Ask Ann Cannon: I can’t stop competing with my name-dropping friend

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune The Salt Lake Tribune staff portraits. Ann Cannon

Dear Ann Cannon • I have a friend who is always name-dropping. I know a few people, too, but try to refrain from playing the name game. However, as the conversation goes on (and on), I always get sucked in and want to start matching her experiences with ones of my own. I really try not to do this, because I don’t like the kind of person I become when I compete this way. I don’t want to stay away from her entirely, but when I’m around her I’m always uncomfortable. How should I handle this situation?

— Disappointed in Myself

Dear Disappointed • If it makes you feel any better, I’m pretty sure most of us can identify at least one friend — or frenemy — who triggers something in ourselves that we don’t particularly like. When this happens to me, it’s usually because someone has pushed one of my Insecurity Buttons. I’m not clever enough! Thin enough! Young enough! Savvy enough! Witty enough! Also, I frequently dress badly!

So how should you respond to this friend who pushes your Competitive Button? You can, as you suggest, limit the amount of time you spend around her. You can also do your best not to join in all the reindeer games when she starts up. Still, chances are good you’ll occasionally name-drop in spite of your best intentions when the two of you get together, so remind yourself there are worse (way worse!) things you could do, cut yourself some slack and move on.

Dear Ann Cannon • A few months ago I was upset with my husband, so he sent me flowers. I told him it was a nice gesture, but I would rather not get flowers — I think they’re a waste of money because they just die and have to be thrown away.

It was my birthday recently and he asked me what I wanted and I couldn’t think of anything, so he got me flowers. I like flowers and I think they are pretty, but again, I think they’re a waste of money. I asked him if he remembered I would rather not have flowers. He said he did, but he wanted me to know that he was thinking of me.

Frankly, I’m upset because I don’t feel like he listens to me or takes me seriously. This isn’t the first and only time. Should I just be happy he got me flowers, even though it feels like he’s just checking something off a checklist? “Wife’s birthday! Get Flowers! Check!”

Am I making too big a deal out of it?

— Honey, Can You Hear Me?

Dear Honey • Although I personally love getting flowers, I know plenty of women who totally share your sentiment, i.e. that they’re a waste of money. As you’ve correctly intuited, however, flowers aren’t the real issue here. Not feeling heard by your husband is.

You’ve asked if you should be happy with your husband’s gesture. I do think any gift should be kindly acknowledged, even when it’s clear there wasn’t a lot of thought involved in its selection. And, to be fair, your husband did ask for your input before your birthday. However, I also think it’s important for you to help him understand why receiving flowers makes you feel like he’s not listening to you — that the flowers, in fact, may possibly be a symptom of a larger failure to communicate as a couple.

If you do decide to talk to your husband, approach him in the way you’d want him to approach you if the roles were reversed. Be calm and as positive as possible. He may well respond defensively no matter what you say and how you say it. But still. I wouldn’t let your frustration fester.

Good luck!

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