Why do people I thought were friends suddenly drop me?
December 11, 2010 2:37 PM   Subscribe

Was it something I said? Why do my friends keep dropping me?

Over the last few years I’ve been friends with a number of women - some of them are friends I’ve met through work, and others outside work - all of whom have suddenly dropped the friendship. There’s been no bust-ups, no arguments or disagreements, but we’ll go from being friends, sharing social events, spending time together, sharing confidences, laughs, good times and then ... nothing. The kicker in every single one of these situations is that I later find out that I’ve been deliberately excluded from something or otherwise snubbed.

- A woman from the office, we’d have lunch once or twice a week, we’d go shopping and for a meal or to a movie after work or at weekends from time to time, we’d help each other out with work projects, talk about girly stuff like clothes, makeup and shoes, boyfriends, all that stuff. She was offered a much better job, I was really happy for her, and as it came up to her leaving date I talked with the other women in the team about arranging a lunch for her, as is usual in our office. They all said they weren’t interested, which I thought was odd, so I asked her when I could take her out to lunch myself. She was evasive, and then one day about a week before she left, she and all the other women left me sitting at my desk as they all got their coats and purses, making it quite clear that I was not included as they went out for what was, I later learned, the leaving lunch that someone else had arranged.

- A woman I’d known for a while, we discovered we both had a mutual interest in a particular activity, so we signed up for a course to learn how to do this activity, every week for several months, having coffee or dinner after class, I’d give her a ride to and from school. We went away on a vacation related to this activity, shared a room, had a great time, we talked a lot about our hopes and dreams, our fears and worries and were (I thought) close friends. She met a great guy, they decided to get married and I was the only one out of our group of friends who wasn’t invited to the wedding. It was deliberate because the wedding was about 100 miles away and, as people were making travel plans, I was asked by a few people about car and hotel sharing and I had to say I hadn’t had an invitation. Everyone was surprised, so someone mentioned it to the bride in case my invitation had been lost and she said she had not invited me.

- A friend from work, I’ve known her for 10 years, we’ve been friends for about 5 years, we spent time together outside work, visited each other’s homes, went to museums, theatre, day trips, she came to my birthday party at my apartment. We’d meet for coffee in the cafeteria at work, go out for lunch when our schedules allowed, and would always be emailing each other about all sorts of things. She’s retiring next week and I wanted to see her before she retires for lunch or coffee and to give her the gift I got for her. She emailed me yesterday and said she’s “fully booked” and in the same email said that the party she’d had the day before went very well, with “over 100 friends from work” in the office cafeteria.

- A woman who moved into the same street as me, right opposite my place, because she liked where I live so much and used to spend a lot of time at my apartment. When she moved here, I’d invite her over for meals, we used to go out to a social group together at least once a week, we spent two Christmases together - once at my house, once at hers, with other friends too, we’d cat-sit each others’ pets. She decided to move closer to her daughter, who had a young baby, so she could provide daycare while her daughter went back to work, and she rented out her apartment. She cried when she left, saying she’d miss me so much but it was always me who emailed her, and she would only contact me if she wanted something. The tenants moved out yesterday and I just found out from another neighbor that she’d been back to her apartment today, spent most of the day there, knocked on the doors of neighbours who she used to tell me she couldn’t stand to chat with them but, even though she would have seen lights on in my apartment, did not come over even just to say hi.

This is happening too often for me to think it is just coincidence, but I am at a loss to understand what it is I might be doing to make my friends drop me. I am not a clingy, demanding person (just the opposite, in fact, I am reserved and a bit shy). But each time this happens, it makes me retreat a little more into myself and hold back with people, because it really is hurtful and humiliating to be summarily rejected by people I thought were friends.

I am a kind, compassionate, generous person, I know that, I try to treat people as well as I can, yet I am left feeling that, as much as I’d like to expand my social circle, it’s just not worth it if this is going to keep happening. I do have a couple of other close women friends who I love spending time with, doing all the same kinds of things I did with the four women mentioned above, and they are good, true and loyal friends, so I know that I can and do have true friendships.

Yes, there is a question at the end of all this:

- From what I’ve said, is there something you can identify that I’m doing (or not doing) that’s making people decide they don’t want to be my friend any more (I know how ‘high school’ that sounds, but I really am puzzled as to why someone would just drop me like this).

- How do I lower my barriers enough to make friends yet at the same time protect myself from rejection? After two blatant snubs two days in a row, I’m feeling pretty raw about this right now.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (57 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
I presume you're a woman?
posted by schrodycat at 2:48 PM on December 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry you had to experience these things ... I don't blame you for feeling raw at all. And I agree with you that it sounds like more than coincidence. Sometimes people are just petty or cruel, or thoughtless/self-centered, but this sounds like a bit much. Unfortunately, I think there's really no way for us to know what could be happening.

The only real link I can see is that the first three incidents were centered around eating/food. Is it possible you might eat in a way that bothers other people? Or, that you might have an odor you don't realize and everyone around feels too awkward to tell you?

I think your best bet might be to go to a counselor who will be able to observe you over a long period of time and give you a better idea than we could of what the problem might be, if there is one. There are also dating coaches who can do this for you, even though this is not a dating problem.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:50 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

From what I’ve said, is there something you can identify that I’m doing (or not doing) that’s making people decide they don’t want to be my friend any more

I don't know that this is answerable because you haven't actually described any of your own behaviors. You've just talked about what other people have done. It could be anything from your misreading of how close you are to people to a bad habit you have in group situations - drinking too much, dominating conversations, being catty - anything. It could just be a run of bad luck. We don't have enough info.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:51 PM on December 11, 2010 [29 favorites]

I do have a couple of other close women friends who I love spending time with, doing all the same kinds of things I did with the four women mentioned above, and they are good, true and loyal friends, so I know that I can and do have true friendships.

Ask them what they think.
posted by availablelight at 2:51 PM on December 11, 2010 [28 favorites]

From what you've said here it's impossible to guess - your whole question is filled with details about their behaviour not your own so much. Maybe there's nothing there, maybe there is, but it's hard to know...

Taking a wild punt, do you hold some deeply fringe opinion? Are you racist? Part of a very non mainstream religion or intensely religious? Homophobic? Really ball-shudderingly racist? Most of the time, when I've seen stuff like this happening it's because the person in question is normal in like every respect, except totally batshit insane/offensive in just one area. No one has the courage to bring it up so they just "drop" the person.

I dunno, this sounds weird to me. Why don't you ask some of the ex-friends or a mutual friend or someone at the office you can trust. Don't be a dick about it; be polite and cautious in the way you ask.
posted by smoke at 2:53 PM on December 11, 2010 [9 favorites]

This is happening too often for me to think it is just coincidence, but I am at a loss to understand what it is I might be doing to make my friends drop me. I am not a clingy, demanding person (just the opposite, in fact, I am reserved and a bit shy).

