“I hate people” – What to do when you don’t like people

I hate people - when you don't like people, do this

If you’re like me, you’re naturally inclined to not like people.

Here’s what I’ve learned after years of studying how people work, and why it seems like everyone gets along just fine while we’re the only ones who seem to think “I hate people”.

1. Is this you? Then, this guide is for you

Do you agree with several of the following statements?

  • Most people feel shallow and stupid
  • Many of those you’ve actually invested time and emotion in have ended up betraying you
  • You’ve come to realize that beneath the surface, people actually don’t care about others and lose interest in hanging out when it doesn’t suit them
  • You’re fed up with small talk and superficial niceness.
  • If you ever come home after a day of having to interact with others and think “I hate people”, this is for you.

Here’s the good news:

2. Why some of us don’t like people and why that’s good

When I started studying behavioral science, I learned that it’s common to be fed up with and even hate people.

A-type personalities (We who value getting things done over chit-chatting and exchanging pleasantries) are inclined to not like people. (Study)

Researchers call this trait Hostility toward the world.

A type B type personalityHostility has a value. Someone has to get things done and then it helps to be aggressive.

Ever wondered why people always say the same things about people like Steve Jobs, Angela Merkel, Elon Musk, Theresa May, and Bill Gates?

“Yeah, they’re super successful. But I’ve heard that they’re real jerks”.

Why? They value result over niceness and being agreeable.

(Did you know that less agreeable people tend to be more successful? It’s because they dare to stand up and fight for what’s important to them when others prioritize not stepping on anyone’s toes.)

Here’s the bad news:

3. When it becomes a problem to dislike or hate people

If you’re like me, you can get fed up with people. But you also want a human connection. Even though some part of you’ve broken up with the rest of humanity, another part of you still wants to keep in touch with others.

Perhaps you’re still on the lookout for that unicorn – a person who isn’t shallow or stupid.

When hating people isolates us against our will, that’s when it becomes a problem. Why? Because no matter what we think, we’ve been evolved search contact.

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors learned the hard way that having a small tribe of friends was the difference between life and death. When the neighboring tribe attacked, you’d better hope you’d have people around that you could trust.

This was so important that we all have it in our DNA:

We can’t put the finger on it, but being alone just doesn’t feel right. (Even if we wished we could just press a button to make us OK with not having to meet people.)

Anyway,

Here’s my guide for how people (actually) work, made for someone who hates people.

4. How people work (That most don’t want to see)

Here’s the hard truth: People socialize and have friends out of egoistic reasons.

  1. Why do people want friends? To not feel lonely. (An egoistic need)
  2. Why do people want to meet up with a friend? To have a good time = experience a positive emotion (An egoistic need)
  3. Why do people want to go do things with their friends? To share an experience. (An egoistic need evolved throughout history)

Now, we shouldn’t forget that you and I are evolved the exact same way.

We ALSO want to have (non-stupid) friends to not feel lonely, to experience positive emotions, and to share experiences.

TAKE AWAY:

Yes, people are egoistic. But so are you and I. Egoistic socializing is a system so hardwired that not we nor anyone else is going to change that any time soon.

That’s important: We can wish people were different. But it’s not that everyone has a bad attitude. It’s about us humans being wired in a way we can’t unwire.

We have to accept this fact about us humans, just like we have to accept that we all have to poop.

In other words:

If we don’t cater to people’s emotional needs, they won’t enjoy being with us, and disappear out of our lives. Not because they’re mean, but because we’re all wired this way.

Let me show you what I mean…

5. Why it is that people don’t care, lose interest, and betray

Imagine any of these scenarios:

Scenario 1: The “supportive” friend

Say that you went through a tough time, and you had a friend you talked with that about. The friend is supportive at first, but then, as the weeks or months pass by, you realize that they don’t really care and were just being polite. They become worse and worse at returning your calls and seem to ignore you.

Before we go into why, here’s another scenario.

Scenario 2: The betrayer

Let’s say you’ve been together with your partner to the point where you really trust him or her.

You trust that person because they’ve reassured you how much you mean to them. You let your guard down and open up a side of you few ever get to see.

Then suddenly, without warning, the ultimate betrayal: They let you know they’ve met someone else. Or even worse, YOU find out that they’ve met someone else.

WHY ARE PEOPLE LIKE THIS?

Well, there will always be assholes. But if it’s a pattern in our lives, it could be that we’ve been so preoccupied with our own emotional needs that we’ve forgotten about theirs.

Our emotional needs (when it comes to friendships) are:

  1. Feeling listened to
  2. Feeling appreciated
  3. Experiencing similarity (We need to be able to relate and see ourselves in others)

If there’s a pattern in our lives that people disappear, we need to ask ourselves if we:

  • Come off as good listeners?
  • Show that we appreciate people?
  • Build our relationships around our similarities and commonalities rather than focus on the differences?

We can talk about hardships with friends, but if it’s the main thing we talk about, they’ll feel drained of energy and (because socializing is an egoistic act) they’ll prefer other friends who make them feel recharged.

Before we go full misanthrope, we need to keep in mind that you and I work the exact same way.

TAKE AWAY:

We all want friends who we like being around: People who make us feel good. And if we want them to stick around, we need to make sure they feel good being around us too.

People don’t flake on everyone, just the ones they don’t feel good being around.

6. Why do people LOVE meaningless small talk?

You’re at a dinner and everyone seems obsessed with talking about meaningless stuff.

The weather. Gossip. How nice the food is.

You think to yourself: “I can’t be the only sane person here”. So you try changing gear.

You bring up something that’s actually interesting to talk about. Philosophy, world problems, politics, psychology, just anything that isn’t lobotomized. People look uncomfortable, some seem to just stare at you.

“I’m sorry I actually talked about something that made sense!”

WHY ARE PEOPLE LIKE THIS?

When I dwelved into behavioral science, I got a surprise: I learned that small talk has a very specific purpose.

(If everyone does something seemingly meaningless, there’s often a hidden meaning behind it.)

Small talk is the way two humans just have to make SOME noise with their mouths while a thousand things goes on under the surface:

We pick up on the meta communication of the other person.

  1. We check if they seem friendly or hostile
  2. If they seem stressed (maybe that means that they hide something)
  3. If they seem to be on the same intellectual level
  4. What their social energy level is
  5. Their social status level in the group
  6. If they seem confident or low self-esteem

And much more. All to figure out if it’s a person we might befriend or should stay away from.

These are things we determine subconsciously while we talk about the weather and how we look forward to those chicken tenders.

What does this mean?

7. What we can learn from socially savvy people

When I made friends with extremely socially skilled people in my late twenties, I learned that they view small talk in a different way than I’d done.

This is what they taught me:

You need to talk about insignificant things to make people comfortable to talk about significant things.

I can confirm that this is true:

I have amazing relationships with friends that I talk about deep, interesting things with every day. But when we’d just met, we made small talk while we tried to figure out if we were a match.

Saying no to small talk = Saying no to new friendships.

8. While small talk has a purpose, we don’t want to get stuck in it

So that’s the inner workings of small talk. It gives people time to subconsciously figure each other out.

With that said, we don’t want to get STUCK in it. Only a few minutes will suffice. After that, most people get bored. We have to transition from small talk to the interesting stuff: People’s thoughts, dreams, fascinating concepts, interesting topics.

I talk about how to get past the small talk here.

9. Are people stupid?

There’s a saying that boggles my mind:

Half the world’s population has an intelligence below average.

It’s true (by definition) – Somewhere around 4 billion people are below average not just in intelligence but in any capability you can measure.

So whenever I see something happening in the world that I can’t explain because it’s too stupid, I have to remind myself that a big chunk of the population just isn’t very smart.

But that’s only half the story. Here’s another correct statement:

Half the world population’s intelligence is above average.

I’m a smart person. I score high on IQ tests. Yet, I meet people who are so intelligent that they blow me out the water.

These people are proof that we can’t say “People are stupid”. So are, some aren’t.

In fact, it’s stupid to say that people are stupid because it’s a gross simplification.

I’ve learned that we can’t use “People are stupid” as a reason for not socializing. A large chunk of the population is really really smart (Smarter than you and I). We can learn to make friends with them and have amazing, enriching relationships.

TAKE AWAY:

We shouldn’t let stupid people discourage us from going out there befriending smart people.

10. The self-fulfilling prophecy of hating people

Here’s the wheel I was in.

