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?