My only thought is that reserved and shy sometimes comes across as indifferent and uninvolved -- self-sufficient, but to an extreme degree. (this is often a problem I have.)
posted by jeather at 2:57 PM on December 11, 2010 [9 favorites]

Are all these people in the same circle of friends? There could be some crazy actively making people chose between you and them.
posted by wayland at 3:03 PM on December 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry to hear that you're being poorly treated by others who obviously are not who you think they are. There's nothing here that suggests your behavior might push people away or make them not like you. I'm curious as to where you live. I live in a very fake city. And in this city it's not uncommon to find yourself in situations such as the ones you've described. I also find that many people in my city are extremely self centered and extremely flaky. They might be your best friend one minute and then the next minute they don't even acknowledge that you exist. It sucks but it happens. Sometimes, when people are really nice, and seems like you're one of those people....you can get taken advantage of. Nice people are always there for these so called friends....there to talk...there to hang out with...anything a good friend would be there for. But then, when you least expect it that person will do something that suggests they care nothing for your as a friend. And trust me, it's not you, it's them. At the end of the day, the only thing I can suggest is to take friendships slowly. Try not to become to emotionally attached too quickly. And do your best to not expect anything. This way you can't be disappointed. Of course we all expect or want certain things in a friendship, but keep your expectations low at least for a little while. The good news is that you have a handful of good, true, loyal friends. And at the end of the day that's all your really need. Hopefully this helps. There's good people who are great friends out there...and you'll find them.
posted by ljs30 at 3:06 PM on December 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

You should ask why you weren't invited to the wedding. The response will probably give you a lot of answers that you need to hear.
posted by molecicco at 3:07 PM on December 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

I've had this happen, not to such an extreme, but it has happened. I had a friend who was a good friend for a while, then dropped me, the whole group dropped me, years later I tried to friend him on Facebook and he blocked me -- never any explanation, or disagreement at all. He was still FB friends with everyone else in our group. This happened in a few other situations as well.

My experience has been that when I have tried to address it directly with the person it only makes it worse -- they get weird and defensive and who knows what all. I wouldn't ask your existing, remaining friends "what it's about" -- obviously they like you as you are so they might just be uncomfortable and stumped.

I brought these things up with my therapist, fully expecting him to help me dissect why some people were being like this and if there's some sort of pattern I need to extricate myself from -- but he just told me to focus on the positive relationships I had and try to let go of the other relationships.

I know how much it can hurt, but the only thing to do is let it go. If you go back over everything and try to "correct" your behavior, you'll only make yourself miserable.

Don't live for other people. If you feel like you're a kind, compassionate person, you surely are, and don't take other people's rudeness and cowardice affect you. Good luck to you.
posted by sweetkid at 3:08 PM on December 11, 2010 [7 favorites]

It could be the minutiae of the way you comport yourself. It could be something huge. It could be more or less anything. The best we can do is ask what these stories have in common.

What these stories have in common is that none of the people involved have actually told you anything you're doing that bothers them and there have been no arguments, no blowups, no confrontations, no nothing. I then take this into account:

I am a kind, compassionate, generous person, I know that, I try to treat people as well as I can, yet I am left feeling that, as much as I’d like to expand my social circle, it’s just not worth it if this is going to keep happening. I do have a couple of other close women friends who I love spending time with, doing all the same kinds of things I did with the four women mentioned above, and they are good, true and loyal friends, so I know that I can and do have true friendships.

Okay, well...don't take this the wrong way, but are you any fun?

There's a sort of clinical tone here and please bear in mind that I don't know anything about you other than what you've written here, but based solely on that I'm picking up on a kind of clinical, analytical tone that's making me wonder what the internal process is like for you and what it looks like when it reaches the outside world.

That's my best guess. There really isn't enough information here to give you much insight, other than that you should maybe ask someone you trust, and do your absolute damndest not to get upset no matter what they tell you.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 3:10 PM on December 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

Other commonalities in the stories-- (1) All of the women you describe are going though life transitions when they drop you and (2) 3 out of 4 hang out with you one-on-one but didn't invite you to a social event with all of their other friends.

The former could just mean you're overestimating the closeness of work friends (though it's weird that other coworkers were invited). The latter might mean something like smoke suggestions-- do you have some kind of predilection or bias that people can accept one-on-one but don't want their broader group of friends to think they endorse?
posted by parkerjackson at 3:17 PM on December 11, 2010 [6 favorites]

Guess #1 - there is someone deliberately talking about you to these people in order to make them dislike you. (What Wayland said.)

Guess #2 - there's something about your personality or behavior that leads people to think of you as less a real friend than a temporary friend that they van use when they need you but drop when they don't - when the calss ends, when they move away, when they change jobs.

I wouldn't ask them, but do you have any other trusted friends who are also friends with these women who you could ask to discreetly dig up some info for you?
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:18 PM on December 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Van = can; calss = class. (stupid phone.)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:19 PM on December 11, 2010

Can you ask the other close women friends that you mention what they think about these situations?
posted by unknowncommand at 3:22 PM on December 11, 2010

Do you ever hang out in casual group situations? At work, for instance, do you ever go out with all your coworkers? Or just hang out with one or two, individually? If it is the latter, you may be giving off "I don't do group things" vibes.

There are people within any kind of social circle who take it upon themselves to do the planning and/or hosting. If you don't know these people, at least casually, you will not get invited to things even if you know people who are invited. I have gone to more than a few parties where it was explicitly clear that bringing people who weren't invited by the host is totally not okay. And that is not an unfair rule, truth be told.

Try to hang out with more groups and less individuals.
posted by griphus at 3:30 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm wondering a little about the way you've presented these stories/situations. You've told us every piece of info we would need about the other people, but almost nothing about you. I'm not sure what you were hoping that others would be able to evaluate about you from the stories, when you included so little detail about you but so much more about how you were in almost a "victim" role in the situations. Now, I would totally understand if that came from the high-running emotions of being turned down twice in the past couple of days, but I wonder if it's worth looking at whether it's a pattern, too.

Taking control of your own situation (like asking some of these past friends the questions you're asking here) might help you a lot in this instance.
posted by so_gracefully at 3:30 PM on December 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

God, I'm sorry.

The situations all seem to have major life changes in common as the point where this shows up; is there anything weird about your reactions to other people getting married or promoted, like do you feel threatened or anything?

Is there anything that you do habitually (i.e., are you mainly drinking buddies with these people?) that might not translate to whatever the next stage of life is for these people?

