Groups of friends
August 14, 2006 5:15 PM   Subscribe

Is it just me with friends split into two distinct camps--the interesting ones and the dependable ones? How do I attract people who are both?

I've been looking at my friends recently and realizing that they fall into two distinctly different groups. One group is the "interesting" group. They're quirky, inventive, goal-oriented, interested in ideas and the world, and they're the ones that stimulate me mentally. However, they're not people I can depend on when I'm in trouble or during bad times. The other group cares about the daily details of my life and are always there to help and provide support (I know I can depend on them) but they're drifters and not interested in very much. I get bored easily in their company.

Is it just me that has this weird grouping of friends? Or is it common out there? I'm asking because I'd like to make friends that are more even--who are stimulating AND dependable. But I don't know how. Right now I feel like I can only be half myself with both groups. One group doesn't care too much about what's going on in my life, and the other group doesn't understand half of what I say in conversations. But I seem to get along with both groups.
posted by elisynn to Human Relations (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The former group should be "acquaintances" and the latter "friends." If you have a problem buying into that concept, revisit this thread in about twenty years.
posted by pax digita at 5:18 PM on August 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think pax is on to something, but it's a harsh b&w statement. People who are fascinating but wholly unconcerned with your well-being are not friends but acquaintances.

I think I've learned over the years that different friends are dependable in different ways. I'd never lend my best friend back home money again. I would never expect him to be somewhere important on time. He has a growing drug dependency problem and can be grumpy as hell sometimes... but he held my hand through my roommates suicide last year.

My other good friend was absent during that struggle and even mocked my sorrow at one point - but he's always on time and would be the first to drive 12 hours to pick me up in an awkward situation should I need it (if he's answering the phone for anybody that week).

But your absolutely right - there is a strong correlation between eccentricity, strong intellect, creativity and a disposition to be unreliable. Just realize that you likely fit into some reliability category too and forgive them their sins.
posted by trinarian at 5:33 PM on August 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

It sounds like group 1 has strong interest in the world and goals which leaves little time for human connections; a lot of gifted people one hears about are also self-centered. I think it may be difficult to be truly other-focused and truly creative at the same time.

I really, really hope I'm wrong, though. This is just a general impression I have.
posted by amtho at 5:35 PM on August 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Er, the actual answer... yes, I think that you can find interesting and reliable people. You collect them one at a time through the years. They're the ones who stand out years later as the single offering from a social network you've long abandoned. Typically, I also find they're the ones you stay in touch with after you or they move away. The ones you didn't quite realized you missed until they're gone from everyday life.
posted by trinarian at 5:37 PM on August 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's odd to have both. I consider myself both. To some people, I try to make them laugh, to tell them wacky stories, to do fun and wacky stuff. I'm trying to impress them. If something goes wrong with me, I won't call them. And if they called me with some life crisis, I'd probably be weirded out.

To the people I trust, care about and love, I can sit and listen to them. I don't feel pressured to entertain, to amuse, to be a character. They accept me, and me them. I can talk. I can listen. I don't have to "maintain them" -- they can be busy with their own life for three months and then call me out of the blue crying and I'll listen, be there for them, lend them all my favorite clothes, bake them a cake or take them on a random vacation to get them out of their own heads.

I don't conciously go, "Oh, he's someone to trust." or something. It just happens, usually in the first few hours I meet someone.

I don't think dependable people have to be boring or exciting people have to be flakes. That being said, I find it harder and harder to find people I'd classify as real friends.
posted by Gucky at 5:40 PM on August 14, 2006

Collect them slowly over a long period of time. You have to weed out a lot of chaff, but every three or four years, you should notice that there those that stand the test of time, ONLY PERIODICALLY DISAPPOINTING YOU! ( Almost everyone slips, so give them a little slack when they fail, but the keepers will stand out. )

Also, be the friend you want, and you'll educate those sensitive enough to recognize it, while gaining a better character for yourself.

Be patient. Expect to be disappointed sometimes, but don't give up hope. These people are out there and you can find them.
posted by FauxScot at 5:40 PM on August 14, 2006 [2 favorites]

I've always been someone who thought of herself as having very few friends. I make one friend at a time, and I pick them based on how well we hit it off. I have to find them genuinely interesting, and feel that they're genuinely interested in me. I refuse to stay friends with people who treat me badly. But I'll do anything for my friends.

