When to be gracious, when to react?
October 1, 2010 8:08 PM   Subscribe

I thought we were friends, apparently I don't fit into his list of priorities though. How should I have responded?

So we're work friends who became pretty good friends IRL (outside of the office). I joined the company last October, he was a transferee from another province (and much bigger office) a few months before that, and was sent to my home office under a "go work there or get laid off" situation. We were pretty good buddies (I thought), though in November he caught a cold and has been experiencing recurring dizziness and illness because it never really went away. So he was prone to cancel plans on occasion because he wasn't feeling well, but in general we still hung out every other weekend or so and had a good time. My friends became his friends. We bonded.

And then a year later he gets sent back to his home office because the projects have changed and his home office is demanding staff instead... and it ends up I get sent there too, temporarily, because he recommended me for the transfer to his bosses.

He moves back and decides to shack up in the basement suite of a friend's house while he looks to buy a condo. He goes to his nearby home city every weekend to give his friends their space. And though he's been talking up how we'll go do things in the big city, he keeps putting it off because he's still not feeling well, he's busy, he's not in town, it's too much of a hassle to get from downtown to his friend's place. I've just said, ok, i understand, i know you're not feeling well, we'll go eventually don't worry. We hung out once together, maybe twice for after-work drinks with the rest of the young work peeps, and that's been about it. He's been cancelling on me every week with "next week, we'll do something, I promise."

And he bought a place, the possession date was last week. His parents came up to help paint, and we were supposed to hang out this weekend, I'd see his new place and we were going to have dinner all together. And tonight he texts me saying "Oh, I'm sorry, I've been so busy shopping for furniture! I'd much rather we do something this week instead, is that ok?" I leave next weekend Saturday, permanently. I seriously doubt he'd keep his word this time after so many cancellations. I'm ticked off.

So I texted him "Really? You're going to cancel on me again?! I've been here 3 months and I'm leaving next weekend. You're probably just going to cancel again this week. Just forget it." But I was angry, and now I'm concerned that wasn't how I should have handled it. Was it ok to tell him I'm fed up with it, or should I have let things slide? What do the mefites think?
posted by ergo to Human Relations (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You lost your temper a bit, and that's easy to regret, but if I were in your shoes, I'd write the guy off as well. He missed his chance to be friends with you.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:12 PM on October 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Sure it was fine, but it sounds like you let this continue far too long without even hinting you were annoyed at the constant cancellations.

I think you should stop wasting time on him. Whatever is going on with him, he's not available to you. It hurts, I know, but I think it's time to enjoy your week and spend it with people who won't flake on you.
posted by canine epigram at 8:14 PM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't think of any reason to not tell him you were fed up. You were doing him a favor by calling him out on it - any thing else would be misleading him about what happened.
posted by amethysts at 8:22 PM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think you were out of line- in fact, I know exactly how you feel. I really hurts when someone you want in your life, want to spend time with, is not available the way you want them to be.

However I know from experience that reacting in that way rarely brings the result you want. Which is not to say you shouldn't have reacted that way. I think he should know that you are not pleased. It's just that when two people have different needs and different mentalities about a friendship andwhen they want to spend time together, it's hard to make things work out.

Though it's hard I would advise you to place your energies elsewhere- making friends with available people, working on your own projects, exercising, etc.
posted by bearette at 8:22 PM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's easy to armchair quarterback it and say you should replied with, "Oh dear, my time in town is about to end, guess we won't have a chance to hang out after all as I'm already booked through next week " and let his conscience inform him what a wanker he is, but if you're anything like me, such phrases fail in real time. Sure, you were a little curt, but you also had a lot of reason to be. Flaky friends suck, especially the chronically flaky kind.

