Are You Allowed To Be My Friend?

Kelly Shibari

  “Are you friends with so-and-so? Well then I can’t be friends with you because I hate her guts.”
  “Why are you talking to that guy? He’s an idiot. I can’t believe you’re friends with them; I’m not sure if I can be your friend.”
  “If you become her friend, we can’t be friends any more.”

I’ve been part of, as well as listened in on, enough conversations by now to hear this bit of drama on a regular basis.

I learned that if you’re going to dole advice, or pass judgment, even if you leave the decision making up to the person you are talking to, you better be able to back up your claims.

What does it mean when someone bases his/her friendship and acquaintance decisions on who is in your circle? Is the six degrees of separation not, as I would think, separate, but actually intertwined?

I have been party to both sides of the coin:

1) I have been told by a handful of people not to associate with a certain colleague. They were people I trust and like, and we share similar interests. However, either because I’m stubborn or just a masochist, I am one of those people that, for some reason, has to learn on their own. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and hope that my friends’ experiences with that person were singular and unique to him/her, and somehow my interaction with that person would turn out differently, in a positive way.

Of course, I was wrong. Wait … Should I have written “of course” there? Should the majority consensus rule my decisions on how something turns out? No. But in this particular case, they were right, I was wrong — and I made the appropriate phone calls of apology for not having listened to them. I licked my wounds from learning on my own, knowing that my friends had my best interest at heart.

Would I listen to them again? Perhaps. I’m just one of those people that think that each interaction is different. I’ll probably have to lick my wounds again… but luckily, my friends are those that will not judge me when I go against their advice. They’re like me, and when I make those mistakes despite their better judgment, they will accept my apology with open arms. Because, every once in a while, there is an exception to the rule. Which brings us to…

2) I recently was the one on the other side of the fence. I had told someone that a mutual acquaintance was someone whom I did not trust. I made sure that I told the person that it was up to them whether or not they talked to this person who had wronged me. Who was I to dictate who my friends could and could not see?

Unfortunately, the person and I had a falling out of our own, and she migrated to that person who I had warned her about. They then decided to spend their time being “best buds” online, posting about how I was an idiot. I even received some hate mail from the person I had warned her about, including some rather strong physical threats. I sent a polite email back stating my position, and ignored the rest of the messages that were sent my way. I am not sure if they are still “best buds,” or if, as I suggested, that friendship ended badly just as mine had done with the person in question.

What did I learn? Did I learn that I shouldn’t warn people about others? Did I learn that I should keep my mouth shut and not share my experiences for the possible benefit of others? Rather, I learned that if you’re going to dole advice, or pass judgment, even if you leave the decision making up to the person you are talking to, you better be able to back up your claims. Facts, figures and actual logical information that you (and the person you’re advising) can use. I was able to, so I was also able to walk away from that drama without humiliation. The counter to that is the drama-filled “If you like them I can’t be your friend” argument, which has no basis in facts and should be taken with the proverbial giant grain of salt.

So, what’s the lesson here? If I could pass along some of my own advice, it would be this:

  • If you care who your friend’s friend is, then you probably have more time on your hands than I ever will. Perhaps a hobby might be in order, or a nice book?
  • If you make your friendship decisions based on whom your friend’s friends are, then, well, you probably have no original thoughts. Do you really like being a lemming?
  • If you need to warn a friend about a questionable person, business, or product —be able to back it up with facts. FACTS. Not hearsay, not gossip, not supposition, not idle obsessive “deduction.” You know what they say about assumptions.
  • If you do warn a friend about something/someone who is suspect, and they decide to try it anyway, be there for them if they decide they made a mistake and come back. They’re still your friend, after all — you have to accept them, mistakes and all.
  • If you do warn a friend about something/someone who is suspect, and they decide that they are compatible, then be happy for them. Don’t chastise them just because they succeeded where you failed, or clicked where you didn’t. Not you. We’re all unique — and our relationships are as well.

Yes, I know. I mess up from time to time too. But reminding yourself that not only do you falter but so do the people around you as often as you can, can be the difference between a bitter, lonely person and someone who is willing to forgive, embrace change, and bend.

Have you had any interactions where your friendships were questioned? Have you questioned someone’s friendships? Were you able to rise above, or did you let your selfish motivations get the better of you? Has the use of social media caused more drama, or created more networking and friendship opportunities?

More on this next month, and how it applies to social media, marketing, and business in general to come for you to read … of course, unless you’re a friend of anyone I may not like.