunately, at the time, I simply did not understand what he (and others) were doing. I couldn’t talk straight as I didn’t even know he was playing games, and I realized it afterwards.

Quote from Bel on May 27, 2022, 3:45 pm

I find it very difficult to understand when I must do straight talk and when I must play dumb.

I remember years ago I used to talk straight all the times, and usually the responses I got were always superficial deflection followed by more power moves and an escalation of abuse.

Then I switched to keeping my thoughts for myself all the times, and simply getting away. Which is where I am mostly coming from now.

It's a question of leverage, power to harm, and who's got the most to lose.

It's some of the PI basics and, in good part, Machiavellian thinking as well.

Straight talk when you've always been power-down can piss people off (as we both agreed on this thread).

And when do you want to avoid pissing people off?

Whenever they can harm you or cause you trouble at little or no cost to them.

If your relationship suffers when you're working together now, it's your work and your case and your client who suffer (would be much different if you were helping him on his case).

If he doesn't like getting the straight talk he may think he an easy revenge outlet: causing trouble on the case you're working on.
Handing in late work, power moves in front of your client, "missing emails" or just bailing when you need him the most because he just got a new customer.

Instead, unless the power moves are just unbearable: cope with it on a case-by-case basis, but without going full-out, "cut that crap and my way or the highway" fashion".
When the case is over, when he has no leverage to harm you anymore, then it's different. It's either neutral territory, or your leverage because the frame is "listen up or we're done and you won't work with me ever again". Then you confront him.

This is how I'd think and move from what I understood so far.
As usual though, I'm making a lot of assumptions here and it's entirely possible I haven't understood the situation in the slightest :).

Bel has reacted to this post.
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

You are clear and right.

You are saying I made the right choice in not confronting him so far, since he was on my important case and since he was already trying to harm me with the above.

He would have simply escalated.

But I could have tried to put him in place indirectly.

I also was involved in a case of his, but I simply couldn’t think of damaging him deliberately in retaliation.

Right now he is formally still in my case, but I am going to handle it alone. He’s not going to be involved de facto.

Especially he’s not going to do anything without my permission, as I am the only one who has signed the engagement with the client. He, on the other hand, was engaged by me.

Stopping interacting with him without saying why was the only response I found at the time to make him stop trying to harm me.

Of course he didn’t ask, which undoubtedly means he knew.

Your explanation about straight talk not working when the other party has leverage is also very enlightening. Whoever I tried it with had leverage on me, in fact. They made sure I was somewhat dependent on them. And they always punished me. Work, family, friends: it was indifferent. I was just too naive.

In the end you comfort me in that I did what I could, even if I didn’t understand anything.

Hi Bel,

It can be hard to deal with energy vampires like your friend, you could go down to his level and fight  in case you chose to, or you could take the high road and work with him for now and drop like a hot potato later. I would say work him for now ( since your priority is to your client and your work, now  that you have recognized him for what he is, you will be able to draw stronger boundaries and enforce them to since you hold the reins this time).

He seems to treat you, not as a friend but on a purely transactional basis and you being a better person ,still would like to treat him as a friend but he doesn't want seem to want that, it would be better if you could view the relationship with him on a pure transactional nature.

In most cases people are going to have some form of leverage over you, and you too will hold some leverage over others,  so waiting to speak up until there the leverage over you is lifted may not ideal,  You seem to have two choices, 1. not say anything but mentally it drains you. (status quo does not change and a safe option)

2. Assert your boundaries and try resolving the issue( status quo will change and you'll feel better)

These are my opinions on your situation and any feedback or comments are welcome.


Lucio Buffalmano and Bel have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoBel

Thanks Connor.

I guess in my mind detaching from him was a clear message meant to signify displeasure at his behavior.

I would not have problems with a transactional relationship, but the fact that he tried to disempower me in front of my client, I think, sealed his fate in my mind. That was just too much.

Hello Bel,

tough situation. What I think is that there is some self-development involved to solve this. I agree with Lucio and Connor. My perspective, I would focus on:

Becoming higher power: that means having more detachment towards your emotions. It's a way of being that opens up for you Machiavellian thinking. You take some distance, you stay calm inside of you and think: "what is happening there? what is the power dynamics? What does this person want? What do I want? What is the best outcome for ME?". Then you make your move.

Becoming more self-entered: what is your interest here? How can you get it? This is actually how most people think. I make the assumptions you have been taught how to be a good person, altruistic, etc. Maybe by negligent/manipulative parenting of some sort. I don't know. But you probably been conditioned as I have been to relinquish your interests and power to other people. Be ok with being selfish. Be ok with the label. Not for other people because you are not selfish (AKA think only about yourself) but for yourself because you might be too selfless. Therefore I would recommend your supposed fear of being selfish. That's what I did.

Becoming more machiavellian: think about ways to get what you want. What should you say? To whom? In what way? This is fair game as long as you obey law and your own moral code.

Basically, it's learning to take some distance from your emotions (who might be triggered by fear of abandon or approval-seeking or other painful past experiences) and THINK rationally about yourself, the situation and the other person. Then make your move.

For instance: "he tried to up-one me by going to the hearing alone. What is the high power leader like eagle move?" And then you go higher and you win.

This helped me greatly.

You're moving forward, it just takes time and effort to remove all the bullshit in our heads to become more socially effective.

Always open to feed-back on my feed-back (i.e. if I've been too intrusive or made too many assumptions).

Lucio Buffalmano, Mats G and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoMats GBelleaderoffun
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