Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Carolyn: For several years I’ve taken a vacation in the spring with three other women, to various cities in Europe. We’re Internet friends who met through a hobby; none of us lives in the same town.
I found out that this spring’s vacation has been planned, and I’m not invited. I emailed the woman I feel closest to and she said it’s because I was worried about money right now, which is true but not really an answer. Friend 2 hasn’t responded.
Friend 3 emailed me back and said some inane stuff about how I want everything my way and I’m not a “giver” and blah blah, when I pressed her for specifics. I responded pointing out the ways she’s wrong or misunderstood me, and she responded with “and there you go.”
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I can’t believe they would cut me out like this! I am really hurt, and I would really like to go with them to Europe this spring. Can you suggest how I should approach this to get myself reinvited? Thanks.
Why do you want to be with people who don’t want you? Your best chance for a joyful trip with friends is to cultivate new friendships.
These friends have told three different stories — money, silence, “not a ‘giver’” — but the message is the same, that they do not want to travel with you anymore. I’m sorry. Exclusion is a special form of agony.
I realize this will feel like another slap when what you want most is reassurance, but I think it’s important that you look at your own words here for a map out of similar exclusion in the future:
“Friend 3 emailed me back and said some inane stuff about how I want everything my way and I’m not a ‘giver’ and blah blah … . I responded pointing out the ways she’s wrong or misunderstood me.”
Translation: This friend was honest about how she felt about you, and instead of giving her words some careful and humble thought, you immediately invalidated everything she said. You can’t ask people to give you their thoughts and then flatly reject those opinions — not if you want people to like you and enjoy spending time with you.
Do you think you can get yourself, emotionally, to the point where you can respond to such criticism as follows?: “My first thought was that you aren’t being fair, but you obviously believe these things and had the courage to say them to me directly. I will give your words careful consideration, and examine my behavior. Thank you for your candor.”
It is a whole other kind of agony to face the unlikable side of ourselves. However, it’s one that ultimately makes us more likable, and much less apt to get dumped from a group’s annual trip. Knowing how you’re at fault and admitting it is what frees you to become a truly good friend and travel companion and so much else.
Please take the criticisms as potentially constructive ones, try approaching things differently, and bring a humbled, more empathetic self to the journey of making a new set of friends.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com.