I'm always the last to know about get-togethers with my friends
July 4, 2012 10:30 AM   Subscribe

I've noticed lately that some new friends I've met last year via a social anxiety meetup group make plans for getting together amongst themselves and then inform me at the last minute, after all the plans have been made. This bothers me and I don't know why it's happening. Any insights on what I could do to handle it without sounding like a whiny child?

So the 4 of us are around the same age (late 20s, early 30s) and we all met for the first time at a meetup group for folks with social anxiety. At first I felt very included, like I found people who "get" me and we all relate well to each other. For once, I felt like I was part of a group and not just on the fringe of a group.

We try to get together occasionally to do something fun, but we are all very busy and don't live near each other to hang out more often.

Lately I've noticed that I always seem to be the last person to know about these get-togethers. One of the girls will text me on the day before, asking me if I want to join them the next day for something that they've planned. When I ask for more details, I get told logistics, like "oh so and so are all meeting up at my place and we've decided X", meaning everyone else was in on the planning process and they asked me as an afterthought.

So for some reason, they no longer seem to include me in the planning process. It's happened several times now. I've not been able to figure out why. I didn't do or say anything that might cause problems, and I never sense that anything is wrong when I'm with them. Typically several weeks pass between our get togethers, so maybe time is the culprit? But really, I am only a text message away. I don't see why I am not considered important enough to be included when planning.

This is not a case of several of them knowing each other longer. We're all generally new to the area and we all met for the first time last year. None of us live in the same town (we're scattered around the Bay Area)

I'm grateful to even have friends (they are really great girls) and I'm trying not to let it bother me, but it's eating me up inside. I was wondering what any of you would do if you felt like you were in this situation. This sort of thing has happened to me my entire life, and now it's happening with the one group of friends who I thought "got" me, since we all suffer from social anxiety. Always feeling left out and like I don't fit in with society has been a common source of anxiety and extreme stress for me, and it seems like I can't escape it, no matter where I go or who I hang with (even fellow social anxiety sufferers). Do I bring it up with them? How do I do so, without sounding like a baby? Thanks in advance for any insights.
posted by starpoint to Human Relations (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
They're organizing plans and then including you. You can initiate the formation of plans yourself if you like.

When there's a reasonably large group of friends, it doesn't make sense to try to accomodate all 6 or 8 or 10 at once or the plans will never get made, so usually some subgroup forms that tends to make the plans and then invite everyone else. They're not trying to exclude you.
posted by cmoj at 10:35 AM on July 4, 2012 [11 favorites]

Initiate an event.
posted by desjardins at 10:36 AM on July 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Have you ever set up plans? Texted one of the girls and mentioned something, with a time and date, and gotten the ball rolling yourself? If you've never initiated they may have subconsciously decided you are happy to be a follower.
posted by Dynex at 10:36 AM on July 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

Our group is only 5 people.

No I haven't set up plans yet...maybe I should? Never thought about that...hmm, maybe I should try that and see if it makes a difference? I wouldn't want to plan something and not have it work out, though, then I'd look bad.
posted by starpoint at 10:44 AM on July 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes, this is perfectly normal social dynamics.

Person A has an idea for an event, so they get in touch with Person B who they are close to and feel like would be a good co-conspirator. Person A and B together decide on the rough outline of the event and then start contacting other people they would like to include one at a time.

So, Person C gets invited by Person B and says "Sound's great, but want to meet for dinner beforehand?" Person B says, "I'd love to, but I'm pretty sure Person A is busy."

Then, Person A calls up Person D and says "Hey, we're all doing this thing at Place X and Time Alpha , but Person B and Person C are meeting for dinner first at Place Y and Time Beta, if you want to join them."

You are Person D. If you want, I suppose you could get upset that you aren't Person A's Person B, but that's a pretty big waste of your time. If you want to be included earlier in the planning process, be Person A.
posted by 256 at 10:46 AM on July 4, 2012 [43 favorites]

If everyone else has more complicated, crowded schedules, and you're the sort of person who usually turns out to be free and up for something the next night, it may be that they first arrange things with the people with less accommodating schedules, once they've got that figured out, they say, "Okay, great, now let starpoint know!"
posted by BrashTech at 10:48 AM on July 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Do you flake on events? I know sometimes people with your disorder may commit to something and then back out because their anxiety makes it too difficult to come out - not that I'm blaming you or anything, but it could be a potential reason for their behavior.

I know that personally when I am organizing a get-together I like to assemble a "core group" of people whom I know I will have fun with and can definitely be counted on not to back out at the last moment. This "core group" gets included on the planning process - everybody else gets informed afterwards of when the event takes place and the time and date aren't negotiable for them. This isn't because of the intent to exclude people - it's just that it would be dumb and illogical to give people a vote on when the event will be if I'm not positive that they'll even be there.

