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Reader Wisdom: Confessions of a People Person

April 16, 2017 | By | 13 Replies Continue Reading
Photo credit (Pixabay)

Photo credit (Pixabay)

Using the pseudonym Elizabeth M. Jacoby, a reader confesses that although she considers herself a “People Person,” it’s uncomfortable to always being the friend who invites and initiates.

I’m the friend you’d probably describe as a People Person. I’m the one who’s most likely to organize the neighborhood book club, and always volunteers to host the holiday potluck.

I’m the friend who plans and organizes the Girls’ Night Out activities and invites everyone to meet at the new cafe downtown.

When a friend or neighbor is ill, I’m usually the first one to show up at their doorstep with a casserole or a plate of cookies.

I’m the one who initiates friendships.

I’m not looking for praise or a pat on the back. But I do have a confession. There are times when I secretly resent being the person who “reaches out” all the time. And there are times when I find it exhausting to be a good friend.

Last week, for example, Jill, one of my close friends, left a guilt-inducing message on my phone. “I haven’t heard from you in weeks,” Jill began.”Is everything OK? It’s not like you to be so quiet.”

No, everything wasn’t OK. Aside from the fact that I’d been overwhelmed by the care of my elderly parents, I was tired of being the friend who always arranged get-togethers with friends like Jill. The last few times I’d seen Jill, we’d gone to movies, restaurants, and activities that I’d suggested and organized. I had, as a rule, been the one to call Jill before she thought to call me. It occurred to me, lately, that this was a pattern — in some of my friendships.

I wondered what would happen if I stepped back and let others reach out to me for a change.

It took several weeks for that to happen, and when Jill finally did reach out to me, she made me feel a bit guilty for not calling or texting. She admitted it hadn’t occurred to her that perhaps I needed help with my parents, or that I could have used a simple cheer-up call. Instead, she thought I was avoiding her. She reminded me that she’s an introvert, and that this is her pattern.

I’ve met a lot of women like Jill, and while they have many qualities I love and admire, I wish they would take more initiative when it comes to friendship. And there have been other times when I’ve wondered what would happen if I stopped reaching out to people.

What would happen if I didn’t keep initiating new friendships?

What if I were to become the introvert in my relationships?

In the past, whenever I’ve wanted to drop a friendship or just spend less time with a particular friend, I always made a point of easing up on my contact with them. So, lately, whenever a friend stops calling me, or waits a long time to hear from me, I usually interpret that as a need for some space — and I leave them alone.

I realize, of course, that there are emergencies and special circumstances in which this doesn’t apply. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

In a frank talk I had with Jill, I finally got the courage to tell her that sometimes I feel as if I am investing more effort in our friendship than she is. And when I am always the one who calls her to plan social activities, I begin to doubt the strength of the friendship. These days, I’m aiming for more balance, better communication, and more give and take. It feels so much better.

As much as I love being a “People Person,” I’d love it even more if my introvert friends would make an effort to reach out to me once in a while. Of course, I want them in  my life, but lately I’ve been more inclined to spend time with others who reach out to me, too.


Are you the initiator in relationships? Do you find that role satisfying?

What are the challenges of NOT being a “People Person?”

Do you think it’s possible for someone to change their personality/temperament? 

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Category: How to break up, KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (13)

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  1. LaurenM says:

    Just wanted to say that I know that some people advocate to “stop initiating ” with your friends, don’t contact them and then see what happens. Well, probably, in that case, the friends will be surprised at the break-off of contact, of communication, and possibly the friends may think that they are being ghosted. I have seen posts like that on this blog with people being sad that when they stopped initiating and contacting their friends, the friendship dwindled out. (Probably the other friends were sad, and thought they were being ghosted).

    Few people want to chase after a person who is ghosting them. So when people stop initiating or stop contacting their friends, it is not really a “test”, but it is, in reality, a signal to end the friendship.

    Also, I am an introvert, with a positive outlook, and some of my extroverted friends simply don’t like making the arrangements for the six of us to get together, and also they mostly don’t like picking things to do. But actually one friend in the group is very musical and she always arranges for the outings to concerts and any musical events for the group. At Christmas, she arranged and set up for us to go the theatre to see Mozart’s Magic Flute. So really in groups of friends, everyone has something to offer, as I see it. It might be a really kind heart or a good sense of humour or fun, etc.

    Just another angle from which to look at the situation.

    • Sandra says:

      I think the street has to go both ways, either way, Lauren M. But I agree. When I don’t hear from friends after I have contacted them a few times, I assume they want “space” or time off and I stay quiet.

