How do I make friends without creeping them out?
October 2, 2012 10:30 AM   Subscribe

How to make new friends: socially awkward version. Or, have I slipped up here?

I'm 39, female, with a long term male partner. I'm not very good at making friends or being friendly, but I'm consciously trying to do better. I naturally seem to form friendships with men more easily than with women. I fake being social when I need to, but I really prefer to be alone (with my partner). I'm also bi and occasionally do FFM threesomes with my partner, so I get my friend/flirt wires crossed sometimes.

I signed up with a new financial advisor last week, she works in the same building as me. She's very smart, pretty, very friendly, inquisitive - she seemed genuinely interested in me as a person, not just as a client. In the course of our meeting, in addition to my financial goals, we talked about life stuff too. She's single and asked me how I met my partner, we talked about dating websites, music, restaurants... we really seemed to hit it off. Friday I took her some paperwork and we chatted some more about music - we were both planning on going to the same music event on Sunday and she told me about a restaurant crawl happening Sunday night. We agreed to maybe meet up. She gave me her phone number (jokingly saying not to text her in the middle of the night about my accounts) and I texted her right then so she'd have mine. She gave me her personal email address so I could send her some music info. I asked if she was on Facebook, she said yes and was positive when I said I'd friend her. I also asked her age, she said 28, we talked about how being a young financial advisor affects her senior clients. I felt like we'd really made a connection, I was looking forward to seeing her on the weekend and having her meet my partner. I was also excited at the prospect of successfully making a new friend, and I admit I was also a bit fluttery because I am attracted to her.

Sunday morning things seemed to totally change. I sent her an email with all the music info I promised her, told her I had been unable to find her on FB and gave her the link to my profile so she could friend me, and told her I'd text her momentarily about the music/restaurant stuff. I did, she responded within a few minutes. She said she wasn't sure if she was going to do the music event, that she'd let me know later. She didn't acknowledge anything about the restaurant event.

A few hours later she texted that she wasn't going to make it to the music because she had to help a friend with something. She again didn't acknowledge the restaurant event. I said no worries, happy Sunday, and that was the end of it. She hasn't friended me on Facebook.

Yesterday I left some more financial paperwork at her office, emailed her to let her know they were and give her a bit more info, didn't say anything about the weekend. She replied with "thank you, I'll process them tomorrow." This morning I saw her in the halls and she was pleasant but kind of awkward and again didn't say anything about the weekend.

I'm concerned that I've come on too strong. Did I? What should I have done differently?
posted by thrasher to Human Relations (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Don't discount the idea that she may have other things in her life taking up her time. It could be that something came up for her between your initial plans and now, and she's not comfortable enough with you as a friend to mention them.

Or, for another possibility, maybe she looked you up on Facebook and saw that you're bi and might have an issue with it? I don't know if that would be the case, but maybe she thinks you were chatting her up rather than being friendly after a quick "google investigation"? Which would be crappy of her, but not unheard of.

In any case, it sounds like you were just fine, and it's not your "fault" for her actions.
posted by xingcat at 10:47 AM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

It seems like the friendliness was reciprocal and that you have done nothing wrong. It's entirely possible that someone overheard the exchange and told your financial advisor that it's improper to have a social relationship with clients. (You said she's 28, so maybe she's new to advising or the company, etc.) Or maybe she was just faking kindness to get and keep you as a client and never had any intention of meeting you. Or she was busy with other things.

Either way, it's not your fault, at least from what you're saying here.
posted by Flamingo at 10:47 AM on October 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'm a naturally friendly and chatty person. I have a great rapport with our clients and we'll often chat about non-work stuff. If I found out one of them would be attending an event I'd be at, I'd be like "Hey cool! Maybe I'll see you there!" But I don't socialize with our customers. Our relationships, as warm and fuzzy as they may be, have definite boundaries. In short, I like them very much, but we're not friends.

Despite my being an extrovert, I'm a private person and keep my own company. Sounds like perhaps she realized that your working relationship had crossed some boundaries and that it was time to dial it back. Or maybe she doesn't want a new friend. I meet lots of new people all the time but I don't really have the time or energy to make new friends. That has nothing to do with them and everything to do with me.

As for not friending you on Facebook, that's totally fair. If I had been her in that situation, I wouldn't have said "No, don't add me. I don't know you well enough to let you into my private life like that." I would've probably said "Oh, right on" and then said nothing because I know they wouldn't find my profile because of my privacy settings.

You didn't do anything wrong. But you should ease up a bit as she seems to have pulled back. Maybe she's just busy. We have no way of knowing. Just keep being friendly and see what happens. Again, you did nothing wrong.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:52 AM on October 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

Dude, I get to this stage with potentialfriends ALL THE TIME, and then it's just like well what now, so you totally have my sympathy. People are complicated.

If I were you, I would disengage for a few days about everything non-business related. And then, in a couple weeks, IF something comes up that is relevant to the interests you discussed, I'd text her saying, "hey, found this cool thing about [subject] and thought you'd enjoy it! hope you're doing well!"