I also strongly agree that you should consider initiating or organizing an event. Being included in the planning process is a privilege, not a right - if you want these friends to make you a more integral part of their social calendar, you need to demonstrate that you add value to their lives.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:48 AM on July 4, 2012

256 has it. Some people are initiators. You are on the call list. You can be an initiator too if you want. Probably one of the girls or both are better friends and more idea-generating so they talk to each other first then spread the word. I think it's cool to get invited- usually I never do the initiating because I assume people don't want to do the things I'm doing (or I am rigid and don't want to change the times/things to accommodate others!).

Don't be upset. Also, you are in a social anxiety group- it sounds like they would totally understand your reservations and especially if you initiated an activity and were worried they wouldn't like it. BUT remember some people like to be in charge and prefer things in their own neighborhoods or their own food preferences or whatever so don't be upset if they then try to change the plans you initiate. It's not personal.

Try initiating something and be happy that this group has entered your life and that you have newfound friends and activities out of it. Sounds good!
posted by bquarters at 10:53 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Do you flake on events? I know sometimes people with your disorder may commit to something and then back out because their anxiety makes it too difficult to come out - not that I'm blaming you or anything, but it could be a potential reason for their behavior."

Nope, I've never backed-out at the last minute on meetups with them, unless I had a scheduling conflict. Since all of us in the group have social anxiety, we understand if someone is anxious and needs to back out due to their anxiety.
posted by starpoint at 10:55 AM on July 4, 2012

Do you frequently text with them about random casual stuff? If not, that's probably why, because the plans probably emerge from these casual conversations.
posted by acidic at 10:55 AM on July 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't want to plan something and not have it work out, though, then I'd look bad.

...so be happy these people are doing it for you. As someone who plans a lot of things, it does take time and energy, and if you're not willing to put it in for whatever reason, fine, but then it is probably better to be cheerful and positive about the fact that other people are making the effort and including you. I have not much patience for people who never make any kind of plan and then complain, so don't do that. Let it go.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:58 AM on July 4, 2012 [10 favorites]

How much do you keep in touch with them in between gatherings? If they're constantly texting and Facebooking just to shoot the shit, while you only touch base when you have something important to say, it's likely you're missing out on the planning just because it happens very casually as part of those non-specific conversations.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:07 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Agree, this is perfectly and extremely normal for social interactions. I think it's good that you realize it should not be bothering you and you are taking steps to let it go.

You say it bothers you and you don't know why. You mention social anxiety, do you think it's possible that you feel the need to be involved earlier to feel more in control of the situation?

Nothing wrong with wanting to play more of a leadership role, but if you do step up, make sure you follow through and do stuff instead of just demanding to be more involved.
posted by seesom at 11:07 AM on July 4, 2012

I wouldn't want to plan something and not have it work out, though, then I'd look bad.

This is what you do. You call/email the person who seems to be the biggest initiator and say, "hey, I'd like to go see this movie/try out this restaurant/whatever. Are you interested?" If she is, then you say "awesome, let's invite [other girls]." This is the way to start initiating things without the risk of no one else going. Alternatively, you can just email all the girls and say "does anyone want to do [event] with me?"

And it absolutely does not make you look bad at all. Sometimes people are just busy, or aren't interested in the specific event. But friends always appreciate being asked. It seems like this group might be a good "safe space" for you to start trying stuff like this, since they will (hopefully) be more sensitive about your social anxiety than other people.

Also, you definitely should not feel bad about being invited somewhere the day before. This is totally normal - somehow they probably got an idea of you as "not a planner-type" (which to be honest, it sounds like they're right) but they still want to include you.
posted by lunasol at 11:11 AM on July 4, 2012 [7 favorites]

Even an event for a small group (like yours) is difficult to coordinate over text/email when not everyone is available to communicate at the same time. Read any IRL thread on Metafilter and you'll see the kind of havoc that goes on!

I agree with others that it's likely that 2 people arranged an event and then invited the other 3. The way they're phrasing it makes it seem like they've all been "in on it" from the beginning but I doubt that's the case; it's just too difficult to plan things that way unless you're having a conference call or something.

My group of friends in high school included a guy who was so non-committal about his wishes that trying to nail down a particular time/event was a nightmare; however, he was quite available and easy-going so everyone got into the habit of making arrangements and telling him about them later. He wasn't liked any less, he was just seemingly incapable of making a decision and never complained about other decisions so it was just easier not to include him.
posted by cranberrymonger at 11:16 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

...in the planning stage.
posted by cranberrymonger at 11:17 AM on July 4, 2012

My thought reading your post is that it's time for you to initiate a plan. People tend to fall into certain roles, and yours is turning into "invitee." I know when I have friends who I invite to things, who don't invite me back, it makes me feel like they aren't really into hanging out and aren't that close to me. When we invite each other to things, it's an even exchange and makes me feel better about making plans with them in the future.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:21 AM on July 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

256 has it exactly right - there's nothing unusual about this circumstance, so it may be that you are overly sensitive to it (likely due to social phobia). It sounds like there are initiators in this group, and that a natural order has emerged. It absolutely doesn't mean they don't consider you part of the group - you keep getting invited! Just from what you've said, it doesn't sound like anything is amiss.
posted by namesarehard at 12:31 PM on July 4, 2012

I tend to initiate plans with a) the people in my group I talk to the most often outside of group events (practically, this is either my friend who is on google talk at the same times I am, or my friend who I see professionally so we're often chatting during the week), when I'm just thinking about doing X and will invite other people along if they think it sounds cool, and I want to bounce it off someone else to see if they're interested; or b) the people who are hardest to schedule, when I'm planning something everyone "needs" to attend (like a baby shower). If you're not hard to schedule, and we don't chat a lot, you'll be one of my people who gets the e-mail saying, "Okay, here's what we've settled on ..."

