As a person who pride myself in my intellect I tend to be more certain that I am right, and less flexible about being challenged. I trust my own good judgement even in the light of others' better judgement and the many mistakes I have made. I also believe that the pursuit of logic, consistency and truth stand above all.
I hope it is clear that it's the pride that is causing the trouble here. I am an insecure person with one seemingly unquestionable asset: my mind. If you take that from me, I am quite literally left with nothing because I have no other redeemable qualities: I have no talents, no specific skills; without that, I am just one of millions and millions of other nondescript, unaccomplished people.
This, I think, Frank shares with me. He doesn't question his righteous quest for the truth. If someone has three flats in three days it seems unlikely to him that "it happens", that randomness is to blame. It is far more likely that something affected this scenario, for example user error. He pokes and prods with regards to the normal occurrence of flats over time, refusing to accept "I don't know" as an answer, or indeed as a sign of growing irritation. He thinks that surely one should have some idea of the number of flats, but no, all he gets is that a bicyclist will generally carry an extra tube, two if the ride is long, just for the eventuality.
But this is not good enough, and the bicyclist just hoping for "wow, so many flats what a bummer, but you rode a lot!" is by now exasperated. She thinks: "Stop trying to make me feel bad just to prove how smart you are. Just like your girlfriend (who ruined your night by not letting herself be goaded into saying she is a republican just because she was taught to be and doesn't really share any of the values), I refuse to participate in this destruction of myself to please you."
She says, "It feels like you're trying to prove me wrong about something." It's only later after hours of ignored messages she realizes that he is actually upset. And she can't help but find the silence hostile and punishing.
(So, I try to understand, amid Sergey's assertions that I let people spit in my face, why Frank behaves like this. It's the only way to justify being friends with a person who doesn't follow me in Google Reader, or on Twitter, and hides on Facebook; who furthermore refuses to acknowledge (instead chooses to be angry) that it's painful to have your invitations rejected, or eroding for your confidence to have sex with someone who doesn't offer any compliments, doesn't stay the night, sometimes doesn't even kiss you.
I have considered sharing this blog with Frank. It seems the most sure way of hurting him and making him hate me. He, who values his "privacy" so much he separates his "friends" into parallel layers, would have to watch his wrongdoings sliced open like a sacrifice, right here.)
A couple of sad, self-serving side-notes later: I do it too. In conversations about anything at all I will suddenly focus on the tiny but unforgivable discrepancy. "Wait? What? What did you say? How does that even make sense?" So, that when speaking about how happy and productive and free my mother feels I get stuck on the seeming stupidity of her Miracle Course, and I have to probe and prod and make her feel stupid for listening to and believing all that stupid crap, instead of just being happy for her and letting that one slide.
In my estimation being socially competent means being able to give people what they are not quite asking for, but what they want and need, when you're talking to them. It's often praise, admiration and encouragement. Why is this type of generosity so hard?