Main premise: People are stupid

Wheel of thoughts:

Doesn’t bother to make small talk – Doesn’t form deep connections – Doesn’t talk with others about meaningful things – “People are shallow” – Develops a negative outlook on life – Existing friends tire of negativity – People are stupid – Repeat.

Main premise: Some people are worth befriending

Wheel of thoughts:

Recognizes the value of small talk and becomes good at it – Learns how to also get past small talk and bond – Forms new connections – Caters to both’s need in a friendship which deepens existing friendships – Sees proof that there are great people – Motivated to continue improving socially.

If you want to go deeper into the subject, check out my guides here:

How to make interesting conversation

Finding people who are more like you

Let me know what you think in the comments!

We asked 249 women in their 20s and 30s about their social life struggles. This is what we learned (New research)

women's social life struggles

What social life problems can women expect to face in their 20s and 30s?

Over 6 months, we asked 249 women to rate how motivated they were to improve 21 different areas of their social lives.

When we compared the results between different age groups we made 7 surprising findings that we present in this article.

Why are these findings new and important?

This is the first time women’s social life struggles and motivations have been tracked in such detail. It gives new insight into women’s challenges that previous research missed out on.

SocialPro has 55 000 female readers per month, and we wanted to know what struggles they face in their social lives. Women are traditionally underrepresented in studies.(9, 10, 11, 12). We found no previous studies on women’s social life struggles. This motivated us to raise awareness about the topic.

What are the key findings?

#1: Women struggle the most to find like-minded friends in their early 20s
#2: Women entering their 20s struggle 69% more to keep in touch with friends
#3: Women entering their 20s change the way they date
#4: After their mid-20s, women struggle LESS to keep in touch with friends
#5: Mid-20s to mid-30s is when women are the most motivated to work with shyness, anxiety, and self-esteem
#6: Women are most motivated to be charismatic after their mid-20s
#7: Women struggle the most with toxic people after their mid-30s

How do we measure struggles?

We looked at what percentage of women chose “Very Motivated” for each struggle. We then compared age groups to find differences.

Learn more about how we conducted the research here.

Social life struggles women face as they enter their early 20s

In the diagram below, you see the changes in what women struggle with before and after the age of 18.

A longer bar means a bigger change between the two groups.

Women's social life struggles between age 14-17 and 18-23As we can see, the bars stretch more toward women in the age group 18-23. In other words, women are more motivated to improve these areas after 18.

Let’s look closer at some of these findings.

Finding #1: Women struggle the most to find like-minded friends in their early 20s

Women very motivated to find like minded friendsWomen entering their 20s are 66% more motivated to be better at finding like-minded (compared to women at age 14-17).

Why this could be:

  1. In our early 20s, we start wanting more out of our relationships. In our teens, many were content to have someone to watch movies with and have fun with. But by our early 20s, we crave deeper connections with therapeutic qualities.(3)
  2. When we transition from adolescence to early adulthood, our personality develops and changes. This personality development also affects our relationships.(4,5)
  3. When we start losing some of our childhood friends because of college/work/relationships, it becomes more important to find new friends we can connect with.

Recommendation based on this finding:

If you’re about to enter your 20s, be prepared to reach out of your ordinary friend circle to find like-minded people you can connect with. We’re more likely to find like-minded people in groups related to our interests.(6) Ask yourself what you think is fun and interesting, and look for meetups and groups based on those interests.

Psychologist Dr Linda L Moore comments

Dr Linda L MooreOnce individuals leave high school and/or college, the “traditional meeting ground” — where there is much in common with the people you encounter, the chance for social connection changes dramatically.

Other than the work environment, the groups of people who are more like-minded are not built into the environment. They must be created, orchestrated, energetically pursued. So if work environments don’t provide connection, the majority of young people have to use their own creative “juice.”

Dr Linda L Moore, author and licenced psychologist in Kansas City, MO. drlindamoore.com.

Finding #2: Women entering their 20s struggle 69% more to keep in touch with friends

Women at age 18-23 are 69% more motivated to better keep in touch with friends than women at age 14-17.

Women very motivated to better keep in touch with friendsWomen entering their 20s struggle 69% more to keep in touch with friends

Why this could be:

  1. 18-23 is the typical age to go to college and meet new people or start new jobs. These changes of environment makes keeping in touch more of a challenge.
  2. As our personality and interests evolve and we form a new social circle, we lose touch with some friends in our old social circle.(1)

Recommendation based on this finding:

  1. If you’re in your late teens or early twenties, be prepared that you might lose touch with some of your old friends.
  2. Invest time in getting to know new people. Join groups that you are interested in. Take chances to socialize. In other words, practice being outgoing.
  3. Do you have old friendships that you cherish? Make a conscious effort to maintain those.
  4. You don’t need to meet physically. A monthly call can maintain a friendship.

Psychotherapist Amy Morin, LCSW comments

During a major transition, such as the transition from school to the workforce, many women are likely to find it more difficult to keep in touch with friends. It takes much more effort to stay in touch with friends when you’re entering a new phase of your life and your friends are busy with other activities.

The increased isolation can take a toll on women’s mental health as social activity provides a positive buffer against stress.

Amy Morin LCSW (Not related to the article author.) Psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do

Finding #3: Women entering their 20s change the way they date

Dating vs talking to someone you're attracted toWomen become 16 percent LESS motivated to improve their conversation skills with someone they’re attracted to. At the same time, they become 37% MORE motivated to improve their dating skills.

At first sight, this looks like a paradox.

Why this could be:

  1. In our teens, it’s common to find our romantic partners in our close proximity (School, free-time interests, etc). We develop crushes on these people and want to improve our ability to talk with them.
  2. In our 20s, we want more from our relationships, romantic, and platonic. To accomplish this, we need to look for partners past the close proximity.(7) This builds motivation to improve our dating skills.

Recommendation based on this finding:

There are several ways to succeed with dating challenges. We recommend this TED-talk by the award-winning author Amy Webb.

Behavioral psychologist Jo Hemmings comments

Jo HemmingsJust at the moment women become more serious in their intent to have a meaningful relationship, rather than just casual dating, they often find that they are less motivated to improve their conversational skills with someone they are attracted to.

This lack of motivation can be attributed to a period of transition between wanting to make an impression and get on with people in our ‘awkward’ teens and feeling that we shouldn’t have to still be working on that when we are in our 20’s.

From my coaching experience, this motivation to improve their conversational skills kicks back in for those women who are still single in their 30’s alongside a desire to improve their dating skills.

Jo Hemmings, behavioral psychologist. Johemmings.co.uk

Social life struggles women face in their mid-20s to mid-30s

Women's social life struggles between 18-23 and 24-35

As you can see, the diagram leans slightly to the right. This means that women’s social life challenges continue to grow a bit as they move into their mid-20s and 30s.

Let’s look at what this means.

Finding #4: After their mid-20s, women struggle LESS to keep in touch with friends

Women very motivated to better keep in touch with friendsIn Finding #2, we saw how women in their early 20s are very motivated to keep in touch with friends. However, women in their mid 20s to mid 30s are now 30% less motivated to do so.

Why this could be:

  1. Age 18-23 is a tumultuous time: New interests, schools, jobs, and friends makes keeping in touch a bigger challenge and a bigger priority.
  2. For many, the age 24-35 is the time of settling down: A full-time job, stable relationships and families.

Recommendation based on this finding:

It can be dangerous to let a partner or close family fulfill all your social needs, if it means forsaking other friendships. According to this survey each new romantic relationship makes us lose on average two friends.

Consciously make an effort to keep in touch with friends, even if you don’t feel as motivated to do this as when you were younger.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson comments

Dr Sue JohnsonWomen have higher levels of oxytocin, the bonding hormone also associated with qualities such as empathy. This quality has been demonized in women – they have been called too “needy” or too “enmeshed” with others for years – but in fact we are coming to terms with how healthy this quality is.

Research is informing us of just how poisonous emotional isolation and loneliness is for human beings.

The new science of adult bonding teaches us to honor women’s perspective.

Dr Sue Johnson is the author of Hold Me Tight. She’s a clinical psychologist, researcher and professor focusing on adult attachment.

Finding #5: Women struggle more to improve shyness, anxiety, and self-esteem in their mid-20s to mid-30s

How women's shyness, self-esteem, social anxiety changes over timeWomen aged 24-35 struggle more to improve self-esteem, shyness and social anxiety. For example, they are 38% more motivated to improve their shyness compared with women aged 18-23.