If she responds/is friendly, suggest grabbing lunch next time you're in her area. If she doesn't respond, or just says "thanks" or something, let it be.

Good luck!
posted by phunniemee at 10:54 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I naturally seem to form friendships with men more easily than with women. I fake being social when I need to, but I really prefer to be alone (with my partner). I'm also bi and occasionally do FFM threesomes with my partner, so I get my friend/flirt wires crossed sometimes.

Is that apparent from your profile? Because if not, I wouldn't worry about it at all. Like people above have said, it could be anything. However, if that is something that strangers can figure out from your profile, you should either change it or at least accept the potential for this kind of reaction.

But yeah, ease up. You're almost certainly never going to find out what happened, and pursuing it further would just be creepy. Take it as a lesson for next time and move on.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:56 AM on October 2, 2012

You didn't do anything wrong. Some people draw a natural boundary between work and social lives and it seems to be the case here. I'm super friendly when I'm in customer-facing jobs and I genuinely like my clients/coworkers. A few times, my clients have assumed that this means we can interact outside the office, but for me that would never happen, regardless of how much I enjoy them. It gets awkward.

Next time you click with a friendly vendor, just ask if they ever hang out with clients or if they keep their business relationships to work.
posted by mochapickle at 11:00 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh hell no. I'm friends with my parents and my grandma on FB. There's no sign of bisexuality and certainly not threesomes anywhere on FB. Fetlife sure, but I don't get the impression my advisor is on Fet....
posted by thrasher at 11:01 AM on October 2, 2012

Yes, you might have come on too strong (particularly if you were attracted to her and she could sense it- we've all been there!). Being friendly with clients is part of her job; it doesn't necessarily mean she's looking to hang out with them outside of her job or friend them on Facebook. I don't know if there's anything else you could have done differently.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:04 AM on October 2, 2012

I wouldn't be surprised that she feels (or was told) she over-shared and crossed some boundaries between work and personal lives. A financial adviser needs to be independent and the additional complication that you work in the same building makes a friend falling out all the more troublesome.

It's easy to get caught up in the moment but then coming home at night say "ah crap, did I really discuss becoming Facebook friends with a client????'
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:20 AM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't think you did anything wrong. In fact, it sounds to me like you were doing everything "right." There could be thousands of possible explanations for her change in attitude and I'm guessing that it's very unlikely that there is anything about you in particular that changed her mind.

I've been in a depressed mood lately and if I had been in the adviser's shoes, I would likely have behaved friendly and felt good in the moment. Later, I would have picked apart all the reasons why you wouldn't actually want to be friends with me and how trying to be friends wasn't worth the effort. Then, I would feel guilty about blowing you off on Sunday, which would then make me feel anxious and lead me behave in a strictly professional manner on Monday.

The above is just one of the thousands of reasons she may have changed her mind.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:56 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

She initiated the friendly stuff (asking about how I met my partner, telling me about the restaurant crawl, initially suggesting we meet up on Sunday), I was just seeing and raising all that with the exchange of contact info and FB suggestion. I suppose if someone told her to dial it down there's not much I can do about it, but at least it would be understandable. It'd really be a shame if she was just paying lip service with no intent of following through, or thought better of the whole thing after the fact. I wish people could just be honest and straightforward. (It would make for a lot fewer AskMe's, however!)

Thanks all for the input. I'm glad to see the majority think I didn't do anything overboard. I favorited the responses that actually make me feel a little better about myself ;)
posted by thrasher at 1:09 PM on October 2, 2012

Nthing that her mood shift very well has absolutely nothing to do with you. Maybe her dog died, maybe she had an argument with a friend, maybe her boss just lectured the whole staff about the evils of Facebook, who knows.
posted by desuetude at 1:20 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Even tho your fb is squeaky clean, is there any part of you that isn't that is tied to your email, your username ( before the @ sign) or your phone # or your name? Bc i google the hell out of every new friend and ALWAYS do smart google permutations like just the username or username and city to find out as much as possible about a potential friend as i can. She might do the same. What would she find?
posted by TestamentToGrace at 1:29 PM on October 2, 2012

@TestamentToGrace, she wouldn't find anything freaky. I just confirmed. ;)
posted by thrasher at 1:50 PM on October 2, 2012

Well, we didn't see any askme questions from her saying "I was just being chatty and friendly with a client and she seemed super nice. We almost made plans to get together but I decided it was unprofessional and canceled, and now I think she thinks I hate her and it's really awkward."
But I can totally see it from her perspective. She's a person, too, and even people who seem put-together and socially graceful will have freakout moments. People are someties agreeable and then talk themselves out of it later and back out. It has nothing to do with you personally. I doubt she thinks you're too aggressive or too clingy or too anything, except maybe too much her client.

That said, you've seen how many "it is unprofessional to do X with my coworker" questions we have around here, and the answer often boils down to "if you genuinely trust and like this person and can imagine them being in your life for a long time, then unprofessional doesn't come into it, but if you're not 100% sure you'd better cool it for a while and get to know them better so you can be sure it's not a potential drama bomb."