Write him off and treat yourself to something fun and a little indulgent instead to leave town on a high note!
posted by smirkette at 8:30 PM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think your reaction was understandable, but if your reaction bothers you, in the future you should communicate how you are feeling to your friends before it gets to this point. He might have assumed you were not bothered by the constant flaking, since you kept telling him "i understand, don't worry". But yeah, he needs to know he is pushing your goodwill too far.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 8:32 PM on October 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

And after you texted him and he was made aware that you were peeved, did he text you back or call or email or...anything? If not, there's your answer. He's probably relieved that you finally get that the friendship has run its course. Sorry.
posted by iconomy at 8:53 PM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I had acted disappointed in the past, so I think he got the idea I'm unhappy with his flakiness, but I don't know whether I should have acted more disappointed as to let him know I insist on his time (and stress him out, potential dealbreaker of the friendship). I don't know how demanding I should be of my friends some days. I don't have many close ones, generally I try to act pleasant and when I finally start feeling like I'm being taken advantage of, I react. I try not to react too harshly, I process what I say, but I don't know if it's more along the lines of something where I politely let them know my displeasure and they should pick up on it, or an obvious "dude, really? you suck." Like them reading disinterest in the friendship vs. saying "i want to be friends with you but you need to do more".
posted by ergo at 8:54 PM on October 1, 2010

Response by poster: He hasn't texted me back yet, we'll see what he says Monday. I think he will feel guilt over it, it won't totally end things between us, but yeah it will be a "you're not much of a friend, are you?" moment for him to process.
posted by ergo at 9:01 PM on October 1, 2010

I just went through what you did. I did the same thing you did. He ended our friendship because of it. I don't have the greatest perspective on this, but I don't think there's an easy answer about what you should have done. Likely you will be able to judge better where things stand when and how he gets back to you next. I'm not so sure you can be confident that he will necessarily have processed what happened ('you're not much of a friend, are you?') the way you see it.
posted by kch at 9:14 PM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I second kch. The same thing happened to me. I got a friend break up email. But WTF if you can't speak your mind with friends, they're not friends.
posted by sweetkid at 9:33 PM on October 1, 2010

Actions speak louder than words. No matter how awesome someone is, if they can't make time for you, then they're not actually that awesome.

If he hasn't texted you back, then don't wait to hear from him Monday. Don't be that accommodating.

This one's a write-off. Leave him behind, and look forward! To the shiny new future where you will meet awesome friends who will actually do things with you, because you deserve that!
posted by ErikaB at 9:36 PM on October 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

Personally, I would've called him out on it a long time ago. I think your reaction is understandable. I'm not sure what you're trying to get here by asking this question. What's done is done. In the future, I would have,
1. Backed off earlier if the person kept cancelling. I think you could tell from months ago that he was a flaky friend, or maybe just not that into you?
2. Had a talk with him about this earlier, in a calm fashion. Say how you don't appreciate him always cancelling on you, because you have other people you could make plans with, but because you enjoy his company so much, you'd like to be able to still hang out with him. You can still go this route and have a calm discussion is you want to salvage this friendship.

How long has it been since your last text? Frankly, it seems that he just doesn't value your friendship. He's taken you for granted, being the person to hang out with when he has no other plans. He might just not care as much as you do. Sorry. There are always going to be people like that out there, but it's your decision whether you want them in your life. If anything, I'd just stop caring so much, and have pleasant hang outs with him every once in awhile when it suits you, but otherwise, move on with your life.
posted by lacedcoffee at 9:39 PM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think he's just not that into you...or he is an incredible flake. try to move on to better friends.
posted by bunny hugger at 9:43 PM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take a deep breath, and realize this: he liked you enough to recommend you for the gig you just did, which I presume you wanted, because you took it. So even if he turns out not to be the reliable friend you wanted, he did do something really nice for you, and even though he keeps blowing you off, he is apologetic. It's not like he's being a dick.

