My time is precious?
March 19, 2008 7:56 AM   Subscribe

What techniques can I use to make myself less available to others?

I am a straightforward male (29) that has generally always had fulfilling relationships with those around me, be it co-workers, friends, family or women that I have been in relationships with.

However, a problem that I have noticed developing is that I find that because I am the kind of person that will make myself available to others at the drop of a hat I perceive that people are placing less value on me than they might do otherwise.

For example, after being out of a LTR for more than a year, I have started dating again. I went on a great first date (and as far as I can tell the feeling was mutual). Shared interests, attraction, body language, conversation all seemed to go really well. However, I think I may have acted a bit keen afterwards when we were discussing how it went a few days later. As in, I didn't actually say anything but I hinted that 'whenever, whatever suits you' which I suppose places a lot of power with the other person.

I don't like playing games and I don't see the point of going through shades of grey when an answer is obvious. So, for another example, if I am offered the opportunity of doing something with someone I really like I will tend to say 'yes' without even thinking about pre-existing plans.

A friend thinks that I may be putting too little value on my time and my activities and that I may get more meaningful relations by being a little more judicious in the value I place on my free time. As in the sense that people treat your time as more precious if you do so yourself.

I am used to being so straightforward about things that this seems an unnecessary adjustment to social relations, but if I am wrong, I hope that the hive can help me out by explaining ways to modify my behaviour without being some game-playing dick.

Views and perpectives from all sides of the fence welcome.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
As in, I didn't actually say anything but I hinted that 'whenever, whatever suits you' which I suppose places a lot of power with the other person.

Just as an alternative way of looking at this: it places a burden on the other person. They have to come up with the day, place, time. They also may have interpreted it as one of those "Yeah, we should meet up again sometime" things that we all say, but don't necessarily mean that we think it will ever happen. So if you haven't actually asked the other person out but just hinted "whenever, wherever", you've left the ball in their court meaning that they now have to make the effort to chase you up.
posted by different at 8:06 AM on March 19, 2008

Perhaps you could replace "Whenever, wherever" with something concrete, like "I would really enjoy seeing you again; perhaps we could (do xyz) next week?"
That way you establish your interest, but actively make a suggestion that requires the other person to respond in a specific way.
"Whenever"-isms might make potential friends feel that you don't really care and are being deliberately vague so as to ensure an event may never happen, or
feel burdened by having to instigate social activities and bring up (misconstrued) fears of your passivity.
Just some thoughts. YMMV. Good luck!
posted by Dizzy at 8:09 AM on March 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

(What different said. And said better!!!)
posted by Dizzy at 8:10 AM on March 19, 2008

This is a great post. I think all of us who are real and sincere people have been confronted with this issue.

Recommended by many mefites is a wonderful book that has been incredibly interesting to me as a self-improvement tool: Intimate Connections by David D. Burns. Because of so many metafilter recommendations, I ordered the book and was amazed at how insightful and interesting it was. Though he focuses on "loneliness" and people who are trying to mate/date, there is great information about self-value in the book from which, I believe, we all can benefit. He emphasizes placing value on oneself and truly enjoying oneself as one's best friend.

Hope this helps (as much as it has helped me).
posted by frumious bandersnatch at 8:11 AM on March 19, 2008 [4 favorites]

Dizzy and different have nailed it! The vagueness doesn't make you seem too eager, it makes you seem too disinterested!
Whenever guys say things like "We should hang out sometime." I tend to think he's less than enthused, as in "Well, if he really wanted to see me again, wouldn't he just ask me to do something?"

Try being straightfoward: "Hey, are you free to meet up for a drink on Wednesday or Thursday?" You'll get a yes or a no as an answer, not a shade of gray.
posted by emd3737 at 8:20 AM on March 19, 2008

Anon, what makes you think that you were being too keen in saying "whenever, whatever" to your date? Did she react in a particular way, or try and beg off another date by being "busy"? Or did she just not call you again? Just trying to see if maybe you're reading too much into the situation.

But yes, if you want to see her again, call her up and set a specific date, time and place for the next date.

And from a girl's point of view (if this helps you any), it's not about being more or less available, it's about being selective as to how your time is spent. I would feel flattered if I realized a guy was moving his schedule around to accomodate me.

However, my opinion and $1.25 will get you a cup of coffee.

Good luck!
posted by LN at 8:21 AM on March 19, 2008

there's a subtle difference between seeming less available and seeming disinterested. However cutivating independence would be a better characteristic. like having & knowing prior plans and sticking to them denotes a certain amount of integrity.
posted by browolf at 10:15 AM on March 19, 2008

This makes me laugh (not in a bad way!) because I used to be exactly like you.

People would tell me, hey zippity; you're not assertive enough! You let people walk all over you! Be rude! Be aggressive!