If it were me, I'd assume that she still wants to be my friend, just not quite so suddenly. I'd let her be in charge of proposing another outing in the short term. If she doesn't invite, but things seem friendly, ask her for near-office socializing like a coffee break (but not weekend plans) Also, she's your financial advisor; that often goes in waves where you interact for a while getting things set up and then don't check in until this time next year. Once your business slows down, take stock again and see if there's still potential there.
posted by aimedwander at 2:14 PM on October 2, 2012

Leave it alone. It's fine. She probably just has shit to do and doesn't know/ care about you enough to prioritize time with you. Also, some people (guilty I am of this) agree to things in the moment that sound really great/ like they really want to, and later realise that they were just excited in the moment but actually aren't up for it, because they're really busy/ tired/ cranky/ in their pajamas and not going anywhere goddammit/ are just flaky, really, and that's how they are.

Wait a week or two, then suggest hanging out again. Give her a few more tries but space them out. If after 2 or 3 more invites from you, she doesn't accept or invite you out, write this off as just a friendly person who's not looking for more friends right now.
posted by windykites at 2:43 PM on October 2, 2012

Now she's having her assistant email me about financial stuff; before we emailed about the finances directly. Dangit.
posted by thrasher at 3:20 PM on October 2, 2012

Just one for: maybe you came on a little strong? I am a slow builder- to me, email + Facebook + do something this weekend is a bit much. It's silly and flakey of her to initiate it and then back out, for sure, but when I read your narrative it sounded a bit pile-on-ish, as if you we're making ABSOLUTELY sure that there was no way you would lose contact.

This plus the professional connection might tip some people over the edge.

On the other hand, there's really nothing wrong with being keen and I don't think you should feel foolish or guilty. Consider it this way- you met someone in an entirely professional context and were lovely and charming enough that they wanted to do something that weekend. Ok, it didn't pan out for myriad possible reasons but you must, at least at the initial chatty stage- present v well. iF you want to care (which you might not and might instead just decide someone so sensitive is not worth the hassle) you could leave the ball a little more in their court in the future- just removing one of those displays of enthusiasm (let her txt you or don't Facebook friend her) might make a slightly different impression.
posted by jojobobo at 3:36 PM on October 2, 2012

It'd really be a shame if she was just paying lip service with no intent of following through, or thought better of the whole thing after the fact. I wish people could just be honest and straightforward.

Maybe she was being honest and straightforward with the level of friendliness that she initiated, but uncomfortable with the level that you responded with. Which isn't to say you "did something wrong" in your approach, but if I met someone new and had vague plans to possibly hang out over the weekend, and then 2 days later they email me, give me their fb because they can't find me, and text me all in rapid succession, I'd feel overwhelmed. I mean, I don't even have that much contact with my existing friends, so to get that from a new acquaintance seems a bit much. Different strokes for different folks.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:02 PM on October 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Different people view the professional/friend dynamic in different ways.

We don't really know what's going on in her life so we can't say what's happened.

But, generally, there's a line there - she feel she may have felt she crossed that line and that may have made things uncomfortable for her (or, she may have something going on in her personal life that you don't know about).

Back off, don't panic, and see how things progress.
posted by heyjude at 7:48 PM on October 2, 2012

This is very much a YMMV situation, but for many people, one great conversation does not necessarily equal the start of a great friendship. A lot of people can be really warm and friendly when you sit down and talk to them face to face, with no intention of following this up with a 'real' friendship dynamic - music events, restaurants, etc. I am one of those people. It's just one of those compartmentalising things some of us do.

I have had really long conversations with people I know through work where we chat a lot about restaurants and movies, and we say vaguely 'We should totally go there sometime' and neither of us really mean it. I don't feel that this shows dishonesty and a lack of straightforwardness. It's just a form of social pleasantry. It's fine when both people are on the same page. Sometimes one person thinks this is a precursor to a real friendship, and then you get awkwardness.

I do think that the fact that you were attracted to her (I'm sure you weren't blatant about it but... she could probably tell, many people can), and you emailed, facebooked and texted her soon afterward, may have made her realise that you wanted to move the relationship quite quickly from 'acquaintance' to 'Friend I go out and do fun things with'. Which is why she might be being a little distant with you. It's not that there's anything wrong with you, but people are allowed to not want new friends. Friends are a time investment, and she has a working relationship with you that she might not want to complicate. It's not a reflection on you or how you approached the situation. Don't feel too bad about it. There are plenty of other great people out there.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:12 AM on October 3, 2012

She's 28, smart, pretty, friendly, inquisitive (in your own words). I know someone who almost exactly matches that description. She is the most flakey person I have ever met. I think she is just so scared of some imagined confrontation that might happen with someone by saying "no" to an invitation in their presence, she just automatically says yes, then lets it slide. It's the easy way out.

I dunno if it's a generational thing or what.... just sayin'
posted by Diag at 4:35 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

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