what do you mean exactly
March 19, 2012 8:41 PM   Subscribe

What do you mean, exactly? This relates to friends & human interactions in general. I just don't know how to accurately tell if someone is being sincere or not

There's a friend who I met online that I shared many deep experiences about myself, & the other way around as well- a seemingly deep connection was formed over a period of 5 months or so emailing a couple times a week (nice to have someone to share these things with), this person would tell me how much they missed me after not talking for a week or so, & hoped I didn't leave them- I mentioned I'm not the type to just drop off without a word, that's not my style. They told me again how much they missed me & happy I didn't go away. I sent an email to this person the other day & it came back "undeliverable". It seems they actually took the time to "close" the account, (only correspondence was with me on it, & for me too). If I would send an email it would go through, but this "unable to send" message indicates they went in and closed the account (didn't even know you could really do that, just though if you didn't check it for like 6 months or something it would just deactivate).

I guess I don't understand why people say one thing & do another. I have a couple friends irl that tell me how much they love me, say how much I mean to them at completely random times where it seems they just couldn't hold it in, all indications when hanging out that we really have a true connection & mutually enjoy being around each other immensely. Though I hear these things from them, I don't see them very often. I initiate texts saying "hi, & I miss you" every so often if I haven't heard from them for a while, but I wonder if initiation of contact is what's wanted or not. I hate feeling like I'm bugging someone, I don't know if the long space of not hearing from them for a couple months (after hanging out numerous times that previous month, this following a long period of not seeing each other at all for like 6 months which had been a cycle, I'd send texts now & again to say hi, but the conversation wouldn't go further to initiating getting together), indicates the opposite of all the things they say to me. I don't want to feel like I'm chasing anybody. With what they say to me (I love you, how much you mean to me) I'm going off a good indicator that they mean what they say, because they say it a lot unprevoked & heartfelt. I have initiated hanging out numerous times in the past, but when I have they've always had something else to, so I take that as not really wanting to- but I could be wrong. It's just hard not to feel trepidation when you feel you've been rejected numerous times in the past when you've tried, for whatever reason.

I'm starting to feel that maybe I'm not accurately reading people, as their actions seem to not match up with their words. This recent email experience really makes it confusing. I just don't know why someone would say such positive things, if they really didn't mean it? Recently I can't even get myself to understand my feeling if someone I'm interacting with really likes me or not- I'm getting all the indications that they really do (smiling & really laughing a lot, mutual compliments & support, good eye contact, sometimes even long (this coming from them), remembering things we've talked about before, this all being indicators that they do! Other than the verbal fact that they tell me they think about me a lot & other really wonderful things.

I've been a believer in looking at people's actions, they will let you know if they care or not, not really what they say. I'm pretty direct & when I say something I mean it (& my actions almost always follow through on it), I couldn't think of wasting anybody's time, or my own saying something emotional I didn't really believe or feel.

Rejection really effects me, especially when I don't know why. I know schedules get busy & that's totally normal, I understand things happen in life that take up your time & I'm completely good with that, mine gets that way. I just want to feel like I'm accurately reading things & people's behavior (to a certain extent of course, no one really knows what someone else is thinking). I had a past romantic relationship that would tell me one thing & I found out later everything they said was the total opposite of what was true, so I know it's possible for that to happen. I guess that & having people tell me things that are great but actual actions seem to say something else, has made me really doubt if I can correctly judge if someone truly cares about me or not (I don't really have a lot of friends, it's been an issue to keep them longstanding, this is something that really bothers me- I try to be a good friend by initiating & continuing contact, being a supportive & fun person to be around, interested in other people's lives & self disclosing about mine).

So how do you know when you can believe what someone says repeatedly? How do you know if they're being sincere? What are good indicators of this?

Do you try not to read too much into anything, if so, how would you progress further along with anyone? I know what people chose to do are not ultimately about me, I just want to feel confident in feeling like I can accurately pick up on signals that someone cares & I can go off those cues & believe them. What constitutes a true friendship? What would make you want to end one, or not spend much time with them? Any thoughts, insights, stories or anything else would be appreciated.

Throwaway email: h19255@yahoo.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I sent an email to this person the other day & it came back "undeliverable".