So yeah, if I were you, I would text him again and just say "realized that last text made me sound like an ass, sorry about that, still would be a shame if we can't hang out before I go back, though." Take the high road, in short. Then move him quietly into the area of friends who have done nice things for you, but can't be relied on to keep their plans with you, and proceed accordingly.
posted by davejay at 10:01 PM on October 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

Regrettably, I've been on both sides of this type of situation and my only explanation for my behavior is that sometimes my shit is not together enough to incorporate another variable, no matter how welcome or pleasant. I know it's annoying but sometimes it really is true when someone tells you, "It's not you - it's me."
posted by hapax_legomenon at 10:25 PM on October 1, 2010 [14 favorites]

Sounds like the guy has been busy, and cultivating a friendship was understandably low on his list. You should have managed your expectations better. Give him a break - the guy recommended you for a job!

I don't know how old you are, but I've found that as I get older and get busy with career and family and all the other grown-up stuff, I have less time to spend with friends, unless my friends can be integrated into other aspects of my busy life; all of our friends have kids, for example, and dinner parties always involve children running around.

As you get older, the opportunities for bromance diminish.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:03 PM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know how demanding I should be of my friends some days.

True friends don't need to be demanded. They are there, regardless.

Perhaps you shouldn't have sent that last text but... we all text stuff in heat of the moment.

Write him off. It's his loss.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 12:31 AM on October 2, 2010

It sounds a lot like he started a friendship with you when he was transferred into your area and therefore, presumably had fewer of his usual friends and activities available but since he returned to his former place, he took up where he left off. Remember it was where he wanted to be in the first place. The friendship cooled because his life got comfortably busy for him and he didn't need to call on you in order to have someone to hang out with on odd weekends.

The friendship was straightforward and progressing normally for you but for him it was a stopgap. He tried to show his appreciation for your befriending him by recommending you for the position in the best area--his chosen area. Your friendship wasn't ever "going anywhere" as far as he is concerned. He is probably shocked that you were somewhat hostile to him or ever saw it differently because, from his perspective, he hasn't actually changed the way he interacts with you. He still thinks of himself as hanging out with you when he is not otherwise engaged and fully intended to do so again. There was just not the need so far since he came back.

This disproportionate valuation of a relationship of whatever kind happens all the time. Next time, it might be you on the less invested side of the equation. Shrug it off.
posted by Anitanola at 12:52 AM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's not really a happy resolution for you here because you can't orchestrate what you wished had happened, which is that he had been more reliable, and essentially, a better friend. Whether or not this is because he thinks little of you or is unreliable or is just at a particularly busy time in his life.... all are plausible. But I don't think any of them preclude your having said something. You can only react to his behaviour, which was disrespectful-- according to me... but more importantly, according to you. If you don't like to be treated this way, you can certainly say something. If he is surprised, or uninterested, or angry... that is up to him. Most likely you can infer quite a bit from his response but I wouldn't hide your own feelings when he has prompted such a frustrated/hurt response in you. You've said your piece, I would leave it at that and feel good that I had said something to someone who had hurt me instead of letting it fester or passive-aggressively tried to facilitate a different response.
posted by jojobobo at 1:27 AM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

it sounds like he legitimately had a LOT going on, and perhaps despite his best efforts and desires to really want to see you, (i.e. why he kept making plans) he just couldn't handle everything. Until you're settled down in a place (furniture and all) that really consumes your life and makes everything else impossible.

but it sounds like you legitimately expressed some anger (I mean, if you'd gone over to his place and started screaming and breaking a vase that would be totally out of line, but you weren't overly dramatic in anyway). it's ok. even if you don't talk for a few weeks and there's tons of awkwardness, it's ok.

you can continue to be friends. we're all people, and we flake out and we don't get along for little reasons but don't just completely write it off because it sounds like you have the base for a great friendship in the future, especially since he'll probably be more relaxed.

take it easy. forgive him and forgive yourself. none if it's that big of a deal in the end. if you do overlook some of his faults he'll appreciate it and you might become closer.
posted by saraindc at 1:31 AM on October 2, 2010

First, credit where it's due. This guy has been good to you in the past, with the recommendation and all. He's not being nice to you now. If his schedule was all over the place, the considerate way for him to deal with it would have been not to make plans in the first place. It is not considerate for him to handle it by booking up your schedule and wasting your time, implicitly insulting you in the process. If he was trying to friend-dump you, again, the way to do it would have been not to make plans in the first place.