Is there any chance you represent something they want to view themselves as moving away from?

If you're otherwise social this might be just coincidental--and I am truly sorry regardless. It sounds painful and you should give yourself a lot of credit for being willing to confront it and work to address it; that takes a lot of humility and strength and I admire you for it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:48 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a 30-something female family member who has the same problem. I have no idea what the OP's social skills are like, but what I've observed from my family member is that: she's shy to the point where she doesn't seem interested in people and comes off as very aloof. She will never initiate activities with people and then is very hurt when she is left out of plans other people make. Then when you do get her warmed up and talking, she tends to be a serious Debbie Downer sort of person, and is mainly interested in talking about her many health issues and how crappy her own life is and how persecuted she is. She does not ask people questions about themselves or really seem to pay attention to what they are saying. She's also got a habit of making off-handed awful and offensive comments about other people in an attempt to be witty (ie. in one group conversation she repeatedly referred to the toddler aged child of an unmarried friend of a family member as "so and so's illegitimate spawn" and was oblivious to the horrified expressions on some of our faces.)

It's totally not surprising to me that my family member does not get included in more activities or invited to things. She's not fun to spend time with.
posted by pluckysparrow at 3:50 PM on December 11, 2010 [15 favorites]

Do you drink? Some people get loud or whatever after half a glass of wine. That is a reason many people are slowly excluded from social situations and work functions, especially as their friends get older. Same goes for excessive flirting, but that doesn't sound like it's the case in this siutation.

I had a co-worker, great guy, nice and well liked but after one beer he was just obnoxious. I don't think he realized it at all but it led to him being excluded from every activity where there was even a chance of alcohol.
posted by fshgrl at 3:56 PM on December 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

As others have said, it's hard to come up with an answer without knowing more about the situation, so this is just a hypothesis/brainstorm. Is it possible that these women who dropped you were jerks (or just not very genuine people), and you don't have a particularly sensitive jerk filter? Or maybe they wanted to keep the relationship not-so-close, and felt that you hadn't read their signals to that effect?

Echoing others, I think it's worth asking a close friend (especially if it's someone who has met one of these ex-friends) if they have any insights or any suggestions. This works best if you make it clear that you're looking for (nicely worded) feedback, and you're open to potential criticism.
posted by pompelmo at 4:03 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's one possibility:

The friends you list who dropped you abruptly were kind of "friends of convenience." You worked with them, you lived near them, you had a common hobby. My guess, and it is just a guess, is that this is almost the friendship equivalent of "just not that into you" and these "friends" were particularly tactless. When their lives changed and the friendship was no longer highly convenient, they dropped the friendship.

I would really like to hear more information about you and your friends. Things like your ages, single, married, children, how demanding your job is that type of thing.

Work friendships are particularly tenuous. Often friendships form for no other reason than the fact that you're all around each a lot so you might as well make the best of that and be friends. On top of the fact that no one else really wants to hear you bitch about work than your coworkers, who also want to bitch. Over the years I've been friends with lots of people that I really wouldn't have been friends with in any other circumstances, but here's the thing. The reason I wouldn't be friends with them was not because I did not like them as a person, but because I have very little in common with say a married woman in her 40s with two kids who is fairly religious, but I'd certainly have a nice chat with her on a coffee break.

I do find it weird and rude how you are being purposefully excluded from these big events and I don't have any explanation. The wedding thing could just be you not quite making the cut. I haven't been invited to plenty of weddings of people I would consider friends, but not good friends. You can't get too offended. Here's a couple reasons you might be excluded from a big group meal: do you "forget" to leave a tip? Fight about paying $2 more than your fair share? Do you dominate the conversation? Do you chastise or lecture people? Do you interrupt or shut people down? Do you have dietary restrictions that you voice loudly?

One other thing, do you make a point of including people? Wanting to have a one on one lunch with someone, can feel like a snub to another person, especially in a big office environment. As annoying as organizing group things can be, the effort you put forth to include people is really important. Sally two cubicles away may be far more offended than you think when you ask Mary to go get lunch and you don't extend the invitation to her as well. It's immature, but she may lash out in the future by "forgetting" to include you in that group email for the retirement lunch. One important thing to remember, is that even if you have no particular desire to be friends with everyone in a group of people, it's always important to make some sort of effort with everyone because people resent people who don't make an effort to be inclusive and friendly (even if you are in no way being unpleasant to them). One or two people who really dislike you in a group can turn the whole group against you, I've seen it happen and unfortunately if it's not a really close friend, your friend might decide that the friendship has become too much work and she won't fight to include you.
posted by whoaali at 4:20 PM on December 11, 2010 [15 favorites]

I work with a lady like this. She is very thoughtful, kind, friendly. And yet, nobody likes her. The reason is that she talks WAY too much. She is one of those people who can talk non-stop for 15 minutes. It gets tiring for everyone but no one has the heart to tell her because she is a truly nice person. Consequently, she is the one who gets asked to stay behind to cover phones when there is a party, gets skipped for invitations, etc.

Do you do something like that? Maybe not talking too much but is there something else? Is there someone you trust who could tell you? Ask your good friends for some brutal honestly. Steel yourself for comments that may hurt in the short run but will be good for you in the long run.
posted by eleslie at 4:30 PM on December 11, 2010 [7 favorites]

As people have pointed out, you haven't really described anything about yourself, so i can't really guess what your issue is, but i thought i'd share this anecdote, in case anything in it rang true.

In my life, i've only ever dropped two friends, and in both cases i did so because i found them to be overly self-centered and judgmental. Nothing horribly overt, but over time i would notice that we always did what they wanted to do, and ate what they wanted to eat, and talked about them and their problems. My life, when it was discussed, was always in the context of 'fixing' it. Eventually, it's not that i hated them, but i started to just view spending time with them as work. I never got anything out of the friendship myself because it always just about them, and when it was about me, it was unpleasant. I wasn't getting anything that felt positive out of it, so i stopped being their friend.
posted by Kololo at 5:25 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's hard to tell from the question, because the information you give tells about what other people do after the fact, not what you do leading up to these events. But the two questions that come to mind are (1) who's driving these friendships? and (2) are you a person who tends to take over?

When I ask who's driving, what I'm asking is, who offers to go out to lunch every time? You? Or person X? Who suggests it would be great to take classes together? You? Or person X? Who invited you to activity X? You? Or person X?

There's a *HUGE* difference between saying, "hey, come have lunch with me," and saying "Oh hey, sit down & eat with us" when someone's standing next to your table with their lunch. The first is an invitation. The other can be anything, but a lot of the time is just someone being polite. Likewise, there's a huge difference between someone saying, "hey, let's take X class together!" and you saying, "Hey, that sounds like awesome good fun, I'll take it too!" after someone has told you they are signing up for something.

