Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts

Why I’m a terrible friend

5 Comments

It’s only Tuesday, isn’t it? How is that possible? The last two days at work seem to have gone on for weeks! Sort it out will ya, time.
Anyway….

It’s been a while since my last “I am a terrible, horrible no good person with no social skills post”. Now it’s time for another one. Here’s something that’s been on my mind lately.

Jan thinks I’m a good friend because I keep in touch with people, remember birthdays and make an effort with gifts for every imaginable event. He, on the other hand, is terrible at replying to e-mails (I am too, but he never believes me when I say that!), has reminders of people’s birthdays on his computer but fails to actually do anything about them and would probably never see anyone if they didn’t make an effort to include him – or I wasn’t there to occasionally force him to respond to a message/invitation/whatever. So he has come to the conclusion that I am a good friend and he is not. However, in my opinion all that stuff is the easy part. Respond to a few facebook statuses, congratulate people on pregnancies, engagements and birth, keep a record of everyone’s birthdays (and their childrens) so you can get gifts and cards in the mail in time… none of that is rocket science. I look generous and my friends and family feel special because they received a parcel all the way from Germany (this is not why I do these things by the way. I realise this sounds like I’m trying to buy my friendships but I swear I’m not! I just enjoy giving birthday gifts/making people smile). But when you place me in the same room as another person, which, after all, is the whole point of a friendship – it can’t all be done via Facebook – it’s a different story.

Jan and I used to have the same argument over and over again. I would get upset because he never told me what was going on in his life, while he was convinced that I wasn’t interested in what he’d been doing because I never asked him anything about it. A typical converation would be something like this:
Me: How was your day?
Him: Alright.
Me: Oh, okay. *looooong silence during which I would usually get on with cooking while Jan sat down with his laptop*
Me: *Start rambling on about what I’d been doing that day/thelatest news from England/which of my friends had announced their pregnancy this time*

'awkward silence hour'

Photo credit: CRASH:candy

Eventually, I pursuaded Jan that just because I don’t ask any questions it doesn’t mean I’m not interested. I really do want to know about his day, I just have no idea what to ask. So he started telling me things without being asked and I tried to extend my repertoire of questions (I now have “what have you been doing today”, “did you get to do any work for your dissertation” and “how was your meeting” (only if he had one, obviously). Plus, after choir practice I also get to ask him how that went and how the other members of his choir are. Yay me… or something. Now, I am aware that the way to show people you’re interested in them is to ask questions, but beyond the standard “How are you?”, “how did your exam/job interview/driving test go?” and “How was your birthday/holiday/honeymoon” I have no idea what I’m supposed to say. It’s not that I’m not interested… I just honestly don’t have the words to show that I’m interested. Unless someone answers one of my standard questions with a nice long tale that screams out ideas for further questioning/comments I am completely lost. Which leads to awkward silences and me saying something random to fill in the blank, usually about something in my life because that’s the topic I know most about. And because other people do have social skills (or have possibly taken some master class that I wasn’t invited to in how to keep a conversation going), questions do get asked and the conversation remains on me, or goes off at some random tangent. The end result: I appear selfish, unfriendly and only interested in myself. Which would explain why I have so few friends (well, that and the things I’ve mentioned in previous whiny “I have no social skills” posts, such as my being ridiculously shy around new people, leading to me either not saying a word or overcompensating, talking too much and coming across as a complete weirdo. True story!).  But I have decided this has to change! I’m meeting a friend on Saturday (yes, an actual friend!) who I haven’t seen since July and I shall be practicing asking questions then. In the meantime, if anyone has any advice, book recommendations, websites or the like please throw them my way. Any and all suggestions gratefully received!

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Author: bevchen

No longer twenty-something, but still unmarried and unchildrened, English girl currently living in Germany. I work at a translation company and am slightly obsessed with books and travel. I also cross stitch.

5 thoughts on “Why I’m a terrible friend

  1. I understand completely where you’re coming from.

    Firstly, the making an effort thing. I do that too, with birthdays/Christmas and other events. Like Jan, my husband has it all programmed into computer but generally doesn’t make an effort. He relies on the fact that I do it. I call his friends. I invite his friends. Everything!

