In a classic Seinfeld episode, George Constanza thinks he’s found the ultimate break up line, “It’s not you, it’s me.” How can you argue with the logic behind “There’s nothing wrong with you – I just have some issues”?
But the same thing can happen when you’re trying to build your friendships.
I recently published an ebook – “How to Make The Friends You’ve Always Wanted” (it’s free and only 19 pages). It describes the process of how friendships are built, and gives practical ways to amp up your social life. But every once in a while you’ll find someone who seems like they’d be a great close friend, and they just don’t take you up on your initiative. You might even try three or four times with all of your efforts falling flat.
Depending on your level of security that could really set you up for some self-doubt. “What’s wrong with me?” “I really want to be friends with that person, but why won’t they reciprocate?” “Am I coming across too strongly?”
The good news is that most likely it’s not you - it’s them. Most people won’t come right out and tell you why they’re passing you by, but they could be dealing with any number of issues:
- Their schedule is just way too busy
- Their capacity to handle meaningful friendships is full right now
- They may be dealing with an issue like a death, major illness, or a tough breakup
- They may be in a controlling/abusive relationship that limits their freedom
- They may have been burned by someone in the past and tend to keep people at arm’s length
- You might remind them of someone unpleasant from their past
- The “chemistry” might just be off
- _________________ fill in the blank with your own reason
If you’re truthful, you’ve probably dismissed someone else’s friendship forays at least once in your life. Can you remember a time like that? What was your reasoning? It probably seemed justified to you at the time, just like it does for this person.
So how do you handle it? What can you do?
- Don’t take it personally – tell yourself that everyone has issues from time to time
- Grieve about it if you need to
- Try again in 1-3 weeks/months with that same person (depending on what they told you)
- If your feelings got hurt in the process, forgive them
- If they were outright rude, be intentionally kind the next time you see them. You have no idea what they might be up against
- Keep building up your acquaintance and peer friends pool so that you’ll have more candidates to pick from
- Let it remind you to renew your commitment to be friendly to people at all relationship levels
When you work up the nerve to invite someone to hang out and they pass, it can be discouraging. But instead of letting the incident derail your other friendship attempts, use it as a reminder to practice empathy. After all, it’s not all about you. It might be about them this time.
Can you name a particularly poignant time when someone didn’t reciprocate your friendship? How did you handle it? I’d love to know.