• Resolving Problems

How Do I Deal WIth A Pushy Person?

Published: March 10, 2021 | Last Updated: March 10, 2021 By | 9 Replies Continue Reading

A reader asks how to handle a pushy person who has become more needy since the pandemic. 

QUESTION

Dear Friendship Doctor:

A woman who regularly attended one of the local workshops I teach asked me to meet her for lunch a couple of years ago, before the pandemic. Since then, she has been pursuing a friendship with me. She is a nice person, and I didn’t mind meeting her for lunch or coffee every couple months or so — but I really didn’t want the friendship to develop beyond that. I already struggle to make time for the other people in my life, my work, and so forth. 

Over the course of the pandemic, this person has started sending me cryptic emails alluding to problems she’s experiencing, and she has frequently asked me if we can meet at a walking trail (social distancing) or chat on the phone to catch up since we can’t meet for lunch. We never had a “phone chat” type of relationship, and I don’t want to start that with her.

I’m starting to feel pressured and guilty. I sense she is needy and wants more from the friendship than I want to give. How do I tell her that I don’t mind meeting for lunch every couple months, but I don’t want to be one of her besties? She’s a pushy person. I’ve tried the “I’m busy” routine and she doesn’t seem to get the message.

Thank you for your advice,

Lauren

ANSWER

Dear Lauren,

This is a tricky situation but remember, unlike relationships with family, friendships are purely voluntary. They should be mutually satisfying and are predicated on two people wanting to spend time together. 

The reasons for that chemistry can be complicated. It may entail such factors as shared history, common interests, ability to communicate, and/or convenience (e.g., having time availability).

It seems that you like this woman well enough as an acquaintance but really don’t want to forge a closer friendship; you don’t have time for or interest in this type of relationship right now. You’re not alone. During the pandemic, many people have tended to give up casual friendships and remain close to good friends.

Clearly, this woman wants a closer, more consistent friendship with you than you do with her. Your suggesting that you meet periodically for lunch might not only be frustrating for her but also might give her the idea that you want to be friends.

My suggestion: Set clear boundaries and tell her that although she’s a nice person, you really don’t have the time for a friendship. If she’s a pushy person and keeps asking, you probably just need to say no, maybe repeatedly. 

One problem may be that you have been sounding equivocal because you don’t want to hurt her feelings . This ambiguity may be giving her the wrong impression, which could turn out to be more hurtful to her in the long-term. 

I know it’s easier to give this advice than to put it into practice but my guess is that if this woman is a “pushy” person, she’ll probably find someone else to latch on to when she realizes you are unavailable.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene


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Category: one-sided friendships

Comments (9)

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  1. Sandra says:

    I appreciate this post, and especially liked how Irene pointed out that many of us have gravitated to our oldest friends during the pandemic. Now that I think about it, that has been true for me. I’ve even reestablished ties with best friends from high school and room mates from college — people with whom I share a deep history. These old friendships give me a much-needed sense of comfort and safety during difficult times. But I’ve had little or no motivation to spend any time connecting with my “casual” friendships, as Irene noted.

  2. Anni says:

    Friendships with other women can be challenging. Obviously, you don’t care for this woman… for one thing she is pushing. That’s not a desirable trait. Take that a little further, you can find out they are also sometimes a bully. Sometimes people have all the relationships they need and really don’t have time.
    It’s sad for her because chances are that other people feel the same way about her. She should be writing in to get ideas on how to become the kind of person many people would want to be friends with.

    • Irene says:

      It isn’t easy being on either side of this equation, unfortunately.

      • Anni says:

        Exactly, there are tons of people on each side of this equation. Both are challenging. Some people are not up to letting any more people in their lives. There could be lots of reasons: fear, lack of trust, even an unaccepting nature. If one gets too many rejections, they may give up and think something is wrong with them. This could compound the problem. The person who doesn’t want to let new people into her life is losing out on
        experiencing the joy of others who have plenty to offer in terms of sharing and receiving what they maybe didn’t experience with those who they’ve known for a long time. “ Make new friends but keep the old… one is silver and the other’s gold.”

  3. officerripley says:

    You’re entirely justified in guarding your time but as someone who has been on the other side (the “needy, pushy” side) of this, I do ask that you and anyone else in this position do try to spare some sympathy for those needing friends. There are a lot more of us than I think most people (even those in the therapeutic community) realize.

    • Irene says:

      Yes, to a point, but I’m sure it isn’t comfortable having to be “pushy” either. Better to seek out someone who is more responsive.

      • officerripley says:

        Ah, but in order to “seek out someone who is more responsive,” one will most likely come across as “needy” or “pushy” since people these days seem to be more worried about new acquaintances turning out to be “needy” or “pushy.”

        What might help people who find themselves in Lauren’s position and are bothered enough by it to post on blogs is to take a page out of the upper-class British’s book–and some Asian cultures I hear–where it is considered better to be more reserved with anyone other than your closest friends. So tone down the warm, friendly stuff when, for instance, running into an acquaintance at the store: don’t give it the warm, friendly, “Hi, there! How are you?” Instead, use the Queen of England approach, a cool smile and, only if they speak first, then a cool, “Oh, hello there.” And then cut the conversation short as soon as just barely polite. With practice, it can be done and become a habit; it would be a kindness to cut back on getting people’s hopes up for a friendship that doesn’t have a chance.

  4. Amy says:

    If your approach to the relationship is, “I don’t mind seeing her once every few months” you’re just not that into her. It sounds like you’re tolerating this person, not embracing her as a friend, but an obligation. That’s not an equal relationship. I wouldn’t want be on either side of that friendship. You don’t owe anyone your friendship. Your time and energy is precious. Guard it as a resource for your physical and mental health.

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