How do I fit in?
July 14, 2007 5:55 AM   Subscribe

How do I gain rapport with people? (or, should I ditch if I'm being ditched?)

I was at a concert last night, and met up with a friend of mine who was with three of her friends. She's closer with those three friends than she is with me. I used to date this girl, but we broke up after it became obvious that we had completely different social lives (hers is big, mine is not). It's actually a total accident that we ever dated for a couple months. She has her shit together 100%, and if she doesn't then she's pretty fucking awesome at keeping up appearances. I'm your basic introvert who can be fun to be around once you know me, but pretty useless if you don't.

Anyways, my friend knew I'd be there because the concert had come up in our conversation the night before, so she said she'd call me when she got there.

After meeting her and her friends, my friend made it clear that they all had plans for later that would not include me (meaning, she described all these plans and did not invite me to join them). This doesn't surprise me because, as mentioned above, my friend has a turbo-charged social life that she's never really made an effort to include me in (we hang out maybe once every 6-8 weeks). So it starts to become obvious that my friend is trying to ditch me.... there's no other way to put it. I'll admit that I wasn't being charming or witty, and small talk friendliness seems lame when everyone else is joking around. So, it's not like she didn't have a reason.

At some point after a lot of awkwardness, I just told my friend I'd be taking off and gave her a hug. It didn't feel like a friendly hug. I felt like shit when I got home. Still do. I guess one thing I've realized is that my friend does not need my friendship at all. She has a blessed life. She's successful in almost every way imaginable, and she's also incredibly considerate and down-to-earth. To the point that I think she would totally feign friendship in order to avoid hurting my feelings. I need her friendship. Of course, I would never tell her that.

I just want to know how to fit in, and how to know if a group is worth fitting in with. Break it down for me. Bonus points for anecdotes. I have to solve this part of my life.
posted by mpls2 to Human Relations (24 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
it sounds like you're more attracted to her charisma and her status than the actual person that she is, because the actual person that she is doesn't treat you very well.

i think it's time to stop investing in her as a friend and look for people who are nicer. i'm sorry to say it. there are a lot of wonderful people out there, but she doesn't sound like one of them.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:23 AM on July 14, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'm also an introvert and not a huge jokester, and I sometimes feel the way you describe. What I found, though, is that you need to just accept that you're not going to be great friends with every single person you know (especially an ex!?!). Sometimes people want a friend who is a bit quieter/calmer, sometimes they don't. You just need to find those people who enjoy your company and stick with them.

I think it would help you a lot if you also adjusted your thinking. When you met up with your friend, you seem down on yourself from the beginning and assumed she just wanted to get away from you. Instead, remember that she called you and even if it was to just say hi and talk for a few minutes, what's wrong with that? You still get to enjoy the concert you're at and you're in the same situation you would have been had she not shown up.
posted by Durin's Bane at 6:24 AM on July 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Stop trying to hang out with your ex-girlfriend and move on. Stop acting like you need her friendship (and you are, even if you think you aren't), it just comes off as needy.

Find more introverted people to hang out with. Is there a film society or somesuch where you live, something where people view films and talk about them? Googling produces some results.

Why were you at the concert? Were there other people you were with? If so, why not hang with them?


I just want to know how to fit in, and how to know if a group is worth fitting in with.


What do you like to do? Do that, in a social setting. City Pages should have listings of things to do around town. Find things that interest and GO DO THEM. Moping around about your extroverted girlfriend who's ditching you isn't good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:31 AM on July 14, 2007


A few things to consider:

• Your friend/ex does not have a perfect life. She has her own failures and insecurities, and you may not be aware of them. But putting her up on a pedestal is, in a way, ignoring the fact that she does have her own set of problems, and dismissing any issues she may have. This is as unfair to her as it is to you.

• You knew from the start that you wouldn't be spending the whole evening with her, right? There's a certain amount of discomfort in leaving someone behind when you know that person has no other plans, so in these situations it is your responsibility to extricate yourself. Something as simple as, "I'll let you girls go do your thing. It was great to see you" will suffice. But hanging on when you know someone has plans that don't include you -- and this will happen even amongst the best of friends -- puts the other person in an awkward situation.

• Don't try to fit in. By which I mean, you are you and no one else. You have to accept your personality and be comfortable with it. The rest will come in time.

• Sometimes you are just not meant to be included in a certain group of friends. On the night in question, all the people going off to their other plans were female. I gather you are male. Sometimes girls just want to hang with each other.

