how to be more chill
May 22, 2019 8:23 AM   Subscribe

I am always the social initiator in my friend groups and among 1-to-1 friendships. 80% of the time I don't mind this but the other 20% I wonder if people would bother organising to meet up if I didn't, and what that says for the quality of my relationships. Do I need to scale back on initiating / "be more chill"? When do I know that it's time to take a step back?

I should say, I am very lucky and have a wide network of friends and friend groups. But I put a lot of effort into nurturing my friendships. They're important to me. I'm single and live in a different country from my family, and I am a natural extrovert who feels better when around other people. So cultivating and maintaining relationships, for me, is a need.

Sometimes though I wonder if I should just be more chill, take a step back and let other people reach out to me to organise things. I feel like I have some perfectly nice friendships where I do all of the active soliciting, if that makes sense. I also do all the "work" like finding dates that work, booking tickets, booking restaurants etc. I am a natural-born organiser and I don't mind doing the work, but sometimes I feel like... would I be seeing these people if I weren't making all the effort?

So my question is, when do I know it's time to step back and let other people take charge? How, also, can I learn to be more accepting of the fact that if I don't do the work, some of these relationships will inevitably fail? Or maybe I just need to accept that, since my friendships are really important to me, I'm always going to have to be the one who does most of the work?
posted by unicorn chaser to Human Relations (17 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Or maybe I just need to accept that, since my friendships are really important to me, I'm always going to have to be the one who does most of the work?

If you want to maintain the relationships, that's the one, yeah. In my experience, when the organizer of a group of people stops doing it, the group stops hanging out. It's certainly not fair but people who, as adults, do not take the lead on organizing stuff never really will develop that characteristic barring some huge personal change (having kids, treating a mental health issue, realizing their mortality, etc.)
posted by griphus at 8:29 AM on May 22, 2019 [9 favorites]

I have friends like that, one in particular and we appreciate her SO MUCH. Those of us who are terrible with logistics, or find it all stressful, are often so happy to have someone else make the arrangements. It's true if you didn't do it, you would probably see them all less but then you would all suffer as a consequence. If you truly don't mind doing it, please keep it up. You could suggest to them to take a turn though, and find something for you guys to do, I'm sure that would be fine...but you may have to ask them directly to do so. Sometimes people just end up in roles that suit their personalities and everyone just gets used to it, as you are finding. That does't mean you aren't appreciated though!!
posted by bquarters at 8:30 AM on May 22, 2019 [11 favorites]

I would not focus so much on the organizing work aspect of it. Instead, ask yourself whether you are getting what you want out of these relationships. Are you feeling valued? Cared for? Do you feel like you have a wide network to call on? Are you able to help others because of your many connections?

One of the things that can really suck about not having family is that you really do have to do a lot of work to get basic social needs met. When other people already have those structures in place, they can be more take-it-or-leave-it than you (we, really) can afford to be. It is not fair that you probably have to do more work in order to get your needs met. But that is, I think, something to be sort of angry-at-the-world over and not something that should meaningfully change your approach to your friendships.

You might, though, consider joining some kind of regular social activity that is organized by someone else and that will last a long time. Church is the traditional thing for this, although there may be something else around. That might help you feel like there is less of a burden on you generally.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:41 AM on May 22, 2019 [16 favorites]

I also do all the "work" like finding dates that work, booking tickets, booking restaurants etc. I am a natural-born organiser and I don't mind doing the work, but sometimes I feel like... would I be seeing these people if I weren't making all the effort?

If these people didn't care about you, enjoy their time with you, and want to see you, then all the scheduling and booking in the world wouldn't make them show up and be your friend. They're saying yes to your invitations and hanging out with you because they WANT to.

Maybe some or all of them are insecure about inviting people out or are terrible at logistics, so if you didn't organize things, then you would see them less. That doesn't mean their friendship is fake or that they care less about it than you do.

I don't think you need to be more "chill"! I think your friends probably really appreciate all that you do and really appreciate how socially skilled you are, even if they don't know how to replicate it.

I think you should just continue to do what you want to do and not worry so much about keeping score.