In other words, you might spend some time thinking very hard about how you go about growing friendships. Are you really getting tight with people who seek your company? Or are you, in an effort to be outgoing and friendly, adding yourself to the plans and routines of other people who, as kind and polite people, don't want to hurt your feelings by turning your overtures down? Because it is considered very rude to reject people who are asking to join in; most people will "put a good face on it," even when they very simply and truly do not want your company.

That would be my suspicion, since this seems to be a serial problem. The other thing I would take a look at, were I in your shoes, is whether you might be the sort who either takes over or who has such a "large" personality that you become overbearing.

People who take over can be really hard to deal with. They can be the nicest people in the world, but they run over other people's feelings without ever really noticing. It's like their radar for "um...that's not really what we wanted" is broken. It can lead to a lot of hurt feelings & built up resentment. People around them either learn to deal with it or start avoiding them. Same for people who are unusually outspoken. That's simplifying it grossly, but hopefully you get the idea.

I'm sorry you're having such a hard time of it; it hurts when people act the way you're describing. But if you're wondering, "am I imaginging this," well, I'm going to say probably not. Actions speak WAAAAAAY louder than words in a society that pins the world on 'not hurting anyone's feelings.' It's time to start paying attention to the spaces around the words, because once you've worked out what the secret code for this message is, maybe you can move on to investing your time in people who don't react to you the way these people have.
posted by Ys at 5:27 PM on December 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ask your current friends what they think; maybe there is something. But it might just be that you hit a patch of jerks, I don't know.

The only thing I can possibly think of based on your post is this: to be honest, I have never in my life devoted the energy that you devoted even in this one post to hurt feelings. I can't imagine thinking of an experience as a "blatant snub"--I can imagine being hurt, I can imagine thinking the other parties were rude, etc., etc.--but it really seems like you're keeping score of other people's social shortcomings. Is it possible that you are doing this on a micro-level as well as a macro-level as well, and that some of the folks you meet might find it exhausting?

I could be completely off, but if you're communicating this kind of energy unintentionally, it might be off-putting. The neighbor might have felt that you would experience an unscheduled drop-by as intrusive; the former colleague might have felt that you wouldn't feel that an invitation to a 100+ person gathering was special enough...

The wedding person was just being an asshole, though. There are certainly plenty of them in the world, so you can't take it personally when someone turns out to be like that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:39 PM on December 11, 2010

The only reason I've dropped friends without explanation:

1. Sex offender. Seriously, he did time for having sex with an underage student when he was teaching. And he honestly had no idea why I'd stop talking to him and kept trying to contact me. He's obviously a person with intense mental illness who is living a horrible life. I would not expect you'd fit into this category.

2. Intense alcoholic who is in deep denial about it and ruins almost every social occasion they are invited to. Or otherwise out of touch with reality.

3. Homophobic, racist, or spouts really untrue, ignorant crap when it's clear no one's really into hearing their opinions, but they don't understand social cues or just don't respect other people enough to care that they are uncomfortable.

Obviously your issue could be something different, or just terrible luck. But I agree you should talk to friends you're close with to make sure you're not totally missing something in social situations. It's odd that you get pretty close with these people, I'd expect it more with aquaintances or friends you don't see often.
posted by kpht at 6:25 PM on December 11, 2010

Not enough information here. Could be anything from your own personal quirks to an unfortunate run of asshole faux-friends.

But the thing is: if you want more friends than you have, shutting yourself down and deciding that the whole friendship thing is too hard will get you none; continuing to seek friends and accepting that only a small percentage of the people you hang with will turn into true friends will get you that small percentage, which is more than none.

I recommend not shutting down.
posted by flabdablet at 6:35 PM on December 11, 2010

I doubt asking your friends will be helpful. Can you really count on people to tell you something they KNOW will break your heart?
posted by 2oh1 at 7:09 PM on December 11, 2010

If I asked one of my friends why I'd been dropped like a hot potato by somebody I'd always considered a friend, and they knew, they'd tell me honestly because I asked. That's how awesome my friends are.
posted by flabdablet at 7:16 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that we're having trouble offering you insight. You wrote this post precisely because you yourself don't understand why you lost your friends. But if you don't know this, why would we expect the pertinent details to show up in your account?

My gut feeling is that you likely offended your friends somehow. Given the stark manner of exclusion you describe, this strikes me as more plausible than most of the other theories that have been suggested--you don't get shut out from events like a friend's wedding simply for being boring, or overly talkative, or a sloppy eater. I know that you consider yourself a "kind, compassionate, generous person," but at the same time I think it's fairly common for people who are blunt or insensitive to fail to realize that they rub people the wrong way.
posted by Maxa at 8:02 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I tend to agree with whoaali, perhaps you're too nice and those people where just using you as a friend of convenience. They may have been cold and uninviting because they had gotten their use out of you or because of something they didn't like about you. I've experienced this myself. If you are nice and shy, some people pick up on this, use you for what they need and then when they don't need you anymore drop you. I would say to work on yourself and figure out what is attracting these kind of people to you and change it. Or you can just be more selective with people you make friends with.
posted by Polgara at 8:18 PM on December 11, 2010 [6 favorites]

Try and see if you have any annoying habits like
- not been punctual
- talking on the mobile or browsing internet while you are at dinner with someone
- getting drunk
- etc ...
posted by WizKid at 8:55 PM on December 11, 2010

I have to admit, the first time I read this, I thought I was reading the words of a guy. My theory was that what was happening is that you're getting close to these women and then trying to move on to something more than friendship and they aren't interested, so they drop you and move on. However, a closer reading of the original question gives some clues that this might not be from a guy (e.g., "talk about girly stuff like clothes, makeup and shoes, boyfriends, all that stuff.").

After thinking about it, I think the same advice I was going to give still applies. One possibility is that you are wanting to take this friendship to a higher level (not necessarily dating, as I first assumed, but maybe moving on to spending more time together or more emotional closeness) and the women you are friends with are not interested in doing so. In my experience, when something like this happens, the person who wants more may come off as clingy and needy, and the target of this pulls away in response, often leading to the end of the friendship. You haven't talked much about what you are doing in terms of your behavior prior to the end of the friendship, but you may want to think about focusing on your behavior and trying to suss out the common thread in what you did in all these situations. You specifically say that you are not clingy or demanding, but often behaviors that are neither clingy nor demanding come off as such when the other party doesn't hold the same level of interest.
posted by Fuego at 8:57 PM on December 11, 2010 [9 favorites]

As others have remarked, it's difficult to say what caused this problem. One thing that stuck out to me was this line, "She emailed me yesterday and said she’s “fully booked” and in the same email said that the party she’d had the day before went very well, with “over 100 friends from work” in the office cafeteria." The party she remarked on included office friends in the office cafeteria-clearly an event specifically for those at her job and not a snub to you. She may be telling you that she's really booked because she sees you as "life friend", someone she can see you when all of this business stuff is finally over. She might be trying to see all her "business friends", friends she probably won't see that much after she retires, now BEFORE she retires.