• It is not your ex's responsibility to go out of her way to include you in her social life. If you want to hang out, you need to suggest it. Say, "What are you doing this weekend?" If she's interested in seeing you, she may invite you to join her in whatever she's got planned.

• And yes, perhaps it is time for you to seek out other groups of friends, groups outside of your ex. But how to know if a group is worth fitting in with, or being a part of? That's a hard question to answer, as you need to accept your quirks and not take things so personally. Once you don't feel as if not being invited along to something is an insult, you'll begin to see which groups feel natural to you and which don't.
posted by brina at 7:31 AM on July 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


Well, first of all, I completely understand where you're coming from. Regarding the specifics of what went down at the concert it sounds honestly like a combination of her just trying to be nice and also it's really hard to juggle your girls and the guy you used to date in the same social event, regardless of whether you're friends with her, if you don't have a relationship with all of them as a group. Her friends may have been wondering what the heck you were doing crashing their party at the concert in the first place which explains why she laid down the law about their later plans when you got there. She was just torn.

But in a larger sense, on the off chance you need to hear it put to you directly, I think your instinct regarding her not really wanting to be friends with you, but feigning minimal interest to avoid hurting your feelings, is probably spot on the money. But here's the thing: THAT DOESN'T MEAN YOU SUCK. Seriously. Stop comparing your social life to hers immediately. It is only going to feel like crap. I second the other posters who said you need to find other folks like yourself who may not have the social skills and spectrum she does and start building relationships with them. And in a related sense, the one thing I completely disagree with in what you said is that you "need" her friendship. No, you don't. You may want it. It may make you feel good to be associated with someone that has that much going on but you will be FINE without her. Trust me. (And look, this is where I totally get you. You can tell from what you said that you're pretty impressed with her. Sometimes it feels good just to hang out with people like her that have so much going on so that some of their energy and charm will flake off on you. But that's not a healthy dynamic for a friendship.) I think the power balance in your relationship is all out of whack, fueled partially by your insecurities about yourself and your awe of her. Once you get more stuff going on in your world that will balance out and things may get cooler between the two of you. She does sound awesome. But then again, so are you.
posted by smallstatic at 7:37 AM on July 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


Seriously dude…you have all the pieces you just need to put them together. You have recognized that you are an introvert and she by your description is an extrovert. Your question is “How do I fit in”…fit into what? Her social life? You don’t. As an introvert her social life is close to being anathema to you, as is your social life (or lack thereof) to her.

I really think you need to explore the nature of an introvert. Get the book “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen Laney. I believe that once you understand the dynamics of introverts and extroverts you will come to understand that your actions in social situations are completely normal (and not lacking) for who you are.

I also believe that if you were to schedule some one on one time with your friend over coffee or lunch that you would enjoy her company more and be far less critical and expectant of yourself.

Happy reading!!
posted by malter51 at 7:42 AM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


don't call. they'll call back. start throwing parties at your place. don't invite them. rinse. repeat.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:44 AM on July 14, 2007


I need her friendship.
No, you don't. Desperation is bad for the soul. You enjoy her company, you maybe still have a bit of a thing for her, you admire her social ease. You don't need her friendship. There are lots of other fish in the sea, friendwise and romantically.

This sounds like a difficult social situation. Socializing with an ex is difficult. Socializing with a group of friends, when you're not a member of the group, can be difficult, especially if you're not 100% socially adept. So no big deal. You had a crappy night. Don't let it get you down. I hope that at least the concert was good and you salvaged something from the evening!

I'm a hardcore introvert, and I have several friends who are extroverts. I usually don't socialize with them in big-group settings or when there will be lots of people around whom I don't know. I feel neglected if they spend lots of time with other people, and they feel put-upon because they feel the need to look after me when they'd rather be working the crowd. My extrovert friends tend to be lunch buddies. Realize that extroverts may not be your friends-for-all-events-and-seasons and look for specific social things that you can do and will both enjoy.

