How to Strengthen Your Relationship/Friendship Issues
QUESTION: Hi Sharon,
I am nearing 40 years of age and seem to always struggle with friendships.
I am more of an introvert, but do make effort with people. Actually, I consider that I make a lot of effort by emailing, texting, calling on the telephone, Skype and trying to make times for dinner/coffee etc.
These friends I have all seem to take my efforts as no big deal and they seem to never reciprocate. I find myself to be a lonely person wishing that someone would invest a little time or interest in me.
I have a few friends that I have known since I was a child and even they are very take me or leave me. We live in different parts of the Country and World, but they really do not make much effort to keep in touch, let alone visit. One friend who I have known since I was 11, is flying to my side of the Country and will not make it a point to add a flight or reschedule his route to drop in. He could have easily flown in and then carried on to his final destination. I have flown to visit him 3-4 times in the past 4-5 years.
This kind of thing seems all too common with my friendships and I am at a loss as to why. I make effort with people and I just cannot get a friend to value me or make a genuine effort with me.
Why is this so?
ANSWER: Hello Steve,
I hope that I can help you with this. Since I do not know you or anything about you I must mention things that could seem offensive, but hope you will understand my lack of knowledge about you. It sound like you are simply an introvert having difficulty in making friends but just in case--
Let's start with physical things that sometimes turn people off and distance people.
Body Hygiene. Make sure you do not have body odor, your clothes are clean, and make sure you brush your teeth and have habits that are clean and not offensive. (sorry to be so blunt but this really does cause problems some times). Forgive me for even mentioning it.
Sometimes people blurt out private things in public or things that can be embarrassing to others. Observe how others react to you. Make sure you are discreet and not embarrassing others. Do not talk about too private things to others, it makes them uncomfortable. Do not gossip about others. People are wary when someone gossips as they think that their private things will also be told to others.
Now that we have the negative aside, lets get to the positive things that can be done. It sounds like what really is happening here is that you are, as you say, an introvert, and are having difficulty in meeting others and perhaps communicating or connecting well with others- so let's work on that and some other ideas I have.
First, what do you love to do? You might take classes or start a hobby in what you love. People tend to meet others with whom they relate when they are doing the things they love to do. Staying home and watching tv or being alone will not find you friends. You need to be around others who enjoy the same things you do. Do you go to church? Do you belong to or could you join other organizations that have a purpose that appeals to you? Make sure you get out where you can meet people, especially who are working together so that you are not having to go up to strangers to start talking--although that might be a skill you could learn that would help you.
Now, let's look at friendship skills. Most people like those who are genuinely interested in them without being too nosy or invasive until they are ready to take you in their confidence. To do that you learn to ask questions and really listen. Many people do not have another person who will really listen to them. The way to do that is to ask open ended questions, rather than questions that require only a yes or no.
For example: Instead of asking "Do you like your job?" Ask, "What are you doing now job-wise?' Then follow with "What do you like about your job and what do you dislike?" This then starts a conversation. As you listen carefully then you can make positive input as to how it must be rewarding, or that must be difficult to handle, or "what do you do when that happens?" You see? Ask questions that show you are really interested. Do not talk about yourself so much unless they ask.
Look right at the person you are talking with. That is very validating to others. Sometimes people want to impress others with what they are doing, etc. thinking it will attract the other person but the opposite is true--be interested in them. When you know someone think about questions you can ask them, in order to show your interest without asking things too private. Think ahead of what you could talk about like- music, or how to make the world a better place, favorite hobbies, travel, religion and politics (only if you have them in common). Ask questions to find out about the person to where they feel connection.
Now, there are other introverts out there who probably need a friend, so look around the room when you are taking a class or in a group and pick out the person that seems to be more of a loner and go up to them and the first thing to do when you meet someone is be vulnerable so that they will either want to help you or will relate to you.
You might start out with something like: "Hi. I don't know anyone here and am not very good at making friends right away but I am trying--what is your name? They say that people need to be needed more than they need to be loved. When you show that you are vulnerable others want to help as they then feel needed. You can also ask them a question as innocent as "Where is the bathroom?" Then smile and say thank you. Then perhaps stand by that same person when you come back. Or, you might ask a stranger if they know people there or if they are enjoying the evening, etc. Then admit that you feel a bit awkward. Other introverts will love you and you may end up with a lifelong friend.