The fact that you throw her into the group makes me wonder if perhaps your someone who sees rejection when there is perhaps another explanation. If that's the case, you may, and I stress the may here, be someone who makes things about themselves rather than accepting, at least in the retirement case, that there are other factors at play.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:59 PM on December 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with you. Remember grammar school when this type of thing used to happen all the time? Well, those people grew up and they remained the same jerks they were as kids. There are lots of people who will use your friendship in the short time to fit their needs. There are lots of people who might hear negative gossip about you and have their opinion swayed. In short, there are lots of petty jerks out there.

Just to make sure it's not you, you might want to ask a close friend or family member if you exhibit any blatant quirks that could turn people off such as the things others have touched on earlier - rascism, extreme self centeredness, a tendency to talk non-stop, etc.

In the end though, I don't think it's you. This has happened to my friends/family and myself before. The vast majority of people I am close to have stories similar to yours despite them not having any bizarre quirks. Having so-called friends randomly turn on you is not all that uncommon and doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with you.
posted by parakeetdog at 9:32 PM on December 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

A lot of posters above have mentioned that maybe you need to pay attention to your own behaviour (and no one can answer Q1 because there is not enough info to answer it!). Assuming there is nothing terrible that you are repeatedly doing, there are a number of things that could be relevant-

1. Two of the people you mention are from work, and another is a neighbour. There is an element of having to be nice and polite here, just because you are in a situation where you simply *have* to interact. "So, why not make the most of it?", that could be a reasoning which these people go by. Also, don't assume others will care as much about you as you do about them, especially people from work. I think that assumption is the killer here, because you seem to believe that you have been good friends with these people just because you have participated in this or that for years. You both have to believe that to be good friends and then act accordingly.
(There was a recent post defining various levels of friendship and I believe one poster had a separate category for work friends. You may want to look it up).

2. These people could very well be friends of convenience. That sucks, but it also happens a lot. Reading between the lines, how people interact with you and with each other in your presence at work and how they react (facial expressions, gestures) may help you get an idea of what they truly feel. Don't go by just what they say to you and how much you hang out together. They are hanging out when it suits them and drop you without a thought when it doesn't. That's not how people who truly care about each other act, at least not without giving a good explanation. The good thing is that if you are more observant and aware, you can spot these people very early on. Easier said than done but with practice you can learn to do it.

3. You may also want to think about what friendship means to you as you have experienced it and as others see it (loads of posts on AskMe) and have your own list that describes what friends just don't say/do to each other. I am not advocating that you go ahead and quit talking to everyone you know based on this but be aware of how you are being treated. And, when others don't treat you right, don't take it personally. Keep it in mind but spare your energy and move on. These people don't deserve the time you are spending thinking about them.

4. Women can be very fickle when it comes to friendship. That factor multiplies with marriage, children etc etc. If you are single and these people are not, take that into consideration. Even if you were good friends before they got married, your friendship will very likely be different in many ways. You may have to be more observant and adapt to these changes accordingly. And even when you do adapt, realise that not all friendships will work out. It takes two to be friends and if you don't get what you want, let it go.

I don't think there is anything wrong with writing all that you did and it really doesn't reflect that you are obsessed with how others are treating you. You are clearly hurt and its time to reassess these relationships. Nothing wrong with that.

Finally, you can't protect yourself and have a meaningful relationship with anyone. Instead, accept the possibility of rejection and still take that chance. When you do get "rejected", you can try to not take it personally, learn from the situation and move on. And, you also learn how to not care too much about people who don't care enough. It's not like we don't know who doesn't care enough, we just make excuses for them and lo! rinse and repeat!
posted by xm at 9:36 PM on December 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Fuego said what I came in here to say.
posted by hermitosis at 10:10 PM on December 11, 2010

From reading your stories, it sounds to me that your main crime was getting too close. You come off as a bit desperate...trying to be the one to arrange a lunch, buying people gifts, giving people rides. You're doing those types of things, clearly, in the expectation that it will "buy" friendship. I know because I used to be the same way.

I learned that people hate it when you go out of your way and offer to do things for them. Really. It makes them suspicious of you. It makes you look desperate. It makes them feel indebted. It's also more about what you can give them than what they need...in other words, if you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. If you have money, or a car, or a place, then you being too eager to share "your nice thing" with people can be weird, versus getting to know someone and them needing something that you might not have, but you try to help them get it themselves as it comes up.

It's sort of like the stereotypical example of a guy courting a girl by buying her something very expensive, insisting he doesn't expect anything in return, then getting hurt when she moves on. Or if you prefer, a doting parent spending money on their child and then getting upset when the child doesn't support them/come home often enough/whatever.

The only thing I can think of that is breeding this outright contempt is that you're "the rich one" or "the one with the car" or "the one with the nice place" or whatever. This encourages people to use you. Don't be that person.

Be more of an equal, or let other people feel like they're helping you.

This could be off base, but that's my impression from reading the OP.
posted by Nixy at 11:30 PM on December 11, 2010 [17 favorites]

Like others have noted, your suddenly being excluded has in each case coincided with an important event in your friends' lives. Those women could have snubbed you at any time before that if you were just generally abrasive in some way, but from what you wrote everything seemed cool up until the promotion, the wedding, the retirement, the big move.

Are you perhaps feeling envious, possibly deep down, and something in your behavior is making this uncomfortably obvious? Like being overly happy and enthused for them, to the extent they can tell you're faking it? Or maybe you've been making wistful or self-deprecating remarks about your own lack of success, or feeling left behind? Or making yourself feel better by making remarks that minimize the other person's success somewhat, in order to feel like you're still on an equal level? Talking a lot about your own big plans so that you can feel like you've got something great going on as well?

People often think they would like to be envied until it actually happens to them, and then they discover how incredibly uncomfortable it can be to have someone resent you simply for having a bit of success or good fortune. If you are giving off those vibes it could definitely cause someone to exclude you from their celebration. I'm not saying I see any hint of this in your post, mind you, just that the timing of the snubs around celebratory events might have something to do with it.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:46 AM on December 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Huh. The one that seems to stand out most clearly to me is #1. The others could be chalked up to different things, but that one seems like a really blatant and purposeful exclusion … unless you're a manager (if so, that's just how it goes sometimes — even if you were friends before promotion to management).

