Seven simple ways to ruin your friendships
I've met a lot of lonely people over the years - quite a few of whom I've gotten to know well. Often, they claim to have real trouble establishing friendships. Usually, they're making simple mistakes that virtually guarantee to ruin most of their chances.
Here are some of the main ones.
Talking at people, not to them
It's amazing how many people there are who don't seem to understand the purpose of conversation. Rather than a two-way deal, they see it as a broadcaster/audience relationship, with themselves in the position of broadcaster. They switch off and stare into space while the other person is speaking, and make it clear they're bothered by periods when they're not the center of attention.
People like having friends because they like having someone who listens to them. If you find yourself waiting all the time for the other person to finish so you can start firing away with your own far superior thoughts, then you're probably guilty of talking at people and not to them. This is a sure-fire way to lose friends. Have some patience with people, even if they speak slowly. Be genuinely interested in what they have to say, and they'll be interested in spending time with you.
Not behaving in a respectful manner
Some people are so bad at giving respect, that the only possible source I can imagine their attitude coming from is a bad upbringing. They seem to see relationships as a kind of zero-sum game, where they can only gain respect by stealing some from another person. They can't imagine that respect can be created out of thin air.
Of course, we can all get a cheap thrill from being discourteous sometimes. Lots of comedy relies on this in order to get laughs. But your life isn't a sitcom.
Showing respect for your acquaintances is the basic building block of friendships. If you're not willing to do so, don't be surprised if nobody likes you. In fact, disrespecting people is simply stupid, you get nothing out of it but a short-lived-ego boost at the expense of your long-term relationships. That's definitely a bad cost/benefit decision.
If you think you may have a problem in this area, then simply make an effort to over-compensate in your dealings with others. It's rare that someone won't like you for giving them too much respect. Much more likely is they'll appreciate you for it and see you as a positive force in their lives.
Complaining all the time
Some people see friends as nothing but sounding boards for their whining. All they talk about is their problems and how horrible they are. Such people need a big wake-up call - nobody cares about your troubles. Most people are willing to put up with a little bit of this from their close-friends, but only a little.
We generally spend time with friends in order to feel better about our lives. A person who whines constantly just makes us feel worse. Is it any wonder we choose not to be with them?
If you're in the habit of doing this, train yourself to do otherwise. Whenever you feel yourself ready to complain, keep your mouth firmly closed. It's better to say nothing at all than to let out a stream of grievances. If you really need someone to talk with about your troubles, hire a psychiatrist.
Being difficult when people are making arrangements
So your group of friends wants to go out to an Italian restaurant but you feel like Thai food? Too bad. They feel like going to a comedy show, but you want to go out dancing? Comedy it is.
Of course you can have a say when the arrangements are being initiated. But if everyone's in agreement about what to do except you, then you're just being difficult if you insist on making changes. And nobody likes being around difficult people.
My advice is to be pretty easy-going when arrangements are being made. The most enjoyable thing is to be spending time together. Who really cares if you go bowling or for a picnic? You'll have fun either way.
Some people seem unable to distinguish the difference between friendships and business negotiations. If you're buying a used-car, you have every right to be tough. If you're making plans with friends, seeing the whole thing as some kind of power struggle is just going to get you excluded in the future. And doing something that may not be your first choice with a group of close acquaintances sure beats sitting at home hoping the phone will ring.
Treating friends like servants
Some people seem to view friends as unpaid employees. They demand their computer be upgraded, their car fixed, or their furniture moved simply because friends are supposed to be obligated to do that sort of thing. A friend's car is really a free taxi, and they have every right to get upset if the friend thinks otherwise.
Nobody likes being bossed around, especially by someone who's not paying them for the privilege. It's fine to ask your friends occasionally for favors in a very respectful manner - but demanding they meet your every wish will just make them see you as more trouble than you're worth.
Acting like you think you're better than them
The main thing most of us look for in a friendship is to be able to relax and have a few laughs. The world is competitive enough without having to justify your worth during your time off. If you're in the habit of highlighting that your richer, smarter, better looking, more noble, or anything else, then don't be surprised if you end up having nobody to prove your superiority to.
Even worse are those who criticize all the time from up on their high-horse. Nobody likes to be belittled. The last thing most of us want are friends who make us feel bad - so if you try to do so, most people will choose to spend time with somebody else instead.
When we lived in England, there was a social group my wife and I would often go out to restaurants with. There was one girl in the group who'd always make some excuse to pay her exact share down to the penny and then leave before the bill came. She was so afraid of having to spend a little extra money if we chose to split the bill, that she preferred to insult us all by leaving early.
If you're at a bar with a friend, and they buy you a drink, don't leave before you've bought them one too. Don't try to cheat them. Otherwise, you'll lose a friend for the sake of one lousy drink.
Now I'm not advocating being a sucker, but if you make it obvious that you're keeping track of every dollar that passes between yourself and your friends, then you're likely to find yourself alone. Nobody likes a cheapskate. There are few things more insulting than someone who cares more about insubstantial sums of money than their friendships.
Be generous with your friends. Treat them to small gifts and show that they're important to you. The pleasure you'll get in return is worth much more than the money could have bought anyway.
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