Now, don't feel too bad at others who do not reciprocate your friendship. Perhaps they are just not in the same place as you are and have lost what you had in common before. Never take it personally. There are friends out there for you.
You would not know that I am an introvert but it takes me a long time to make close friends. When I moved to another state I knew it would take me a long time to make friends. I met a lady at church who I knew I would really like as a friend. I got her phone number and I called her and said I was new in the area and needed a friend and would she be my friend. She said, come on over--and we have been friends ever since. She may have turned me down, but so what? If she didn't want or need another friend that is nothing against me, right?
Now, one thing that turns friends away is to be possessive. If their friend goes to lunch with another person without inviting them they get all bent out of shape and upset. Friendship must flow freely and must not be demanding. If others are there when you see your friend embrace that. Do not expect to be the one and only friend to a person but welcome others into the circle.
That is about all I can think of right now. Please respond with comments/questions so I can help you further. Please ignore anything that might seem offensive. No offense was intended. I do hope this helps and look forward to further communication.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: HI Sharon,
Thanks for your reply and taking the time to clearly explain those points.
I understand what you are saying about not knowing much about me and I was not offended. You were just trying to cover all bases and make suggestions. All good!
I am pretty well on top of personal hygiene and personal grooming, so I am sure that is not an issue. I also actively lift weights and have the bodybuilder look. I would describe myself as a reserved person.
From what I read in your reply, I think I am doing most of these things. I really engage with people in conversation, am a good listener, ask lots of questions (people love to talk about themselves, right?), look them in the eye and make them laugh as I can apparently be very witty.
I am just stumped...
I certainly (and sorry for all the "I" usage in this message) make effort with people. One friendship that is no longer, was always about me initiating going to dinner or going to events etc. This person rarely/never initiated with me. This friendship went by the way side in the end because he and his wife ended the friendship (of 15 years) over some poor actions they did. They were users anyway, so no great loss.
Recently I have tried reconnecting with some old friends by having them over for lunch and dinner. So far it has not been reciprocated. Last year I tried arranging some travel with an old friend (he was going on the trip already and I offered to tag along to keep him company) and he ended up booking all his travel arrangements without telling me. I found out through his brother. On Facebook, I mainly joined for the sake of keeping up with various friends. Recently I cancelled my Facebook account due to some issues and not one of these "friends" have contacted me to see if I am ok.
It just seems that no matter what effort I make, people are just not interested in me. Seriously, nobody makes an effort with me.
I just cannot workout why.
Thanks for the info. Hmmmm. This is a difficult one to understand. I wonder if it is just a fluke and a matter of numbers. They taught us in sales to get the no answers out of the way first, as when you put in the work you have to be rewarded. Maybe it is just a matter of numbers and you haven't hit the right ones yet.
You might actually ask one or two friends why they think that you do not have close friends. Ask them to be honest with you.
The thought occurs that you might seem so well put together that you either might be competition for them or they feel inferior and not up to your calibre. People sometimes appear different than they feel inside. So be sure and ask for help, advice, etc. Let others know you are just a guy, down to earth, etc.
Also, do you know if there are any Toastmaster groups in your area? Don't know if that group is still active and in all countries but that is a great way to socialize and learn at the same time. You learn public speaking and are around others who are trying to improve their lives and you get a chance to be critiqued in any habits of any kind that might be annoying in your presentation. I loved Toastmaster and got to know some of the people and found it very rewarding. The group was very supportive as all were learning and improving.
I really do think that service organizations are excellent places to meet like-minded people.
I also think that people do not personally socialize like they used to do. Their social life is on facebook and really do not get together nearly as much. That makes it more difficult for those who still want to socialize.
There are also places who advertise different groups for hiking, other activities, service groups of all kinds, and various classes held where you might find some friends. At least your life can be more interesting, huh?
I think I am exhausted as to suggestions. See what is out there where you might meet people and keep on searching until you have success!!
I wish you the best.