If you are just a regular co-worker, and all the other co-workers who were friendly with the woman leaving all pretended no interest in having a going-away lunch and kept their own plans a secret (instead of saying, for example, "oh, I think someone is planning some kind of thing — let's see)," wow. That seems like some kind of very specific and deliberate snub, and so infuriating because nearly impossible to pin down unless someone is willing to tell you what the deal is, which seems unlikely.

The fact that you were friends with this woman to the degree that you would occasionally meet for activities together on the weekend (lunches and after work could be more like a "convenience-friend" kind of situation), especially if it was for an ongoing period of time (as opposed to an initial friendship flush that didn't actually work out that well) indicates that things were okay between you two (and also between you and others in the office?), and then changed. This also seems to rule out things like racism/other *ism* if you are different in some way. What changed?

You can take all the other examples you mention into account, though with most of them I can see how they could each be just incidental, but when viewed collectively can seem scary and disturbing — even if it's really only coincidence. Life interferes with social things; sometimes we have somewhat different levels of friendship commitment; practicalities take precedence; people are forgetful or distracted … often stuff that seems hurtful isn't actually meant that way. So begin with concentrating on your first and most egregious example, by pinpointing a date that you can remember as being the last time/one of the last times that things definitely seemed perfectly okay between you and your friend/co-worker. Now think about what has happened since then. Has there been some kind of change in your life? Anything different? Remember that some things that may not seem external to you may have external signs. If you've been depressed, your conversation may tend more toward depressing or pessimistic conclusions, perhaps even enough that people feel like you "bring down" the group. this is not my first conclusion, just one example!

Have you become significantly interested in a certain subject or issue? Could it be that people feel like you turn every conversation to politics/religion/some specific topic? Have you had a change in your personal life that may seem to dominate your thoughts or conversation? Could you have perhaps become more critical of certain behavior or actions in others for any reason? Did you read or become involved with any self-help or personal betterment program that recommends you do XY or Z? Are you drinking more, or did you quit, resume, or take up any habits?

Also, try to objectively consider if you may have any psychological issues* (yikes, this one can be so hard; probably all of us can suspect ourselves of some psychological issue at any given time!), or thoughts, feelings, fears that you can identify as having become more pervasive in the period between now and when it seems fairly certain that everything was okay with you and your friend.

If there is something instead of just an oversight or thoughtlessness (which is kind of hard to imagine in the first example), it seems like it's something that has developed, so playing detective with the dates and timing seems like the best approach. Even then, I think it may be tough. It might possibly help to see a therapist who can help you tease out the situation(s).

* In another comment (because this one is already overlong), I'll give you an example of a friend I dropped definitively because of what I think was a psychological issue, in case it might be helpful at all.
posted by taz at 6:56 AM on December 12, 2010

* Please understand that I'm not at all suggesting that you're like this, but I'm going to bring up one time I dropped a friend to the degree that I wanted her excluded from activities involving me that she would normally have been a part of. This friend, who I'll call Ann, was smart, funny, interesting, fun, generous, and caring, and we were very close over a period of about two years. But something happened. I had a life crisis that I was working through, and another very, very close friend of both of ours helped me with this quite a lot. Ann also helped me, but seemed to become consumed with it; no matter what we did, or what the situation, she would constantly raise the subject, which was actually painful to me. I didn't want to talk about it or dwell on it all the time, and I eventually asked her not to bring it up all the time — but that I would let her know if I ever wanted or needed to discuss it, and that I very much appreciated her concern and everything she had already done to help.

As I moved more and more toward my personal resolution of this problem, she seemed to become more and more hyper and manic in her behavior: she continued to obsess on the subject, to the point that I told her, "do not bring this up again; if you do, I'm not going to participate; if you still keep insisting, I'm going to stop talking to you at all," and to the degree that our other closest friend also advised her to drop it and cool it. Nominally, she did (often, though, referring without referring — sort of a "he-who-shall-not-be-named" or "subject-I'm-not-allowed-to-discuss" kind of thing), but ramped up her behavior, becoming ever more emotionally and physically dominating of me and my time, space, conversation, everything. I mean she would literally not let someone else sit next to me — she would come and squeeze herself between us. She inserted herself into conversations I was having with anyone else … she had become obsessed in some way that I didn't (and still don't) understand, and the more I drew away, the more outré her behavior became, creating personal dramas that I needed to attend to, even having physical "accidents" that required my help and attention. Until I dropped her completely. Refused to go to any event where she would be present, refused to talk to her or see her.

Could I have told her, more than I did, more than I verbally stated and indicated by my actions and reactions, what was wrong? I don't know. What was wrong was that she had become kind of crazy, though I don't think she was *crazy.* I now feel (not being a psychiatrist or psychologist, though somewhat wiser, I hope), that maybe something about my situation and her part in it triggered some unresolved issue from her past. Perhaps someone she was close to had a situation similar to mine that concluded with an abandonment scenario, and she subconsciously felt desperate to make "this time" turn out differently. Maybe there were painful rivalry issues echoing from childhood. I have no idea. But it didn't work to be direct with her, and it didn't work to try to "cool" the relationship to a degree that she would understand that pushing on her end resulted in pulling away on my end. I wish I had been able to help her somehow (and do have a continuing sense, many years later, that I definitely failed her), but I felt emotionally victimized by her at that point, and was still dealing with my own major life upheaval.

This is a very drastic example and I'm definitely not suggesting that your behavior is like this, but if Ann were asking this question around that time, not recognizing/acknowledging signals, cues, reactions, or even outright statements from the other person(s), I would want her to ask herself if some thoughts, subjects or feelings had become somewhat overwhelming or obsessive in the period of time in which things seemed to change, and if so to find someone qualified to determine if this was a true problem, and if so what to do about it. I feel like I definitely lost something wonderful in my life when I lost (or rejected; pick one or both) Ann's friendship and what I consider her "real" personality.
posted by taz at 6:57 AM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

> From what I’ve said, is there something you can identify that I’m doing (or not doing) that’s making people decide they don’t want to be my friend any more

No. The speculation in the other answers is all speculation.

> How do I lower my barriers enough to make friends yet at the same time protect myself from rejection?

My understanding is that this question cannot be truly answered. I have read that friend-making and vulnerability-exposing are always part of a package. There is an "if and only if" logical relation between those two parts.

