When People Don't Seem Interested In Starting Friendships With You
One issue I've consistently seen people ask for help with is when others don't seem interested in starting friendships with them. Some statements I've heard about the problem are:
- "People just don't seem interested in me."
- "I take an interest in people, but get nothing back in return."
- "No one ever invites me anywhere."
- "People will talk to me if I run into them somewhere, but it never goes beyond that."
A closely related problem is when someone is part of a social group, either one they've been in a while or which they've recently joined, and feel like their friends are indifferent to them or tend to ignore them. I go into that issue here:
The topic of why people may generally not want to start friendships with someone is tricky. So much information is left out and everyone's situation is different. What's the person like? What are the other people like? What are the circumstances in which they're trying to make friends? When I'm asked this question by email I often think, "I bet that if I could just see how you act in real life I'd probably notice where you're going wrong."
Possible answers to this question fall into two categories. The first is that the people you want to be friends with are open to the idea, but you could go about it better. The second is that the people you're going after aren't interested in a friendship.
You could go about trying to make friends in a better way
Lonelier people often make mistakes in this area and have inaccurate ideas about how friendships form.
You never talk to people and expect them to come to you
Sometimes when people say, "I try to make friends, but no one is interested", they actually mean that they go about their lives, don't talk to anyone, and wait for everyone else to make the first move. If no one does this they take it to mean that no one likes them. Every so often a friendly person will take all the initiative to get to know you, but you can't really count on it.
You just greet people and chat to them, but expect them to take it from there
Another unintentionally passive strategy is to say 'hi' to people, and exchange some quick pleasantries, but do nothing beyond that. Again, if someone is keen to be friends they may take the lead, but a lot of people will just see you as a friendly acquaintance and not give it any thought beyond that. They may justifiably assume that your casual attitude is a sign that you already have a life of your own and aren't considering hanging out with them.
You have conversations with people you see around, but still expect them to invite you out
Maybe you once knew people at work or in your classes who you had great conversations with whenever you were together, but you still never connected the dots and invited them out. It's a common mistake to assume that if other people really like you then they'll make an invitation. As I talk about in other articles, sometimes other people are benignly thoughtless and lazy toward you. They'd be happy to hang out, but they just don't think about it, and if they do, they conclude it's just easier to maintain the status quo.
You think you just have to perform certain social "moves" and then everyone will instantly want to be friends with you
Some people complain that they "take an interest" in others, but no one seems to care. I get the sense that they think this is all they have to do, and then everyone will want to be friends. The same idea applies to common advice like, "Be a good listener" or "Let them talk about whatever interests them." These approaches help here and there, but won't make the world instantly fall at your feet.
People invited you out a few times and you didn't accept
Sometimes people will invite you out on several occasions and each time you'll have a legitimate reason why you can't go. When the invitations stop coming it's only natural to feel down and wonder why they don't want to be friends with you. It's easy to see why someone will only extend an invitation so many times. Maybe they figure you're not interested. Maybe they're interested but they think it's your turn to suggest something the next few times. Maybe they just forgot about the idea of being friends with you. People won't keep asking you forever. Eventually they'll move on. If you had a good reason for not going all the times before, at least make it clear you do want to hang out in the future, and back up your words with action.
You aren't the best at making plans with people
You invited a bunch of people out and only one person came... No, scratch that. You invited a bunch of people out, at the last second, to something they wouldn't be that interested in, during the Christmas holidays. That changes the picture quite a bit. A lot of the time when people turn down an invitation to do something it's about the plan being proposed, not the person suggesting the idea. I discuss making plans in the article below:
You're too quick to give up after the first setback
A party happened last weekend and no one told you about it. You make plans with someone and they cancel at the last minute. An outing gets rescheduled at the last second. These things are annoying and demoralizing, but they crop up from time to time in anyone's social life. You can't give up entirely every time they happen. If you've asked someone to hang out three or four times and they always have a reason they can't make it, that's a sign they're either truly too busy, or aren't interested but don't want to be direct. However, if one get together falls through, you can try again.
The other people aren't interested in being friends with you
Not everyone you try to make friends with is going to be open to it. A missing piece of the puzzle for many lonely people is that they have plenty of opportunities to make friends, but they don't take enough initiative to actively build a social circle for themselves. That advice only goes so far though. Just because you put effort into trying to be friends with someone it doesn't mean it's always going to work out. Here are a few reasons your prospects may not be keen:
You're not what a person or group is looking for in a friend
You can't be a good match for everyone. We naturally get along better with some types of people, while others don't really do it for us. It could be that you don't have the traits someone is looking for in a buddy. It could also be that you have a bit of a trait they want, but not enough of it.
