Let's say Alice needs Bob to make a decision between options 1 and 2. Bob would prefer 1. However, Alice asks Bob at such a time he cannot choose 1, so he is forced to pick 2 except in all but the most literal sense. However, it is clear to Bob that Alice could have asked him for the decision at a better time, and he is offended that Alice is being disrespectful of his agency.

Is there a word for describing Alice's behavior?

A more specific example: Alice is working for Bob. She wants to visit her family, so she buys plane tickets. She then asks Bob for permission to take the week off, explaining that she already purchased tickets. Due to a critical project going on at the time, Bob does not want Alice to take the week off, but he is unable to say no since Alice has already bought tickets (and they are non-refundable).

Another example: Bob and Alice are friends, but Bob dislikes horror movies. They agree to see a movie at Charlie's movie theater. However, when they arrive at the theater Bob becomes upset that Alice just happened to pick the one day when the only 2 movies playing are both horror movies.

In either case, the salient meaning is not the nature of the decision itself, but the fact that Alice failed to present the decision in a manner that does not undermine Bob's preference.

5 Answers 5


For the first situation I might say that Alice forced Bob's hand.

Force someone's hand

Make someone do something: the exchange markets may force the Fed’s hand

Phrases #3

Because she did so in a purposely inconvenient manner, I would say she forced Bob's hand unnecessarily, rudely, or prematurely (if she forced it early).

In the second situation it seems like it's just a bad coincidence, unless there's some indication that Alice knew that Bob didn't like horror movies and tricked him into coming by omission.

In either situation it could be said that Alice backed Bob into a corner. As a native speaker, I might say this is the best option because it doesn't have as much of a negative connotation.


A difficult or awkward situation: he found himself backed into a corner

Definition #1.3 (or whatever you call it)

I can't find a reference and I'm waffling between including "bent" or not, but you could also say that Alice has Bob over a barrel. Or bent over a barrel. Or she put Bob in a pickle.

  • Or, if you want to emphasize the fact that in both situations Bob actually does have two options (they just both suck), you could say Alice has Bob between a rock and a hard place. More informally (and probably only in the first one where Bob's options don't include walking away), Bob could say that Alice is breaking his balls. OK, that's enough for one day.
    – Gerger
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 0:41

The modern, in vogue, expression, surely, is that Alice is manipulative. At least that's how her actions would be described in Britain.

  • 1
    "Vogue" should not be capitalized unless it's referring to the magazine with that title.
    – augurar
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 10:09
  • @augurar Well, well, well - you live and learn. I had assumed the expression was a modernism from the name of the magazine. But I have just checked out the OED entry and etymology, and it has a history going back to the 16th century.
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 15:12

Alice is "a designing woman", and her actions are "calculated".

  • designing (adj) - concealing crafty designs for advancing your own interest. - TFD

  • "acting in a calculating, deceitful way" - ODO

  • "having plans to get something in a way that is not honest or fair."The Merriam-Webster

  • "He suspected his new admirer of being a designing woman who only wanted his money."
  • calculated (adj) - (said of an action) done with full awareness of the likely consequences. ODO
  • It should be noted that "a designing woman" is inherently a sexist phrase, since there's no corresponding "a designing man" and part of the meaning is clearly an implication that this is a feminine behavior. Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 3:45

Her behavior is manipulative, calculating, self-centered, underhand, disingenuous, artful, scheming.


She is crafty

clever at achieving one's aims by indirect or deceitful methods. "a crafty crook faked an injury to escape from prison" synonyms: cunning, wily, guileful, artful, devious, sly, tricky, scheming, calculating, designing, sharp, shrewd, astute, canny; More antonyms: honest of, involving, or relating to indirect or deceitful methods. "a shameless and crafty trick to mislead public opinion"

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    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 15:57

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