Having said that, your reaction throughout was understandable, but not likely to do your relationship much good. If he habitually flakes on people, he has to expect that at least some of them will get mad. However it's also true that silence tends to imply consent, so if you never said anything, he may just have not realized that you minded, even though he should have. Meanwhile, you've put up with it until you've exploded with possible bridge-burning behaviour.

I might not text back somebody who accused me the way you accused him. On the other hand, if I had a good relationship with them overall, I would stop and think whether they had good reasons to be upset and had just expressed themselves badly, in which case I should rush to do everything I could to make it right (including asking them to tell me in good time if I was doing something to upset them).

He hasn't done this.

He's not bothered about maintaining a good relationship of any kind with you.

For future reference, the next time anybody flakes on you without a truly excellent reason, you can just say, "oh, too bad" and leave it up to them to come back to you with a credible invitation. If they don't, leave them alone. If they flake on you a second time, don't make plans with them again or don't make plans with them for that specific activity again.

If your relationship with them is such that they usually see you but sometimes flake on you for no good reason, you might want to say, "I'd appreciate it if we could stick to our arrangements. I have other things that I could have done with that time." and leave it at that, taking the emotion out of it. But only do this once, or at most twice. Then stop making plans with them.

It is okay not to like being flaked on.
posted by tel3path at 3:18 AM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

I had acted disappointed in the past, so I think he got the idea I'm unhappy with his flakiness

The best way to communicate the idea that you're unhappy with someone's behavior is to use clear and direct words to describe your feelings, e.g. "I am unhappy with how frequently you have been cancelling our plans." Acting disappointed sends an ambiguous message which people will often misinterpret.
posted by prefpara at 8:34 AM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

I am probably the last person who should be giving friendship advice, so I'll ask this as a question, instead of a suggestion.

How does one tell the difference between all the behavior/explanations described above and the idea of "Why won't he just GET THE HINT ALREADY???"

I was imagining if the friend had written a related AskMe post and that is the question that I think he would be asking. "I tried blowing him off numerous times; I tried cancelling at the last minute; sure I recommended him for a post, but that was the least I could do; I haven't really done 'friend' things with him for over 3 months - why isn't he getting the hint?" (substitute appropriate genders)

For the record, I'm a person who likes direct honest communication, and if I'm not getting it, I ask. So I could be completely wrong about this whole thing. I'm just throwing it out there.
posted by CathyG at 10:44 AM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Part of the problem here is that it's become acceptable in your friendship to cancel plans via text message---really let's the Cancellor off the hook and doesn't give you much info on where he's coming from --you can't hear his tone of voice, for example.

My friends don't communicate the cancelling of plans via text. This pretty much makes him a douche. A douche you're pining for...

You can either humiliate yourself by begging him to act like a good friend, or have someplace better to be.

Be cordial, professional, and personally uninterested.
posted by vitabellosi at 11:07 AM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

It was absolutely fine to tell him how you feel. I would have been very frustrated at that point as well. It doesn't sound like he's a very good friend.

However, regarding Monday... these texts and plans were made outside of work. The personal side of your relationship is not working out well. Don't bring that into the office. It sounds like your company does a lot of transferring, so you may end up at this office working with him again. This is your last week to make a good impression on this workplace, and he is part of that office. He is listened to by his bosses to the extent that you were temporarily transferred there. End this on a polite, professional note. If he brings it up, just say you were disappointed that it didn't work out & that it's too bad you're busy winding up things in preparation to return to your home office. If a lunch date is possible this week, that might be a good way to smooth things over. Try to show him goodwill to the extent you can.