Why this could be:

In our mid-20’s, it becomes clear how factors like shyness, social anxiety, charisma and self-esteem affects our life opportunities.(8)

We strive for self-improvement and self-actualization. We want to leave a good impression on employees, colleagues, and supervisors to make a career. We need to take initiatives and make decisions in a way we didn’t have to in school. Working on shyness, self-esteem, and social anxiety becomes even more important to have a fulfilling life.

In early adulthood self-awareness increases(13) and with that, we learn what traits we need to work on.

Recommendation based on this finding:

Meaghan Ramsey’s Ted talk: Why thinking you’re ugly is bad for you

Guide and help resources on how to overcome social anxiety: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder.htm/

Psychotherapist Jodi Aman comments

Psychotherapist Jodi AmanBy their 20s, women are sick of feeling less than, being pressured by society, and thinking they are “not good enough”. They want to find a new way to define themselves.

In their 20s, they are often out of school – where they were surrounded by peers – and are now in contexts with many age groups. With this diversity, they can let go of the worry about belonging, and begin to focus in their own abilities.

Even starting small gives them a sense of empowerment, and they are encouraged to continue.

Jodi Aman, psychotherapist, TED-talker and author

Finding #6: Women are most motivated to be charismatic after their mid-20s

Women very motivated to be charismatic

Being charismatic is 38% more important for women aged 24-35 compared to women aged 18-23.

This finding puzzled our team at first, then we also compared female students and those who were employed. As it turns out, charisma becomes important when you get a job.

Social life challenges of studying women versus women who are employed

Charisma (marked in brighter green) is more important for employed women. (Together with dealing with toxic people, dating skills, and becoming more popular)

Why this could be:

This diagram shows how women become ~14% more motivated to be charismatic when they have a job compared to being a student. (And 28% more motivated to become more popular.)

This leads us to believe that charisma and popularity is something people find important for their career.

We believe charisma is most desirable when we can influence employees, colleagues, and supervisors to vouch for us.

Recommendation based on this finding:

Here’s a guide with 9 ways to improve your charisma written by Ph.D. Ruth Blatt

How women’s challenges change after their mid-30s

Women's social life struggles between age 24-35 and 36-60When we move beyond our mid-30s, we see massive changes in motivation to improve socially.

For the first time, the diagram is heavy on the left side. This means that overall, women aged 36-60* are less motivated to improve on the challenges we measured. Well, except for one thing: They’re more motivated than ever to deal with toxic people.

*We limited the upper age to 60 years as there were too few responders over 60 to reach statistical significance.

Psychiatrist Denise McDermott, M.D., comments

Dr Denise McDermott“In our teen years we are sociological hard wired for approval from others and from an evolutionary standpoint to attract the best mate. As we age our self worth is determined more by our internal mindset and less on external factors and approval from others.

The insightful data in this article shows the evolution over time of women caring less about what others think and valuing their own sense of self worth with a mature desire to problem solve in long-standing relationships, even the most challenging ones.”

Denise McDermott, M.D. Adult and Child Board Certified Psychiatrist. Website

Finding #7: Women struggle the most with toxic people after their mid-30s

Women motivated to better deal with toxic peopleWomen over 35 were overall much less motivated to deal with the social challenges we measured, compared to women aged 24-35. However, they were 28% more motivated to be better at dealing with toxic people.

Why this could be:

  1. After 35, our social lives tend to be more stable. The trajectory of our career is set for most of us. This lessens the urgency of dealing with most social life challenges.
  2. However, this stable social life also has the downside that it’s harder to avoid toxic people: The father- or mother in law, the long-term colleague or someone in the extended family.
  3. As we mature and grow, we are more likely to recognize patterns of behavior over time, and want more from the relationships we have that maybe fall short.

Recommendation based on this finding:

Invest time in your relationships throughout life, even if you have a spouse. This helps you off-load the burden of toxic relationships.

As we see in finding #4, women in their mid-20s get less motivated to keep in touch with friends.

It’s important to maintain friendships to have a supportive social circle as we grow older.

If you have a toxic person around you that you aren’t able to distance yourself from there are strategies that can help.

Professor of Psychology, Dr Ramani Durvasula, comments

Dr. Ramani DurvasulaAs expectations around relationships shift, and technology impacts how we relate, understanding social relationships is an evolving area, especially for women.

The results of this survey suggest that young women, who are now more likely to move away from their families to pursue educations and careers, may be experiencing associated struggles with finding “their tribe” of like-minded friends, and maintaining social contacts.

The 20’s and 30’s are decades when socializing is highly incentivized for women who are likely dating, may not yet have children, and are developing professional identities. Two findings from these data that do give pause is the potential “pressure” on women to be charismatic – with women at this age group feeling more motivated to be “charismatic” – something that may not always be congruent with a given woman’s personality style.

It also speaks to the valuation of this “style” by society, and may not always be something that actually does cement close social relationships. And not surprisingly, women over 35 are reporting that they are breaking more of a sweat to deal with toxic people.

Sadly, we are living in an era in which interpersonal toxicity appears to be on the rise, entitlement is normalized, and incivility is not unexpected. Toxic people are everywhere, and the older a woman gets, the more likely her network has expanded to include extended family, in-laws, more co-workers, and perhaps even people affiliated with children (e.g. other parents). It may also be that our patience starts to wear thin as we become older, have more demands, less time, and may be less willing to suffer fools.

Women do tend to rely on social networks, cultivate them and maintain them more than men. This may relate to gender roles, neurochemistry, and socialization.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula, Professor of Psychology. doctor-ramani.com | TED-talk | @DoctorRamani

Psychologist Dr Linda L Moore comments

Dr Linda L MooreAcross the board, women of all ages have the powerful negative of being taught to “be nice.”

There is little that is more destructive to building relationships, and just as important, understanding ourselves, than using “being nice” as the basis for connection. NICE make us “disappear.”

It’s superficial and as far from real as most people get. Being nice means putting the other person’s wants and needs and feelings first — vs on an even playing field — so the real relationship with SELF or the OTHER can’t truly grown.

Being kind and caring and generous instead of nice keeps the individual in the interaction and makes it REAL. However, the suggestion to quit being nice is challenging when most hear they SHOULD BE from the age or 3 or 4.

Dr Linda L Moore, author and licenced psychologist in Kansas City, MO. drlindamoore.com.

How we made the study

We surveyed 249 women from 22 countries who’ve indicated that they want to improve their social lives.

We excluded responses from non-westernized countries in order to find more clear trends in the data.

These are the countries our participants were from:

Distribution of women between countriesThe respondents were asked to rate how motivated they were to improve 21 social life challenges.

They chose between

  1. Not motivated
  2. Somewhat motivated
  3. Motivated
  4. Very motivated

We counted all “Very motivated” for each age cohort and divided that with the number of people in that cohort

Age cohorts were chosen so that each cohort had at least 60 participants to improve statistical significance.

These are the age cohorts we used:

  • 14-17
  • 18-23
  • 24-35
  • 36-60

About the researchers

David Morin

David MorinI’ve been writing about social interaction since 2012. Perhaps you’ve seen my advice in publications like Business Insider and Lifehacker.

A few years ago, I probably looked successful on the surface.

I had started an import business and turned it into a multi-million dollar company. (Now owned by the Swedish concern MEC Gruppen.)

24 years old, I was nominated “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” in my home state.

But, I didn’t feel successful. I still had a hard time enjoying socializing and being authentic. I still felt awkward and off in conversations.

I committed to building my social confidence, becoming great at making conversation and bonding with people.

8 years, hundreds of books and thousands of interactions later, I was ready to share with the world what I’ve learned.

Studying social interaction is my passion. That’s why I’m happy to present these findings about women’s social life challenges.

B. Sc Viktor Sander

B. Sc. Viktor SanderI want to thank B. Sc Viktor Sander for his advisory role during this project. Viktor Sander is a behavioral scientist (University of Gothenburg, Sweden), specialized in social psychology.

He’s been working with research on social interaction for more than a decade. He has also coached several hundred men and women in social life issues.

Without him, this project would never have been possible.

