Dear Dr. NerdLove,
So I’ll be upfront: this isn’t a question about love. Well, it is affecting my love life, but it’s making friends that I’m worried about. I feel like love can come after that.
The thing is, I think I’m boring. Whenever I’m talking to people there are these long silences, which I personally don’t mind (I’m happy just to be around other people) but I don’t think other people feel the same. They will often try to fill these silences by showing me memes on their phone or giving me some music to listen to, which I’m usually just not that interested in. I’m more interested in talking and just enjoying the other person’s company.
In fact, I’m just not interested in most things people want me to be interested in. Get me started on anime, writing, or computers and I probably annoy people with how much I’m talking, but it seems like most people just aren’t into that. They’re all about youtube, memes, the latest movie, music, or something else that I just don’t find that interesting.
People never invite me out, either. They never text me first, even if it’s just to tell me about something funny that happened. And always being the one to text first makes me feel like they’re not interested. I want people to put a little effort into being my friend, but no-one does. It seems like I always have to do all the work and it makes me feel really unwanted, to the point that I usually just give up on being their friend. I even deleted a few people’s numbers and haven’t heard a thing from them since.
That’s not to say people have never invited me out. They have. Usually it’s once or twice, though, before they decide I’m boring and never invite me out again. Next thing I know I’m hearing about these parties(often times on snapchat or from coworkers) and I know people are hanging out, but I just never get invited.
Most of my interests are, admittedly, solitary ones. I enjoy writing, watching anime, and I’ve recently gotten into programming. I play video games too, but lately that’s kind of rare; I’m simply too busy with school, work, and learning how to program. I’ve tried to meet people at school and work, but that’s where my boring personality screws me over.
I’ve even considered the possibility that I might be autistic, because I just seem to legitimately struggle with relationships and some other symptoms have struck home as well. But I don’t have money to see a therapist, so that isn’t an option right now.
I really want to make friends, though, even if I need to change something about myself. Is there anything I can do? Please help me if you can.
– Friend In Need
But let’s say that you’re taking the shotgun approach and just putting yourself out there. What then?
Well to start with: silences happen. Even among the closest of friends and happiest of couples, there’re going to be lulls in the conversation. Part of working on one’s emotional intelligence is to learn the differences between a “this is awkward and I really don’t want to talk to you” kind of silence and companionable “we don’t really need to say anything at the moment” silences. Learning how to be comfortable with silence and to tell the two apart is a skill, and one worth developing as soon as you can. If you do hit an uncomfortable lull, pivot off the subject and onto another one. Doesn’t matter if the topic is related or not; just throw in a transition phrase like “hey, check this out” or “You know, that reminds me,” and bring up another question.
However, when you’re just getting to know people, there’s a very easy way to ensure that not only will you not have an awkward silence, but to also not be boring: learn to ask questions. One of the oldest and most important things to keep in mind is that interested is interesting. We all value people who want to know what we think, even on the most banal of topics. People who ask us for our thoughts are validating us and making us feel valued. That, in turn, makes us want to spend more time with them – it’s the Reward Theory of Attraction in action.
So rather than worrying that you need to fill up the empty air, focus on the person you’re talking to. Make a point of trying to connect with them and get to know them by being an active listener. Ask them a question about themselves, rephrase what they said and respond to it. “Oh you’re interested in video games? I’ve been hearing talk about a new XBox console, what do you think about that?” Use their answers as a springboard for your next question. Just make sure you’re asking open-ended questions, not ones that can be answered with a binary. If they can answer your question with one or two words, you’re asking the wrong questions. Just make sure you’re not going into interviewer mode – intersperse those questions with occasional statements. Make your own observations, find something relevant to say about them or just transition off the subject to a new one.
It’s also good to at least try to understand other people’s interests, even if you don’t share them. That way, you can at least ask intelligent questions and let others take the lead while still feeling valued.
As to always being the initiator… well, the fact of the matter is, sometimes that’s just going to be the way of things. Initiating conversations or being the inviter versus the invited really isn’t a measure of the quality of your friendship. Some people may not be comfortable initiating or feel like they’re at a place where they can just invite you or strike up a conversation. Others may just not be the initiating type. The best thing you can do is simply be the kind of friend you want to have. Sometimes you have to model the behavior you want in a relationship before people will respond in kind.
Being able to make small-talk and connect with people’s a skill that takes practice. Spend some time making low-investment connections and getting used to the give-and-take flow of a conversation.
I have a question about a situation I’m in and I really want to fix it.
I recently met this girl at my job and asked her for her number which she gave to me. At first I was a bit slippy on the situation as it took her an entire day to respond back to me. So she asked me if I “smoked” and i agreed(she was cute I couldn’t refuse) so we set up a day for us to smoke. She flaked on me the first time and rearranged meeting up for next day. So she came to my house and rolled up, I foolishly having a few beers.
So we hit it off well, she was laughing at all my jokes, letting me touch her and she said she was shocked I asked her about her family as none ever asked about that before. We were talking while I had my hand around her on my couch for a few hours. I was hesitant to make move an actual move because I just met this girl and didn’t want to be too forward.
When it came time and she makes her way to leave to go get some food (we were eating some chips at my place together but I guess that wasn’t enough) and I’m completely wasted at this point and rush to make a move telling her “You don’t have to leave” and as she tries to leave out the door I try to kiss her but she pulls away and says something about us being homeboys (she was a bit hoodish) or maybe something about me being too drunk I cannot remember. I may have yelled at her too……I was wasted
So I asked by bud about it and he told me to wait 3 days before contacting her again. So I waited 3 days and texted whats up and what she was doing upcoming week. She never responded and it has been 2 days now.
