HOT BUTTON: To Friend Or Not To Friend

Invariably, years of volunteering has enriched my life with bringing some wonderful people to me that I may not have met otherwise.   I can also say this about my transplant experience, but then also improv & blogging & other hobbies.  A sense of community is a great thing.  Strong friendships even better…

Yet, I’m going to talk about point that far too often gets swept under the carpet & ignored.   I’ve talked before about 800 pound gorillas, but this is a bit more subtle I think.   It’s more like a cantankerous badger or a raccoon making mischief or scurrying about.  It kind of skulks around & shows its face every so often.

I am very live & let live. I can also be truthful & a bit blunt.  At times sarcastic.  I can also get fiery when I get passionate about something.   Therefore, I am not everyone’s cup of tea as a leader, social media contact, or a friend.  That is OK.  It’s OK for us both to feel that.

Someone doesn’t have to like me personally for me to still go to the wall & try to advocate for them as part of our shared community on something of importance.   They don’t have to agree with how I live my life or what if any spiritual practices we share or don’t share.   It’s part of what makes us unique as individuals. What makes our personalities unique.

I remain civil because I know some circles are small & life’s too short to not co-exist peacefully when we are fighting our own battles with our health & quality of life.  I also respect that from time-to-time that also stirs intense feelings to the surface on certain subjects that are by nature sensitive.

Yet, I can be friendly & choose to remain at a safe & healthy distance for me.  I am, believe it or not, an introvert by nature.  While I’m open (sometimes to a fault) with my health experiences, my emotions I keep close to the vest.   I feel people out & take time to get to know them.

If we are not compatible personality-wise that’s OK.  Neither of us should feel we have to force something we don’t feel.

Just because we share interests, hobbies, and/or disease communities doesn’t obligate us to automatically be friends by default.

Sometimes, over a period of time, things change as result of experiences we go through.  We drift apart or lose contact or our perspectives on issues shift.  That doesn’t mean either one of us can’t admit we no longer are compatible.

I say this because maybe had we not had these shared experiences or communities we wouldn’t be friends otherwise outside of it in real time or daily interaction.   We wouldn’t have chosen to be because our personalities don’t mesh well.

That’s OK, there’s nothing wrong with either one of us admitting that. It’s human nature. So why is it so hard to admit to sometimes?

I say this because there have been people that I have been afraid to admit this to over time for fear of making unnecessary waves or friction in working towards a common goal.  I realize I was too timid in that regard & did both of us a disservice in the process.

Perhaps the ugliness that sometimes resulted at points could have been avoided entirely if I hadn’t been concerned so much with taking “the high road” or “being the diplomat” all the time & had just been authentic in my honesty. I do make attempts to be truthful without being hurtful where possible.

Or even just saying simply, “Not only do we not agree, we don’t get along”.  Acknowledging it, instead of keeping it hidden like a dirty secret for the sake of the “common good.”

Likewise, if someone said to me, “I respect you, Nikki, but sometimes I just can’t stand you.”  I get it.

That doesn’t sting.  It wouldn’t hurt. I’d appreciate it because it’s clear where we stand with each other.

Backstabbing, gossip, hearing or reading messages that spell this out to others thinking I won’t know, that does hurt.  Undermining goals or conversations or tokenizing or patronizing comments in emails that somehow make their way to me by “accident” does too.

We are human after all.  We can acknowledge each other without having to be joined at the hip or best buddies.  I’d rather someone tell me they don’t like me than to pretend they do.

As a general rule,  my friends, both volunteer & otherwise, know me as loyal & genuine. They usually know where I stand with them. Also how I feel about them, even if I don’t say it as often as I should sometimes.

I know this post comes across as hurtful.  It is a pain point but one that is not talked about & needs to be in our shared circles of life.   We can all play in the same sandbox nicely & then not get along outside of it sometimes with certain people.

I think it hurts worse to not acknowledge that we are going to encounter people in hobbies, interests, & diseases that we don’t like & would rather choose not to be friends with than to admit those feelings are there. Attempting to hide them for the sake of diplomacy.

It backfires. It did for me in the past with certain people (who are now out of my life) but I won’t continue to allow it to do the same in the future.

Just because we share interests, a disease, or volunteer experience, doesn’t automatically make us friends.  It shouldn’t obligate us to either.  We should be able to be true to our personalities & to each other (ourselves) whether we like each other personally or not.

Now that said, let me use a small example.   If I send a friend request on Facebook to someone because I want to get to know them or know they live in my area & might have some shared interest or experience worth discussing, I will. I have no problem with that.

It does not automatically give license for someone to jump in the middle of my conversations with others & correct my spelling or grammar errors in public if I’m not responding to that person directly. (Or simply to only write negative comments on my wall as the sole basis of their interaction with me. I’ve seen that happen to others, too.)

I don’t correct people on Facebook with their spelling or grammar because it’s where they interact with family & friends.  It’s not tied to their job. I try to interact on subjects both sensitive & ordinary if that person wants friends to engage with them.

Now, to me, if it was a friend of 5 or more years & I knew them well & that their penchant for grammar was extremely important to them, maybe I wouldn’t mind the prior example so much.

Yet if I have known someone less than a week & it’s hijacking an interaction with someone else entirely, I don’t really feel it’s appropriate for that person to intrude on our conversation.  Telling me how grammatically incorrect my comment was if they aren’t the person I engaged with initially.  I may say just that in a gentle & direct way as much as I can muster to avoid some unpleasantness but I will say something. Then the feedback can be taken or left.

There’s also humorous or less disarming ways of making that same point if it’s really personally upsetting than posting a full explanation of just how wrong I was in a conversation with someone else I was trying to get to know in commenting on their post.

On the other hand, if one of my blog posts had a spelling or grammatical error that drove someone nuts, I’d take that feedback & incorporate it.   It’s my writing, it’s appropriate & warranted in that case.  I don’t mind being made aware of mistakes.

But there’s a time & place for everything, including friendships. We can also choose how we interact going forward in a way that’s comfortable for us both. We can also choose to limit our engagement to our shared interest solely until we find out more about each other & whether we actually are compatible people.

It’s up to both of us to each move at our own comfortable pace, respectfully. We are not horrible people if we don’t end up liking each other or choosing not to be friends in the end, either.



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