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Set the bar...at what height exactly?
May 19, 2013 4:51 PM   Subscribe

Recently I became friends with a group of people that lie and act in deceitful and unfair ways towards others - so I say, they apparently find it perfectly okay. Is it right to hold your friends to your own personal standards?
posted by travelwithcats to Human Relations (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Find friends who already meet your standards and leave this crew behind.
posted by sweetkid at 4:54 PM on May 19, 2013 [19 favorites]


IMO, yes. I'm very firmly of the opinion that it is ludicrous and wrong to accept all the people who come into your social sphere as being viable candidates for long-term friendships. It is 100% better to be a little lonely than settle for being friends with anyone who treats others unkindly, unfairly, or with deceit. If this group of people you're getting to know is satisfied with their dynamic, yippee skippie for them. You do NOT have to fraternize with them any more than you want to if their behaviors and actions make you uncomfortable.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 4:54 PM on May 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


Why would you think that this group of people would treat you better than they treat others? Get rid of these people and find good people to hang with.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:56 PM on May 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also, you might want to read up on the Five Geek Social Fallacies and see if the things described there apply to any of your new friends (or past friends, if this is something that's been bugging you about other groups of friends, too.)
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 4:58 PM on May 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


You're not holding them to your personal standards - you're holding them to the basic standards of being human. I expect other people to be decent at the very least. To be my friends, they must be more. I'm an awesome person and I surround myself with awesome people.

You're worthy of good people for your friends. Dump these folks and don't look back.

(Also, it's hard to be around toxic people for long without either picking up their traits or contracting a case of moral weariness.)
posted by punchtothehead at 5:02 PM on May 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Right in what sense? It's a personal relationship; you haven't signed friendship contracts with them.

It's unlikely you can make them change and keep the friendship. Pick one. Or, you know, just don't be friends with them anymore and avoid the inevitable drama.
posted by rtha at 5:07 PM on May 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hold my closest friends to aspirational standards. I admire them for their particular traits, and often think, "Wow, I hope that one day I can be as patient/outgoing/spontaneous/etc. as she is." It has been a useful metric.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:07 PM on May 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


You are who you spend time with.

Be careful who you let around you, because you will take their views as yours, their habits as yours, their values as yours. This doesn't mean I expect my friends to be mirror images of me, with all their decisions subject to the If I Were Them litmus test. It just means that I need to respect them and value how they act and think along at least some dimension.
posted by daveliepmann at 5:12 PM on May 19, 2013 [21 favorites]


If you hang out with this bunch then you are clearly signaling your own standards to those who know them. You would be one of them. The answer is yes; find friends that meet your standards. If these guys do, change your standards.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:14 PM on May 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


For me this wouldn't be so much about holding them to my standards, as it would just not wanting to be on the receiving end of the lying and deceit eventually.
posted by cairdeas at 5:16 PM on May 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is it right to hold your friends to your own personal standards?

i think it's more about finding friends who already meet your standards. you can't change anyone so i'm not sure how you could hold these new friends to your standards. you can confront them with their actions but that is about it. if you stay in relationship with them and they don't change then you'd have to lower your standards. the best thing is to find friends who have pretty much the same standards as you do.
posted by wildflower at 5:17 PM on May 19, 2013


Thanks so far.
Could we move that beyond "Find new friends" to a more philosophical angle maybe?

This is on the magnitude of telling folks you're 5 years younger than you really are and dating multiple people at the same time without letting them know exactly.
Stuff I personally would feel uncomfortable with - but others seem to find perfectly normal. So are my standards maybe screwed and is expecting others to behave in certain ways unrealistic?
posted by travelwithcats at 5:32 PM on May 19, 2013


Well, the "philosophical" angle is more or less on the order of hoping they're not lying to you or cheating on you than anything more profound. I suppose you could treat them as a sort of sociological experiment, considering that you have essentially already concluded you can't trust them, but gosh are they fun to be around -- which makes you a user yourself instead of a real friend.

I mean, forgiveness is something you do for yourself, because you don't want to waste your life filling your head with thoughts of what someone else has done to you. This sounds like forgiving them in advance and deciding not to call them on anything.

