Living in a new city has me thinking about my interpersonal skills because I know I’m going to need them to eventually build a new life here. But… I kinda’ suck with new people – LOL! So, I’ve been thinking about a few faux pas that others and I sometimes commit when it comes to meeting new people, and how to counter them.
Whether you’re a “loner who doesn’t need people” (guilty) or someone who is always on point socially and never really makes a misstep in these matters, hopefully, there’s something in the list down below that can help your relationships with others. Building friendships, deep connections, and beyond with others can have fantastic benefits on your happiness, peace of mind, and literal health – so it’s worth getting right.
The “Real You” is Different than Who You Show Others
The first one that I’ll bring up is a classic: Playing roles in your life. I feel like everyone does this to some degree, but for a lot of us – this is sort of a survival tactic (in some twisted way).
You may not be your full-self at work because you don’t want to get fired (the real you might engage in some things that will get you fired – haha).
You don’t want to present the 100% true version of You to strangers because you don’t want to come off as weird to people you just met.
Every now and then you might fear judgement or failure tied to you giving genuine effort.
These things happen and probably hit people in one way or another. And while this may get you through life worry-free most days, it will also attract people you may not want to know – or it may push away people who you’d like to know a lot better. Why? Because you’re giving the world around you a version of yourself that you THINK it wants to see — not the genuine “You”.
To remedy this, just try being yourself. If you’re a little geeky — let it show. If you’re not a saint — curse a little. If you really don’t feel like helping out with something — say so. Honesty (with yourself and others) is the best policy for this faux pas, and it can help you a lot in the relationships you build.
You Are Impatient
“Rome wasn’t built in a day” (or so they say). And like that great civilization of old, relationships take time to develop. You shouldn’t just try to punch things into a zone of familiarity that hasn’t materialized yet with everyone you meet.
This has bitten me in the ass a couple of times in my life (I’m a pretty forward fellow). It has happened often enough that I was able to realize that the issue here wasn’t the other person – but my inability to respect their pacing. I was impatient. Rather than let something grow naturally into a more fruitful acquaintance, I jumped right in to “connect”.
I imagine this happened on my end because I’m accustomed to just clicking with all of my friends right off the bat, and finding kindred spirits. But sometimes you have to work a little harder to bond and nurture things for a bit before you start talking about intimate details of your life. Who knew?
Well, according to a 2018 study on the amount of time it took 112 University of Kansas freshmen to establish various levels of friendship…
“It takes about 40-60 hours of time spent together in the first few weeks after meeting for people to form a casual friendship.”
“To transition from a casual friend to friend takes about 80-100 hours of together time.”
“For friends to become good or best friends, it takes about 200 or more hours spent together.”
The only way to correct this behavior on your part is to mellow out. Give it time. Exercise patience and try to let genuine rapport build between you and the other people you meet. If it’s meant to be, it’ll be – so don’t force it. Just enjoy the ride and don’t try to brute force the destination.
You Don’t Clearly Communicate or Read Boundaries Well
There are times that you allow a certain degree of behavior that annoys you because it’s just easier. You don’t want to cause friction, so you endure. You may also be in some weird power dynamic that makes it a little more beneficial for you to just let the hindrance ride (e.g. a manager or person in charge of a project you’re working on may irk you).
There are other times where the tables may be turned, and YOU may be the source of others’ coincidental lack of gusto.
Whatever the case, I encourage you to do one of two things: Speak up more – or – (and hear this) Listen more.
I can count aloud in my head how many instances in my life I wish I’d communicated certain boundaries sooner (or “at all”), and I also try to learn when I screw up – so I can also count out how many times I wish I’d acknowledged boundaries set before me. Sometimes you can recover from missteps with a little time, but a lot of times this one can cause irreparable damage if left out there too long.
