How do I stop hating socializing?
April 16, 2016 5:58 AM   Subscribe

How do I stop hating socializing?

I live alone. At the moment, there are four people (including my significant other) in [city I live] that I genuinely enjoy spending time with, and two in [other cities].

When I spend time with other friends, I leave feeling dissatisfied, frustrated, bored, disconnected from them. For example, crying afterwards because a friend told me all about their problems at great length when I'd had a really rough week and really needed just a light and fluffy upbeat chat about books/films/TV. Or bored and resentful because a friend told me about [computer game I have zero interest in] for hours.

I'm sick of going to all the trouble of making plans with people, leaving the house and traveling by public transport across the city, only to have a truly lousy time and wonder why I bothered.

But the four people I genuinely enjoy are busy enough with kids, work etc that I could probably do with some more people whose company I enjoy.

How do I make this happen?

and when I do have plans with people, how can I make them fun instead of a chore?

At the moment I have a cycle of:
1. make plans with [person I've known for years and years]
2. think 'Ooh, seeing such and such person will be fun!' and really look forward to it
3. catch up with person I've known for years] and its horrible
4. think, 'Why did I even bother?'
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us to Human Relations (19 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
well, before i read the more inside i was expecting a different scenario. it sounds like you need better friends tbh.
posted by andrewcooke at 6:06 AM on April 16, 2016 [12 favorites]

Agreed. You have two choices -

1. Have a heart-to-heart with each of your friends telling them how you've been feeling and asking them for what you need out of the friendship, and working together with them towards a solution, or

2. Getting better friends.

The fact that they are "busy with kids" doesn't matter. The fact that you've "known them for years" doesn't matter. The only things that matter are the fact that they are selfish bores, and the fact that you haven't spoken up for yourself and said "hey, I'm not feeling good with the way things are going here, what can we do about that?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:18 AM on April 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

As an introvert, I changed this to "Why should I socialize, which I hate?" And of course, the corollary: "Why should I socialize with people who make me unhappy?"

There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing things by yourself, especially if those people you do do things with actively make you miserable.
posted by easily confused at 6:36 AM on April 16, 2016 [10 favorites]

It sounds like you either a) let the other person do all the talking, or b) the people you spend time with are really self-absorbed.

Either of these can be addressed by planning activities rather than "catch-up" sessions.

You want to spend time with someone, you figure out a fun activity for you to do. You do this when you are making plans, not after you're already hanging out. You text friend A - "Hey, I haven't seen you in forever! There's this cool [art exhibit, movie, pub trivia night, etc.] I want to go to, would you like to join me?"

Then you get company without the expectation being that you're going to spend the entire time talking. Or there will be something pre-planned for you to focus your mutual attention on, which is not the case when you just make plans to generically hang out with someone.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:47 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you talk to your friends when not telling them on the phone "ugh had shitty day?" Or are you expecting them to read your mind? Even good friends can't do that. It's possible some of your friends are boors but also possible you have kept yourself closed off and so they don't know what's up. I can't tell which from your question.
posted by emjaybee at 6:55 AM on April 16, 2016 [7 favorites]

I'm wondering what you bring to these interactions? How do you interact when the conversation isn't working for you (because this happens all the time to all is us-but it's usually a blip and then the conversation gets turned in a better direction, or we think of ways to gently extract ourselves)? Are you actively participating or are you obviously unhappy to be there and silent so the other person desperately just rambles on to fill the silence? Have you ever tried starting your evening with the friend who always bitches about their work by saying cheerfully "ugh! I've had a horrendous week and need to escape! Let's agree not to talk about anything depressing tonight! Have you seen x new movie?"

It's totally ok not to want to socialize! But if it's something you want, I suggest you think of it less as something that happens to you and more as something you're an active participant in.
posted by purenitrous at 7:02 AM on April 16, 2016 [15 favorites]

Activities! For whatever reason I have a decent handful of friends who enjoy sort of sitting around and bullshitting about work or whatever as an activity. Not a big deal for sometimes but I'm not super good at just listening to people complain and, like you, I resent the one-sidedness of these exchanges. So I do a few things.

1. try to do activities not just "sit around and eat" things where they just vent and you have a built in thing to talk about.
2. gently redirect to a topic I'd like to talk about "Wow that sounds really tough, I had a similar thing happening and I'd love your advice..." or "That's interesting but I think I've reached my limit of video game talk let's talk about ______________" and then start talking
3. Not letting the occasion drag on too long or trying to shift the conversation with a shift in... something. So if you're at their place hopping up and being like "Hey can I help with the dishes" or something. Or, leaving. I mean it's rude to just be like GOTTAGOBYE when they're talking to you about something that is hard for them, but you don't need to just sit and be a sponge for their bad energy.
4. More small social interactions, do things in groups, do volunteering or something that gets you interacting with people but not HEAVY interaction

At some level you have to ask yourself whether these are friendships you enjoy but that sometimes go sideways or if really they're not people you want to be friends with. And some of this is bad fit. Someone nattering on about video games can be interrupted. Someone dumping their day on you can be told (gently, politely)) to stop. One of the issues I realized that I was having was that I had some sort of internal idea of manners that was keeping me from feeling like I could manage these sorts of situations so I let other people's bad manners set the tone/pace of our interactions. That was a bad idea and made me feel disrespected. But to get around it I needed to make a more generalized idea of "manners" take a backseat to my own personal well-being for a bit.