References

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  3. Joan Berzoff M.S.W., Ed.D. (1989) The therapeutic value of women’s adult friendships, Smith College Studies in Social Work,59:3, 267-279, DOI: 10.1080/00377318909517358
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  7. Bleske-Rechek, A., Remiker, M. W., & Baker, J. P. (2009). Similar from the start: Assortment in young adult dating couples and its link to relationship stability over time. Individual Differences Research, 7, 142–158.
  8. Eng, W., Coles, M. E., Heimberg, R. G., & Safren, S. A. (2005). Domains of life satisfaction in social anxiety disorder: Relation to symptoms and response to cognitive-behavioral therapy. Journal of Anxiety Disorders,19(2), 143-156. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2004.01.007
  9. Liu, K. A., & Mager, N. A. (2016). Women’s involvement in clinical trials: Historical perspective and future implications. Pharmacy Practice,14(1), 708-708. doi:10.18549/pharmpract.2016.01.708
  10. Killien, M., Bigby, J. A., Champion, V., Fernandez-Repollet, E., Jackson, R. D., Kagawa-Singer, M., . . . Prout, M. (2000). Involving Minority and Underrepresented Women in Clinical Trials: The National Centers of Excellence in Womens Health. Journal of Womens Health & Gender-Based Medicine,9(10), 1061-1070. doi:10.1089/152460900445974
  11. Schmucker, D. L., & Vesell, E. S. (1993). Underrepresentation of women in clinical drug trials. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics,54(1), 11-15. doi:10.1038/clpt.1993.102
  12. Jagsi, R., Motomura, A. R., Amarnath, S., Jankovic, A., Sheets, N., & Ubel, P. A. (2009). Under-representation of women in high-impact published clinical cancer research. Cancer,115(14), 3293-3301. doi:10.1002/cncr.24366
  13. Westenberg, P., Gjerde, P. (2002) Ego Development During the Transition from Adolescence To Young Adulthood: A 9-year Longitudinal Study

20 ways to tell fake friends from real friends

fake friends

How do you tell if a friend is fake or not? It’s not easy because nobody is just good or bad. We all got good sides and bad sides.

But in some people or relationships, the bad sides take over. And that’s when you got a fake friend.

Here are 20 signs that will help you tell your fake friends from your real ones.

1. Pay attention to how much they talk about themselves

I once had a “friend” who would call me almost every day to talk about his ideas and problems. I tried to be a good friend by listening to him and giving him my best feedback.

On some days I also had something on my mind I wanted to talk about, but there was never any space for me to talk. And if I did get to talk a little, he soon changed the topic back to him.

He wasn’t really interested in me or my life. After that, I understood he was a kind of bad friend because I never got anything back in that relationship.

I don’t think he was a bad person, but our relationship was bad since it was one-sided.

Fake friends are not interested in you, they’re only interested in themselves. A good sign to tell is that they almost only talk about themselves.

Here’s a guide on what to do if your friends only talk about themselves.

2. How interested are they in you?

Do they ask you a lot of questions about you? Do you get to talk about your problems and get support or help from them?

Real friends are interested in you and what’s going on in your life. Fake friends are not interested in getting to know you on a deeper level.

Some do care about you but just aren’t used to asking questions. But if you tell something important about you or your life – do they listen?

3. What type of people do they hang out with?

I remember when one of my friends started dating a new girl. He told me she was amazing, but she had some troubling behaviors he was worried about.

Then he told me how his girlfriend’s best friend was a super big douche bag. And she also regularly hang out with some sketchy people.

That got me thinking, why would a good person hang out with bad people like that? Sure, we all make bad choices and it’s often hard to know. But when someone’s best friend is a big douche bag and they even hang out with other bad people, that’s a BIG RED WARNING SIGN.

So, if you don’t like the friends of your friend, that’s a warning flag.

4. Do they apologize and owe their mistakes up to you?

My best friend once forgot about our date and I was left alone in the middle of town. I called him and he was extremely embarrassed and apologetic about it. He later made up for it by making a fantastic lunch for me.

A fake friend would probably not really care, maybe they would be a bit annoyed or irritated that you even mentioned it.

Real friends make mistakes, but they own up to them and apologize. Fake friends don’t.

5. Do they lie to you or others?

A white lie is one thing, but if someone regularly lies, that’s a good way to tell they don’t have a good character.

It’s not easy to know if they’re lying to you, but it’s usually easier to see if they’re lying to others or if they’re insincere.

6. How do they make you feel about yourself?

This is a tricky sign. But ask yourself how you feel when you are with your friends? And how do you feel afterward? Did they do or say anything that affected your mood negatively?

If your situation is hard to read, describe it in the comments below and I’ll help you out!

Here’s what bad friends can make you feel like:

  • You feel bad about yourself
  • You feel there’s something wrong with you
  • You feel you’re not good enough
  • You feel you need to change yourself to fit in
  • You feel ashamed about yourself

Real friends lift you up and make you feel good about yourself.

7. Are they critical of your achievements?

Fake friends criticize

Good friends can give constructive criticism when you need it, but mostly they just support you and make sure you know how awesome you are for your achievement.

8. Do they understand your limitations?

Real friends understand when you can’t or don’t want to do something.

Fake friends will expect a lot from you, and get angry or irritated when you disappoint them.

Real friends have reasonable expectations on you, and they are understanding of your mistakes and flaws.

9. Do they respect your boundaries?

Fake friends overstep your boundaries and make you do and accept things you don’t want.

Real friends respect you and your boundaries. And if they accidentally go too far, they apologize when you tell them.

I’ve written about how to get more respect over here.

10. How do they react when you tell them something you’re proud or happy about?

Fake friends get envious and jealous when you do good and they will probably try to put you down in those situations.

Good friends will be happy for you.

11. Do they stand up for you?

I remember when I was at this house party. Most of us knew each other, but the “leader” of our group never really seemed to like me.

He often gave me backhanded compliments and were always critical of me. And at this party he started making fun of me in front of some girls, it was all disguised as “a joke”.

I even tried to laugh together with them to play along.

I didn’t notice how mean he was until later on when one of my other friends told me how uncomfortable that situation was. He said he didn’t think it was ok to behave as our “leader” did. My friend actually talked to our leader about it after that.

Standing up for me like that really meant a lot for me, even if nobody dared to stand up for me immediately, I could tell by my friend’s reaction that he was a true friend. And that also made me see that our “leader” wasn’t a real friend.

Read more about how to deal with dominating people and bullies here.

12. Is there always some sort of drama going on in their life?

Ever heard someone say “I don’t like drama” even if they seem to constantly be surrounded by drama? That person is usually the one creating a lot of that drama.

Fake friends are often drama queens. They make a big deal of small things and because they can’t own up to their mistakes, the drama just keeps going.

Real friends try to solve your differences and find a nice middle ground where you both agree with each other.

13. Do they help you out when you need it?

Fake friends ask you to do a lot for them and help them out, and their requests are often borderline unreasonable, but you never get anything back.

Nobody can be expected to help you with everything, but real friends are ready to help you when you truly need it.

You can read more here about friends who ask for help but never give back.

14. Do they act differently when around others?

Are they mean when you are one-on-one, but “fake nice” when around others? Or is it the other way around, that they’re nice one-on-one and mean toward you around others?

Fake friends act differently when other people are around. This is a manipulative behavior that’s not acceptable.

15. Do they talk bad about you behind your back?

Fake friends talk shit and gossip about others with you. That’s a sign that they might gossip about you behind your back when you can’t hear it.

Real friends mostly say good things about others and good things about you.

16. Do they seem happy to see you?

When I first got to know David (the founder of SocialPro), I remember how he always greeted me with a big smile and a hug. I instantly felt great around him and wanted to be with him more.

When someone makes you feel good around them, that’s a good sign they’re also a good person and a good friend.

Fake friends are often in a bad mood, they’re irritated on you or others and need to vent A LOT. Real friends need to vent too, but there should be a balance so you also get something positive out of the relationship.

17. Can you be yourself around them?

Can you relax and be yourself around your friend? Or do you have to put on a mask and fake it to fit in? If you can’t, it might be time to stop keeping in touch with them.

Real friends allow you to be yourself because they accept you and like you for who you are. Fake friends don’t.

18. Can you trust them to keep a secret?

Fake friends will tell your secrets to others because they don’t really care about you.

Real friends can be trusted with your secrets. It’s not black and white, but if someone has betrayed your trust more than once (and not apologized!), it might be time to rethink your relationship.

19. Do they try to one-up you?

Fake friends will try to one-up you. For example, if you tell them you got a new phone, they will claim their phone is better, or they will criticize your phone.