Either you have standards or you don't. You say they do things that violate your standards, but you have got to be willing to take the next step, look in the mirror, and conclude that by tolerating it you are the standard-breaker. You're torn between having standards and having fun, I guess. It also sounds like you won't, or can't, ever confront them with even a broad discussion of what sorts of human transactions are OK and which aren't. Are those people worth spending time with? See, again, it all turns back on you.

Best case scenario, as I see it, is that you're lucky if you aren't judged by your associations by people who do not only "have" standards but also maintain them in their personal sphere by distancing themselves from others who don't.

Ultimately, as they say in twelve-step programs, the only person you can change is yourself. You can't expect others to magically become nicer, better people just by being around them. You need to either choose to walk away, or find some way to let them know how they are letting you down.
posted by dhartung at 5:41 PM on May 19, 2013


So are my standards maybe screwed and is expecting others to behave in certain ways unrealistic?

Out of all of the people I am good enough friends with to hang out with regularly, none of them act like that. I would be pretty shocked if I heard any of them lie at all. These are males and females, religious and not religious, and in their 20's, 30's, and 40's. They are all pretty regular people. So I would say no, it is not unrealistic.

Yes, it's common for people to lie and be deceitful. There are also plenty of people who don't act that way, ever. But, surrounding yourself with people who lie does change your perception. It makes it seem much more common and usual, because you see it all the time.
posted by cairdeas at 5:42 PM on May 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would not socialize with these people as you describe them if I had any choice. And I would certainly never be able to trust them enough to be friends.

I do not think your standards here are unreasonable at all. I mean. people all have faults and make mistakes. But it sounds like this is a group of people who just don't have the same definition of fault or mistake. I am definitely not the most flexible person, so YMMV, but I would find your situation unacceptable.
posted by at home in my head at 5:44 PM on May 19, 2013


For a more philosophical angle, you could do worse than to read Chaim Potok's The Chosen. Here's a quote:

***

“Reuven listen to me. The Talmud says that a person should do two things for himself. One is to acquire a teacher. Do you remember the other?"
"Choose a friend," I said.
"Yes. You know what a friend is, Reuven? A Greek philosopher said that two people who are true friends are like two bodies with one soul."
I nodded.
"Reuven, if you can, make Danny Saunders your friend."
"I like him a lot, abba."
"No. Listen to me. I am not talking about only liking him. I am telling you to make him your friend and to let him make you his friend.”

***

One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that you can't get ahead by having anything to do with the wrong kind of people. It's never worth it.
posted by HotToddy at 5:45 PM on May 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


The behavior you describe would cause me to lose respect friends behaving that way. I wouldn't call them out—I very much doubt they'd care what I thought—I'd just not want to spend time with them, and let them fade out of my life. Because I would think they were gross, manipulative, self-serving people whom I couldn't trust.

Your standards are not screwed up. Theirs are.
posted by mumkin at 5:54 PM on May 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


What are friends if not sort of an outward representative of your interests, values and beliefs on some level? There is no way I would want deceitful friends because what is the point of that? Why be friends with people I couldn't trust or respect? You don't want to hear 'find new friends' so I don't know what to say. The only alternative seems to be 'compromise your moral standards'. I know which one I would choose.
posted by bquarters at 5:56 PM on May 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Do you want to change your personal standards? Do you feel like you should?

Maybe these people are fun and charming and they have a great time together, but if they're doing things that hurt people--or you--then the rest of that quickly becomes irrelevant.

You might make an effort to get them to clean up their act, but if they're already deceitful by way of habit, I wouldn't suggest getting your hopes up.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 5:59 PM on May 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Question #1: Do you respect these people?
Question #2: Can you be friends with people you don't respect?
posted by 2oh1 at 5:59 PM on May 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Your standards are not unrealistic. It sounds like your friends' choices are spreading herpes, screwing up theirs and others' opportunities for real relationships, and gaslighting you to think this is normal. The only philosophical question is if you want to be evil.
posted by sninctown at 6:03 PM on May 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Could we move that beyond "Find new friends" to a more philosophical angle maybe?

"What people do with you they will eventually do to you."

