Communication in Friendships

Ever had an email or chat conversation with a friend, talking about meeting up only to have the other disappear into thin air when you go into the details? And not because they suddenly decide they don’t want to see you, but just… I don’t know why. I wish I knew.

When I’m in a conversation with someone, I’m super focused on receiving what they’re sending. It’s a huge part of my job, and I was raised to be Interested and Accessible – you get the idea. I’m shocked and confused when someone suddenly drops off the radar. I just don’t understand. So I could have easily turned this post into an angry rant about how “some people” just “don’t understand” what “the right way” of communication is. Because I have plenty of experiences that made me so frustrated that I was this close to just giving up on the relationship because again it was me initiating contact after months of silence, making the decisions, setting the date for an (time and again) amazing, cool and fun date.

But after some crowd sourcing to get some great support on my side, I also heard from the other side. And what kind of journalist would I be (hi boss, I didn’t type this during office hours) if I wouldn’t give the other side a chance to defend themselves?

The first reason for dropping the ball I heard was, “There is no time,” combined with some, “I don’t have the energy/breathing space,” and everything else you can fit underneath lack of space to maneuver interest and attention towards a friend. To me, this is still a bit of a smelly one. If you’ve been replying to me every other minute, how can you suddenly be out of time? On the other hand, how often have you started a conversation, had it last longer than expected and suddenly had to run or get back into that meeting or driven into a tunnel?

The second excuse made me a little sad: “I don’t want to bother you.” This came from a friend of a friend, who honestly believes she lost friends because she feels so incredibly awkward about initiating a conversation or asking for someone’s time. As a result, she pretty much never does it. We’re friends for a reason! Bug me! Because if we’re friends, I can also tell you, “Very little time right now, I’ll be back later,” without breaking anyone’s heart.

The third one gave me the chance to feel smug. “I just forget about it.” Oh, ha! I guess our friendship is that important to you! But before I could do a victory lap around the house, I realized that I’m not the friend that checks in every week either. That I’m kind of okay with not seeing people for a period of time and just because when I suddenly have a craving for friend-contact, that doesn’t mean the world should hop to my needs. So is this the friendship I deserve?

Of course it can be terribly frustrating to not have the security of free afternoons after school and meeting up at your friends’ place or your own whenever you like. This adult life gives everyone different working times, different responsibilities, and house mates that might not allow visitors. Is the frustration worth the friendship? In some cases, definitely.

So, which side are you on? And any reasons I missed? And for the record, “I was frolicking with unicorns,” doesn’t count. Real friends invite friends to come frolic.

By freckle [M]

Freckle can't decide between writing fact or fiction, so she does both, on a very regular basis, and sometimes even for money.

7 replies on “Communication in Friendships”

I’m a terrible communicator. In fact, when I make a new friend I tell them I suck at communicating. It’s not that I don’t care, I just suck at it. Here are some reasons:

1.) I don’t know where my phone is half of the time.
2.) I don’t hear my phone because it’s still on vibrate from work.
3.) I’m sleeping because I work nights and when I am up, I don’t want to wake you.
4.) I read my text/email as I get them and a lot of times I can’t respond immediately, then I forget to respond when I do have time.
5.) I’m embarrassed by my awful communication skills and stress-avoid it, especially if I don’t know you very well.

Sometimes I’m better about it, but usually I fall back into my bad habits. My friends are used to me responding days later. Mr. Nonsense once deleted me from his phone because why have someone’s number who never answers? Heh. I like to think I make up for it in other areas–or at least, that’s what my friends tell me. :)

I’ve worried about “being a bother.” Like Silverwane said, this is probably worse with people I don’t know as well, but for me it can be difficult even with close friends. I’ve struggled with a driving phobia for the last few years, and even with close friends it’s embarassing to talk about and causes me a lot of anxiety to try and make plans with them because they either have to be in one of a handful of locations that I feel comfortable getting to, or I have to ask for a ride which is not always convenient. I’m working on this (and have made enough progress to feel like it’s worth it to even try to make new friends in the first place, which seemed pointless at my most anxious since I didn’t drive anywhere other than work) but I’m still just prone to feeling super awkward and worrying that I’m bugging people.

This happens more with acquaintances for me, but sometimes we’ll be talking about meeting up, doing X, or whatever…and I’ll feel really excited about it at first. But as the conversation goes on, I start feeling anxious about it for whatever reason. I try to do the thing anyway, but sometimes the anxiety wins.

Usually, my flaking out on things, whether it be friends, jobs, family, etc. has to do with various degrees of anxiety.

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