Do you guys ever get this? Some dude with a chip on his shoulder singles you out, and bores a hole into you for no reason other than stupid, ape dominance. I've been dealing with this lately.

Everyday this dude in my Spanish class walks past me, and he stares right at me, his chest puffed up and his head back as if he's looking for a challenger.  

I first tried the head nod to no success, and I don't know about you guys, but if I don't get a head nod in return I feel slighted.  Later I considered that perhaps he thinks I'm the one giving him looks, and so I've said "Hello" to try to cut the tension. He reciprocated to my surprise. But then the next day it was the same alpha stare-down shit, so I say "Hello" again. He reciprocates. Now everyday he stares me down until I say hello. What the hell is going on here? What the hell is this dude's problem? Am I in a college classroom or a prison lunch room?     

I'll admit that at first the caveman in me wants to sit there and play eyeball chicken too. But then the higher faculties kick-in, I realize that I'm being a macho idiot, and I let the other guy get his little victory. It's annoying...

How do you guys deal with this type thing, or with aggressive dudes in general?  

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I know a guy who grew up in an abusive home and was isolated from friends and teachers. He can't fake a smile, and your head-nod social cue would be lost on him. He's in no way aggressive; he's just not socially aware. In your classmate, a mental illness is another possible explanation for the behavior.

You've got a few options. You can continue as you are. You can act the same but let your mature mind take control and resolve not to be annoyed by it. You can try to make friends.

I've also thought that he may be a bit off mentally. It just does not seem like normal behavior, especially in the classroom. I would definitely not want to be friends with him.   

If he is mentally ill, I wonder if that would be cause for more concern. What is going on in this guy's head? He's going to make me paranoid!

The mentally ill are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators.

I'm thinking he has a problem interpreting social cues, and was taught to return/maintain eye contact, and to say "hello" back, but wasn't taught about head nods and your other social cues. If I'm right, he's probably had the condition since he was a small child and has worked very hard to be able to go to school and live a mostly normal life.

You're obviously very social and self-aware. Lots of people aren't. What is easy, even innate, for you can be very hard for others. That's no reason to write them off as friends.

[not saying you need to be friends with someone who creeps you out; just saying that there are more relevant factors than you seem to be considering when you make a decide whom to make friends with]

Thanks for your perspective, Rebekah.

I'm glad I asked.  

If this guy really is mentally ill, then I can see how he may get into trouble with criminal types, who would make the same mistake about his body language as I did, but who would likely escalate to violence. So, yeah, he could easily become a victim.

It is not obvious that he is mentally ill, though. He's actually really smart. He seems to grasp what the prof. puts out better than anyone else in the class. I know intelligence and mental health are not mutually exclusive, but when intelligence is evident, the possibility of a mental illness shy of psychosis would seem less evident. At least to me anyway...

Keeping what you say in mind will help me to get over being annoyed. And I suppose I'm only annoyed because I have a strain of stupid, macho ape in me too.

I pretty much feel like I'm the jerk now. 

 

  

*sigh* So much work to do to end stigma. Consider: One in four Americans suffers from a mental illness. Young adulthood is the most common age to develop a mental illness. So, chances are more than one of your friends has a mental illness.

Yes, that seems likely.

BTW the sort of thing Rebekah's talking about isn't inconsistent w/ being smart.  I've had a student that was brilliant and had major trouble relating to, well, everyone.  Can happen.

An autistic high level individual? Which sometimes have trouble in social settings?

I was thinking of a high-functioning individual with autism, yes

An innocent smile and a wave work wonders. Disarming and catches people off guard. Better be sure you can hold your own in a brawl though, in case they think you're just being a smartass.

I'm just going to ignore the dude all together, I think. Nothing about him makes me want to smile.

Geez... what a disaster a brawl would be. Can you imagine that in a college setting? I might sooner just take a punch! I need to graduate.

If it were a continued assault though, and my hand were forced, well, I know I have a bag of tricks and I'm no weakling. I trained kick-boxing and jiu-jitsu for about two-years-and-some-change (though I'm already about 3-4 years rusty). I was pretty solid for a beginner, and if you know any MMA, you would know a solid beginner knows a thing or two about how to hurt someone.    

Brush him off like a girl who's into you but you don't share the feeling for. Eh?

Or just introduce yourself. He may not realize he is giving off that vibe. He may be thinking, "that Dolph looks like an interesting guy." He might not have balls to introduce himself to you, and that is a common issue. However, I am guessing by now the class is over, and it is no longer an issue. This will not be the last time this happens to you.

Stein

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