“I feel like an outsider looking in”, said Carol in her weekly therapy session. What Carol did not realize before this session was she is not the only one who reports feeling this way. In fact, most of the clients I work with report feeling disconnected to others.
People oftentimes report that they see themselves as playing a role with other people. They are anxious about how they are going to appear to the other person. They work very hard to read that person and act in a way that they believe will help them look their best to the other person.
Chances are good that the person they are trying to impress is doing the same task of mind reading and acting. Instead of two people relating to one another you have two people relating to their own ideas that they have for that other person.
A relationship does not deepen or develop because there is no relationship; only two people putting to life an idea they have in their own heads.
This is the dilemma that many relationships endure no matter how established they may appear. It can happen in long-term relationship as easily as new encounters.
What Keeps People From Making Friends
The common process used to acquire friends is often not very friendly at all. Here are some things that commonly keep people from making friends.
1) We don’t listen- Many people say they are good listeners but in actuality they do not fare very well. When you are listening to someone that is all you are doing. Many of us worry about what we are going to say in response to this person and are only half there. We listen just well enough to give an acceptable response that we feel will make us look competent, or funny or caring in the other person’s eyes.
Pay attention the next time you find yourself in a conversation. If you’re thinking of your response you can be sure you are not listening.
2) We are lonely- It’s ironic, people look for relationship when they are lonely in hopes to fill a void, but this can keep people from making lasting relationships. When we look to use people to fulfill an “emptiness” we preserve in ourselves we will end up falling short. Eventually no matter how many friends we have the loneliness will find its way back to the surface.
Besides, no one likes feeling used and if we keep that relationship as just a means of temporary relief it will never grow past a superficial connection.
3) Fear of Rejection- Fear of rejection not only keeps people from making friends, it also keeps people from deepening their current relationship. When we fear being rejected by another person our mind reading kicks into high gear. We attempt to figure out what the other person wants us to say or do. This can be very subtle (leaving out that we don’t like kale), or more extreme (going along with everything the other person suggests just to a void a confrontation and risk them not liking us).
When fear motivates our interaction with others we look to quell that fear. Consequently, the fear, not the relationship, takes center stage in our connections with that person.