Because, you sound stressed. If you're taking bad experiences and home and crying about them, you are probably managing a lot of stress or sadness or other bad energy that these interactions are just bringing to the surface. Being in a better place with your own well-being, however hat needs to happen, tons of AskMes have advice on managing stress, will help you manage these sorts of interactions better.
posted by jessamyn at 7:24 AM on April 16, 2016 [8 favorites]

One of the best way I've found to socialise that doesn't drain me, is to do it as part of something else I find interesting. In my case it's Role Playing Games, as the game takes a lot of the work of topics etc off the table, keeps things moving along and is a great way to make new friends as you have a built in topic to talk about, but really anything tied to an interest & that also has other people at it is a good. low pressure way to socialise, with old or new friends. If worst comes to worst you spent an evening doing something you like anyway.

With your current friends you need to set some boundaries, you need to speak up for yourself a little. With your friend with problems, unless they were serious life & death type problems, which sucking it up & being there for them is what friends do, then you are well within your right to go "Oh tell me about it my week sucked too, lets go do xyz [fun thing] & pretend the week didn't happen."

It's also perfectly OK to outgrow your current friends, loyalty to friends doesn't need to be blind, some people are only in your life for a little while & that's OK too, some people have lots of friends, some people keep only the friends they like.
posted by wwax at 7:28 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

With your available friends - understand and accept who they are, & what their limits are - don't expect what they can't offer. If experience tells you so and so isn't a listener, they're not the person to go to for a talk.

Make an effort with your busy friends, they probably still would love to see or talk to you, it will just take a bit more work to make it happen. I guess, count your blessings? Having six good friends, even if you can't see them as often as you'd like, is pretty lucky, really, many people couldn't say that.

2nd picking up activities to meet people more in line with where you are now. Real friendships will take time and effort to develop, though, don't expect to be bosom buddies right away.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:36 AM on April 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

At the moment I have a cycle of:
1. make plans with [person I've known for years and years]
2. think 'Ooh, seeing such and such person will be fun!' and really look forward to it
3. catch up with person I've known for years] and its horrible
4. think, 'Why did I even bother?'

So the boring/frustrating people are old acquaintances you haven't talked to in ages, and you're reaching out to them because you're lonely? Yeah, I'm betting there are reasons you haven't talked to them in ages. Def make new friends.

(If you're seriously lonely and are keen for just any company, work out who you can tolerate when and why. Maybe someone is fun at concerts but crap at listening. So, nay to heart-to-hearts, yay to summer festivals. If there's legit NO thing you like about them, you're basically just using them, so fade out and invest more energy in meeting new people. For the necessary heart to hearts, phone your out of town friends or see a therapist.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:50 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I also wonder if you (like me) are just not cut out for one-on-one conversations. There are very few people on the earth that I enjoy having one-on-one conversations with on the regular; with everyone else (even folks I like!) I find those conversations incredibly stressful and draining. I'm easily distracted and have real limited social energy, and as you've found, a lot of conversations are super boring!

I know everyone is like "just make new friends!", but in my experience that is incredibly difficult. I wonder if instead you could just get some of these casual friends to hang out together. This way you get to socialize, but in a more low-pressure way than one-on-one conversations where you have to carry half the weight of the interaction. This works for me, anyway.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:15 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Look for some new friends. It sounds like you're very stressed and in need of connection - you get together with people you've kind of grown apart from hoping for some cheering up or comfort, and when that doesn't happen you are frustrated.

Making new friends takes time and effort, so be kind to yourself while you work on it. There are lots of's about how to make friends as a grownup.

Also, look for ways to connect with your friends who have kids. With my mom-friends, I try to be very flexible with their schedules and if they can't find a sitter I try to find something kid-friendly to do, like hanging out in the park.
posted by bunderful at 8:16 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think making new friends will be beneficial to you. However, I do want to let you know I feel the same way when it comes to socializing. At least you get to the point where you actually meet people! Sometimes I don't even have the nerve to do so and end up cancelling. So, focus on progress and the good advice above. I'm not sure if I could ever get to a point where I *love* socializing, but I can improve to where I can tolerate it at a level that can sustain a friendship and not be completely draining. It's not necessarily about stopping to hate it, rather learning to manage it.