Your friend may not want to be your lunch buddy, because she's your ex. She might not want a lot of one-on-one time with you, because she thinks you're not over her and it will be awkward, and you may not be up for a lot of group time with her. If so, it may be that this friendship just isn't going to happen at the moment. It's not the end of the world.
posted by craichead at 7:51 AM on July 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


Thanks for your replies so far. If it makes a difference, her friends were one girl and two guys. I was at the concert by myself... because it's better than sitting home on Friday night. They just had a vibe going that I couldn't match. I knew that excusing myself was the right thing to do, which I eventually did. But it took a long awkward while. Looking back, I should have just chatted for a few minutes and left. I actually had a couple opportunities to meet new people that I missed because I was preoccupied with staying with the group that I originally met up with (i.e., my ex and her friends).

Most of all, by reading my question and your replies, and thinking about last night, I see how pathetic this is (okay, how pathetic I am). I think thinkingwoman said it perfectly. It just hurts to realize, in the moment, that the person you think you're hanging out with would actually rather not hang out with you. It feels really shitty. It's extra frustrating when you can't blame them for anything because they've actually made extra efforts to avoid hurting your feelings, in the hopes that you'd eventually take the hint.

It just sucks. And I guess I just need to accept that.
posted by mpls2 at 8:00 AM on July 14, 2007


This is not an answer to your question exactly but echoing Brandon Blatcher's suggestion...if you're looking for things to do or a way to meet new people, the Minneapolis Meetin group is quite active. They have a new member dinner periodically.

And yes, it does suck. But then you'll make some new friends and it won't matter as much anymore.
posted by cabingirl at 8:28 AM on July 14, 2007


She has a blessed life. She's successful in almost every way imaginable, and she's also incredibly considerate and down-to-earth.

It sounds like you totally worship this girl. Friendships should feel equal- no normal person wants groupies. It's very possible your ex can sense your desperation. Stay back.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:28 AM on July 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'm your basic introvert who can be fun to be around once you know me, but pretty useless if you don't.

First of all, take that kind of language out of your vocabulary of words to use to describe yourself. You're unnecessarily putting yourself down. As long as you keep phrasing things in terms of "useless," "shitty," "awkward," "pathetic" (all words you used to describe yourself, your feelings, or your behavior), you're blocking yourself off from approaching future situations with confidence and a positive attitude.

Another problems is that there's just too much going on in the question you're asking yourself. Don't assume that this particular social situation is a good basis for some great insight. It's a poor model for the future, since your general social issues (introvert trying to break into a group of friends) are complicated by the issue of how to socialize with an ex. And if the breakup actually happened because of your clashing social lives...well, then what do you expect? This is just not an ideal situation for you, so there's no need to mope around or draw any major conclusions about your ability to "fit in."
posted by jejune at 8:33 AM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


It seems like you backed out on your own. I can understand being a bit weird in the head while being around an ex in a social situation, and I think it happens to everyone. Next time something like this happens and you aren't into the situation, go call that other group of friends instead of going home and spending too much time dwelling.

It's possible that they weren't trying to ditch you. Possibly, they were talking about later plans to see if you're interested.

If they really were talking up their awesome plans for later and making it painfully clear that you're not invited, why hang out with people like that? Emotional attachments aside, things like that are simply not okay.

You're over her, right?
posted by onedarkride at 8:36 AM on July 14, 2007


Don't beat yourself up over any of this. Recognize that your perceptions in this situation are necessarily different from hers, and that as an introvert you are probably thinking on that experience in far more depth than anyone else involved. Don't project your embarrassment and awkwardness on to the whole scenario.

I know it's hard to believe, but you most likely didn't do anything worth being embarrassed about at all. Social interactions are uncharted territory for everyone, there are no maps, and mostly we just stumble through them as best we can, introvert or extrovert. You did fine. Just take the impressions you got from that experience to form a new view of that friendship.

And work on building a self-opinion wherein you are also a fantastic person to know, so that you can go into future situations knowing that everyone's just another human, and that you're on the same playing field in the same game as everyone else. Be your own fan, not someone else's! (Not to be all therapy therapy but CBT is seriously very helpful for just this.)
posted by loiseau at 8:55 AM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have a slightly different take on this that isn't as generous as everyone else's seems to be. If your recounting of the circumstances at the concert are anywhere near an accurate representation of what happened, I think your ex is an ungracious bitch who took a opportunity to rub your nose in the alleged fact that she's got this awesome life and you don't.

There are other ways she could have handled things so as not to have put you in the unpleasant situation you were in. Even if she doesn't consider herself your friend, or you good enough to be hers, there's a basic respect for the dignity of our fellow humans that gracious people have. It's not about being an introvert or an extrovert, or fitting in, or needing someone's friendship.