  2. Leeanne says:

    I’m that person who plans ALL the parties. It gives me a lot if pleasure to be the one everyone looks to to plan their social calendar around. I remember one year I had to cancel my party because of financial reasons. My friends got together, had a meeting at my house and informed me that they would cover all the costs and pleaded with me not to cancel. I was surprised because until this moment, I had taken on all the burden of planning and paying for parties at my house. I recovered financially but the best part was realizing my friends were real and planning parties was just my personal contribution. I also realized that what this poster has is a gift and not everyone can do it. You’re the one people look to for a little joy in their life. Be grateful:)

  3. Madeline Romano says:

    Here’s what happens when you stop initiating parties, dinners, activities, get-togethers, whatever — absolutely nothing. No emails, no calls, certainly no invitations. Oh these people will, maybe, respond on FB to an infrequent photo or two but that will be the extent of their involvement with you. Please don’t talk to me about “life getting in the way.” Forming friendships are part of that life. But that impetus has died an ugly death.

  4. Joanna says:

    I have found myself more and more becoming the initiator. Personally I like it to be a two way thing as it feels that they generally want to see me. If I am the one arranging all the time it makes me feel that meeting up with me has becoming more of a chore or done because they can not find an excuse to give me. I would rather someone be honest with me but it is not the done thing is it. The trouble is some friendships do change, you grow apart and it is not the same, but sadly unfortunately we can not be honest about it because people take it personally. I finally had a relationship after years of being single and my friends were really happy for me. When it moved to the next stage which meant me moving over an hour away from friends and family it was one of my concerns, but my friends reassured me and said that they would be visiting. The hard truth fact is many of them haven’t. It hurt like hell and I started to question if I was a good friend. I would not think anything of traveling any distance to see my friends as I really enjoy seeing them and spending time with them. I also find it interesting how some always ask when I am down next visiting the family as they live in the same area as my friends so it is down to me to go to them all the time. I am more than happy to just have a coffee and chat indoors as well as going out as long as I see them. It has made me feel different about these friendships and now concentrate on the ones who make the effort for me also. I have found it difficult to step away from these friends as I miss seeing them, but I do not want to be a burden or mug and think maybe I am just not their cup of tea anymore? We all have busy lives. I find it interesting how so many people spend hours on social media but can’t find half an hour to phone or pop round anymore. Social media has a lot to answer for, in fact it has made people the opposite!

  5. Sara says:

    I have felt this lack of initiation issue with quite a few of my friends. Had a talk with one of them “Gail” and she felt that I never initiated get-togethers. I told her that was probably true in our case, but that I did seem to initiate all the contact with her, but that I will do better. I took what she said to heart and initiated contact and set up a get together with her – she invited two other mutual friends. Two days after that get together “Gail” and “Betsy” (both were at the original outing) met up and did not even bother to extend an invite to me. Very confusing. I also tried to have a conversation with “Betsy” about this very subject because I was doing all the contacting and inviting her out and over to my house for dinners etc. and I was trying to understand why she never initiated anything with me and wondered if she would please meet me half way. She explained that she does not contact people or initiate a thing and that she just waits to be invited places (I have known this person for over 20 years and was shocked that she would tell me this when I know that she calls or texts some of her friends weekly or even daily). Again – very confusing. Why would Gail tell me that I need to step up, but she is ok with Betsy sitting back ….Why would Betsy want me to believe that she does sit back when if fact I know she does not?
    I have decided to gracefully bow out of this group (not just over this issue, there has been a lot of drama going on)…..this is unfortunate because Betsy has been a longtime friend but I am getting conflicting information, feel like I am being lied to and am just too old to be playing these games. I have not initiated any contact in three weeks and have not heard a peep from anyone. So very telling indeed!

  6. Darlene says:

    I end up in the initiator role quite a bit, too. However, I try to make sure there is a bit of balance between give and take, I’m not comfortable in relationships where I have to do all the work. It just feels bad. But, some people just aren’t good at initiating, I don’t mind those people so much. The people who dont initiate and it’s obvious that the relationship isn’t equal in their mind, well, those ones don’t last. It probably wasn’t a real friendship anyway.

    It’s a bit of a balance, I think. However, if it’s making you feel bad, there’s a reason for that. Maybe branch out to people you end up on even footing with, if you have more people in your life like that, the others won’t seem so one sided.