The reason they act like this is often because they have an inferiority complex and need to prove they’re better than everyone else.

20. “It was just a joke”

Have you ever told someone you got offended/hurt, and they defended themselves with the classic “I was just joking”?

That means they’re not owning they’re bad behavior and they’re not apologizing, both signs of a bad friend. A good friend will not (regularly) brush your feeling off like that and they will try to make amends instead of excuses.

Have you ever had any fake or bad friends? How did you notice? Write it down in the comments below and help others in similar situations as you!

P.S. I’m more than happy to help you out if you have any ongoing situations you need help with! Just describe it in the comments and I’ll reply.

Interview with Tyler Tervooren on Using Systems to Retain Friendships

Tyler Tervooren blogs about strategies, leadership and smart risk taking for introverts Riskology.co.

In this interview, we cover topics including:

Read moreInterview with Tyler Tervooren on Using Systems to Retain Friendships

What to do when friends only talk about themselves and aren’t interested in you

We just got an email about getting stuck in the “listener trap”:

“[…] After about 6 months of “friendship”, these people turn to me as someone to talk to, as I always seem interested in their daily affairs.

The difficulty is that they just want to talk about themselves. I am afraid that if I start talking about myself, these friends would find me whiny and stop being friends with me!

I personally think that I may be not interesting enough to people, and thus people don’t seem to take interest in what I say or do – they just like me for being someone they can vent to or talk to or seek advice from.

At first, I enjoyed the attention but right now I’m getting a little tired of this as it never seems to be my turn to speak – the conversation always turns back to them.

So, I’d like to ask for some advice – without coming across as fake, what can we do to make ourselves more interesting to our peers?”

– Darrel

Great question Darrel!

This is a common trap when you start becoming a better listener: Most people love to talk about themselves and their problems to a good listener.

In the beginning, when you develop your listening ability, it feels great.

People will want to talk to you for hours, about themselves… And you probably keep it going by asking good follow-up questions, reflecting on what they said, and making them feel heard.

But in the heat of the moment, you might ignore what you think is interesting and focus on what you notice that they like talking about.

The problem here is that you’ve created a pattern in your relationship where you’re the listener, and they’re the talker.

It’s natural for them to assume you like to listen because that’s what you’ve shown with your behavior. So that’s how the pattern is created. And then you start feeling trapped always being the listener.

What we really want is a balanced relationship where we can talk about things we BOTH find interesting, not what just one of us finds interesting.

So how do you break out of The listener’s trap?

There’s no magic bullet to make the other person start asking you lots of questions on a regular basis. Most people just aren’t that socially skilled (or interested in others).

So, we try to escape the listener’s trap by talking more about ourselves. It’s intuitive, but it doesn’t work very well.

(It’s often not that interesting to hear someone talking about themselves.)

Instead, you want to find mutual interests and talk about those.

I can’t stress this enough:

For a friendship to work long-term, you need to find mutual interests and use these as the foundation for your conversations.

David told me about a mindset that simplifies the idea of mutual interests. He said:

“I have the ambition to always talk about what the other person also finds interesting”.

It’s not about NEVER being allowed to talk about anything else, but with that ambition, you will come a long way.

For example, I have one friend I never talk psychology with (even if it’s a big part of my life), because I know he’s not interested in that. But, we’re both interested in nutrition and health, so I might bring that up in a conversation with him. We can talk about that for hours.

Then I have another friend who’s not really interested in nutrition, but we both appreciate discussing philosophy and also deeper personal issues. So I talk more about that with him.

With another friend, I talk more about politics, traveling, and gaming.

I love that each friend gives their own unique flavor to the conversation.

These interests don’t need to be the “passions of your lives”. It should just be something you’re sure that both of you enjoy talking about.

Here’s a great article by David about finding mutual interests.

It’s also important to keep the 50/50 rule in mind: Spend as much time talking as you spend listening. That helps remind me to keep my conversations balanced, especially when I start talking too much.

I can’t stress this enough: If we talk too much whenever we get a question, people will soon stop asking us questions. No one wants to open floodgates.

But what if the other person just keeps talking about themselves and never lets me talk?

Unfortunately, some people are too self-centered or lacking in social skills that they don’t notice or realize you want to talk, too.

You could bring it up with them in a constructive way. I’ve actually done this myself with a few friends and I’ve been surprised by how willing most of them have been to change when they realize their error.

I said:

“Hey, I feel like sometimes our conversations are a bit unbalanced where I’m mainly listening and you’re the one talking. Is that something you’ve noticed?”

However, some people are a lost cause, as you can’t change someone who isn’t willing to change.

In those cases, I recommend investing less time in that person and focus on other potential friends. Why build a relationship with someone if they don’t give anything back?

Reply in the comments below. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Were they making fun of me behind my back?

social outsider

In school, I felt like an outsider.

I saw how others connected and had a great time, while I struggled.

Take the other guys in my class for example. I often worried that they were making fun of me behind my back and it felt like it was them inside and then me outside. (We’ve written an article about how to spot a fake friend from a real friend over here.)

Go here to read more about how to deal with someone making fun of you.

One day, a new guy came to class. After a week, he was closer with my classmates than I was after a year.

That “proved it” to me: There’s definitely something wrong with me!

Like I’ve said before, I don’t regret that time, because that’s what formed who I am today.

I just wish I knew this back then:

Just because something is in a certain way, doesn’t mean it will always be that way.

You see, back then everything felt pretty dark to me. I had low self-esteem, so I didn’t believe that I would be able to turn things around.

I had good times, too, and I did have some friends.

It was just that being off socially and seeing others hit it off when I didn’t make me think less of myself.

I had little hopes I would improve.

I could rationally see that practice makes perfect, but it FELT like there was something wrong with me and it FELT like this was how life would be.

Here’s what I’ve learned after all these years: It doesn’t matter what it FEELS like. Sometimes, you just have to do what you know is right even if feels like it won’t work out.

These photos sum up my life today. To me, they prove that just because you felt like an outsider, it doesn’t mean it will always be that way.

How did your childhood affect your social beliefs today? Did you worry about people making fun of you behind your back? Let me know in the comments!

What to do if you’re spending too much time with a friend

Spending time together to develop a friendship

I had a friend I used to hang out with almost every day. I didn’t mind it at first, but after a while, I started to get more and more annoyed by small things he did.

Eventually, we grew apart.

Today, I’ll share all my experience when it comes to spending too much time with a friend.

  • In step 1, I talk about what’s a reasonable time to spend with a friend.
  • In step 2, I talk about how to be LESS dependent on a friend.
  • In step 3-7, I talk about what to do if YOUR FRIEND is annoying you.
  • In step 8, I talk about what to do if you feel that YOU might be the one who annoys your friend.
  • In step 9, I share how I bring up with a friend that something is bothering me. (It’s hard, but it can be worth it.)

1. Learn how much time is normal to spend with a friend

It’s not bad to spend time together in itself. It’s just that it increases the risk to get annoyed with someone. The more time you spend together, the more will small annoyances grow.

Here’s my guideline for what’s a healthy upper level of time to spend with a good friend.

What’s normal in childhood/teens

Say that you see each other 6 hours per day in school (If you’re in school for 8 hours, you might be together for 6 of those) Together with that, you see each other 1 hour after school and 2-3 hours on the weekends.

That’s what I would call the upper limit, at least for me. If I spent more than that time with a friend, I knew that we soon started to be fed up with each other.

What’s normal in adulthood

Say that you see each other 4 hours per day at work. On top of that, you see each other half an hour after work or on weekends (Taking a coffee, etc).

Or, you don’t meet the person at work. Instead, you meet up once or twice during weeks for a coffee and a chat and then maybe do an activity for 1-2 hours on the weekend.

To me, this is a healthy upper bound for hanging out with a friend as an adult.

(As we grow older, we usually spend less time with friends and get pickier with who we spend our time with. This is normal.)

“I’m spending far less than this amount of time together but it still feels like too much!”

Then you might be an imbalance in your friendship:

Someone is taking up more space than the other, someone’s more high energy, someone’s more negative than the other, someone speaks more about themselves or have an annoying habit, etc. More on this in step 4.

“What if I spend more time together than this?”

I have friends who I click so well with that we can spend hours together at the end. These are friends where I have almost no “friction”: There’s nothing in particular that annoys me about them.