I think it also helps making friends with people that understand this about you and don't take it personally. I'm very introverted and one of my closest friends likes to refer to me as a "cat". Meaning with a similar disposition re: interacting with others. If that is the best way for her to understand my particular proclivity and penchant for keeping to myself then it is a win-win. Good luck.
posted by lunastellasol at 8:42 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

With your available friends - understand and accept who they are, & what their limits are - don't expect what they can't offer. If experience tells you so and so isn't a listener, they're not the person to go to for a talk.

This^. I think you have to deal with the reality of the situation as it is, not how you expect or want it to be.

It's hard with old friends. There is no clean slate - there's a dynamic already established and that's hard to change without resentment and hurt feelings. Trying to change it can strain the friendship in a way that makes you regret even bringing up the issues. There's nothing wrong with voicing your issues in a friendship where you can go there with that person, but sometimes you can't. If it were me I would limit spending time with people who drain you, and only spend time with them when you have energy to burn listening to their issues. This is one of those rare cases when I think bringing it up would only strain the friendship and cause hurt feelings and anger on both sides. I wouldn't try to change the dynamic unless the individual pressed me for an explanation. I agree with what others said above - you just have to accept what others bring to the table and plan your time with them accordingly.

Once it's clear that the dynamic is a one-way street, as you describe, it's time to find new friends. It doesn't sound like you hate socializing, it sounds like it's the opposite - you want to socialize, but right now you're playing therapist to one friend and sounding board of Things That Totally Bore Me for the other. Neither is gratifying, so you're stuck - but I don't think you're stuck with socializing. I think you're stuck in the dynamic with the friends that you have.

And I'd add that it's a two way street - you can't expect people to be on your terms either. You want a light and fun interaction because you had a rough week're seeking it from people who don't have it to give it. I agree with what one poster said above - acknowledge that you both are having a tough time and agree to do something fun, that way you're setting up the interaction to go a certain way. But it's not a guarantee. If you're crying because the other person couldn't be there for you and completely drained you, it sounds like you're not in a place to be there for them either. We're strangers on the internet and only hearing one side, but it sounds like that dynamic is going both ways. And there's nothing wrong with that - it is what it is. Friends should be there for each other and as you explained, your old friends are not...they are on their terms all the time. I think a big part of friendship is acceptance. You can accept who they are and that they can't be there for you, and keep them at arm's length.

I've suggested Meetup a hundred times over, but it's such a great place to meet new people superficially and develop friendships if that's what you choose to do. No emotional obligations, no baggage, and you're meeting around a specified activity or interest in X. It's light, it's easy. And if it's not, you move on and find a new group.
posted by onecircleaday at 8:53 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're letting upsetting interactions continue to the point where you're crying or resentful about it afterward, you might benefit from learning more about, and practicing more, assertiveness. Your Perfect Right, When Anger Scares You, and Harriet Lerner's books (probably Dance of Connection, though I haven't read that one) might be helpful.
posted by lazuli at 8:55 AM on April 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

One great question that is being asked in all the comments above is, Are your friends people you want to be friends with?

Here's another question to try on: Are YOU people you want to be friends with?

You could make a list things you want in a friend, and then see if there are areas that you aren't strong in yet. How can you get strong in those places?
posted by jander03 at 9:59 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Possibly you need better friends.

Possibly you just need some tips on how to better manage your end of the conversational labor. Did you tell your one friend you were full-up on bad news and just wanted to keep it light? Did you mention to your other friend that her video games sounds super neat, and reminds you of this book you read one time. . .etc.

I will say, if I had any friend who was prone to talk for over an hour straight, I doubt I would spend much time with them, as that sounds more like a lecture than a conversation.
posted by ananci at 10:28 AM on April 16, 2016

Back in with another tip: make friends with people in your neighborhood. Look for local book clubs, dining-out groups, churches/synagogues/temples/mosques (if that's your thing), volunteer orgs, etc.

Local friends are easier to get together with. If you're bored on a summer evening, it's easy to check and see who's around and wants to get a beer. If you aren't having a great time, it's no big deal to say you have a headache and go home.
posted by bunderful at 3:05 PM on April 16, 2016

What are some things you enjoy and get energy from? Have you been doing them lately? I empathize a lot with your question because it's the way I start to feel when I get really stressed out or just worn down. I don't always have a good sense of how stressed I am, but a desire for things to be *exactly the way I want them* is a part of it, as is just going through the motions of "things I should like doing".

But sometimes I get in the habit of thinking that because I enjoyed something before, I'll enjoy it every time... Without really doing the thinking and imagining whether the actual experience is really something I'd enjoy right now. Maybe try asking yourself: Would you like to see your friend the video game designer right now? Hm, talking to her always requires a lot of energy on your part either to follow the topic or to continually redirect the conversation, maybe not tonight.

It takes some work to care about keeping the conversation good and the energy up with most people. It can get easier as you get to know each other better. But if you don't have the energy you might be limited - try some more restorative activities until you feel "up for" either going out and meeting some new people or socializing with these folks again.
posted by Lady Li at 11:30 PM on April 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

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