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Since I’m an introvert, I don’t have a strong desire to have lots of friends. That also means I don’t necessarily have a great deal of practice choosing friends wisely. A few years ago, I seemed to have done an especially poor job of picking people who had the same expectations for friendship, and I ended up being disappointed with the relationships. Even worse, I ended up hurting their feelings because I spent too much time trying to make things work.
Finding people who are well-suited for us seems like a daunting task to me. I can think of three instances when I began to wonder if I was destined to be anyone’s friend at all! In each case, there was a drastic imbalance in communications: they did almost all the talking and I did almost all the listening. Even more difficult for me was their lack of interest in me and my life: they rarely if ever asked how I was doing or what was new in my life. I realized I could share what was happening in my life, but when I did, they smiled and quickly changed the subject—to themselves.
The first friendship was with a woman who was a consultant like I was. As I described above, she talked incessantly about her life. I finally lost patience, and I calmly pointed out that our conversations revolved around her, and she rarely if ever asked about my life. She couldn’t argue with my point, and over our next couple of visits, she showed a little more curiosity about me, but she was clearly uncomfortable doing so. Eventually we drifted apart.
The second friendship progressed in a similar fashion. Naturally, she was surprised to learn about this imbalance in communication, so the next time we got together, she went out of her way to ask about my life—and then proceeded to point out that she could act like she cared. Stated that way, I wasn’t impressed. That friendship died, too.
But the most fascinating challenge came up with a male friend. He was studying to be a minister in the Church of Religious Science. And spoke about himself all the time. (You could say that wasn’t the best attribute for a minister.) But I didn’t want to have to go through the ordeal of explaining my reaction to our time together, so I stopped calling him. Undaunted, he would periodically call about getting together for lunch. I kept making excuses not to. He finally asked me if I was avoiding him. What was I to do??
So once again, I explained about our different communication styles, even taking responsibility for maybe having unreasonable expectations. Of course, he was embarrassed, but said he hadn’t realized what was transpiring but he understood. That was the last time we spoke.
But months later, I met with a mutual friend of ours. She was a senior minister and knew this fellow pretty well. In the course of our discussion, she told me that the minister-in-training had told her about my conversation with him. And he had told her that it was one of the most powerful and helpful messages he’d ever received.
Was I surprised. And relieved.
Still, when I am in a position of making new friends, I try to be more discerning and take responsibility for my needs and expectations. And I’m so fortunate that at this time in my life, I have some of the most loving friends I’ve ever had. We share a reciprocity and caring that is natural and fulfilling.
I strive to be the kind of friend I’d like them to be.Published in