How to Make People Like You (Without Really Trying)

2:55 AM

A dear lady stopped me to discuss my college affairs. I looked so sad, she commented, and she wondered if it had anything to do with school -- being away from family and all. It must be hard and lonely at times. After I scraped my chin off the floor, I stammered something about yes, it was hard at first without my family but I'd made lots of friends since then and couldn't wait to go back. She looked at me for a moment and asked, "You made friends?" Lots of them, I assured her. She asked the question again. I reiterated that I was quite positive I had a good many amazing friends.

I didn't realize my ability to make friends was a cause for surprise.

But if I'm honest with myself, it does surprise me. Love surprises me. Friendship surprises me. Because I've struggled with this all my life -- how to love, how to be a friend, how to keep those friends and how to keep sane if I don't. Self-consciousness plagued me. Fitting in and looking good, I'm sorry to say, fueled too many decisions that blew up in my face.

I'm a people pleaser by nature. I don't know how that's possible, being ornery with most other things, but I like people to like me. At least in the initial stages of friendship, I nearly break my back bending over to please and perform. I quickly hide my faults and try to reform myself before my friend got close enough to see me for who I really was. I end up failing and crawling back to my room and sniveling about how awful I am and how hard this world is.

Yes, sirree. This pendulum swing called friendship near about killed me.

I finally got it now. Not got it as in possess it myself, but at least I got it in the sense that I recognize truth from error.

FACT: Friendship is not about me.

That may seem obvious, but it wasn't to me. All these antics to please people really weren't about them or meeting their needs. They were about me. They were about affirming my worth and uniqueness. They were about me being able to say, "I'm popular -- look at all the pretty people I've got lined up on my heart shelf!" They were my safeguards against turning into a total life failure.

Oh, I told myself it was for others. I would refrain from doing things and rerun conversations through my mind because I wanted to make sure I didn't offend or annoy anyone. (Annoying people was the worst sin, in my eyes.) Really, I just wanted to be liked. I kept pestering people about whether I annoyed them and feeling certain they secretly hated me. I harped on people who I feared were starting to dislike me, praying I could charm them over before it was too late.

It made for a pretty miserable existence.

That's when I learned another fact about life.

FACT: Not everyone likes me -- and that's ok.

Because friendship's not about me, it's all right if people don't like me or get me or want to be my best friend. It's ok if they refuse my offer to help them or love them. My worth doesn't rise and fall on the one person who decides to grow close to someone else. It doesn't mean I'm an awful, annoying person -- though it may be true that my quirks annoy them. Different strokes for different folks.

And that's all it means. No drama required.

These two facts have been empowering me to love bolder and deeper than ever before. I used to overanalyze everything. I don't now. I try to be sensitive to people, make the best judgment I can and go for it. I cut myself slack if I read people wrong. I let go of friendships that weren't meant to be. I pursue friendships that I currently have with everything I've got, knowing that I can only love the way I know how. Nobody expects anything else. God doesn't expect me to be anything else than me striving to be His hands and feet.

Being perfect and overanalyzing friendships were not efforts at love. They were attempts to control people and outcomes to my benefit. With these two simple facts, I've been freed from that. I let other people love me without freaking out over whether we'll stay best friends until our dying breaths. I try to love others without expecting them to love back.

It's not about me. And it's ok if I mess up. And there's a limit to how much I can understand and befriend the entire world.

It's about God and people and loving them in the opportunities I'm given and the ways I know best. And it's glorious -- because that's the way friendship ought to be.

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4 impressions

  1. Hey Bailey,
    This post inspired, and encouraged me so much!
    It was like, you had written it for me. I really needed to hear all that, because I'm in that same situation.

    Could I link up your post and share it? Or would that be weird?...
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lexi, I would be honored! Please do.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey I've been reading your blog off and on for a while now. I just wanted to say thanks for writing this was particularly encouraging. Keep pressing onward!
    B from IL

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