If you do start getting annoyed about small things with someone, that’s a good sign you want to limit your time together. (I write about HOW to bring up with someone that you want to limit your time in step 10)

2. Find new friends if you only have a few to be with

When I was younger and only had 1 or 2 good friends, I often found that I way spend too much time with them. (Simply because I didn’t have many other options).

This was bad because it strained the few friendships I did have.

What I did was making it my top priority to make more friends. If you have more friends, you don’t need to spend as much time with each one of them.

Actively trying to improve my social skills and build a social circle has been the best choice of my life:

When you have many friends to choose from, you never have to hang out with someone just because it’s the only option.

Expanding your social circle comes down to two things:

  1. Living a more outgoing life. Read my guide here on how to be outgoing.
  2. Improving your social skills. Social skills help you make close friends out of the people you meet. Here’s my social skills training.

EVERYONE can learn to be really good at making friends.

Even though I thought that I was born socially inept, it’s something I eventually became really good at.

Types of friends you don’t want to spend too much time with

3. Spend only quality time and cut down on other interaction

If you work, go to school, or live with your friend, it’s hard to avoid spending a large amount of time with them.

If you work together or live together, or both, you need to set up boundaries for a healthy relationship. Especially if you find yourself becoming more and more annoyed with this person as time goes on.

In this case, you might be a great fit personality-wise, but you are spending way too much time together.

(Personally, I AVOID sharing apartments with my best friends because I don’t want to strain those friendships)

Here’s what I’d recommend:

Ask yourself when you DO enjoy spending time with this friend.

Perhaps when you’re around others, or when you do a certain activity. Make sure to spend time during that time, and cut down on interaction during other times whenever possible.

If this doesn’t apply to your situation or doesn’t work, I talk about how to bring up with your friend that you spend too much time together in step 10.

4. Limit all time with friends who annoy you

Do you appreciate your friend, but have small annoyances with their personality or manners?

Perhaps they’re being…

  • Too talkative
  • Negative
  • Self-centered
  • Too different from you in their energy level
  • Needy
  • Too different in interests, beliefs or world view
  • Expecting more from you than they give
  • (Or something else)

We can call all this friction. Differences aren’t necessarily bad – they are what makes it fascinating to meet people. But it can be bad to spend too much time with a friend you don’t really sync with.

If this is the case, you can try limiting time with this friend to just once a month.

That’s usually enough time for me to forget about annoyances with someone so I can meet them on a fresh page.

Another strategy is to only spend time with this person when others are around.

This solution is helpful because you don’t have to give up the friendship, and you will still be “protected” by the shelter of others, and not spending much time together.

The third alternative is to bring up with your friend what annoys you.

This is difficult, and personally, I’ve had both good and bad outcome. I have one friend who’s very attentive. I told him in a sincere, non-confrontational way that I thought his jokes were too vulgar. He picked up on that and stopped immediately.

Another friend talked way too much about herself and wasn’t very interested in others. She wasn’t self-aware enough to see the problem. As a result, I started seeing her less and less and our friendship dissolved.

In step 10 I share how to bring up with your friend what annoys you.

5. Have a talk with a friend who picks on you or is toxic

What if your friend is toxic – that is, making you feel bad about yourself by picking on you or making you feel less valuable?

Toxic people can still be charismatic and fun to hang out with, but you want to avoid contact with someone who’s making you feel bad about yourself.

I had a friend like this when I was younger. He wasn’t always nice to me, but I was afraid to lose him because I didn’t have many others to hang out with.

I have two recommendations here:

  1. Try talking with your friend (Works if your friend is attentive and emotionally mature) I cover how in step 10.
  2. Try to build new friendships, so that you’re less dependent on that friend. (This did WONDERS for my social life). I talk about this in step 2.

6. Think about if the friendship is mostly good or bad for you

Take a moment and recollect the last time you and your friend hung out. What did you do? In this exercise, it’s important to focus on your feelings, rather than the details. So it’s okay if you can’t remember everything as it happened.

Try and remember how you FELT while you and your friend hung out. Was the feeling positive or negative? Did you spend most of your time together arguing over small things, or did you laugh and feel supported by one another?

If your feelings were overall negative, that’s a sign you spend too much time together, or that you need to end the friendship with that person and find other friends.

Your choices here are to try talking with your friend or expand your social circle so you’re less dependant on the friend

7. Put up boundaries if your friend has a big personality

I have some friends who I can only spend a small amount of time with. These friends are wonderful people, but their personalities are so big it’s hard to be around them constantly. This doesn’t mean they are bad people, or our friendship is a failure.

This just means I respect my happiness enough to limit time with this person.

Just because your friend has a big personality doesn’t mean you need to stop hanging out with this person entirely. Make the decision to see this friend in small doses.

First, decide what small doses mean to you. What does that look like? Does this mean you see them once a week, or once a month? Only you can answer this question for yourself.

Once you have decided what a small dose means for you and your friend, start putting up healthy boundaries and limit the time you spend with your small dose friend. Here’s how to talk to your friend about it.

8. Bring up your worries if you think you annoy your friend

If you think your friend is annoyed about spending too much time with you, talk to them about it.

If this is a good friendship, you should be able to talk openly about this without getting into a fight. Suggest grabbing a coffee and ask this person what’s been on their mind.

I’d also recommend you to ask yourself if you do something that might put your friend off?

Here’s the list from earlier in this guide. Are there any times you can recall…

  • Talking way too much compared with your friend
  • Having a habit of being negative or cynical
  • Being self-centered
  • Way too low or high energy compared to your friend
  • Needy
  • Unreasonable in your world view
  • Expecting more from your friend than you give back?

If you have a feeling that you do something that annoys you, ask your friend!

Over the years I’ve asked my friends the following question. It’s so powerful because it “forces“ them to tell you the truth.

“If you had to say SOMETHING that I do that can be annoying, what would that be?”

A variant:

“If you had to say SOMETHING that I could improve socially, what would that be?”

These questions are natural if you talk about social interaction or someone else who annoys you, or you can just bring it up from the blue if you don’t get any other option. A few minutes of awkwardness is OK to save a friendship.

Before you ask it, be prepared to accept the answer. Don’t argue with it, don’t make explanations. Your friend has just given you what they see as the truth, even if it’s super tough to hear at times.

I’ve usually felt low a few days after hearing the “truth” like this from friends, and then I’ve been able to work on it and improve and come out better than ever before. (And save the friendship.)

9. Give your friend practical examples to share how you feel

Talking with a friend can be so hard!

As I’m in my 30s I’m old enough to have had a fair share of tough conversations with friends.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

It doesn’t always work to talk. It comes down to how emotionally mature they are. If your friend is rational and emotionally available it’s likely to work. If they’re not, I would still try talking with them but build my social circle so I’m less dependent on them.

Never be confrontational. That just makes them defensive and before you know it you’re the bad person.

Give practical examples and be precise. Don’t say “can you stop being annoying” – how are they supposed to improve from that?

Here’s how I told a friend that I didn’t like the way he joked:

“This is a detail but it’s still something I’ve been thinking about. Last time when you joked, you said [giving exampe] and I think it was a bit over the top. You probably didn’t even think about it, but it made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I know that your humor is like that and often it’s hilarious, but sometimes it’s too much.”

Here’s how I would tell a friend that we spend too much time:

“I think I need to just chill out by myself next week because I’m overstimulated and been way too social lately, maybe we can meet up the week after instead?”

By proposing a time in the future, you show that you DO want to meet up, just not as often.

Here’s how I told another friend that he talked too much about himself.

“I know that you go through a super tough time right now and I really feel for you. But at times it gets too much for me and it feels like we talk about you often but that you aren’t as interested in me or my world.”

You should use your own words so it feels like it comes from YOUR heart.

But the key is to be assertive but still UNDERSTANDING. When you show that you’re understanding, you have a fair chance of helping someone improve.

At this point, you’ve made them aware of the problem. You can give them examples and help them as well as you can to change, but the WILL to change has to come from them.

If this doesn’t work, you want to expand your social circle so that you are less dependent on one or a few friends.

What did you think? Was there some aspect of spending too much time with a friend that I didn’t address in the guide? Let me know below!

Interview with Mark Rosenfeld on attracting people you deserve

After struggling with shyness throughout high-school and early years of college, Mark turned things around in 2009. A few years later he started teaching confidence in life and dating.