Honestly, I think you phrased the original AskMe deliberately to fish for responses that would take your side.

I wouldn't lie about my own age, but I also have no constitutional right to know someone else's age. Maybe someone just doesn't want to talk about her age and giving a false answer just disarms the situation. It's different if they are lying about their age to get a discount. As far as dating? People have different standards-- many people accept that in the beginning of a relationship, people may be pursuing different things at the same time, but no one wants to have it shoved in their face, so everyone just keeps quiet about it until they explicitly agree to be exclusive.

I myself would not think twice about disengaging from a group of people I felt ethically uncomfortable with, because spending time with people will slowly but surely "normalize" their standards of behavior to you, either consciously or subconsciously. I you don't want their behavior to bring your own standards down, I would pull away.

But I would also possibly rethink the stark terms in which you portray them.
posted by deanc at 6:03 PM on May 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is on the magnitude of telling folks you're 5 years younger than you really are and dating multiple people at the same time without letting them know exactly.
Stuff I personally would feel uncomfortable with - but others seem to find perfectly normal. So are my standards maybe screwed and is expecting others to behave in certain ways unrealistic? (travelwithcats)


This wasn't an odd question until you put lying about your age into the same category as two-timing somebody. I would say the first is harmless and the second violates all sorts of romantic, social, and public-health norms.
posted by d. z. wang at 6:06 PM on May 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


On non-preview, I realize I hadn't considered the possibility of age-gated discounts. I have more of a problem with that, although I still wouldn't put it in the same league as infidelity.
posted by d. z. wang at 6:08 PM on May 19, 2013


So are my standards maybe screwed and is expecting others to behave in certain ways unrealistic?

expecting people to be honest about things like their age and their dating status is pretty basic altho there is a gray area when you first start dating as to disclosure. even so, these may not seem like huge transgressions now but chances are they are being dishonest about other things you don't know about yet. sadly, they'll probably lie/mistreat you as well and no your standards are not unrealistic. these people are probably a lot of fun but it won't be fun when you get burned.
posted by wildflower at 6:11 PM on May 19, 2013


I wouldn't trust someone who lies about their age, and I wouldn't respect someone who two-times other people, but that doesn't mean I'd refuse to drink a beer with them or go to the movies. I definitely wouldn't lend them money or let them housesit.

There are degrees of trust and friendship. You have to decide what you'll put up with, and what you'll let yourself in for.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:21 PM on May 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Do they have any redeeming qualities? Sure, Sally may be dating 5 guys and claimed to be 5 years younger, but can you call her when you have a problem? If you need them to feed your pet turtle when you go on vacation, would they do it? Or is it more of a "They tell this person x,y, and z- who knows what they're telling me?" sort of thing? If so, downgrade them to acquaintance and instead just catch a movie or go to the bar, but keep contact to a minimum.
posted by lawgirl at 6:31 PM on May 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Appreciate all your answers, thanks!

Re: "Find new friends" - valid advice. Since it looked like it would become a pile on without new insights and not addressing the question, I felt compelled to ask for a different angle, bquarters.

Phrased the question in the (strong) language according to how I see it - that's why I am asking here if I am being inappropriately judgmental and unrealistic, deanc.

Follow-up examples are the real life ones, I just named them and didn't think of them as on the same level, sorry for the confusion d. z. wang.

Marked a few answers as best, will ponder on "What are friends if not sort of an outward representative of your interests, values and beliefs" and "There are degrees of trust and friendship".

Thanks again.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:43 PM on May 19, 2013


Phrased the question in the (strong) language according to how I see it - that's why I am asking here if I am being inappropriately judgmental and unrealistic

We couldn't know whether you were being inappropriately judgmental and unrealistic until you clarified what made them such "deceitful unfair liars." The question is whether your perceptions were correct or not. "Should I hang out with deceitful liars who screw over other people?" has one answer, which is "no." The question is whether this is an accurate portrayal of your social circle.

They sound more immature than anything else. Lying about one's age isn't unknown-- it's considered inappropriate to ask someone her age in the first place, so a straight answer can't be assured. Once again, we have no Constitutional Right to that information, even though it's sort of petty to lie about. Dating a few people around? You call them "deceitful" without establishing that their is any active "deception" involved, but at the same time grownups should be in the "shit or get off the pot" stage of their lives when it comes to whether to continue a romantic relationship or whether there are other people you want to pursue.