I think the chick is probably the kind of person who gets off on feeling superior and you were handy. I think what you're reading as being considerate on her part either doesn't apply to you or it's masking her opportune use of your relatively low self-esteem to feed hers. This does not sound to me like someone to be envied or coveted, unless you want to be that kind of person.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:44 AM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


fuse theorem: It's very possible that she doesn't really want my friendship, and I'm probably better off without that kind of person in my life, but she's definitely not a bitch (e.g., she's admonished me for not being friendly enough with waitresses).
posted by mpls2 at 9:55 AM on July 14, 2007


Why am I defending an anonymous girl? Damn.
posted by mpls2 at 10:03 AM on July 14, 2007


im not a social retard by any means, but i do sometimes have a hard time interacting with people i don't know... it was only after reading The Game and checking out some of the pickup artist forums that I actually started feeling more socially confident when i went out with friends and we met people at bars, clubs, etc.

i initially read the book because a coworker had been using a lot of the tips and tricks in it on the sales floor to increase his sales... then i applied those basic concepts to all of my interactions and it certainly seems to be showing whether its with girls im interested in or just random guys i bump into while waiting for my drink at the bar (and it certainly helped A LOT on the sales floor... but thank god im out of retail now)

if you decide to investigate pua's (pick up artists) further, you'll find that a lot of them talk about building rapport as a crucial piece to the puzzle. good luck!!!
posted by hummercash at 10:14 AM on July 14, 2007


How about a straight-up:

"I like you and value your firendship but I was getting the sense that you didn't want me around the other night. Am I right?"

If she dances around it at least you tried and can feel okay about moving on. If she gives you a straight answer you'll know where you stand and where things are headed.

Is it possible that you broke her heart to pieces and she's trying hard to make you suffer? Sounds like she's putting on quite a show for you. You quiet guys can be heartbreakers...
posted by MiffyCLB at 10:51 AM on July 14, 2007


How about a straight-up:

"I like you and value your firendship but I was getting the sense that you didn't want me around the other night. Am I right?"


That's a terrible idea. I tried the whole all-out-honesty-blitz thing once during high school, and thinking back on it it's just really pathetic and didn't do a whole lot of good. If you have one other really good friend, preferably female, take her out for drinks and spill the whole story. It'll make you feel a lot better.

Stop calling her. You already know she doesn't need you, and DO NOT REPEAT DO NOT start thinking that it's because she has a secret crush or whatever. It's almost certainly false, and it will screw up any interactions you have with her, because (confirmation bias) you will start interpreting everything as a sign of suppressed interest. This will activate and perpetuate your own latent crush on her. (obvious, btw; you're repressing your attraction by telling yourself you want her as a friend, but it's not working)

PS: Just because she wants you to be nice to the help doesn't mean she's not a bitch. In fact, more like the other way around: someone who goes around telling people that they should be nicer is usually someone who has a log in their own eye.
posted by nasreddin at 11:16 AM on July 14, 2007


As you have just discovered the only thing worse than feeling lonely by yourself is feeling lonely in a group. Don't do it. In the end most everybody feels bad and you feel terrible. Unless you enjoy these emotions of feeling inadequate and pathetic then just stop it.

She has a blessed life. She's successful in almost every way imaginable, and she's also incredibly considerate and down-to-earth.

Or perhaps you're idolization of her is just a crutch for your own insecurities. Perhaps she is the Second Coming but this doesn't matter at all since she's not your friend. Judge her not by your own naive conceptions and fantasies but what she actually does for you. And this girl is doing nothing for you. I repeat: she is doing nothing for you.

I need her friendship.

No, I very much doubt you really need her friendship. Unless you're short on the mob and she knows people who know people then your friendship is nothing more than something wonderful that came and went. Life is full of such things. Consider yourself lucky that it happened and move on.

I just want to know how to fit in, and how to know if a group is worth fitting in with.

There is no big secret. Just keep putting yourself out there and keep trying. A lot of the times things won't click and you'll feel like an idiot. That's normal. Don't give up. Eventually it'll click.
posted by nixerman at 3:31 PM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Your connection with this woman sounds like it has more meaning in terms of your relationship with yourself than your relationship with her.

Look for awesome friends, whether they are outgoing or not, and then manage your time the way you want to. Join them when you can, have them join you when they can, have some alone time, and live your life. The best friends will end up being a part of your life and you will be a part of theirs.

