A complaint I often hear from clients is that it’s hard to make friends. I concur but believe that just how difficult it is depends on the meaning you give to the endeavor. As an only child with a very small extended family, I had to put great effort into making friends, so I know a bit more than most about the subject. Here’s what I’ve learned over the decades about why folks may not be interested in having a friendship with me.
- I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. People may not care for my personality or views on politics or religion, about which I’m quite upfront. While finding me pleasant enough, they might think that our values don’t mesh well enough to want to see more of me.
- People may not be looking to make friends. Most of the ones I meet and seek friendship from are really active and busy. If I reach out to them, they may (or may not) be amenable to becoming better acquainted, but on their own, they may not extend themselves because they already have a full plate.
- Because I was an only child, making friends may be more important to me than it is to others. Although I have a good many friends and many good friends, leftover from youth is a desire to connect with folks I meet and like. I suspect I’m unconsciously stocking up on buddies in case I lose some along the way, as a back-up to always having them around. Then, again, maybe I just enjoy people. Maybe both.
- When I’m going through a rough spot, I generally feel a need to reach out to people, but many folks react exactly the opposite and withdraw. You might make an effort to connect with someone who would normally want you as a new friend, but the timing is off: they simply don’t have the energy at the time because they’re using it to weather a storm.
- Just because someone doesn’t want to be friends with me doesn’t mean they don’t like me. Perhaps they already have enough friends. Perhaps they like me a lot but simply don’t get around to inviting me for coffee. Or perhaps they have their own issues about rejection and are fearful of making the first move lest they be rebuffed.
- Even if someone doesn’t care for me, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me and that I’m not lovable. This is the meaning that too many of you make, but that is because you don’t believe 100% that you are lovable to begin with. If you start from the premise that you are always lovable, then you’ll find other, more likely reasons that people don’t want you as a new friend.
There are dozens of people throughout my life who have rejected my efforts to make friends or chosen not to remain my buddy for reasons known and unknown to me. When a friend drops you, it’s always worth trying to figure out why to see if you hurt them. But if they’re not willing to tell you or you can’t find it out, stop dwelling on it. The best strategy is to recognize that most friends aren’t for life and that people will drift in and out of yours because such is the nature of friendship. To wish to belong and feel cherished to greater or lesser extent is a basic human need. And so is learning how to live with rejection.