There are plenty of people that are not like this, and you can go off and find them. But from what you describe, these friends of yours don't sound like people who are going to steal from you (or anyone else), mooch off all your alcohol, try to have sex with your spouse, or be personally insulting and hurtful to you. When you say "deceit", I think things like theft, fraud, adultery, betrayal. Not white lies and lots of dating-in-parallel.
posted by deanc at 8:06 PM on May 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


The bar is set at whatever you feel comfortable with - but, also realise that no one is perfect.
posted by heyjude at 8:13 PM on May 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Something about the phrasing "lie and act in deceitful and unfair ways towards others" suggests, somehow, that these people aren't as bad as you assume. Everyone lies in little ways, and if they're not hurting anyone than let it go.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:36 PM on May 19, 2013


You are judged by the company you keep.
posted by Cranberry at 11:29 PM on May 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some of the advice over on this thread might be useful.
posted by Broseph at 11:55 PM on May 19, 2013


My guiding concepts are honesty, respect and dignity. I set my bar pretty high and avoid becoming friendly with people who do not share the same high standards. This is because the people with low standards end up hurting those around them.
posted by BenPens at 2:17 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It depends on the lie, is the best I can tell you.

Telling people you're five years younger than you actually are? As long as it's for social situations only, not legal ones or lying to a SO, fine, who cares? Dating multiple partners? Unless each & every one of those partners clearly KNOWS about it, very NOT cool: it's toying with other people's emotions, plus --- if there's any sex involved --- it's playing with those other people's health.

Basically, lying in any way that could hurt someone else is unacceptable; lies that don't in any way affect other people is dumb but human. I used to work with someone who claimed her father was the US Ambassador to France: gee, I could have SWORN the then-ambassador was named Pamela Harriman.... that lie, I ignored. But when she lied about work (did/didn't do something, etc.) I'd call her on it in a second.
posted by easily confused at 2:58 AM on May 20, 2013


I find that ethics and honesty are pretty bianary. Either you are ethical and honest or you're not. There's no half-way. If you are honest in your personal life, but not in business, you're still dishonest.

For some reason you're attracted to and have attracted people of questionable character to be your friends. I think that requires a bit of introspection. We compartmentalize many things in our friendships. We have friends who have politics who are diametrically different to ours, but a their core, these folks are good people. We have friends who have very different religious beliefs and again, they are good people. We do not, to our knowledge have any friends who are liars or cheaters or theives.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:13 AM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hi, just chiming in to say that most people (including relationship prospects) will judge you based on your friends. And the people that are close to you and mean the most to you, really reflect off of the kind of person that you are. So while, you may care for these people, if you have higher standards and can't reasonably assume that they will meet them, I suggest keeping them as friendly acquaintances and trying to build a new social circle. You can still be friends with these people, but after a while, you may yourself realize they are stifling you and your growth as an individual. Try searching for like people that will encourage you for your best, not people that would see you as if you are a "better" person than they are.
posted by lunastellasol at 6:18 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't lie for your friends, and make sure they know that if they ever ask you to.

Make friendly corrections if they lie to you about stuff you know they're lying about.
E.g. laugh, and point out you know they're x+5, etc, 'pretending' they're joking, until they knock it off (if that's never, then it's kind of dark humour, but it gets funnier over time).

If they lie to others in your presence, you are under no obligation to take what they say seriously. Again, laugh, and maybe don't specifically correct it if it's small thing, but joke that they'll still be x-age in 10 years time too. People who lie about their age sometimes take that as a compliment, and will happily joke that they've stopped having 'birthdays' etc.

If someone already has a partner, and you think the new person doesn't know that, tell them. Don't be accusatory about it, you don't want to be rude as maybe they all know that they're not dating exclusively, or they're all poly. If so, no problem!
But I won't not-mention the existing girlfriend/boyfriend etc, so if they have a problem, oh well.
posted by Elysum at 8:32 PM on September 4, 2013


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