In 2014, he started MakeHimYours.com, sharing what he learned to help women stop the frustrating patterns in their dating lives and start attracting the men they deserve.

Interview with Natalie Lue on toxic relationships and more

Natalie Lue of baggagereclaim.co.uk teaches people who are tired of emotional unavailability, toxic relationships, and feeling ‘not good enough’, how to reduce their emotional baggage so that they can reclaim themselves and make space for better relationships and opportunities.

Would you like to tell us a bit about your amazing transformation back in 2005, which also was the starting point for your blog?

That summer, my life appeared to be imploding around me.

I found myself with yet another guy who was emotionally unavailable and “not ready for a relationship”, received a damning prognosis for an illness I’d been battling for 18 months, and my family relationships felt increasingly toxic, amongst other things.

The news that there was no cure and that I’d be dead by 40 if I didn’t go on steroids for life, woke me up the realization that while pleasing others, I’d neglected myself. I refused treatment and requested three months’ grace to explore my options. At the same time, I mused out loud on my then personal blog about my relationship woes. I thought it was just me who had a penchant for emotionally unavailable men and sucky relationships but what I shared struck a chord with many readers.

So many things happened in a short period but looking back, I realize that I experienced an awakening.

I started Baggage Reclaim one month after that diagnosis with the aim of using my experiences and what I was learning to help other people just like me. There was no agenda, no plan. I started listening to myself, figuring out boundaries on the go and treating me with some basic love, care, trust and respect, all while exploring alternative options for treatment thanks to advice from readers.

Eight months later, I was in remission. I’d also, unbeknownst to me, met the man who would become my husband.

How do you recognize you’re in a toxic relationship, and how do you make the change into loving and fulfilling relationships?

A major signifier of toxic relationships is that they destabilize you. Like anything toxic, they’re corrosive and damaging to you, typically permeating other areas of your life. You behave uncharacteristically and give up many, if not all of the things that matter to you to keep the relationship in play. You fundamentally become less of who you are while accepting a relationship that is less than love, care, trust, and respect. Toxic relationships are unfulfilling, so it’s like you’re trying to get high to counteract the lows.

You can’t change something that you either don’t recognize as unhealthy or that you don’t regard as being an option for you to change. The reason why we don’t recognize a toxic relationship is that it feels like ‘home’ in some way. It’s familiar, and the toxic relationship is speaking to a part of us that has unresolved hurts and losses. We’re looking for validation, and instead, we’re compounding those old hurts and losses. We make the shift to more loving and fulfilling relationships by compassionately recognizing the baggage behind our relationship choices and taking steps to create healthier emotional, mental, physical and spiritual boundaries with ourselves — we conduct ourselves in a way that starts to acknowledge where we end and others begin.

Getting clear about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, including using recognition of your feelings, needs and, desires to guide you to matching people and situations, is critical. When you treat you with love, care, trust and, respect, you will not accept less than you can already be and do for yourself from someone else.

Read more: How to tell fake friends from good friends.

What piece of information or habit has had the most positive effect on your life socially the last years?

That we are all energy and so it’s important to be mindful of my boundaries. I sometimes found myself feeling wiped out after some social encounters. I realized that it wasn’t because I’m a “lightweight” and that it was everything to do with being mindful of my boundaries when it comes to being around negativity or even people pumping me for information.

What is some realization or understanding of social life that you wish everyone would know?

There’s a lot of misunderstanding in the world about introverts and extroverts. We assume that the person who is the “life and soul” or “hot” is super happy or that they find socializing “easy”, and many introverts assume that they’re not “fun” or “social”. I think a lot of people wear social masks and that we have to be careful of projecting our feelings about ourselves on to others and assuming that we know a lot about people based on how they present socially. Introvert or extrovert, everyone struggles in certain social situations and almost certainly, unless they’re narcissistic, has some level of insecurity about how they’re perceived.

If you could restart your life knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

While I quickly acknowledge that I wouldn’t be who I am today without my experiences, if I had my time over, I wouldn’t be so hard on my younger self. I assumed way too much responsibility as a kid. It’s like being old before your time. You see things very differently when you think that you mustn’t ask for help or have “too many” needs. Trying to be strong and good, and to in essence meet everyone’s expectations, is exhausting and futile, not least because when we examine the source of our internal pressure, it’s invariably our own, not other people’s expectations. I’ve always been a thinker, intuitive, and yes, have often “known too much” but the flip side of being a thinker is that you overthink and take on too much.

What kind of person should visit your site?

Everyone has emotional baggage so the site has broad appeal, anyone who identifies with the habits of people pleasing and perfectionism that has also struggled with their interpersonal relationships and self-confidence will gain a lot from Baggage Reclaim. It’s made for overthinkers! While people often find me due to issues with romantic relationships, it contains advice for all areas of life.

3 Steps to Improve Your Social Life

Improve social life

As we continue climbing further into adulthood, many of us begin to notice that maintaining a social life becomes increasingly more difficult.

Unless we want our only friends to be our coworkers, we can no longer assume we will make friends in passing like we did in high school and college when our lives and schedules were constantly changing. Instead, we have to be intentional about where and with whom we spend our time.

If your social life could use some improvement, the following three tips will help you to add variety and depth to your boring or limited social spheres.

1. Friends in many places

The people with the most enviable social lives are not necessarily those with the most friends, but those with the most different types of friends.

Instead of regularly visiting the same one location and expecting to meet all of your friends there (think MacLaren’s Pub from How I Met Your Mother), exploring new and different places and attending different types of social events will give you opportunities to meet many different types of people. This will improve your social life exponentially.

Rather than having to rely on one group of friends for all of your socializing, having multiple groups of friends will ensure you are never at a loss for things to do or people to do them with.

Think of it like this: Pick a spot on a map and draw a tiny circle around it. That tiny circle is the one place you go to be social. While the majority of people are floating around the rest of the map, the only people you’re ever going to meet are the ones who happen to make their way into your little bubble.

But if you draw a bigger circle, suddenly there are more places to go and more people to meet. You can even draw a circle around another spot on the map a bit further away from your original circle.

The more “circles” you draw, the more you will improve your social life by increasing the number of opportunities you have to develop friendships.

Read more:

2. Be a Giver, Not a Taker

A successful social life is a two-way street. If you’re always relying on other people to invite you to social events, or the same one or two people are always hosting everyone else, you are being a “taker” friend.

Not only will initiating outings and hosting social events make you more of a “giver” friend, it will also make you a more important part of your social circle.

If the one or two people who always plan the social outings were to suddenly move away, the rest of you would probably stop hanging out. The “glue” that held you together will have disappeared.

This is why it’s important for you to become part of that “glue.” Finding things to do with your friends or offering to host them in your home will make you a more valuable part of your friend group and improve the quality of your social life as a result.

3. Make Yourself Available

If you’re always too busy to go places or spend time with people, the day that your schedule finally opens up you may turn around to find that all your friends have disappeared.

This is why making yourself available is such a critical part of improving your social life.

While it can be difficult and at times there may be circumstances that are out of your control, learning time management skills can help you work more efficiently so you can free up more time to be spent socializing.

The following are some good resources for tips on time management:

In addition to managing your time effectively, you must also make sure you are accepting the invitations people extend to you. You might be surprised by how often you find yourself turning down opportunities if you begin to pay attention.

As a teacher, I developed the habit of eating lunch alone in my classroom so I could get more work done while I ate. I was often asked if I wanted to join the other teachers in the teacher’s lounge for lunch, but I always declined because I “needed to work.” I didn’t think that my 20-minute lunch break would be enough time to matter, but unfortunately I missed out on a lot of potential friendships as a result of my decision. 

Little things like this may not seem like they qualify as legitimate opportunities to socialize, but they do. Taking advantage of these moments may lead to more and better friendships than you expect and your social life will greatly benefit.

The quality of your social life can have a big impact on the quality of your life overall. Taking steps to learn how to improve your social life can boost both your mental and emotional well-being.

What aspect of your social life do you need to improve? Share your goals in the comments!

 

 

Acquaintance vs Friend – What defines your relationship?

friend acquaintance

There are a lot of people in the world, and as you go about your day-to-day life there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to meet some of them.

While many of the people you meet will remain acquaintances, some of them will become your friends.

But how do you know the difference?

According to this article, there are four levels of friendship: acquaintanceship, casual friendship, close friendship, and intimate friendship.

It’s important to understand the differences in each of these categories so that you know what is and is not appropriate to ask or tell someone, as well as to help you determine who you can call on in your hour of need.