Making friends at work is complex. Nobody is there to make friends. They are there to get a paycheck and serve their bosses. Bosses hate having to work to quell effects from the rumor mill and they hate hate hate the distortion with which favoritism fogs their evaluation procedure. They would far rather have robots than humans. If I were you I would ignore all the speculative answers here, and take a little time to read Dale Carnegie's book and Miss Manners' book, and apply your limited friend-making energy outside of your office.

(Your question was pretty damn succinctly written for all the moving parts; I am inclined to think there aren't any serious problems with you, at all.)
posted by bukvich at 7:12 AM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd actually recommend that you think about the differences between these situations as much as the commonalities.

Situation 1 -- the leaving lunch -- was just a jerk move (unless you outrank them.) Sometimes people are jerks. They probably had their reasons that made total sense to themselves, but trying to psyche out why people are jerks sometimes is too much trouble.

Situation 2 -- the wedding -- This is the only place where you talk about mutual self-disclosure instead of favors. I'd still suggest that this woman was just not as close a friend as you thought. She may even be a little embarrassed about how much she disclosed when you were on a trip together.

Situation 3 -- the retirement -- is just weird. Do you still work at the same place? 100 people in the work cafeteria is not the kind of event that you exclude people from. If I were you, and did not share your painful history, I'd guess that a mistake happened. I'd reply to that email with, "Gosh, I'm sorry to have missed the chance to see you off!" or something like that. Given that this just happened, I think it's still possible that she thinks of you as an "outside work" friend by now. I feel bad because I don't want you to get hurt again, but I think it's early to write this friendship off.

Situation 4 -- the neighbor -- again, people are jerks.

Summary: I don't actually think the problem is with you-as-a-friend as with your skills at telling when people are friends.

Your friends are people who you ask for favors; who are emotionally unguarded in front of you, whom you allow yourself to be unguarded in front of. Your post is very analytical, and I'm wondering how much of your deep emotional life you share with your friends.

What I think is happening in situations 2, 3, and 4 is that you're mistaking casual friendships for deep ones. Sometimes it takes a long time for friendships to grow. I'm also struck by how many of these are "work friends". Do you have any unstructured friendships?
posted by endless_forms at 7:50 AM on December 12, 2010

Why is the question gender neutral? Your sex could potentially make a big difference-- if you're a man, maybe the parameters of your relationship are unclear. If you're spending all this one-on-one time, maybe there was a thought that things might turn romantic, and because of that (or because things didn't), the relationship became awkward or unnecessary.

If you're a woman (or maybe even if you're not), well, these women sound like bitches. Stop making friends with people who suck. Are you ingratiating yourself with people who are just hanging out with you for the hell of it or because you're pushy? Do you have other friends who aren't doing this? If you don't, that's a warning sign. If you do, that suggests these are just a few bad apples.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:08 AM on December 12, 2010

I have a couple of friends who seem to lose friends more often than other people.

One woman has alienated a some of my other really good friends by saying sort of off hand but mean comments to them. I didn't really get what they were talking about until she threw one my way. I honestly don't think she meant it to be mean. In a hundred ways she's a great and supportive friend, but what she said came off like a gratuitous put down instead of the friendly teasing I think she thought it was.

I was startled, thought about it, and decided to over look it, but I don't judge my friends for dropping her, either. In the moment, I didn't really react because of being so thrown off, so I didn't say anything. I can totally see how even one comment like that could have ended a friendship for her for good, and that she would have had no idea because the recipient might not, in the moment, have responded at all. In a situation where there's not already years of friendship, bringing up something like that after the fact might just not seem worth it.

So that's another possibility, that maybe you're saying alienating things without realizing it. (This woman is a great person and a great friend with generally great social skills, but my amateur reading is that sometimes her insecurities come out in these almost aggressive remarks).

Other things to possibly think about: how do you treat your friends' friends? How do you handle disagreements?
posted by Salamandrous at 8:19 AM on December 12, 2010

My heart goes out to you on this one. How can you know what you don't know (and why are so many people on the list asking you to tell us?)

I agree with the idea of investing in at least one evening with a lifestyle/ dating coach, for two reasons:

in my opinion it is unfair and possibly destructive to put your old friends on the spot in such an awkward way

furthermore, you are more likely to listen to the opinion you pay for. In my experience, people often ARE told of the aggravating/off-putting/friendship-ending behaviour--told quite explicitly--but the offender doesn't take it seriously, and says "but that's just who I am."
posted by uans at 9:47 AM on December 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Although you say you are shy and reserved, I wonder if you are overbearing in these relationships. Maybe it's a case of overexposure here; maybe, once you feel like you're really close to someone, you say too much, or you come across as really pushing to get close to them and involve them in a lot of activities, and it gets exhausting.

Like everyone else has said, we have no way of knowing what happened. It really sounds like you personally offended these people, to the point where not only do they not want you around their circle of friends on a special occasion, but they don't even want to spend time alone with you. That lifestyle coach thing is an interesting idea, and maybe one would help. But at the same time, whatever is happening might be something someone only finds out about you once they reach a certain level of friendship.

Think about the friendships you do have and value now, and see if maybe you can ask just one of those girls if they can honestly tell you why this is happening. Make sure that you don't get angry or defensive about it with her, no matter what she says.
posted by wondermouse at 10:21 AM on December 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Why is the question gender neutral?

I don't think it is? It seems pretty clear that the poster is female. Viz:

we'd talk about girly stuff like clothes, makeup and shoes, boyfriends, all that stuff. She was offered a much better job, I was really happy for her, and as it came up to her leaving date I talked with the other women in the team
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:51 AM on December 12, 2010

You know.. since the wedding one seems like the most blatant exclusion of all, I think it wouldn't be a terrible idea to just ask her what made her decide not to invite you, since she invited those other women who assumed you were going. I find it very strange that you were apparently such close friends and then were excluded from such an important event and seemingly never spoke with her after that.

If you still have her email address or have seen her on Facebook, send her a brief, simple message stating that what's done is done, you realize you must've upset her somehow but have no idea how, and you just want to know what you did because you feel like you are offending other people also (not because you have hope of rekindling that friendship- make sure that is clearly not the case).

If she doesn't want to respond, she just won't, and you won't have lost anything in the process since she's already dropped you. But maybe she could help answer this question for you.
posted by wondermouse at 11:32 AM on December 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

There's not enough info to answer the question, so I'll throw out one theory. Are you lesbian or bi, or might you be perceived as such? I had a group of friends drop me because they thought I was attracted to one of them. They weren't particularly homophobic, they just didn't want to deal with the awkwardness. I suspect I've been dropped by others because of my kind of androgynous gender presentation.
posted by desjardins at 1:14 PM on December 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't know if this will help but I've dropped a few friends in the past few years, all for different reasons. One refused to ever tip when we ate out together and thus it always fell on me to make up for her being a jerk. One could never, ever have fun without drinking and I like to drink too, but sometimes I'd rather just grab a coffee, y'know? Plus she had an argumentative streak that was exacerbated by alcohol. The third, although she could be very generous and caring also had this insidious way of letting me know I wasn't living up to her standards. It was always presented in a mild, teasing manner but after many years of friendship I had had enough and decided I no longer wanted to deal with someone who couldn't appreciate me for who I was rather than who she thought I could be with improvements.

