I am probably the most “friend blind” person you will ever know. I meet everyone with an open heart, and assume they are going to be my friend.
While this may sound like an ideal way to live, it actually causes quite a lot of heartache, especially when a person whom I thought was a friend turns out to be anything but.
I also put a lot effort into other people. This also sounds great, if you are on the receiving end of that attention. When that effort and attention is not reciprocated, I feel drained.
Over the past year, I’ve had to completely reevaluate how I make friends, and who I spend my limited attention on. What I’ve discovered is that I have surrounded myself with some wonderful people. People who give to me what I give to them – attention, support, friendship, unconditional love and laughter.
However, I still have problems deciding who should be included in my small inner circle. I’m an extreme introvert, only venturing outside my shell for exercise, and to participate in my Pace Setters Toastmasters club. Otherwise, I don’t see anyone. I work from home, and I’m a writer. Enough said.
So I was completely baffled by an encounter I had last week. I am a member of a local cycle club and I’ve met some wonderful, strong and independent women. They are the cycling experts, and they take me on all kids of adventures I’m not ready for. In return, I take them to the mountains and keep them safe.
I have taken out this particular group three or four times. One woman, lets call her Marie, is always a bit prickly to start, but she seems to warm up to me by the end. Marie is an interesting person. She has a good job, is a single mom, and is seriously fit. I truly admire her.
Every time I think I’ve had a break through with Marie, I am wrong. The next time we head out for a hike, I have to start at square one with Prickly Marie, until she gets over whatever barrier she thinks separates us.
Normally, I let this slide off my back, ready to start fresh to be her friend. However, with my new intention to be selective as to who gets to be my friend and be showered with my attention, I needed to take a step back and re-evaluate this situation.
It was actually my extremely relationship savvy and intuitive husband who asked me this one simple question:
Do you like her?
Whoa. Wait. What? I can ask that question?
Honestly, this question never once occurred to me. Do I like this person? Yes or No.
If the answer is yes, then that gives me all kinds of permission to spend the time and effort to get to know them. To break down the barriers and make a good friend.
But if I don’t truly like them, then that also gives me permission to not put a lot of effort into them. To not shower them with love, attention and praise.
What a revelation! What freedom. What a great tool.
To be clear, this does not mean that I will write off Marie completely. This does not mean that I will be mean or exclusionary. It just means that I have the freedom to not care that much about her. If she wants to be in a bad mood and prickly next time we hike, it’s not my responsibility to draw her out and help her turn that frown upside-down.
This one simple question – do I like her – gives me a quick and dirty shortcut to quickly decide whether someone is worth it. As much as I would love for the whole world to just get along, I cannot be friends with everyone. That’s because not everyone wants to be friends with me! I need to be able to take those subtle hints people are giving out and act on them. I need to stop trying to make friends out of people who don’t want to be friends with me.
How about you?
Is this advice completely obvious to you? Have you done this for years? Or maybe you have your own shortcut to decide who to be friends with. Maybe you’re an expert at picking up those subtle hints that someone doesn’t want to make a new friend. If you have any advice, please let me know. It should be quite obvious that I’m in need of some basic help here.
I too once used be this friend blind but due to bad experiences now I am on the other extreme I prefer being alone
Yes, I can see that. I too went that far after a really bad relationship fail about 5 years ago. I was super cautious as to who I let in, and I was mostly alone. My next step was to let in just a few people who are now my solid friend group. I love them. I’m now ready to expand that group a little bit, but I still need to be cautious. I hope your heart heals soon, and you can begin to rebuild the trust needed to meet an incredibly nice person to be your friend.
Thank you for your positivity , I have found some really amazing people here in wordpress but then its limited to this community.
Very true! I too have found some lovely and supportive people on wordpress. Some are in my hometown and others are across the country or across the world. We find our friends where we find them. Connection is connection.
What an interesting read. I would never have thought you were an introvert because of all the things you do!
