18
Apr
11

no friend of mine

Reader H. R. writes:

A friend of mine has introduced another friend into our group that I cannot stand. This new friend apparently has no idea when he’s being annoying. He says things that no socially adept person would say out loud to people; he takes jokes too far; he assumes intimacy that isn’t there. And I’m not the only person who’s annoyed. Of course, none of us wants to insult the friend who introduced this new guy into the group, and she apparently has no problem with him. What should I, or, really, what should we do?

Dear H.R.:

I’ve written before about what to do if you don’t like someone else’s significant other, but a friend is a different story.

annoyed

Let your annoyance show. Image: graur codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

First of all, leave the friend-bringer out of the equation. You don’t have beef with her; your beef is with the friend she brought. It’s not her fault this person annoys you.

You can tell her that her friend grates on you, and she may be able to provide you with some sort of justification (“he’s insecure; he grows on you; I know, he annoys me, too but he saved my life once” all spring to mind). But really, what you need to do is take it up with the annoying person.

It’s never fun to be uninvited to things, or shunned, or spurned, but it’s always worse for it to happen without knowing the reason why. One thing groups of people tend to do is band together further, and groups are just great at excluding someone. That’s probably what you and your friends are going to want to do — exclude both this new guy and the friend who brought him. But I say don’t. Let him join in when he wants, and let your friend invite him to other events. Of course, you don’t have to invite him yourself; but don’t ignore him when he’s there or forbid your friend from inviting him.

Instead, interact with him, even if it’s unpleasant. When he says something stupid, don’t let on that it’s okay. Tell him what he said was annoying. Don’t pretend to like him when you don’t. Be up front about it. He will either change his ways from input from you, or he will quit coming to events altogether.

This is not about you telling him he’s not cool or not worth your time, or that everyone in the group hates him. This is you relaying the feelings you have as you feel them. If you do this is a non-accusatory manner, he’ll probably back off rather than try to start a fight with you. (Depends on his personality, of course.) This shouldn’t be about your friends ganging up on him, either.

You may find that he doesn’t actually do annoying actions as often as you think he does. You may have this blown completely out of proportion. Once you start being aware of what it is that annoys you and how often it happens, it could well be he’s not as annoying as you think.

Another aspect of continuing to have him at your events is that you can learn to love him. In my life, some of the people I have thought were extremely annoying as casual acquaintances have turned out to be some of my favorite people once I really got to know them. People who are annoying tend to be so because they are extremely insecure and don’t have the situational awareness to notice it; or because they’re too secure in themselves to care. For the former, you may learn to love them through this insecurity, in which case they’ll really shine; for the latter, you could learn a thing or two about being yourself regardless of who’s watching or who cares.

You should never pretend to like someone you don’t like in your personal life, even if you feel you’re being civil. Girls are particularly bad at this, because we have been taught to be “nice” above all else. It’s disingenuous and we should all work to put a stop to it.

Let’s be clear — there’s a difference between a professional or business environment and a personal social environment. Having a healthy work life is all about putting your personal differences aside and getting things done. But your personal life is different. By all means, yuk it up with people you would never dream of being personal with at networking events, etc.; don’t let this phoniness spill into your day-to-day personal life. Leave the phony for times when it’s absolutely necessary.

If he doesn’t clean up his act or quit hanging out with your friend group altogether, then your other option is to avoid hanging out when he’s around. He will probably at least learn to steer clear of you at events, and you can learn to do the same. You can also try to focus on the positive aspects of his personality — and this is where that mutual friend who brought him to the group in the first place comes in. Why is she friends with him? Try to see him in a new light.

Group dynamics change often, so you may find you don’t have to do anything before he’s out of the group without your intervention. Just take a deep breath, express what you think and feel, and be honest. That’s the most anyone can ask for, anyway.

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