"I wouldn't want to plan something and not have it work out, though, then I'd look bad."

This is your social anxiety talking. I mean, I know the feeling of feeling like a dork when your thing doesn't work out, but this thought should be fleeting and firmly put away by your rational mind. Depending on the fail state, either you plan something and nobody can come, then you'd look bad you'd have fun doing it by yourself; or you plan something and people come and it's terrible (the waiters are rude, the food is awful, the couple in the next booth has a noisy fight), then you'd look bad you all now have a hilarious story to reminisce about.

Practical advice, though, start by planning something your group generally likes to do (see a movie? go out to dinner? go hiking?) that you would also enjoy doing by yourself. Don't start off with nude experimental theater, which people might hesitate to attend; start off with going to see "Brave" and having drinks afterwards. If nobody can make it, go see "Brave" by yourself, and next time you talk to everyone you're like, "Oh, yeah, I missed you guys, but it was a great movie, I really liked it!" ("Did you go for drinks after?" "No, I wasn't really into going to the bar by myself, but I stopped on the way home to pick up a pint of ice cream to treat myself in my PJs and bunny slippers while I watched Fallon!") This helps you feel more confident because you're not hanging on other people's responses before settling on a plan; you're going to do something you enjoy, whether or not anyone else can join you, so it's not a referendum on you and you're not anxiously waiting to have your plans confirmed.

"This is not a case of several of them knowing each other longer. We're all generally new to the area and we all met for the first time last year. None of us live in the same town (we're scattered around the Bay Area) I'm grateful to even have friends (they are really great girls) and I'm trying not to let it bother me, but it's eating me up inside. I was wondering what any of you would do if you felt like you were in this situation."

I know it's hard when you feel like you've been left out much of your life, but I would relax. In my core "group," some of the women are closer friends with each other than others; they have more in common, or their personalities just mesh, or they have kids the same age, or whatever. It is a GOOD and adult thing to spend time with a group of people who all genuinely like each other but who don't feel the need to constantly balance, include, exclude, have secret plans, worry about cliques, make sure they e-mail everyone at exactly the same time, etc. I like that my group of friends is open and inclusive but I don't have to always include all 8 women in my plans -- I can make plans with just one or two people and still talk about it afterwards with the other people and nobody feels bad! That your group is settling into comfortable lines of communication and not having drama about it is good! It means they know you're cool and inclusive and they don't have to walk on eggshells to avoid upsetting you. It means you're socializing well!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:42 PM on July 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm normally more laid-back, like you, but recently I found myself in the role of social organizer for a group of friends over a period of time. There was one friend that I always would invite, and he would usually accept, but he didn't take a proactive role in initiating much so I wasn't sure if he wasn't interested or if he was just accepting invitations because he was just bored or something. So, if you haven't initiated much your friends may not even know you are that interested in hanging out with them. However if they are inviting you, it probably means they want you to be involved. So I think you should somehow let them know you enjoy hanging out with them, and/or take a more initiative planning role.
posted by bearette at 1:05 PM on July 4, 2012

I had a pretty stable group of friends in high school, about eight or so people that pretty much hung out together all the time. Our weekend plans always were made the same way: I called my friend Melissa, and said "so what are we doing tonight?" And we'd decide for everyone. It always happened that way, and nothing would happen if I didn't call her. Sometimes these dynamics just form in a group of friends - it doesn't mean anything about the way people feel about each other. But, by the way, this:
I wouldn't want to plan something and not have it work out, though, then I'd look bad.
Is not true at all. People make plans that don't work out all the time. It doesn't reflect badly on them.
posted by Ragged Richard at 4:32 PM on July 4, 2012

Is it possible that they communicate a different way than you do? I know in my friend group, anyone who isn't on Twitter would miss the long, extensive back&forth planning stages and would get informed about plans later.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:57 PM on July 4, 2012

I don't think anyone has explicitly said so yet, so I will: they are inviting you, and that means something. It means they want to be around you. It would be just as easy for them not to invite you at all, which is what they would do if they didn't want you there. I struggle with social anxiety and I know all about self-defeating thoughts like "they don't really want me around." Don't let yourself believe that.

I agree with those who suggest that you initiate on occasion, and also not to feel bad if your attempts don't always work. Sometimes group plans don't work out and I can't imagine why anyone would hold it against you (look at the proposed Mefi meetups sometime, even in this community sometimes the stars just don't align for whatever reason).
posted by cabingirl at 10:17 PM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Japanese film with poison gas and windmills?   |   Replacing a wall AC? will a window AC do? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.