I would say I suffer from the same malady: I am “friend blind” too, and tend to meet everyone with an open heart as well. It’s a good and a bad way to be. I want to be the kind of person who welcomes and is kind to everyone – but not everyone is like that. Hence, you can be rebuffed and mistreated by those who are wrapped up in themselves and have no interest in being warm in return. Like you, I tend to persevere. However, lately I’ve given myself permission to not being concerned, or make a major effort, with those who seem to be consistently resistant to my efforts (unless they are family members). Ironically, I have found this freeing. It has allowed me to derive even more satisfaction from the fact that I have some really amazing close friends, and to treasure those people more.
That’s funny you think I’m an extrovert. The mountains are the most solitary thing I can do. With my facebook group, I could easily organize big group hikes, but you’ll notice that does not happen … ever 🙂 I was thinking of getting my Hiking Guide certification, but that would mean spending time with people LOL!
I think we are cut from the same cloth. Yes, it’s good to have that open heart. It’s also good to recognize when you are dealing with a “taker” and to simply stop giving. I am so glad that you too have been ‘freed’ and are able to appreciate those who are worthy of your time and friendship. I do not intend to get jaded, but I do plan on continuing to learn. Any advice from a fellow “friend blind” is very much appreciated!
I wouldn’t want to be part of too large a group in the mountains either. I always prefer the empty trails where you feel you are alone in nature. Perhaps we can pick up tips from each other on handling difficult people 🙂
Absolutely! That’s why I wanted to start this conversation. I need to learn so much. I think we can help each other.
Hi there. I find friendship to be a tricky thing. Some friendships ebb and flow. Some dissolve. It’s always great, though, when a new and solid friendship develops. Neil Scheinin
I agree – friends do come and go, and that is okay. I think you must not be ‘friend blind’ and have pretty good instincts when it comes to choosing your friends. I need to be wary of the not-so-good friendships, and avoid getting bogged down in those. Preferably, I would like this new system to pinch off those entanglements before they get too deep. However, when I do meet a new friend who is fun, open and caring, then yes! That is the best feeling in the world. Thank you for your insight.
What a great way to look at it. I think I have done this in a round about way, but didn’t really clarify it to say I do or don’t like someone enough to put the energy into the friendship. I can picture some of the same people and similar relationships. Great insights Alisen. Maggie
I think you are definitely NOT ‘friend blind’ 🙂 When I told my daughter about this great new revelation I had, she just about laughed at me. She apparently does this all the time. You probably have all kinds of unconscious systems you use to filter through the people you meet. I envy people like you who have mastered such a seemingly basic human interaction. Are you an extrovert by chance?
I’m really a mix of introvert and extrovert, depending on the situation. I needed to be an extrovert for work, but in large social settings, I’d shrink into the background or stick with those people I know.
Get a dog. This way you are sure of his loyalty. Be friend to yourself. Only a dog would not leave you. He could love you without question.
An issue with being “friend blind” is that you usually don’t know someone is a bad friend or doesn’t want to be your friend until after investing a lot of time and energy into the person. I struggle with being a people pleaser. It’s hard for me to say no, I want people to like me, and I try to be flexible to accommodate the needs of other people. That being said, I am such an introvert and prefer to just spend my time with a small group of people. I’m not very good at getting out of my social comfort zone.
Yes, I totally hear you! This is why I kept getting into trouble – I would invest so much in people, and only later find out they were trouble, or trouble for me. I am working SO hard on getting there faster – to try and recognize the people who are not a good fit sooner, to save me (and them) some heartache.
I agree with you – small groups are ideal. I find that sometimes my social group gets pretty small, and then I reach out to meet new people. I envy those who are “Friend Savvy” and are able to intuitively weed through the people they meet.
I wish you the best of luck as you navigate your social circles!
I tend to trust too easily with people. But once they violate that trust it is extremely difficult to earn it back. As I’ve grown older the circle if people around me has become pretty small. More friends in the cyber world than the real world.- lol
Oh, yes. I feel your pain. Losing trust is a hard no for me. I admire you that you allow them an opportunity to regain your trust. I am not sure I would go there. I bet your social circle, while small, is probably a pretty good group of people. Hugs to you!
Yes. They are 🙂 Hugs to you too 💜
And Happy Thanksgiving!
Yes! Happy Thanksgiving to you, my friend! We had ours in October, but I know it’s a much bigger occasion in the US. Enjoy it to the fullest.
