How to tell when people actually don't like me?
July 25, 2015 9:40 AM   Subscribe

I feel like I'm having a hard time making the transition from friends that I see at parties to friends that I can call up for a random happy hour or the like. The anxiety-ridden part of my brain has me convinced that this is because these people don't actually like me. How can I discern the truth and take next steps?

By any outside measure, I have plenty of friends, but the reality is that I lack people that I feel confident calling up for random hanging out and I find myself feeling lonely a lot of the time. I don't need to meet more people necessarily, I just need to learn if a) the connections that I have are worth developing and b) how to make that happen.

I suspect that the reason I don't get calls for random hanging out is that people think I wouldn't be interested. Part of the problem is that I don't have very much money, so the hanging out that I can do is rather limited. How do I express this / redirect plans to things that I can afford without it seeming like I'm not wanting to be friends or flaking out? Also, how do I get over my anxiety that people don't actually want to be hanging out with me and make the first call?

Please don't suggest therapy. That's not on the table right now for various reasons.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Juliet Banana had a great comment several years ago that has some great stuff in it that might help you a lot.
posted by phunniemee at 9:58 AM on July 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

Ask yourself, what is the worst that can happen if you call somebody up and ask them if they want to get coffee or lunch with you?

Sure, they might say no. Will they then proceed to call everybody up in their phone book Mean-Girls style and say, 'oh my god, you won't believe what anon just did, s/he just asked me to go for coffee; who does s/he think s/he is?' People don't have enough time and energy to do that because on average, they're too focused on themselves.

Are you afraid that that the people you invite out will accept, but still secretly dislike you? People value their time, and usually, if they accept the invite, it's because that is they want to be there and enjoy your company.

I believe there is a "critical period" of friend-making where you do need to consistently say yes to their invitations and/or invite them out. This period of time (it varies from person to person, but I'd say it lasts anywhere from 2-3 weeks to 2-3 months) is where you should try to demonstrate interest in the person you would like to become friends with. Don't be overly persistent if they turn down one or two invites, since everybody's busy, but also don't be overly discouraged if they do, either. After this critical period you can probably be more relaxed about initiating contact, but do check in from time to time and make plans, because... that's how friends work.

If money is an issue, try to brainstorm a few activities that require very little money, such as visiting a park, going on a run, attending a free concert or art show, going for coffee/tea. If they ask to do something that's out of your budget range, you can just be honest and say, "I'd love to, but it's a bit pricey for me at the moment-- how about checking out that new art gallery / play / etc instead?" Most people won't judge you for that, and the ones who do aren't going to be people you'd want to pursue long-term friendships with, anyway.

Somewhat relevant: read a little bit about attachment theory.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 10:31 AM on July 25, 2015 [9 favorites]

Forget everything you tell yourself about anxiety, suspicions, etc.

I just need to learn if a) the connections that I have are worth developing and b) how to make that happen.

a) Are you genuinely interested in the person? Do you like them? Can you see yourself enjoying time spent with that person--are they fascinating, do they have something big in common with you, could they make you laugh, and vice-versa? Your time is valuable, too, and there's no reason to follow up with anyone you don't actually like. It's okay if those people are relatively few.

b) Reach some level of conviction about the above questions ("Heck yeah, they also do x hobby and we both know y friend and they cracked a funny joke at that party. Let's do this!") and that confidence will come through in your invitation. If you feel wishy-washy about meeting up with someone, like ehhhh I SHOULD call, but ehhhh...well, nobody wants to hang out with that. But if you're selective about who you want to follow up with, and enthusiastic about it, that's much more appealing.

As far as actual plans go, suggest a place you can afford. You can always eat ahead of time and just order a drink or an appetizer/dessert. Lots of early-friendship hangs can be cheap: coffee, cheap beers at a dive or outdoor bar, hiking, lunch/dinner (or appetizers), etc. Reserve $5-10 where you can for these occasions and don't get so hung up on that aspect. People are usually very understanding and respectful of frugality.
posted by witchen at 10:56 AM on July 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Are most of your friends in relationships? Are you in a relationship? I ask because it's tougher, much tougher, for singles to socialize with their friends if their friends are mostly couples and they aren't.
posted by Beholder at 10:59 AM on July 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Do it the easy way. When you are hanging out with the group mention things you are interested in and would like to do. Eventually, hopefully, this will lead to someone else saying "I also am interested in / would like to do that thing!" and then you can say "why don't I call / text you and we can go next week?"