  7. Sara says:

    I agree with you Lady Mary. I have had this problem with quite a few of my friends. Had a talk with one of them “Gail” and she felt that I never initiated get togethers. I told her that was probably true in our case, but that I did seem to initiate all contact, but that I will do better. I took what she said to heart and initiated contact and set up a get together with her – she invited some other mutual friends. Two days after that get together “Gail” and “Betsy” (both were at the original outing) met up and did not even bother to extend an invite to me. Very confusing. I have also tried to have a conversation with “Betsy” about this very subject and she explained that she does not contact people or initiate a thing and that she just waits to be invited places. Again – very confusing. Why would Gail tell me that I need to step up, but she is ok with Betsy sitting back ….I have decided to gracefully bow out of this group (not just solely on this issue, other drama too)…..this is unfortunate because Betsy has been a friend for over 20 years but I am getting conflicting information, feel like I am being lied to and am too old to be playing these games. I have not initiated any contact with any of the group in three weeks and have not heard a peep from anyone. So very telling indeed!

    • Irene (the other one) says:

      I would agree with you…just let this fade out gracefully. If you do meet Betsy on her own, just ask how she is – you could of course ask if she’d like to stop for a coffee etc. as you’d like to know how she’s getting on. Say nothing about yourself, unless she specifically asks – in which case she’d be still interested in your life. But, in some round-about way you might even find out how ‘Gail’ is doing too. :))

  8. Amy F says:

    Nobody can make you feel guilty without your consent. People aren’t mind readers. If you don’t ask for what you need, chances are you won’t get it.

    I’m extremely introverted. I’m also an organizer and leader amongst my friends. I suggest and collect the money for the group gifts when someone is going through a difficult time. I throw out ideas for weekend getaways. I also take responsibility for my part in setting the dynamics between me and my friends. If I’m always the one initiating the gifts, people will expect that as my role, so I’m not going to complain about it. If I want someone else to take over, if it stops being fun I’ll ask. If I feel like I’m doing all the initiating with a friend, I’ll talk to her about it instead of resenting her or playing mind games like seeing how long it’ll be before she notices. I take charge of my happiness.

    I’m not a people person. I relish my me time. But I also enjoy taking the lead when I’m interested in pursuing a project.

  9. Lady Mary says:

    I don’t feel that being an initiator has anything to do with being an introvert or extrovert. The constant reference in the article to introvert/extrovert detracted from the message.

    I am an initiator. As I’ve gotten older, I initiate less and less. Frankly it’s a test. Especially with people who claim to “love” me. I find the word “love” thrown around loosely, so backing off and seeing if a person finds it within themselves to call, text or email me is a real eye-opener.

    Facebook has made people lazy in the relationship department. So many assume if they post it on FB then everyone must know what they posted and therefore must be caught up on the stuff in their lives. So they take no action other than FB to invest in a friendship.

    To anyone in this position, I would say stop planning, initiating and reaching out before you get to the point of hurt. There’s a saying…you don’t know who real friends are until you go to jail or prison. Then you find out who your true friends are because they are there for you in your darkest days.

    If you want to find out who really cares, stop initiating. Don’t hold your breath though, expecting the phone to ring.

  10. LaurenM says:

    Yes, it happens in groups of friends that one person is the “initiator” and the others fall into the role of “participants”.

    From my experience, it seems that the initiators mostly really like to do the arranging (or they give that strong impression), and the participants fall in with the plans, but don’t, themselves like making the plans, for one reason or another.

    So if you don’t always like making the plans, then suggest that someone else volunteers to make the plans for the next get together. If you do that, try to be light-hearted and upbeat about the request so that the others don’t feel that you are mad at them: Or that you actually resent them or consider them lazy.

    It is difficult to change the group dynamics after some time has already passed, but if you are careful and diplomatic then everyone else should be OK about it.

    I am usually the one in my group to make quite a lot of the plans, and the others tell me that they love it as they enjoy all of our different outings I suggest and plan, and get-togethers, but they hate making the arrangements and can’t always think of new and different things to do etc. I actually like it, so I just leave things as they are. I have no resentment as my friends bring so much to the table themselves, so to speak.

  11. Irene (the other one) says:

    My husband and I are involved with a group of nine people. We meet three or four times a year, and we take it in turn to host the get together. This way we feel part of a social group, but the same person(s) is/are not burdened with hosting it each time.

    Some people just happen to be born leaders, knowing precisely what to do, while others feel inadequate and not up to the same standards, therefore just wait for someone else to take the lead. It might help if, you as the Leader person, suggest, or say something like: “Well, next time you want us to meet, you just call me.” Hopefully you will be able to meet this or these people at the time they suggest.

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