We all have our own list of things we look for, some of which we don't even think about. It could help to take a more thorough look at the people you're trying to be friends with and see if you're a good fit for them. Are your interests and values in line? Do your senses of humor match up? Would you be able to do the same types of activities together?
You do something that's off-putting to other people
It could be anything really. Too needy. Too aloof. Too caustic. Too nice. Too talkative. Too quiet. Too shy. Too domineering. Too out of touch. Too hip and trendy, in a smug way. Too boring. Too exciting. Bad breath. You stand too close to people when you talk to them. Who knows?
Other people may not want to be friends with you because you're unpleasant to be around in one way or another. They're too polite to tell you that so they just give you the runaround. And the problem is that you may not have any idea what you might be doing wrong. All you can do in the face of this point is to try to learn about your social mistakes and correct them. Otherwise you have to keep trying your best in the face of the fact that you can never be totally sure what everyone thinks of you. What you don't want to do is give up on making friends entirely, or become overly paranoid and insecure about how people may see you.
You fall into a demographic other people tend to dismiss right away
This one isn't very fair. We all know people can be mentally lazy and prejudiced. You could belong to to a group that a lot of your peers don't immediately consider friend material. Even if their reasons for it are vague and ill-defined, it still causes them to overlook you. You could be quite a bit older/younger than the other people at your job. You could be the only brown kid in a mostly white school. Or maybe you're the only hippy type at a preppy college. A similar idea is when you have a past reputation that taints how people see you.
You don't come across as if you take part in activities your potential friends enjoy
Some people may like you just fine, and have no problem talking to you in certain circumstances, but they never invite you out because you're not interested in the things they do in their off time. Or you may be interested, but not able to keep up with them to the point where they can have you around. Or you may just seem like you're not interested.
For example, you may get along with some people in your university residence, but because you aren't into dancing they don't invite you out when they go clubbing. Another group of friends may play basketball on the weekends. You may play too, but not at their level, so asking you to come wouldn't really work out. It's not personal really. They may even assume you'd be bored and are not inviting you out of consideration.
The situation that's fixable is when you just don't appear that you're into a certain activity. A fairly common example is when someone in college would have no problem going to a party, but because they come across as more conservative and buttoned-up people assume they're not down for that kind of thing. If they clarified they were interested in parties they may start getting more invitations. Or a group of friends could like going to see live music. Because you've never mentioned anything yourself about liking to watch bands, the idea of inviting you along never crossed their minds.
The people invited you out a few times and it didn't go too well
Sometimes you'll go out with some new people and it just won't go very well. Often the reason isn't that dramatic. The compatibility and rapport just wasn't there. On occasion someone may make more obvious mistakes that really cut off the chance of future invitations coming their way. Like they may embarrass themselves by drinking too much and acting like a try-hard goofball.
Your prospects are co-workers or classmates and aren't that open to being friends with anyone they meet at work or school
Although it can be a great place to meet friends, some people get confused when they try to hang out with their co-workers and don't get a lot of positive responses. Some reasons this may be are:
- The co-workers are just putting in their time. They see work as a place to tolerate so they can make money, not a social mixer. You may be great if they got to know you, but that's not something they care about giving a chance.
- They've already got friends outside the office, and have their blinders on toward making more.
- They've got a family to go home to and are too busy to meet new people or hang out once the day is over.
- They may be open to making friends in theory, but being at their crummy job sours their outlook just enough to make it a no go.
- Your co-workers may be judging you on your relatively boring, dull, "professional" demeanor, and not the real you.
University classes can be the same. Obviously the environment is one of the best places to make friends, but not everyone you meet is into that. Some of the students you'll come across are just there to show up, take their notes, and leave. They may already have friends or a relationship that keeps them busy. If they're from the area they may already have established lives outside school.
You know some people in one setting, and they're fine with being friendly to you there, but they don't see anything happening outside those circumstances
At work, school, or at a club someone may have no problem chatting to you for a few minutes here and there, but at the same time they don't see you as someone they want to hang out with for longer or in a different situation. Casually passing the time as you sit around the break room or wait for the professor to arrive is one thing, but they may not think you have enough in common to hang out on Saturday night. Plus at work or school we're more or less obligated to be civil to the people we find ourselves with, while in our spare time we can be choosier about our company.
Another of these situations can be "hanging out in a group". Someone may enjoy having you around when you're part of the mix at larger get togethers, but not see themselves being closer one-on-one buddies. If you're confused because you have interesting chats with someone every time the whole group meets up, but they make excuses whenever you invite them to hang out alone, that may be what's going on.