I didn't even realize that I had a "friend policy" when I started high school not knowing anybody. But at the age of 28, I can't help but believe it's paid off very well. I've got a core group of extremely reliable, loving and interesting friends. I love their creativity and am inspired by their brilliance. But I also know they'd do anything for me, and I'd do anything for them.

They include high school dropouts, college dropouts, doctors, librarians, newspaper reporters, law students, part-time researchers with serious outdoors addictions, farmers, homebrewers, energy traders, network administrators, philosophers, artists, photographers and bureaucrats. They live in Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, New York, and probably other states I'm not remembering. Some make six figures, some live below the poverty line. But they're all pretty amazing. And I'm pretty amazed, shy introvert that I am, to have found them all.

So yeah, I'd say it's possible.

How to do it? Make one friend at a time. Fall in love with all your friends (not in a romantic way, thanks). Be there for them. When they're there for you, work twice as hard to be worth it. And give up on friendship if you find yourself with a friend you can't really love.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:22 PM on August 14, 2006 [2 favorites]

Are you a straight chic? 'Cause this just sounds so like the usual "I always like the biker boys who are bad to me, but the only boys who like me are the accountant types who bore me."

In which case no one can help you, because you want what you can never, never have.
posted by Jos Bleau at 8:01 PM on August 14, 2006

what you want. (sorry)
posted by Jos Bleau at 8:02 PM on August 14, 2006

Interesting people tend to be single-minded. It's not that they don't care about you, but they have lots of things that fascinate them and compete for their time and attention.

Dealing with people -- which is really slow and fuzzy/subjective and not broadband enough to engage them -- tends to come in second. You're in their thoughts, but right now they simply have to record that butterfly's behavior/debug that program/analyze that appellate opinion, because they JUST HAVE TO KNOW THE ANSWER RIGHT NOW OR ELSE ALL THEY CAN THINK ABOUT IS WHAT THE ANSWER MIGHT BE TO THE EXCLUSION OF ALL ELSE.

Once they get the answer they can take a break, and then they'll guiltily remember their friends and give you a call.
posted by orthogonality at 11:47 PM on August 14, 2006

I think the two categories are, to some extent, mutually exclusive. Flighty, unpredictable, fun, fascinating people are inherently going to be less reliable friends. Now you mention it, I have friends in each category, and a very few who fall into both categories.

I think it's valuable to have a wide circle of friends - you get different things from different friends. It's fine ro have friends who are less fun but more reliable. However, friends that consistently bore you are pretty pointless...
posted by pollystark at 2:22 AM on August 15, 2006

there are, in fact, people who are both. i agree with the folks above -- you find them one person at a time. i'll cut slack for someone really interesting, but i won't count on him or her.
posted by sdn at 4:01 AM on August 15, 2006

I, sadly, mostly fall into your group one. I'm definitely self-absorbed and with all of my disparate interests have trouble making time for individuals. That said, I have formed dear and dependable bonds with a small handful of people. But I'm just not able/willing to be that emotionally dependable person for all my acquaintances.

Part of the problem with painting your friends into two large swaths is that you are expecting them, as a group, to behave differently. Focus on individuals -- perhaps there is someone in your 'interesting' group you could try to forge a closer connection to? Perhaps there is someone in your dependable group you could try to encourage to share your interests? Or perhaps, as was suggested above, you might find that getting your different needs met by different kinds of people can work okay for you?
posted by verysleeping at 10:44 AM on August 15, 2006

One thing that may be going on here (yes, I've noticed this in my own life too, BTW): everyone's day-to-day life is full of so-called "boring" moments and details. It's partly a matter of "inside" vs "outside" perspective. When you see someone's life more from the "inside" (e.g., close friends), it looks kind of dull and ordinary. Witness that pathetic Britney Spears (I think) clip from youtube where she rambles on about time travel and missing out on life. When you see someone's life from the "outside" (e.g., social circle you're just on the periphery of), it may look more interesting. You hear about the projects, dramatic events, and so forth, not about what happens in between all of those projects & events. If you were to get to know them closely, you might find them just as dull -- the exciting projects/etc would recede into the background and the boring details of everyday life would come to the foreground. In fact, you might even find them even duller than than your "boring" close friends, if they're truly self-absorbed . . .
posted by treepour at 2:12 PM on August 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

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