DTR: Define the relationship

The “DTR” conversation can be a dreaded obstacle for many people in romantic relationships, but you can rest easy: we’re not asking you to have this discussion with your friends and acquaintances.

But if you’re looking to determine who in your social circle are your true friends versus those who are merely acquaintances, considering the details of your relationships with each of these people is a necessary first step.

According to one study, the difference between friends and acquaintances is your self-presentation. “Self-presentation represents behaviors used in establishing an identity with others; such behaviors may differ across various interpersonal relationships.”1

In other words, your self-presentation is the side of yourself you choose to reveal to a person, or how much of yourself you choose to share with somebody. What you choose to share about yourself, and the ways you choose to share it, will be different with an acquaintance than they will with a true friend.

In fact, the study found that people “engaged in more self-presentation in more established types of relationships.”This means that people were more trusting of their friends than their acquaintances and as a result they shared more about themselves and their lives. However, the study also found that people were more likely to try harder to impress acquaintances than closer friends (which is why it’s been 5 years since you’ve worn anything other than sweatpants to your best friend’s house, and vice versa).

Considering these two components can help you determine whether someone is your acquaintance or your true friend:

  1. How much do I trust this person/how comfortable am I sharing the more personal details of my life with them?
  2. How concerned am I with impressing this person/how comfortable am I being my true self around them?

Now let’s take a closer look at each of the different categories of friendship and how they play out on a day-to-day basis.

Level 1. Acquaintanceship

Acquaintances can be people you’ve just met as well as people you’ve known for a while. It isn’t necessarily the amount of time you’ve known a person that makes them an acquaintance (because it’s entirely possible to become close friends with someone very quickly). What makes a person an acquaintance instead of a friend is the amount of time you spend with them.

A person is your acquaintance if you only see them coincidentally instead of making intentional plans to see each other.  With an acquaintance, you will say “hello,” ask surface-level questions about life (work, the kids, the weather), and move on.  Acquaintances are not people you discuss personal details or serious topics with.

An example of an acquaintance is the friend-of-a-friend who’s always present at your group hang-outs but who you never hang out with unless your mutual friend is also present. This is the person who is close friends with your close friend, but the two of you are not close friends with one another.

Another example is someone you regularly encounter at social events, and although you may have a brief conversation when you see each other, you never make plans to see each other on purpose.

Like we mentioned before, you may feel more of a need to impress your acquaintances than you do with your friends. When you are at this level of friendship with someone, they are still closer to “stranger” than “friend” and you are still trying to make a good impression.

If you don’t know someone very well, you’re probably not going to show up to hang out with them in your pajamas (like you would with a close friend). You’re also probably not going to share your deepest, darkest secrets with them– as an acquaintance, you simply aren’t at that level of closeness with one another and it would likely come across as needy.

Here’s an example using one of my real-life acquaintances:

I like to take my dogs to a local dog park when the weather is nice.  I don’t go on the same days or at the same times, I just go whenever I get a chance and feel up to it.

There are many different people at the dog park, but I’ve encountered the same woman on more than one occasion and every time she’s there we end up talking.  These conversations are always exclusively about our dogs, the military (since the dog park is on a military base), and events taking place in our city.

We don’t meet up on purpose, we don’t discuss the more personal details of our lives, and we don’t make plans to hang out in the future.  But if we happen to run into each other again, that’s great. It would be rude not to speak with acquaintances when you see them, but it is not expected that you make plans to see them intentionally.

Read more: How to find friends who are more like you.

Level 2. Casual friendship

If, during the course of my conversation with this woman (let’s call her Joan), I decided that we had so many common interests or had such a good time talking that I’d like to invite her to bring her dog over to my house to play with my dogs, then we would be entering casual friendship.

A casual friend is different than an acquaintance because you make plans to see each other instead of just seeing each other in passing or by chance.  However, with a casual friend, your hang-outs may be sporadic and are often related to the same type of event that took place when you met.

Remember how I invited Joan’s dog to come play with my dog? It makes sense, because we met at the dog park and have dogs as a mutual interest.  At this stage, I’m not going to plan regular dog play-dates or invite Joan’s family to come to dinner with my family.

A casual friend may be someone from work with whom you occasionally eat lunch or attend work-related conferences.  You probably wouldn’t call on a casual friend to help you change a flat tire or pick you up at the airport.

Level 3. Close friendship

Now, if Joan and I were to occasionally hang out while our dogs played, and continue to see each other in passing at the dog park, we may discover that we both love Mexican food.  We may decide to go get dinner one night, and while having dinner we may begin to open up more about the details of our jobs, our families, and our personal histories.  We would then begin making intentional plans to spend time together more regularly.

At this point, Joan and I would be entering the stage of close friendship.

In a close friendship, you spend time together regularly and the things you do together do not revolve solely around the event where you first met.  Just like Joan and I would begin to do things that don’t involve our dogs, a close friend is someone you would hang out with outside of work or school, doing non-work and school related activities.

A close friend is someone who makes an effort to help when you need it, and can be depended upon to keep their word.

In close friendships, you are comfortable discussing the things that go on in your day-to-day life, both good and bad. You share your secrets, commiserate with one another on the bad days, and celebrate with one another on the good days. 

Level 4. Intimate friendship

The last and deepest level of friendship is the intimate friend.  This is a best friend– the type of friend who knows everything about you and you about them. No matter how far apart you may ever live, the intimate friendship is one that lasts a lifetime.

In the intimate friendship, there are few topics that are ever off-limits. The intimate friend is one who can point out your flaws and offer suggestions for improvement, and while it may be difficult to hear, it isn’t offensive because you understand how deeply they care for you (and you’re willing to do the same for them).

The difference between a close friendship and an intimate friendship is primarily time. A close friendship that withstands the ups and downs of life over an extended period of time is considered an intimate friendship.

Check this out: How to make close friends.

From acquaintance to close friend

After reading through the descriptions of each type of friendship, you may have realized you have more acquaintances than you think. While it’s perfectly normal for your acquaintances to outnumber your close friends (quality over quantity, after all), what should you do if you’d like to turn some of those acquaintances into closer friends?

First, check out our guide on small talk and conversation topics. This guide will teach you how to begin with small talk and gradually make your way into deeper conversation with someone. Moving from superficial small talk topics to more personal conversations (in a natural, comfortable way) is the first step in turning an acquaintance into a close friend.

Having a successful conversation with someone (that isn’t small talk) creates a natural opportunity for you to plan a time to hang out with them. Like we explained before, making plans to spend time with someone moves you from “acquaintance” to “casual friend.” Here’s an example of what you can say:

“I really enjoyed talking with you. We should [go see that movie we talked about/go shopping at that place you mentioned/hang out and play that game together/get coffee and talk more about that] sometime! Are you free _________?”

Once you’ve hung out with someone once, it’s important to continue planning to spend time together if you wish to develop a true close friendship. Make sure that you aren’t pushy when you initiate hang-outs; your social outings don’t need to be back-to-back, and you don’t have to plan another time to hang out immediately after finishing your last hang-out. Ideally, the other person will also initiate some of your plans to spend time together– this is an important hallmark of a two-way friendship.

When you are hanging out together, continue having quality conversations like we teach you in this guide. The more you talk and find things in common, the more comfortable you will become around one another. As a result, you will begin to open up more to one another and your conversations will naturally become deeper and more personal. When this happens, you will find that your former acquaintance is now your close friend.

Can my friendships go from friend back to acquaintance?

Now that you know about each type of friendship and what you can do to move from acquaintance to close friend with someone, you may be wondering if your friendships can move in the opposite direction.

The answer is yes!

Because your friendships progress when you begin spending more time with someone, it stands to reason that they will regress when you stop spending as much time with someone. While this is not always the case (like in long distance friendships), the inability to spend time with a friend does present new challenges when it comes to remaining close.

So if you notice that someone seems a little more distant than normal, ask yourself how much time you’ve spent with them recently to help you determine whether this could be causing your friendship to move backwards.

Friendships are a necessary part of your mental and emotional health, but it’s important to know who your real friends are.

In what category do most of your friendships fall? Share in the comments below!

References:

  1. Overup, C. S. & Neighbors, C. 2016. Self-presentation as a function of perceived closeness and trust with romantic partners, friends, and acquaintances. Journal of Social Psychology, 156(6). 630-637.