On the liking of people

I think there are four combinations you have can with regards to relationships between two people.

One, you both like and respect each other. This is amazing.

Fourth, you both dislike each other. This is stable. It becomes a lot less stable when you dislike each other but also respect each other, which is the situation I’ve found myself in a couple of times. It’s always a hard relationship to explain to other people and involves judicious use of qualifiers.

Second, I like them but they don’t like me. This is always sad, but it happens. Usually I can rationalize out a reason why. If one cares enough one can always drift into 4 to make things easier, though I usually settle into a mildly wistful state.

Third—and this is the rough one—is when they like me but I don’t like them. I’m currently doing something horrible and basically phasing a friend out. I’ve done this before and always pray they don’t ask me why, because it basically boils down to: you don’t think what I think is important is important, I don’t think what you think is important is important, we’ve assembled enough common ground that this works because it’s convenient for me, but it’s no longer convenient for me so I’m leaving.

I don’t like the way it feels. I’m still very capable of supporting people I care about, because I liked them in the first place (I can’t think of a situation in which I really liked someone as a person and then I randomly stopped liking them), but it feels deceitful with these people who I didn’t like upon outset and was then kind of using. What makes it worse is that the kind of people who don’t notice that other people don’t like them are usually the kind of people who need friends.

Gah. This is why I want a manual on social interaction. I had one experience in high school that had an enormous impact on how I continue to view the world. I didn’t make captain of the high school swim team. Whatever, fine. But what I took out of it was that it’s not about trying, it’s about trying right. And I see these people sometimes who are trying so hard, you can tell they’re trying so, so hard—they’re just not trying right. And that’s why I want a social interactions manual, because they’re TRYING and they’re STRUGGLING and I just want to hand something to them and be like: it’s all here, just follow these directions and you’ll be fine.

You can’t actually say any of this to people. It’s immensely hurtful, to be told you’re not trying right. I’ve been told I’m more open to criticism than most and I still don’t deal with it effectively. Moreover, being told you’re not doing it right in the social realm is so much worse than in any other domain, because for most of us, how we interact with others defines who we are. And you don’t want to go around telling people they have to change who they are.

So I do this nasty convenience thing, because I can get something from them and because I’m in a situation where I interact with them a lot (hence convenience), and because it’s rude and takes a lot of energy to avoid someone who you see a lot. Starting this sort of friendship is not actually a bad thing—we usually have a fine relationship—until we get to the part when I suddenly don’t need them anymore and break ties. But I promise you, I’m going to do that anyway—I’m not the type of person to hang around when I’m getting more negative than positive feelings after interacting with you unless there are extenuating circumstances—so I can’t do anything about that. I think the point at which to stop the whole thing is at the beginning, after I’ve established that we have some world view disagreement.

It’s circular, though. We’re back to the being-rude and convenience thing. There isn’t a good solution to this, otherwise I’d stop seeing this patten happen all over the place. This sort of phasing out doesn’t often happen to me because I’m excessively sensitive to when people possibly don’t like me and steer clear of the relevant person. (Also because when it did happen to me once I asked about it directly. Didn’t get a clear answer as expected, but it helped.)

What to do? I’m going to continue what I have been doing, but I wish there were a better way to go about this. It’s not nice to hurt people. And it feels like a trainwreck to watch, because you know exactly what’s happening with each of them, everyone is trying to take care of themselves and doesn’t mean the other harm, and I go on and do it anyway.

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