I'm going to stop you right there. That can happen for all kinds of reasons that don't mean that the person who owns the email address has deactivated it. All it means is that the automated process tried to send your mail to their mail server, and the other end couldn't be reached or rejected the email (rather than accepting it for delivery to their mailbox). If their email address is hosted by a big company (gmail or something similar) that's less likely, but certainly possible (could be a problem at your end, or an intermittent outage). I'd wait a couple days, then try to re-send the email, before you decide that the person has closed their account so as never to have to talk to you again.
posted by axiom at 8:48 PM on March 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

It takes time. Trust is built as time passes and you learn their real patterns of truthfulness or deceitfulness or politeness-masquerading-as-friendliness.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:57 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

5 months or so emailing a couple times a week (nice to have someone to share these things with)

Given that you would like to have someone to talk to about "these things" (whatever they are), and your noticing a pattern of betrayal or abandonment, perhaps you should seek a therapist.

We cannot tell you why your friends cut you off. And your friends probably can't be bothered to tell you honestly either, even if they perceive the situation as you do--which they probably do not.

Why not call up and make an appointment to talk to a professional? They will be able to listen, ask questions back, and give you real insights into what's going on. And a real therapist won't move their office without telling you.
posted by General Tonic at 10:08 PM on March 19, 2012

So how do you know when you can believe what someone says repeatedly?

You believe them until they give you reason not to believe them. There are no purity tests in friendship except years of shared experiences. And even then. . .

I find in both friendships and relationships the more you obsess over whether things will last, the less likely they are to. Treat time spent with a good friend or a touching email exchange as a treasure you are lucky to experience even if you never hear from them again. Loyalty is certainly a virtue, but when you put loyalty on pedestal (as it seems you might) it becomes awfully hard for people to live up to your expectations.

Hold on to your friendships loosely, but lovingly, and you might find you have more success in hanging on to them.

Or else maybe you just hang out with a lot of jerks.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:13 PM on March 19, 2012 [9 favorites]

i just want to point out that you're imposing an interpretation and a rule here - greater affection = greater contact/face-time. that might be "right", but it also might be right that a some people out there truly love a lot of people and don't have time for extended intense bonding time. especially as you get old, it can become very normal to see a good friend once every few months.

honestly, from where i stand you seem to be engaged in self-defeating behavior. you've got a lot of people who love you, but their love isn't meeting your expectation, so you're discounting it. maybe flip it around just for a minute and practice saying "wow, i have a lot of people who love me - i'm loved. how amazing is that?" this might feel great, and it might feel crappy (which incidentally would explain the need to have unsatisfiable standards.) just some thoughts, i'm not sigmund freud.
posted by facetious at 10:27 PM on March 19, 2012 [11 favorites]

The "undeliverable" message could mean anything and not necessarily that they were trying to cut you off.

If they DID cut you off like by cancelling their email address, then they're just weird, by the way, and being passive aggressive.

More generally, I have run into a difference in expectations. For instance, maybe one person thinks friendship means 4 long, intense emails a week, whereas the other person only corresponds more than once a week with their lover or mom or whomever. They aren't being insincere- they just have an different idea of what a friendship looks like.

When one person starts taking the other person's difference in expectations and making a story in their heads about what it might mean, hurt feelings ensue: A thinks B hates them, and really B was just busy.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:50 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Apart from the undeliverable mail message, you sound frustrated with the fact that some friends are just not as direct as you are...they don't mean what they say. And I bet you have seen this at school or the workplace as well. I found it a little less painful when I learned more about differences in conversational styles. Deborah Tannen's books (Talking from 9 to 5 and You just don't understand) helped me a bit. Now I don't have the urge to grab every next person who is "indirect" by the collar and give them a piece of my mind. I now know they feel exactly the same way about me and my "directness". It may or may not eliminate the frustration (therapist may help) but it certainly helped reframe things a bit. I have run into people at work who are exactly as described in 9 to 5 and before I read the book, I was just frustrated with interactions with these folks- why the hell can they just not say what they mean??? How hard is that anyway? After reading the book, when I am still frustrated by such interactions, sometimes just telling myself that "oh, this is the idiot Tannen was describing in chapter x" helps.
posted by xm at 2:55 AM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have a couple friends irl that tell me how much they love me, say how much I mean to them.... Though I hear these things from them, I don't see them very often. ... I hate feeling like I'm bugging someone, I don't know if the long space of not hearing from them for a couple months (after hanging out numerous times that previous month, this following a long period of not seeing each other at all for like 6 months which had been a cycle, I'd send texts now & again to say hi, but the conversation wouldn't go further to initiating getting together), indicates the opposite of all the things they say to me.