Following that advice just made people disrespect me even more, and I don't blame them for that.

It sounds like you have a problem setting a personal boundary with people. But specifically you don't know how to set one, or even how to deal with situations that step past your boundary.

I don't feel like I can give you a good explanation on how to do both these things; a couple books that helped me were Cesar Milan's Be the Pack Leader (this book taught me how to set my boundaries) and The Art of Civilized Conversation by Maraget Shepherd (this book taught me how to decline or sidestep tricky situations without being a jerk or wimp).
posted by zippity at 10:17 AM on March 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

I think there are two things going on here.

1. Do YOU feel this way or are your friends saying this to you only. If your friends are saying this to you, do you think they're correct? Does it explain some things that don't work the way you want them to in your life? I'm only asking because you said this "I will tend to say 'yes' without even thinking about pre-existing plans." which sounds to me like something you might hear form a blown-off friend who had their own angle on what happened.

2. Do you think you're trying to be a crowd pleaser, or trying to be a you-pleaser or just trying to not be an unpleaser? The reaosn I ask is because you may strategize differently depending on what your motivations are.

I can be similar to you. I agree to a bunch of things and sometimes stress myself out as a result. This results in a stressed out jessamyn which is NOT who anyone wanted to be hanging out with. So part of what I tell myself is that if I don't build "me time" into my interactions then I'm sort of shirking on my duties as a good friend and whatever by basically being a substandard me. That said, i agree with the people upthread who say that if you refuse to choose you're dropping that choice in someone else's lap. That, to me, is different from not being available, that's just sort of being passive.

That's not a problem per se, it can just be a problem because if you're interacting with someone else who is passive at worst, nothing happens, or they feel awkward and put on the spot. I can be sort of non-passive and so if someone says "gee I don't know" I'm okay with that because I often have ideas. However, the downside to this, especially when meeting or interacting with new people, is that you don't learn as much about them, when you're the one who is picking. So in a first date situation you'd basically larn where your date wanted to go, but they wouldn't be learning the same thing about you.

So, to your main question, my suggestions

- Be reflective about your time and choices of how to spend it. Keep a calendar and refer to it when you're making new plans and make sure you can be genuinely present at the things you agree to participate in.
- Try to go back and forth between being flexible and being opinionated. A good approach is as people have said above offer some options but allow them to firm them up "I like pizza, do you have a pizza place you like?" or "Let's plan to see a movie, what looks good to you?" Keep in mind that being totally open means that you're not sharing much of yourself and that can be a downside even though flexibility is an upside.
- schedule some alone-time or just down time to make sure you're at your best. Most people will not give you a hard time for saying no occasionally. I have some friends who are just plain pushy. I love them anyhow but sometimes being a good friend to them is outlining what I need for me and being assertive about that "Gee I don't wake up before nine so no, meeting for breakfast before the conference is not going to work for me, howabout lunch?" Learn to say no without it seeming like a rejection and it becomes a lot easier to do
- Think about what you like. Seriously. For me for a while after getting out of an LTR I really forgot about what my personal non-us preferences were and it took me a while to rebuild them because I'd been in relationship-compromise mode forever. This is a good time for exploring that. See where it takes you.
posted by jessamyn at 11:01 AM on March 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have had a similar problem. One habit which has helped me is to simply spend some time reflecting before I make any decision. Even if someone calls you to ask you to do something -- hang up the phone and think about it before giving a reply. You can call it "checking your calendar" or something.

Basically you can't just consider what other people want from you -- you always have to factor in what you want to do, which isn't always obvious for some people (me). But if you make a habit of figuring that out, it gets more obvious.

When I first started doing this, it might have taken up to 15 minutes of condensed flightiness to decide something simple like whether or not to go out to dinner. Now I can almost do it without hanging up the phone.
posted by Laugh_track at 1:23 PM on March 19, 2008

A friend thinks

In your whole question there is speculation but not a shred of evidence that this friend is right.
posted by scarabic at 9:42 PM on March 19, 2008

I don't like playing games ... if I am offered the opportunity of doing something with someone I really like I will tend to say 'yes' without even thinking about pre-existing plans.

How, pray tell, does this work out for you? This comment implies that you make plans with someone and find out that there is a conflict in your schedule later on. If you then cancel the plans with some sort of explanation of having forgot the prior commitment you had already made, it really looks like you are playing games to the other person. Even if they think you aren't playing games, it makes you look flaky.
posted by yohko at 11:01 AM on March 20, 2008

I think this is a self esteem issue. Placating others, being agreeable at your own expense hints at the need for acceptance.

Once you are comfortable in your skin, you'll send those messages out to other people naturally. I personally don't think this is a matter of availability, at all.
posted by jazzkat11 at 11:07 AM on March 20, 2008

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