    With friends it’s slightly different for me in that I’m a chatterbox. So I tend to chat and they tend to listen and of course if I’m chatting then it’s generally about my life and my family. Then I come home and I feel guilty. At times, my husband asks me how the friend is and I say fine but then I can’t tell him anything else that’s going on their life. Then I feel like an awful person. It’s not that I don’t care about them, it’s just that I’m always bubbling over with things to say. And if I’m not, or there are awkward silences, then what happens is I get all nervous and start babbling nonsense – which is really embarrassing.

    I like to know what’s going on their life, but they don’t necessarily offer to tell me. On the other hand, they often ask me questions and I always have something to say. Recently I was at a dinner with a group of my husbands colleagues. I sat next to the only other wife and asked her what’s new in her life and she said “nothing” ???

    In the past I found myself calling people sometimes after they’d been to visit/I’d gone to see them and apologising about not letting them speak/not asking enough questions/forgetting to offer them a drink (yep, I’ve talked so much, I’ve even done that – how awful).

    On the phone it seemed to me they seemed genuinely unbothered by my behaviour (they even said they would have asked for a drink if they’d wanted one).

    And that’s what I’ve learned slowly, over the years. You have to accept some things about yourself and who you are. Most probably your friends aren’t even thinking about it. If they’re anything like us, they’re going home and thinking about their own behaviour.
    If a friend calls/invites you again then you know you can’t be doing it all wrong.They just see something in you that you don’t.

    A lot of my friends are quite shy. I think I attract shy people because I am myself so chatty. None of my shy friends have lots of friends. But I see them more as deep people who place a high value on the friendships they do have.

    You can see I’m a chatterbox from this comment, can’t you?

    • Thank you! This makes me feel much better :-)

      I have a tendency to fill awkward silences with nonsense too. I don’t like the silence, but I don’t know what to say either, so I blurt out the first thing that comes into my head. And it never comes out the way it sounded in my head either. Awkward!

  2. Social skills are really just about practice – the key is the word ‘skills': no one is skilled at anything unless they practice.

    Don’t beat yourself up; just keep trying. It will come.

  3. Holy crap. I’m not alone! Hallelujah. Hahahaha.

    I have a similar situation with my man but our roles are reversed. I’m the one who won’t say anything unless asked, and he’s the one who wouldn’t ask but expects me to tell him what’s going on. But I also have some of your difficulties in that I can’t carry conversations or start conversations when I don’t know what to ask. I usually go with the mundane and easy, and when that doesn’t keep the conversation going I’m lost.

    When the dude complained that I never tell him anything (this has been a cause for a great many fights), I’ve resorted to telling him stuff that I normally tell my friends but then I get replies like “I don’t care about that stuff.”

    o.O what the hell am I supposed to tell him then when this sort of thing works with my friends? For example, if I’m headed out to go shopping and thinking to do this and that, I tell some friends that I’m chatting with on the phone (SMS). When I did this to him he complained that it’s not the sort of thing he wants to know about. What does he think happens in my life anyway?

    Okay, sorry, I know that wasn’t advice, but I just wanted to let you know that you’re not the only one with this prob (I think that there are a great many out there and I just don’t know them). And that I’m relieved that I’m not the only one because then I’m not so weird after all – which was what I ended up thinking because he and I have been fighting about this on and off.

    In the past, it wasn’t a problem with anyone of my friends because I used to be a chatterbox. And my friends, or most of them, were the same way. So if I didn’t have anything to say at the moment, they’d say something, and if there’s something in there that I can actually react to or comment about, then I jump in. But with my man, it’s different. Most of the time we have clashing opinions so it’s difficult to jump in. He has issues with the way I get when I’m excited or I feel so deeply about what I’m talking about that my voice rises and I sound like a shrew (this is another thing). So then the conversation becomes difficult because he wants me to tone down and it’s hard for me because I feel like he’s preventing me from expressing myself.

    We’ve sort of gotten to a compromise in that I told him that if I am not forthcoming with information and he wants to know more, he should ask. Because sometimes I really have no clue what he wants to know or that he wants to know more. I do try to remember to share more. I’m afraid he and I have it worse because some of our interests do not complement.

    What Tilly said makes sense – it does take practice because it is a skill you acquire.

    But you also shouldn’t beat yourself up over it because it’s how you are. And when you’re with people who understand this about you, their own personality makes up for it. Does that make sense? Right now, I’ve become more of a listener than a talker. But there are people I’ve met who connect with me on some weird, unexplainable level that brings out the talker in me. And then I talk. Most of the time now I just listen.

    I’m sorry I’ve blabbed on and on and I know I probably didn’t make sense.

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