Also, I friend people on Facebook and post things like "There's a free movie at the park on Sunday, who wants to go?" Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't, depending on Facebook algorithms and whatnot, but it's pretty low-risk.

You could be that person who stays on top of all the cool free events in town and always posts them on Facebook - that could easily turn into going with a group.

Making new friends is HARD. I am in a new city and it's really been a struggle. I finally am starting to feel accepted by some of the people in my groups. I had to just keep showing up, accepting invitations, joining new groups / classes, and coping with the ensuing anxiety as gracefully as possible.

Good luck, you'll get there!
posted by bunderful at 11:20 AM on July 25, 2015 [7 favorites]

I think you need to just text some people and invite them to see if they want to go get coffee or have a happy hour or whatnot. I know you want to know if they like you and want to do it first, but someone has to make the first "let's hang out as friends" move. Just make it something low-key and low-pressure.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:25 AM on July 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Part of the problem is that I don't have very much money, so the hanging out that I can do is rather limited. How do I express this / redirect plans to things that I can afford without it seeming like I'm not wanting to be friends or flaking out?
It was awkward at first, but I have literally never gotten pushback when I've taken a direct but light approach and said "my bank balance is kinda sad right now, mind if we [hang a the park/go to the cheap seats theater/get a donut/whatever] instead?"

Also, how do I get over my anxiety that people don't actually want to be hanging out with me and make the first call?
As I get older, I realize that people are just stuck in their ways/routines/previously-established groups and their time is limited. Especially if they are coupled or have kids or stressful jobs, or if they're introverts. It's almost a given to me that people will flake or have their own stuff going on, so I can't take it personally if they aren't available. All the voices in my head are saying "aggh, they don't like me!" so I get how you feel; but then I remember the times I've passed on plans with friends I love in favor of staying in with takeout and a movie just because I felt too drained to socialize.
posted by kapers at 12:09 PM on July 25, 2015 [9 favorites]

Honestly, the best way to find out if these people want to be your friends is to invite them out to friends-type things and see if they say yes (or give genuine sounding excuses and try to reschedule).
posted by 256 at 2:16 PM on July 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Don't read anything into the fact that people aren't beating a path to your door. People get into ruts, and they have their friends who they always hang out with and their stuff that they always do, and they may just not remember you when they're making plans. (This goes double if they're over 30. Us old people are the worst when it comes to making new friends.) Or they might just not be able to summon the extra courage to extend an invitation to someone they don't know very well. (Like the beasts of the wild, they're as scared of you as you are of them.)

And don't get discouraged if you get turned down. My rule is that I ask somebody three times to do three different things before I decide they either don't like me or they're too flaky to be a good friend anyway.
posted by BrashTech at 2:20 PM on July 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

The whole not having money thing might be more important than you expect. Sometimes people will exclude individuals from an invitation list if they think it might be awkward for them to have to turn down the offer. If you are very limited by your budget, you might have to be the driver of cheaper social activities.
posted by deathpanels at 8:01 PM on July 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Some ideas for cheap activities...

Game night.
Make your own pizza (on tortillas) night (could go with game night).
Invite to your house for a star party (use free apps to ID constellations) serve drinks (don't have to be alcoholic) with space themed names and popcorn.
Walk dogs together (if you have a dog).
Work out together.
Movie night w popcorn maybe.
Coffee date/tea date.
Craft date. Upcycling something.
Art gallery
Fly kites in Park.
Hiking date.
Afternoon tea at your place.
Meet up at the library especially if it's one that has a coffee shop.
Meet up at a bookstore Ditto coffee shop thing.

If you put lots of thought into the activities you suggest, I bet people will be happy to hang out with you and the money thing becomes a non issue. People will just marvel over how fun and creative you are. But, as noted above, make sure you are picking people you are really interested in getting to know. Don't go casting your pearls in front of the pigs or whatever it is they say.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:45 PM on July 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

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