I think your husband saved you a whole lot of time and heartache….do thank him profusely…any relationship is a two way street…
I could not agree more. It was so valuable to talk it out with a disinterested third party. I learned a lesson, and I have another tool at my fingertips.
This is excellent! Thank you. As a guy I’ve let alot of people go when it becomes obvious. And it’s ok to unfollow here on wordpress. It’s not always easy but sometimes you have to.
Yes, letting go is sometimes the best thing for everyone. Thank you for your insight. You are brave for making the move that’s right for you.
Thank you! Peace and wonderful blessings.
I enjoyed this insightful post, and also the comments underneath. The question your husband posed is a good one to start with, but the answer isn’t always clear. A follow-up question might be, “Does she like me?” If I think the answer is probably no, then I adjust my expectations and also the amount of effort I’m willing to make. I don’t necessarily writer her off as a friend, but I find that when people keep me at arm’s length, they do it for their own personal reasons. Recognizing that someone doesn’t want to be friends is always a little bit painful, but it allows me to move on.
Thank you for a wonderful insight. I sure do appreciate this. Yes! That is a valuable follow up question. Just because people want to “hang out” and do things together, does not implicitly mean they want to be friends. I think it’s an assumption of mine that if someone comes along on a hike with me, they are at least interested in being friends. But alas, perhaps not. As you mention – a bit painful, but time to move on.
I completely agree with not writing that person off as a potential friend too. I have not and will not ever exclude this person. I will also not be mean or unkindly towards them. I will just distance myself and drastically lower my expectation.
Again, thanks for your insight. I put this out there to learn more, and you have definitely added to my knowledge. I will add this second question to my list.
I am also an introvert. I have a lot of difficulty in letting people in. I have a fear that if I trust them too much they will somehow end up hurting me. But I am trying now to change. Meet new people, give them a chance.
I completely understand. It’s not easy putting yourself out there when you are an introvert. I hope this and some of the VERY useful comments help you sort through the people you meet. The truth is – people will hurt you. Weeding out those people sooner rather than later is helpful. Also remember that someone else’s behaviour is not a reflection of you. I wish you the very best as you open up and make new friends. May you find the very best humanity has to offer.
I relate very much to what you are saying. I am an introvert as well who has believed I could be friends with everyone. Thanks for presenting the like/don’t like approach. Revolutionary! 🙂
Hi Rebecca, I am so glad this resonated with you. I know – it blew my mind too. Who knew??? 🙂
Yes, I have read many posts on this topic, but I think because I am also a caring introvert I have had similar experiences to you and I love your husband’s question… It brings a clarity to many situations. Thank you for your post 👍
Hello fellow introvert,
I’m so glad this helped bring clarity to your interactions. Now that I know to ask this question, I’ve been able to easily navigate so many other groups. Instead of trying to befriend everyone, I can focus on the people who deserve my care and attention. I hope you get the same results or better.
Thank you so much, and thank you too for visiting and following. I wish you a very good year this year.
My goodness! I honestly thought I was the only person who experienced feeling like this… Or at least it felt that way to me anyway. For years I seemed so suffer heartache. Until the Summer of last year when I made some subtle changes.
I suppose I’ve always been a reclusive person but I’m comfortable with that. Not saying I don’t enjoy company but it needs to be on my terms. I’m a single parent and have been for 3 years almost, I’m a Nurse and work silly hours and when I’m at home, I prefer to spend time with my family. Walking and exploring is my main hobby and quite often, my only saviour from the everyday stresses and strains that come with… well just living life. It’s not a bad thing to do things alone. I find that sometimes it is better than giving all my energy to someone who doesn’t truly appreciate it. Lose yourself in writing about your passions… The right people will flow towards you then for all the right reasons. 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing. Being a solo parent and a nurse, you must have very little energy left over for yourself, never mind friends and extended family. It’s SO important to spend time with people who fill you up, and not drain you down.
I agree – the right people will indeed flow towards us. What a lovely way of phrasing that.
I am glad you were able to make some changes in your life. I can honestly say that my life is calmer and easier since I made some small changes.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. The most we talk about tough issues, the more we can help each other. Hugs from Canada.
I absolutely understand this post!