Try to learn to read the room on both ends to fix this behavior. If you’re feeling like someone is bulldozing something you hold sacred, interject — speak up for yourself. If you won’t advocate for yourself, who will? And if you’re noticing odd cues from others in response to you, don’t proceed as normal. Alter your behavior. Ask them for honest feedback, and take whatever they say with grace (don’t blow up when you hear something you don’t want to hear in response — I’ve done that). This one takes a lot of personal reflection and action to fix, but you’ve got this!
You Expect/Ask Too Much
I am not sub-tweeting anyone I know with this portion of this post (maybe I am), and I am definitely calling out certain behaviors I’ve been guilty of in the past (but I won’t specify which ones)…
You shouldn’t hold your friends to the same standards that you’d hold a lover to.
You shouldn’t expect everyone to do something for you just because you would do it for them.
You shouldn’t assume everyone is your best friend (that term carries a lot of weight with some people – and you can tell if the feeling isn’t mutual pretty quickly).
You shouldn’t be the friend who keeps tabs on things in a tit for tat sort of manner. No one owes you anything, so please stop doing things and expecting stuff in return. That’s not how real friendships should work.
Again, I know people who do some of these things, and I know that I have personally done some of these things. Each one will do a great job of making you either look or feel crazy (and entirely frustrated).
And there’s a good reason for that. When you do stuff like this, you create an awkward pressure that can ruin an otherwise harmonious arrangement. The running theme through a lot of these is to not force the issue in your relationships, and that’s especially true here.
What I can suggest being done to repair most of these is to allow for things to be reciprocated. That’s right! Don’t have any one-sided things out there. If you tell someone you love them and they don’t say it back — then please, for the love of God, stop saying it. If you notice someone doesn’t do something that you do — stop expecting it. If you consider someone your best friend and you’ve never heard them refer to you in the same way — they’re not that for you and you may be adding too much weight to that relationship. If this other person is “slacking compared to you” in the friendship — ease up your effort.
To get over this hurdle on a personal level is to accept that you can’t have a lopsided relationship and expect it to be beautiful on the sheer grounds that YOU REALLY REALLY want it to be. I am sorry, but it’s true (sadly).
You Take Things Too Personally
The last thing that I’ll point out is that you have to learn to let things slide in relationships as they’re being built. If you take every little thing personally, good luck in life. People will upset you. People will say or do the wrong thing (especially as they’re getting to know you better). YOU will screw up — trust me — you’re human and we mess up things a lot!
I can tell you honestly that I really suck at doing this for myself. I am my own worst critic and I tend to take things out on myself pretty brutally when I feel like I’ve screwed something up with someone I care about. Even when they tell me things are ok, I’d rather “not talk anymore” and carry the weight of my guilt on my shoulders than forgive myself. I don’t know why — I’m a glutton for punishment and it’s something I’m working on.
And I’ve also seen the reverse of this. I have seen others come down on someone really hard for the smallest slights. I have seen total judgments of character rendered based on one single event that suddenly outweighs every other hour of behavior that they’ve seen from the offender. This isn’t hyperbole, and if you’ve been on the receiving end of it when you’ve made an honest mistake – you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The key maneuver to resolving this final social faux pas of building new relationships is simple: Grace. Extend grace to yourself and to others. Give people the benefit of the doubt that good intentions were there (or at least “the lack of an intention to do harm”) and forgive and move on (if you want the relationship to remain).
On top of all of those, there’s a chance that you’re the problem/asshole in a lot of situations and just don’t realize it due to a certain lack of self-awareness, but that’s another blog post entirely 😂
Whatever the case – I don’t know what the relationships in your life look like, but mine are riddled with ups and downs over the years. I will personally be working on myself in my capacity for interpersonal relationships in the coming years, but I think it’s something we all can work on. This is definitely one of those life skills that no one ever truly masters, and we all need to practice regularly.
That said, do you think I missed anything? I mean, I know I did — so if you can think of any other hurdles to people building new relationships in their lives, please feel free to add that commentary below in the comments section.