If it makes you feel any better, also, I have a friend who is very good about this stuff: organizing events, keeping in touch, sending out cards for special occasions, hosting get-togethers. I've learned a lot from her, and I've become a better friend by being friends with her. Your friends are probably learning more than you realize, too.
posted by rue72 at 8:44 AM on May 22, 2019 [17 favorites]

Also, because the organizer is often a woman, I don't think people realize that it is a position that comes with a lot of power and prestige. Think about all the upsides of organizing, and if you're not taking enough advantage of them, maybe start doing that a little more.

The unhappiest organizers I know do things like take too many suggestions or complaints, organize things that aren't convenient or fun for them, etc. Don't do that! You have the power! Go where you want and do what you want! Never play a board game again! (Okay, that last one might just be me ;) )
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:44 AM on May 22, 2019 [15 favorites]

Like, if you're schlepping across the city to make a meetup convenient for someone who won't even bother to give you a call back, you're doing it wrong. If you're convincing your friends to see a niche film that you're super into, you're doing it right. So make sure you are doing it right.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:46 AM on May 22, 2019 [17 favorites]

I wonder if people would bother organising to meet up if I didn't, and what that says for the quality of my relationships.

I think those are two separate questions.

As an introvert, I wouldn't step up to organize if you scaled back. I appreciate my extroverted friends and their efforts to keep us connected, but I don't have the same need and would feel as close to them as now even if we connected much less often - like once or twice a year. But the quality is there - I express my appreciation, we are honest with each other, we commiserate and support each other, etc.

If it works for you, keep doing it; if it doesn't, stop.
posted by headnsouth at 8:48 AM on May 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm the social organizer for many of my friendships, and I've recently decided to take a step back. I suggest that you keep organizing if it sparks joy or if its helping you develop the types of relationships that you're looking for. I suggest stepping back if you feel like getting thanked is not enough, you're getting stressed out from planning these events, or you aren't achieving your relationship goals. In tandem, I recommend gently talking to your friends about having them step up and organize events. I would frame it as you've done the last couple events, so it's their turn to organize the next one. If you want to talk more specifics about your situation or why I'm stepping back, please memail me.
posted by emilynoa at 9:01 AM on May 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you were my friend and stopped organizing things we probably would see each other less - partly because I'm usually too exhausted and stressed out to plan ahead, and partly because I'm the type who always worries if I'm imposing by inviting people out. Which is not to say that I wouldn't care or make an effort, just that my best efforts would probably work out to a lower frequency of meetups than yours. As someone said above, I'm very grateful for friends like you who initiate things.

I think if you actually are happy making arrangements then you should keep doing it and feel good about it. But if you ever start getting tired of it, or feel taken advantage of or whatever, I'd say talk about it with a few friends who you think might be able to take more on themselves, maybe set up some kind of rotation, or just pull back on things that require a lot of organizing and move towards more laid-back or regularly-occurring meetups.

But as someone else said above, the quality of your friendships and the question of who organizes events usually have more to do with other things than with each other.
posted by trig at 9:16 AM on May 22, 2019

If you are asking this question because things feel imbalanced, think about what your friends could do for you that would help bring you back into harmony. That thing should probably not be picking up the organizing duties. I am also the initiator and I understand that insecurity of “would we even hang out if I weren’t doing this?” It can really get in your head.

I have found that often the answer is “no, we would not.” But it’s not because they don’t love me and want to see me and spend time together! It’s because organizing isn’t their particular skill set. They wouldn’t be replacing the time with me doing something else - they would be watching tv or something similarly low/no planning. I got a lot happier when I stopped wanting people to be me and accepted my particular skill set as a gift to all of us.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:40 AM on May 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

This also describe me, but when I'm happy, I bask in these events and think, "gosh I'm so happy I could make this beautiful thing happen." When I'm depressed I say things like you did, "would they even notice if I stopped?" That's my cue to tell my people that I need a boost. For many of those relationships, I need to tell me explicitly how much they love those events and how much they love me. For others, it's taking on more planning. And sometimes, it's really a sign I should be working harder on therapy.
posted by advicepig at 10:06 AM on May 22, 2019 [8 favorites]

Coming from the world of political organizing, one idea is to stop focusing on organizing events as much and start focusing on organizing people. What I mean is delegating individual tasks to others in the group, following up with them to ensure the tasks are done, and acting as a central clearing-house for the information. Since you say you don't really mind taking on the work, you can afford to play a bit of a longer game like this.