It doesn't really matter that your response was appropriate to a personal relationship outside of the office. Concentrate on professionalism & remember that this person may now or someday be influential enough to affect your transfers/career with this company. With that in mind, try to write off the out of office relatonship & cultivate all the good feelings you had towards each other before you extended your relationship.
posted by studioaudience at 12:07 PM on October 2, 2010

Cathy G, I wanted to respond to your question:

"How does one tell the difference between all the behavior/explanations described above and the idea of "Why won't he just GET THE HINT ALREADY???" I was imagining if the friend had written a related AskMe post and that is the question that I think he would be asking. "I tried blowing him off numerous times; I tried cancelling at the last minute; sure I recommended him for a post, but that was the least I could do; I haven't really done 'friend' things with him for over 3 months - why isn't he getting the hint?" (substitute appropriate genders)"

My advice on that question would be: "Stop making plans with someone you don't want to see. If they ask to hang out, say you can't & aren't sure when you would be able to due to a lot of different factors. I understand you want to be professional & don't want the fallout from saying "I don't like you." So politely decline all outside of work interaction & do an occasional lunch date if you do still like the person. Making plans with someone and cancelling indicates that you're interested in hanging out, but you are incredibly flakey. Neither one of those perceptions will help you maintain a polite, professional relationship."

Quite frankly, it sounds to me like he was interested in being friends when he was in a new place and lonely. Now that he's back among friends, he's not interested in doing the same favor for her. But continual promises and plans that end up broken are not a straightforward way of doing anything.
posted by studioaudience at 12:20 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

What you said and did was a normal reaction. It can lead you to think of calmer ways to handle such things in the future. I guess what you "should" have done is basically say the same thing, but calmly. "We've had to cancel plans a few times now. I'm starting to feel like the odd man out. How about if you call me when things calm down, if you want to have a beer or whatever."

Call or write this guy, and apologize for giving him a hard time. Say you know he's had health issues and lots of things going on what with moving to a new place and making improvements, etc. You miss hanging out with him, and would be glad to do so again when he has time to breathe.

I was in a similar situation once. I told my friend, I know your life has changed and you're busy. Give me a call when you want to connect. She never did. I felt resentful for a long time, all the while knowing that she had more obligations in her life and other valid priorities. People who say, "Let it go" are right, but if you do, you'll still feel bad about it for some time. That's natural, too.
posted by wryly at 3:07 PM on October 2, 2010

If you're female and he's male, he's probably started dating someone and may feel uncomfortable hanging around female friends a lot. Or maybe he lost interest in you... or friends all together. Maybe you are coming on to strong and feels like you want more than friendship and he's backing off.
Would you feel the same way if it were a female co-worker/friend?
posted by KogeLiz at 3:43 PM on October 2, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies and insight. I know his behaviour's pretty much only due to two things - 1) being back in his own environment means his social obligations to family and other friends are stretching his capacity to be social much more thinly - he's kind of introverted. 2) He's stressed about his condo stuff and just wants to get it all sorted asap, and his illness has made this an even more exhausting process. Not like he wants to break off the friendship, he's just got a lot on his plate right now and can't be counted on. I thought he might suck it up and at least visit with me for a little while this last weekend, but I guess not.

I think it was in my best interest to say my piece on Friday and have the weekend to just let it go, instead of not saying anything and let it fester until Monday. Now it's not a big deal - at this point I'm no longer angry and offended, just disappointed. And I'm glad I've said he doesn't get another chance at flaking on me, because my time is too valuable this week to get dicked around. While he's been scarce I've made a couple of great friends here, and I know they will make it a priority to see me before I go. It will be a great last week regardless.
posted by ergo at 12:13 PM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

« Older Hotel Hershey, not gonna happen   |   Charger for a Zenith DVP615 DVD player Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.