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えっと。。美琴ひどい人だなって思われるかもしれないけど、下手にかかわらない方がいいんじゃないかと、思ったり。。。

The context is that 美琴 is advising the listener not to approach another person (望) who is an acquintance with a bit of a bad attitude. 望 had gotten into an argument with another person. 望 was in the wrong but won't admit it. The listener does not know 望 well, but jokingly offers to teach her some manners. Then 美琴 says the above line.

At first I thought 美琴 was afraid that the listener would take offense to being called 下手. But now, based on the context, I'm thinking she's afraid that the listener will think "she's implying that 望 is a jerk and shouldn't be approached, how rude".

Can you tell which it is just based on the above sentence? How?

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Based on your explanation of the context, really it boils down to 美琴 being afraid of 望. 美琴 is concerned about what would happen to the listener (and potentially other related parties) if the listener got involved.

下手にかかわる means to recklessly get involved in a (usually sensitive) situation

You might think I'm a horrible person for saying this, but I think it would be better if you didn't do anything...

I think understanding the phrase 下手にかかわる is the key you were looking for.

  • I like your interpretation "if you didn't do anything" . Much more natural than my "get involved haphazardly" – ericfromabeno Aug 3 '18 at 11:35
  • or using less text, "You might think I'm horrible for saying so, but I think you shouldn't do anything." – ericfromabeno Aug 3 '18 at 11:42
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it seems like your question comes mainly from the phrase 「下手にかかわらない方がいい」

下手{へた}に - poorly / unskillfully / (colloquially: can't handle)

関{かか}わる - to get involved (with someone / in something)

(し)ない方がいい - is better not to / should not

so putting these all together, the phrase 「下手にかかわらない方がいい」

means something like:

"You shouldn't get involved haphazardly."

In Japanese, the idea of "getting involved" and "doing it poorly" are conflated in the expression 「下手に関わる」, where in English, we tend to separate the "getting involved" from the possible "bad result", which in English would make phrases like these more natural:

"You shouldn't get involved, it won't end well."

or

"You shouldn't get involved in something you can't handle."

or possibly:

"You shouldn't get involved when you don't know what you're doing."

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