You know, I have very good friends that I see & interact with quite infrequently*. This doesn't mean that I don't love them. And I'm always happy to hear from them again. Sometimes people just have different ways of approaching friendship & interacting with people; this doesn't mean they don't like you.

* I may not email my BEST friends for months, or see them for years (if they live in a different state). But we are still dear friends.
posted by belladonna at 7:14 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think only part of the problem is that people's actions and words genuinely don'talways match up. The other part is how you choose to interpret those actions and words and measure them against your personal behavior/standard. There's abolutely nothing wrong with wanting and expecting reciprocity, but you don't really get to choose how other people do so, only what you are willing to accept. You say you are direct -- do you ever ask your friends why you don't hang out more, and what is their response? Does it satisfy you?

I can tell you that feeling like my every action is being measured against some sort of friendship rubric would make me end one.
posted by sm1tten at 7:19 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I find if the person gets to be a bit too clingy and corners me into hanging out with them everyday, it's too much. But that's just me. Everyone is different. I was in the same boat as you are. So, I just started to slowly talk to the ones who offered me genuine support and invited me out. I started making more friends that way. You could try that.

I've ended a couple of friendships due to the fact, I didn't feel good around them. One guy was married with kids, was being too flirty with me and the other always pointed out my mistakes. It was unfortunate, because she was a funny girl, accomplished and what not but... too much. Didn't have proper borders and I felt she was using me for favors.

Also, some friends have stopped talking to me cause quite simply we've grown apart. It wasn't necessarily that I was doing anything wrong. We just grew apart.

I wouldn't know how exactly how you are. But, really, try not to jump to conclusions. You just don't know, until you know.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 12:17 PM on March 20, 2012

From the OP:
Thanks for the responses, the one about getting a therapist cause "at least he can't move his office in a week" made me laugh! I don't know if that was a nod to maybe I'm over thinking things a bit, but I get it (& the humor, I guess was implied? Well I found it funny!).

As far as a rubic that I'm holding friendships to or being clingy, of course I would never say any of these things I'm thinking to people, they're just thoughts in my head. I don't insistently ask "hey can we hang out??", or pester them about anything. When I see these people I'm always happy to see them & act as normal as we always do when we hang out, I don't ask them "hey do you mean all those things" or anything. I do believe them. With one friend there was a history of mixed messages so that's why I feel unclear about things sometimes. But like I said these conversations just go on in my head, not constantly, just sometimes. I absolutely do just enjoy the time I get to spend with someone & take it for what it is. It just hurts when they go away & I don't know why.

Sometimes you don't even realize how much you care about someone until they're gone. Sad, but I guess there's nothing I can do about it. & I do tell these people I'd love to spend time with them & miss them. With most friendships I don't mind at all if there's no contact for months on end, it's just with the one's that are really special to me that matter, & I would love to hear from them more.

I did realize from this thread that the way I feel that someone cares is to spend time with them, & that might not be true at all for other people (how they express their feelings). This is just my way of showing it (though I show it many other ways too!), but I realized this way is important to me. Especially since I've had significant past experiences where people have repeatedly told me things that turned out not to be the truth of the matter, so I've not been sure of my own instincts. I just don't understand why you might say positive things but do something else. Having people disappear doesn't feel good, but that's my issue & I know you can't control what people do or why things happen. I know it happens to everybody, & sometimes relationships just naturally progress that way. & I'm ok with that (not so much with the special people I have, cause I love them!). I guess I'm a little afraid that people can disappear when they feel they don't have a need for me anymore. I'm sure this probably sounds like a self esteem issue, I haven't had much of it my whole life but have a world more of it now, but still struggle with it sometimes (especially when things like this come up). In part I also just don't want to feel like I'm bugging anybody, there's a self esteem issue again though probably. I've had therapy & I still work on it.

Thanks for the help.
It's cheaper than wine therapy, which is about all I can afford right now!
(& no that doesn't really help, I find good old basic human contact does, for me it helps alot). Thanks for your insights, past & present. It all helps.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:10 AM on March 21, 2012

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