Everyone I ask says its pretty much game over, but I really liked this girl and wanted to know is there a possible hope to fix this?
So here’s what happened from her end of things, WY: she liked you well enough to give you her number and felt safe enough to come to your place to smoke up. For a while, things were going pretty well… but then she got up to leave and you kind of freaked out on her. First you got completely wasted – always a bad move on a first date – and then you lunged at her and tried to keep her from leaving. That probably freaked her out a little. And then when she tried to give you a soft no, you may or may not have yelled at her.
That pretty much sunk you right then and there. That’s like holding up a sign that tells someone that you’re a collection of red flags in a trenchcoat, not a guy she’s going to want to spend more time with. That is not the behavior of someone who women will feel safe hanging out with, whether she thinks you’re just friends or if there’s possibly something more.
But you might – and I stress might – have been able to pull this back if you had texted her and apologized as soon as you sobered up. Saying “Hey, I made a stupid mistake, got a little more wasted than I expected an acted like a creeper. I’m really sorry about how I behaved, especially if I made you feel uncomfortable. If you ever want to talk again, I promise that I’ll be on my best behavior,” might have been enough for her to reconsider.
However, you waited three days – strike four, if you’re paying attention – and then didn’t even acknowledge that you kind of fucked things up. All that told her is that you don’t see that you did anything wrong. Not in the sense of “these are not best practices for when you get a girl home” but in the sense of “you acted like a creeper”.
So, sorry. I don’t think you’re going to hear from her again. You blew this one. Now the best thing you can do is learn from this:
A) Don’t get wasted – whether on booze or weed – when you’re on a date. No matter how in control you may think you are, your judgement and ability to read signals goes out the window. Trust me on this: I have been there, done that and learned my lessons.
B) If you fuck up, apologize. A sincere apology, not a mealy-mouthed, passive-voiced “mistakes were made,” apology and be willing to show you’re sorry by being on your best behavior afterwards so that you can rebuild that trust… if she feels like giving you that chance.
C) You apologize as soon as you realize you’ve done something wrong, not 3 days afterwards.
C.1) Even under the best of circumstances, the whole “wait three days” rule is bullshit. But that’s a different story.
You fucked up this time. Own these mistakes, learn from them and don’t make them the next time you’re out with someone.
I have been a short-time fan of yours since a few months ago, and I really appreciate the advice you have given through your articles, particularly about overcoming social anxiety.
I have a situation that I’d like to have a better grasp on would like your help to figure it out! I’m currently 21 and trying to get in contact with something of an old flame of mine, but I’m wondering whether or not that this is a good idea…
It technically started a few years ago, back when I was in my last year of middle-school, and I was talking with this girl who I eventually developed feelings for, and she seemed to have done the same for me. At the time though, I was extremely scared and had cold feet so bad that they may as well have been literally frozen, so I decided not to go further into the relationship.
We split when High-school started; She went to a different school than me. High-school was, on the non-romantic/sex-life front, a blast; I met a lot of fun folks, and I had a lot of platonic friends. My social anxiety and commitment issues though kept me from getting an actual girl-friend; by the time I have finally worked up the courage, the person would usually already asked/been asked to be someone’s partner. During high-school, I ended up occasionally talking to that girl from middle-school due to middle-school reunions and events between our respective high-schools.
Fast forward to today, where she is taking college in Japan while I’m in Holland. (considering that we met in America, that’s quite a jump!) She has always been in the back of my mind the whole time; I can’t really say whether or not I was obsessing over her, but there were periods of time where my mind wandered between my school duties and thinking about her.
I have two questions specifically that I’d like help with:
1. Assuming that this is not a terrible idea, how do I re-connect with her and re-start our relationship again, factoring in that we haven’t seen each-other since high-school and that we are basically a world apart?
2. Is this a bad idea to begin with? Is this really just an invasive and nasty case of one-itis, and if so, what can I do about that?
Dutch and Nostalgic
This is a bad idea, D&N, but likely not for the reasons you think.
The first issue is why you still have a crush on her.When you’ve held onto a crush for this long, especially one from when you were in your middle-school years, then you’re almost never dealing with feelings for a person, but what she represents. She’s the one that “got away”. She’s the dream unfulfilled. She’s the ideal. The fantasy. If – so this reasoning goes – you were to start a relationship with her, you’d be re-writing history. It would be less about her as a person and much more about “finally achieved this” and what that says about you.
Believe me: I know this feeling very, very well. I’ve gone through it far too damn many times. I can tell you from experience: this doesn’t work out for either of you. In fact, it runs the risk of actually making you feel worse when it doesn’t go the way you’d hoped.
Now here’s the second issue: You don’t actually know her anymore. Nostalgia’s great, D&N, but it’s the past. It’s a country you can never visit again. You’re holding onto a crush for a person who doesn’t exist any more, and may not have in the first place – not in the way you think, anyway. She’s not the same person she was back then and neither are you.
Then there’s the third issue: you’re literally half a world away from each other. Long distance is hard enough when you’re in the same time-zone. It’s damn near impossible when you’re trying to start dating someone who’s on an entirely different continental shelf.
It’s not a bad thing if you want to get back in touch over Facebook and just get to know who she is now. It’s always great to reconnect with old friends and see if you can be new friends. But contacting her in hopes of reviving an old crush and get a second chance – especially one with odds so very firmly stacked against you? That’s just going to lead to heartbreak… yours.
Appreciate the crush. Enjoy the feeling of it. Crushes are fun! But let it be the past. Just let the memory of that crush and what might have been spur you to not throw away your shot the next time.