You will know this because there will be moments when they need you, and moments when you need them, and these moments will have nothing to do with who's going to the after party.
posted by ads at 6:51 PM on July 14, 2007


I think there are two parts to this question, and perhaps the dynamics of the incident with the ex are confusing the issue. I'll deal with the two parts separately.

Anyways, my friend knew I'd be there because the concert had come up in our conversation the night before, so she said she'd call me when she got there.

After meeting her and her friends, my friend made it clear that they all had plans for later that would not include me (meaning, she described all these plans and did not invite me to join them). This doesn't surprise me because, as mentioned above, my friend has a turbo-charged social life that she's never really made an effort to include me in (we hang out maybe once every 6-8 weeks). So it starts to become obvious that my friend is trying to ditch me.... there's no other way to put it. I'll admit that I wasn't being charming or witty, and small talk friendliness seems lame when everyone else is joking around. So, it's not like she didn't have a reason.


Summarizing the situation, it went like this: the two of you were both going to the same concert. She called you once you were both there (extended an invitation to you), and you went to be with her and her friends (accepted her invitation). Then, she described what everyone was doing but did not invite you.

This is rudeness on her part. I'm sorry to say that about someone you care for and admire, but she's not perfect. It's always rude to show someone else that they are being excluded from plans for a social engagement that everyone else present is attending (unless there's an excellent reason--such as a family-only get-together).

She could have told you the night before that they'd be going out somewhere after and made it clear, in private, that it was part of a planned evening for just that group--and then said something like, "But I'll call you once we're there just so you can meet them [or, if you already knew them, "say hi."]."

There are two ways to interpret the way she handled this, and neither of them are favourable to her. Best case scenario is that she's rude without realising it and is not, in fact, the person who has her shit together as much as you think.

Worst case scenario is that she was rude deliberately--that she wanted to create an awkward situation for you.

You'll have to think about which option is the correct one--I don't know her.

Either way, you weren't at fault. In anything. Please accept that, because it's awful to beat yourself up for things that aren't your fault (we do enough things to feel bad about legitimately that there's no sense taking on things that don't belong to us).

How do I gain rapport with people?

I'm your basic introvert who can be fun to be around once you know me, but pretty useless if you don't.

I just want to know how to fit in, and how to know if a group is worth fitting in with. Break it down for me. Bonus points for anecdotes. I have to solve this part of my life.

It's good that you know you're an introvert. I am too, and it took me years to figure it out and to not beat myself up for not being different.

Here's a great article for introverts: Caring For Your Introvert.

I honestly don't think you need to worry about "fitting in" too much, at least not based on the story you've told here. I would recommend that you stay away from people who don't treat you respectfully (i.e. those who treat others rudely) because you really deserve better.

I turned myself inside out for years trying to "fit in" with people who were superficially friendly and outgoing (my in-laws) but who I later saw were acting rudely in many hurtful ways. I thought it was something wrong with me, just as you're thinking it's something wrong with you.

First I made the decision to stay away from these people as much as possible, and my life improved immediately.

Then I started looking for and hanging around with people who only shared my values and interests and who were kind and considerate to everyone. Most of these people are introverts as well. I don't know them well, mind you; I've joined various groups and this is how I know them. I don't currently have any close friends except for my husband, but this doesn't worry me, either--I enjoy my time alone and the superficial contact I get with others.

If you choose to spend time only with others who are polite, kind, and considerate, and if they share your interests and values, you will instantly "fit in" and you won't have to struggle at all--you will be yourself and they will be themselves.

If you feel hurt, or small, or ashamed, or "not as good as others" around certain groups of people or certain individuals, then those are the ones you should stay away from. Trust these feelings: they're trying to tell you something.

I hope this long-winded reply is of some help.
posted by purplesludge at 12:24 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


UPDATE: We didn't see each other for a couple of months after this incident. In September, she emailed and wanted to get together (which is what I was passive-aggressively waiting for). I never brought up how I felt with her about this (in hindsight, this was stupid). A week before Christmas, she actually brought up the issue herself, and asked me why I looked so mad that day. I told her I thought she had been rude, and she actually agreed and apologized, which honestly didn't surprise me because I have a high opinion of her. Okay, it kind of surprised me. Anyways, we're much closer today.

But I did not follow all of nasreddin's advice, to my chagrin.
posted by mpls2 at 4:39 AM on February 27, 2008


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