Bonus: I have an existing friend who frustrates me sometimes because she is what I call "on infinite loop", meaning she has a laundry list of problems that she will talk about endlessly but will never, ever take any steps to change them and she will make an excuse for why she can't take any advice or offers to help. I really like this friend because she is fun and remarkably cheerful despite her problems, but it can be draining, and I find I can only handle her in small doses.
posted by Jess the Mess at 2:01 PM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you super good-looking and single?

That's the only thing I can think of that hasn't been mentioned.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:12 PM on December 12, 2010

- How do I lower my barriers enough to make friends yet at the same time protect myself from rejection?


Being afraid of rejection is normal and if your regular personal interaction goes the way you've described in your scenarios above you're most certainly raw: you may also be feeling hurt, confused, helpless and probably "gun-shy" to try again. So what happens? You try too hard next time. It becomes a self-defeating spiral of interpersonal "performance anxiety".

Being afraid of rejection is a very sticky problem. Fear can make an otherwise reasonable and capable person think about overcompensating in some very unattractive ways, such as trying to "earn" people's friendships, etc. Any effort to connect to people other than simply stating your interest in knowing a person (and actively behaving interested), smells like a obligation. This takes the other person's CHOICE to be friends with you out of the context of the interaction.

One thing that jumped out at me was that you appear to be deliberately excluded from these activities, BUT that you heard about them after the fact. Do not dismiss this behavior. It could point to the women in these scenarios as being total passive-aggressive bitches in which case, please avoid them. OTOH - in Girl World, nothing like what you describe ever happens by accident. The fact that someone made the effort to tell you about these events after they happened may also be a subtle prompt of some sort to get you to either think about why you were excluded or to ask directly why you were excluded. The person telling you about these events may want to share something with you, without being the one to actually be singled out for tipping you off. There are "Gretchens" everywhere.

Not everyone you meet is going to like you or hurt you, either. If you try approaching friendships and other relationships with no purpose other than connecting to others and finding out about them, it takes the pressure of "earning" other's validation off the table.

Think unconditional love, acceptance and each person choosing again and again to be with the other as the basis for a slooooooowly unfolding friendship. Dont rush.

And remember: YOU have choices. If you meet someone you don't like, don't feel pressured to be around them because you're afraid no one else will like you, or you feel bad for some reason. Jerks are everywhere and they often take advantage of needy, fearful people because the fearful and needy don't believe they could do any better than jerks for friends. This goes for work as well. No employer pays you to be BFF's with your co-workers, so use that advantage to actively select people to befriend. If they're not interested, that's OK, and no reflection on you. It's just not a match as far as they're concerned.

In the short term, go out every day after work and strike up a conversation with someone working in a bar or restaurant, retail or standing in line or wherever. Get some practice "reading" people and having conversations. Then bid them good day and be on your way when your business there is concluded. Become as comfortable striking up conversations and just as comfortable with politely terminating conversations when you have to move on. This will make you feel more in control of your interaction with others.

Getting into a few non-work activities (crafts, animal shelter, sports) could widen your social horizons to the point where not only do you gain perspective on the scenarios above, but also move past the anxiety-making part of keeping friendships.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 12:08 PM on December 13, 2010 [8 favorites]

One more thing: Wanting to protect yourself from further rejection may come off as ambivalence, or worse a deliberate aloofness that would likely get you excluded - unless you made your desire to join group activities very, very clear. Once being included, you will have to be sincere in your efforts about being part of that group, regardless of past rejection.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 12:16 PM on December 13, 2010

Late, but here to add (yet another) experience to the party.

I recently friend-dumped someone from work. I worked there for two years until I was laid off, and it was in a very fun, tight-knit, friendly and warm department, where we were all friends, and we all took care of each other and looked out for one another. I still consider many of these women to be lifelong friends. But not "Violet".

"Violet" was nice, and interesting, and had a lot of great experiences, and I could talk to her about anything and everything, or listen to her amazing stories all freakin' day. She had one of those lives... she had always followed her passions, and was a photo stylist, a blacksmith, a playwright... the woman had done everything. I was fine with her in a group, or in a work situation, but I decided never to put myself out for her. She still texts me and calls me, to ask me if I want to go see X movie, or attend Y play of hers that's being performed, or do ABC-else, so I supposed my making the best of the work situation looked like a genuine offer of friendship. Since I was laid off a year ago, I have not taken her up on a single offer to see her one-on-one, and I'm not going to. If I get married, I'll probably invite most of the girls from that job, but I'm not cutting a family member or a friend I really care about for "Violet," so she won't be invited in the first place.


Because within my first month of working in that department, she overreacted to a joke that I told someone else. Like, "you better walk away before I kick your ass" kind of reaction, to a comment that I later found out that she didn't really even hear the full comment I made. I was later asked to apologize to her by my supervisor, even though I didn't really feel like an apology was warranted... but I still sucked it up and apologized, even though I was still very much smarting over what "Violet" had said to me. And for the next two years, that colored my entire experience of her, and it still does, to this day. What she did that day made me feel two inches tall, and made me nervous about socializing with everyone else... made me walk on eggshells aroun the rest of the department, and made me think that they were all in a fun little clique and I wasn't invited, and I don't want someone that reacts that way in my life. Might be callous, and some might think I should flat-out confront her, but if she reacted that way to an offhand comment out of someone she didn't know, well, I can only imagine how well that discussion could go, and I find it much more gentle on myself to just politely decline.

So, my somewhat long-winded point is, could you have done something in the beginning of your acquaintanceship to permanently color the relationship from there on out? Could you have unknowingly become Anonymous, the Awesome Rock-Climber with a Nasty Temper (bizarre tastes in sex, racist politics, drinking problem, cat-pee-stench, anything), instead of just Anonymous the Awesome Rock-Climber/Velociraptor Wrangler? If you've unknowingly cast a pall over your personality, that could be an explanation as to why you haven't survived the Major Life Change Redistribution of Priorities and Reevaluation of Relationships.
posted by mornie_alantie at 8:10 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

But, mornie_atantie, surely it's statistically unlikely that she's met 4 people with quite such 'exacting' standards as you.
posted by howfar at 6:18 AM on December 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

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