These 15 Social Mistakes Stand Between You And New Friendships

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Making new friends as an adult can be incredibly difficult, especially if we unconsciously sabotage our own efforts.

Here are 15 avoidable social faux pas that can derail your attempts to cultivate new friendships.

(Note: If you’re autistic, ADHD, or both (AuDHD) you’ll naturally have a different communication style to the social ‘norm’ because that’s how your brain is wired. Your communication style is just as valid. As with all things in life, social interactions are about compromise and understanding from both parties. You should not be expected to change who you are. Use what helps and feels comfortable while staying true to your authentic self.)

1. Trying to fit in with a group that you don’t truly align with.

One of the best ways to make yourself a social pariah is to try to befriend a group that you don’t really align with. If you’ve ever cringed while watching an older adult trying to befriend younger people by speaking their slang and acting “cool”, you’ll understand what we mean here.

It’s wonderful to cultivate friendships with people of all ages and social groups, but that’s different from trying to integrate into a close-knit group that you have little in common with.

2. Invading their privacy.

Few things can make discomfort levels go from 0 to 100 like asking overly personal questions too quickly when you’re just getting to know someone. People share intimate life details when they’re comfortable doing so, and it takes time to get to that point.

Keep topics neutral and relevant to the discussion at hand, and don’t ask anything about their personal life. If they want you to know anything, they’ll tell you when they’re ready.

3. Over-sharing personal information.

Sharing too much about yourself too quickly can overwhelm and alienate those you’re trying to befriend. It can also put you in a vulnerable position if you share too much info with the wrong people.

It’s great that you feel comfortable being so open with people, but trauma-dumping on others or discussing topics that they only talk about with their partners and healthcare providers can make them cut contact with you quickly.

They’ll feel like you want them as therapists more than friends, and they’re likely dealing with too much of their own stuff to contend with yours.

A good way to negotiate this is to let others bring up topics, and then share details of your own in equal measure.

4. Behaving inappropriately.

If you’re keen on alienating the people you’re trying to befriend, then behaving in an inappropriate manner will help you achieve that goal.

There’s a time and place for vulgarity and suggestive jokes, but this isn’t one of them. Refrain from swearing, crassness, or making puerile comments around people you’re trying to get close to.

Furthermore, although some small part of you feels that it’s funny to be racist or misogynistic “as a joke”, don’t. Being offensive or derogatory isn’t as amusing as you might think it is.

As an additional note, inappropriate behavior can also include lax personal hygiene. You may feel fine about the fact that you haven’t showered or brushed your hair (or teeth) for a month, but that doesn’t mean that others want to be anywhere near you.

5. Dominating conversations.

When you’re talking with new friends, are you actively listening and showing interest in what they’re saying? Or are you just waiting for them to stop talking so you can get back to topics you’re more interested in?

If people share their stories or achievements with you, do you show enthusiasm for what they’re sharing? Or immediately go back to talking about yourself instead?

If you fall into the latter category, this paints you as both indifferent and arrogant and can keep people from connecting with you the way you’d like.

6. Missing social cues.

When someone is trying to end a conversation or get away to have some personal space, do you acknowledge and respect that? Or do you ignore their discomfort because you have more to say, or want more of their attention?

Not paying attention to social cues and body language can make people uncomfortable around you, thus sabotaging potential friendships.

7. Excessive self-promotion.

When cultivating new friendships, do you see them as opportunities to sincerely get to know and connect with other people? Or do you see these people as potential contacts and connections who may be able to invest in your new business?

Do you want to invite these friends to the cottage to hang out and have fun? Or to show off your property, your new boat, your framed certifications, and so on?

Focusing on yourself more than them would make you seem terribly self-absorbed.

8. Forgetting names or important details.

We all forget things sometimes, but if you’re repeatedly forgetting someone’s name, career, or family dynamics, then that tells them that you don’t care enough to pay attention to what they’re telling you. This will result in them not investing much time or effort into you either.

If you have problems with memory retention, keep a notebook at hand and tell them exactly why you’re writing these things down. They’ll be a lot more patient with your lack of recall if they understand why it’s happening.

9. Overstepping helpfulness.

Helpfulness is a wonderful trait, as long as it isn’t intrusive or overbearing.

For example, showing up with food when someone is grieving is usually appreciated, whereas mowing their lawn or buying their groceries without consent is overstepping and potentially opens doors to controlling behavior.

While these behaviors may be appreciated by friends they’ve known for 20+ years, they’ll generally find it an uncomfortable, intrusive red flag if a new acquaintance does it.

Essentially, closeness in friendships happens gradually, over long periods of time. Forcing intimacy too soon will just push people away instead of cultivating closeness.

10. Failure to express gratitude or reciprocity.

Friendships involve a balance of give-and-take. As such, it’s important to both express sincere gratitude when people go out of their way for you and to reciprocate these actions whenever possible.

If your new friend pays for lunch this week, ensure that you pay next week for the sake of respect, balance, and reciprocity. Failure to do things like this regularly makes people feel like you’re taking advantage of them, rather than cultivating an equal, caring friendship.

11. Ignoring invitations without response.

We all get busy sometimes and neglect to answer texts or emails in a timely manner. That said, if you continually fail to respond to invitations, you’ll stop being invited to things.

Maybe you’re anxious about committing to something you don’t know you can attend for sure, or you don’t actually want to go but don’t want to let them down. It doesn’t matter what your reasoning is—have the courtesy to respond if you’d like to continue to be invited in the future.

12. Being overly competitive.

Friendly competition can be both fun and healthy in the right circumstances. For instance, owning your friends at pub trivia night can be hilarious, while trying to bypass each other’s fitness achievements can encourage both to surpass previous goals.

Many good friends playfully “one-up” each other in good fun, but that’s quite different from someone who’s perpetually being overly competitive with them.

This is especially true if the one-upmanship is cruel, or if the person is a sore loser. Examine how you behave in these circumstances and ask yourself how much time you’d like to spend with someone who acts like that.

13. Insincerity.

People can tell whether you’re being sincere with them or not. If you’re overly people-pleasing, fawning, or pretending to be something you’re not, you’ll end up alienating the very people you’re trying to befriend.

They’ll recognize that you’re being insincere with them, and will thus keep their distance from you, rather than allowing you to get closer to them.

14. Constant reassurance-seeking.

It’s great to be able to rely on our friends for comfort and reassurance, but it can be incredibly draining to constantly have to be a pillar of support for someone whose life is a constant dumpster fire.

Additionally, perpetual reassurance-seeking in the guise of self-deprecating comments is both tiring and irritating.

The expectation to constantly reassure others demands a great deal of emotional labor from people who may already be frayed due to their own life stresses.

15. Ignoring group dynamics.

Every friendship group has established dynamics. There may not be a hierarchy per se, but rather roles and leanings that everyone has gotten comfortable with over time. When there’s a get-together, Dave will always be in charge of the beer, Dinah will do all the event coordination, and so on.

As such, trying to change these dynamics by “taking charge” or insisting on taking over a responsibility will create friction. Instead, ask how you can help and allow these people to give you tasks that they’re comfortable with.

About The Author

Finn Robinson has spent the past few decades travelling the globe and honing his skills in bodywork, holistic health, and environmental stewardship. In his role as a personal trainer and fitness coach, he’s acted as an informal counselor to clients and friends alike, drawing upon his own life experience as well as his studies in both Eastern and Western philosophies. For him, every day is an opportunity to be of service to others in the hope of sowing seeds for a better world.