Help Me Reduce Friendship "Churn"
February 15, 2013 2:17 PM Subscribe
I have a system to develop new friends while simultaneously measuring whether they're worthwhile, allowing me to toss users and losers into the discard piles. However, I worry that the intensity of this filtering process may inadvertently be eliminating some perfectly decent people. Snowflake details below.
posted by wolfdreams01 to human relations (47 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The best way to describe my friendship process is that it starts out being heavily transactional, and becomes more empathetic as time goes on. Basically I meet somebody interesting and invite them out to something fun. Then they invite me to something fun, or do something thoughtful for me. Then I reciprocate, and we hit the friendship ball back and forth until empathy develops, at which point I no longer care whose turn it is to reciprocate. To me, "friendship" is when those little acts of kindness intermingle to the point where it's pointless to even keep score anymore of who's ahead or who's behind.
Of course, sometimes these new potential friends fail to live up to my expectations and don't reciprocate my invites. When they happens, I send one or two more invites to see if that jumpstarts any reciprocity, and if it doesn't I simply kick the friendship to the curb, discontinuing contact. (Although naturally I'm polite if I happen to run into them accidentally at some point.)
To me, it almost seems silly to call this a "system" since it seems like straightforward common sense, but apparently quite a few people don't measure their friendships this way. In any case, this method generally works very well for me. Because all of my friends have thoroughly vetted and have generally shown themselves to be giving and thoughtful people in the very beginning stages of the friendship, I know I can rely on them when I am in need - and I literally cannot remember the last time I have ever disappointed in a close friend - they have always been there for me every single time that I needed them. It's quite heartwarming really.
The one problem is that sometimes the "reciprocity" line gets blurry. For example, I know a lot of people in the comedy and music scene. Sometimes I invite them to something fun, and in return they send me an invitation to a performance of theirs - a comedy show that they are doing, or a gig that their band is playing somewhere local. I don't consider this reciprocity, because it's not something that benefits me or that they even put any effort into. On the contrary, if I go to their show it only benefits them, because the more people show up the more popular they seem, thus enhancing their chances of success in the entertainment field. It even makes me a little bit angry, because from my perspective it feels like I have gone through a certain amount of effort to plan a fun activity for these potential new friends, and their "gratitude" is to selfishly try and make me waste my valuable time watching their stupid shows in order to further their careers. Obviously I never say this out loud, but privately I get resentful about this, and if this kind of thing happens a couple of times I just drop them without any fuss.
My concern is that sometimes, this might be the result of a miscommunication or different value systems. It's entirely possible that these potential friends might actually be decent people who also believe in reciprocity, but simply don't realize that inviting me to one of their shows isn't my idea of thoughtfulness. Then they wonder why they're no longer getting invited to any of my group activities or social events, and feel like I'm snubbing them for no good reason. To me, this seems like unnecessary friendship churn because tI'm writing off people who could potentially be good friends if they only understood my emotional needs and expectations. Plus it seems a little passive-aggressive to ditch somebody without expressing the reasons why, and I generally prefer to be direct in my dealings with people.
What I'm looking for is a clear way to phrase my expections, so that new acquaintances realize that A) if they want to be friends I expect them to put as much into the friendship as they receive from it in accordance with the principle of reciprocity, and B) that I don't in any way consider being invited to their show a favor to me - in fact, I consider attending their show to be a favor to them. However, I'd like to find a way to phrase this as tactfully and respectfully as possible, so that if I have to drop them we can go our separate ways without any lingering resentment.