For example, instead of finding out when everyone is available for an outing, you tell Claire that you want to get everyone together for an outing, and could she find out when everyone is available in the next two weeks? And then call her the next evening and ask if she had those dates for you yet and if not does she think she could have them by tomorrow? Once you have the dates, you call David and ask if he wouldn't mind checking which of these 6 restaurants have availability and making the reservation. Simultaneously, you can have Mary trying to book Mariachi bands to play at dinner and Alexi finding interpretive dance performances for everyone to go to after dinner, etc.

This will not mean less work for you in the short term. It will seem that the work of delegating and following up with people who are less efficient than you is actually more effort than just doing the task yourself. However, the advantages are 1. everyone else is at least doing something, 2. more complex events can be organized more quickly, and perhaps most importantly 3. the others develop the skills to do the organizing and the culture of taking on the work themselves. Eventually, you pull back from your role as project manager as you see others start taking the initiative.

Once your social circle becomes a well-oiled machine, you can start organizing bigger events like protests, union drives, public forums, and revolutionary uprisings!
posted by Krawczak at 10:39 AM on May 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

I stopped organizing things. It has mostly resulted in me not seeing my friends anymore.
posted by missrachael at 11:46 AM on May 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

so I'm mostly the organizer in at least one of my circles, and I probably wouldn't see people as much if I wasn't. The thing is, I organize things that I enjoy. We do a lot of potlucks and they're mostly at my house (I don't have to drive places! I can hide in my bathroom for a bit if I get anxious!). I get to pick the theme and pick days and times that are good for me. I think that a lot of folks really appreciate not having to do the planning - I'm much more likely to see people if I say "here's where and when, let me know if you're coming" than trying to coordinate everyone.

As folks said up above, it's really a matter of how you feel about it. If you're tired of doing the work then definitely take a break or scale back, or see if you can ask someone else to take the lead. But if it really doesn't bother you I'd say don't use this as a test of your friendships. Life is busy and people aren't always good at budgeting their own time or organizing, even if they value you.
posted by brilliantine at 12:21 PM on May 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Can you think of this as a skill you have, one that lots of other people don't?

I personally am AWFUL at this sort of thing, but it's not because I feel any differently about my friends than you feel about yours. I'm just bad at it, despite my best efforts. But I like to think I bring other things to the table, like a totally non-judgmental ear and a willingness to assemble your Ikea furniture, etc. This is something you bring to the table, and frankly it's something I totally envy.

I'm definitely not saying you're obligated to do this work if you'd rather not! Be honest with yourself about whether you really "don't mind" doing the organizational tasks. But it's worth keeping in mind that these people are probably lacking a skill or an inclination that you naturally have, rather than deliberately blowing you off or trying to burden you with all the planning.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:37 PM on May 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

I've struggled with this a lot and for me it comes from feeling like the effort expended in the friendship is unbalanced, or that my friends don't actively like me but hang out with me because it is convenient for them to get their social needs met if I do all the work. Can you open up to some friends about feeling overbearing/overwhelmed by organizing/insecure about your friendships? Usually being sufficiently appreciated helps me let go of my always-the-initiator angst.
posted by storytam at 2:01 AM on May 23, 2019

Your friends might think you live to plan and organize outings and have no idea that you'd like someone else to step up. So you might try handing the baton by saying something like 'I'd love to get together but I don't have a lot of time/energy to plan something - anything you've been wanting to do?"

You could also get together with friends by doing something that doesn't require a lot of organizing. And you can ask for help. "X is happening next weekend; can anyone help with making reservations?" And when someone does help, let them know how much you appreciate it.

I used to live near a friend who was very outgoing and good at paying attention to local events. I never really thought about the ratio of how often she asked me to do things vs how I often I asked her, until one evening I asked her to dinner. As we were eating she told me very sincerely that she really appreciated having a break from being the one doing the inviting and planning. It was my first inkling that she was not perfectly satisfied with the status quo. I tried to up my game after that.

Another thing I sometimes find helpful when I find myself in patterns is to ask myself "how did I get here?" Sometimes I've taken on a role without realizing it. The kind of work you describe is powerful and gives you a certain amount of control over where you're going and who with - those are reasons I sometimes realize I've been taking on planning, so I can see people and be comfortable at the same time. Like, I have one friend who invites her entire friends list to everything, including one of my problematic exes and an acquaintance who is really stressful for me. So I sometimes prefer to plan things as I want them, then invite her.
posted by bunderful at 5:58 AM on May 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

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