Making friends isn’t the same as keeping friends

Sometimes it seems like there’s no middle ground with me. People either seem to like me or they don’t. Or they say they like me and they don’t.

I think I’m generally likable: easy to get along with, happy to help, quick with a joke (or a light of your smoke). I can close people off when I think they’ve been rude, untrustworthy or just plain dumb… but with time, I usually let stuff like that pass. There’s also the “dryness” factor. Because of my dry (or it is wry?) sense of humor, people don’t always know when I’m being serious or kidding. People do occasionally take things I say the wrong way (okay, more than “occasionally”).

I’ve been going through an episode lately that has people making comparisons to the emotional level of things that happen in high school. I won’t bore you (or embarrass anyone) with the details, but I will say that for a change, it wasn’t my fault… even though I got caught up in the middle of it and lost someone I thought was a good friend. Boiled down: someone got their feelings hurt when they thought someone else had misrepresented a situation. It got messy enough to split people who weren’t even involved into different camps, with the attendant anger, e-mails and finger-pointing… even an accusation of… collusion.

I promise, everyone involved with this is well past the age of majority. And, after a few weeks, it seemed as if everyone had gotten to a point of understanding, if not forgiveness. While no one responsible actually took responsibility, it seemed as if most of us were ready to move on. So it seemed.

Last night, I was with a couple of the people involved while a couple of the other people involved were at the same place. The evening went by with only a passing acknowledgement of each other. At the end of the night, I thought it would be polite to speak to the person at the center of this. After all, we had become pretty good friends prior to the split, and had reached what I felt was a rapprochement, trading e-mails that I thought buried the hatchet.

Well, while the other person did speak, it was cool enough and short enough to make a person standing right next to us think I had been shrugged off.

It’s easy to get your feelings bruised when people don’t act the way you might want them to. If that’s the case, you have to get over yourself. Your problem isn’t their problem. I had a good friend. I was angry, hurt and upset when that person didn’t act in a way that I thought was appropriate. Now, it doesn’t seem like I have their friendship anymore – not in public, at least.

I’m not calling that person out for their role in this little melodrama or for the way they reacted to me last night. That’s really not their problem. They have to act as they see fit. If I don’t like it, it’s my problem. If I’m upset that we’re not “friends” anymore, that’s my problem too. I guess that having one fewer friend is just something I’m going to have to get used to, especially since I stopped talking to them in the first place when I lost my temper.

At least one person who knows both of us and about what happened told me that I should apologize – even if the original incident wasn’t my fault. If you’ve determined by now that the person I had the problem with is a woman, well, yeah…

If you’re still wondering why I’ve gone so personal on a blog that’s supposed to be about dealing with unemployment, keep hanging on, it can take 600+ words for me to get to the point.

When you hit a rough patch, you really (really) need your friends beside you. And when people I’m close to have gone through their own problems, I’ve tried to do what I can (including several times for my former friend). And while she did send me a “you’re good, I know you’ll get through this” note when I was laid off, I guess it makes me sad to know that that’s all I’m going to get.

The key to being able to work through a big loss is more than just having a network. Yes, there is a good chance that information on a next job will come from someone you know. That makes it important to maintain good relations with people who might end up being in a position to help you. But think about it, before that happens, it’s the emotional support from the people you treasure that’s so much more important.

I don’t say this enough, but for all of you who have reached out with support, good wishes and other help, I treasure you all the more. And for that other person, it really was nice to see you, cold shoulder or not.

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About Doug Johnson

I spent 25 years in the news business, working in print, radio and television. After a steady rise to the middle, I made the leap to the private sector, which chewed and then tried spitting me out after 2 years. I zigged (instead of zagging) into a position in television production.
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