Ask Dr. Nerdlove: How Do I Make Friends?
What's up, Kotaku? Welcome to the latest installment of Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only advice column dedicated to helping make nerds sexy and the world a little more geek-curious.
Before we get to your letters, I want to give a gratuitous plug: I've written a book! If you've ever been mystified by dating and wished it could be a simpler, more enjoyable experience, then you owe it to yourself to check out Simplified Dating, available exclusively from Amazon. And if you enjoyed it... well, I'd love it if you'd give it a review.
And now we've got some letters, starting with an important question that many of us have wrestled with over the years:
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I'm a guy who has trouble making friends. I make acquaintances all the time. Some people who run into me will smile and wave to get my attention and start a conversation with me. Sometimes we do stuff around town as well. Everything seems to go fine and I go home feeling happy. However, if I don't message these same people to meet up for lunch/a movie/the mall they never ever message me. If I do message these people, I will most likely be ignored. But even when I do get a reply, it's mostly 'I'm sorry, I'm busy/stressed and I have no idea when I'll be available'.
On a few occasions, I did manage to pull it off, but it has never led to that person doing the same for me. And it's not like I tried only once with people. No combination of waiting and messaging got a person to be any more interested. They never reached out to me if they did not see me in person.
What am I doing wrong? How do I make friends and possibly get a girlfriend at some point? Acquaintances are not enough.
The No Friends Zone
So this is something that almost everyone runs into as we get older. When we're growing up, we tend to make friends the way other people breathe. But once we get older - especially after we graduate from college - it gets harder and harder to meet new friends; not acquaintances or familiar faces at work but actual "let's hang out and do shit together" friends.
And over time, you'll continually find yourself in situations where you don't have too many friends (if any) and it seems impossible to make new ones. You may move to a new city where you don't have an established social circle or old friends drift away... It can be a little disheartening. It leaves you feeling like you're inevitably losing people in your life with no way of finding more.
The thing to keep in mind is that, once you're out of college, finding new friends is a lot like dating; it's going to take some work on your part to get others to want to hang around. Fortunately, it's not hard to to get people to like you.
One of the keys to making friends is finding commonalities and building a rapport with them - that is, developing a relationship where you feel like you know and trust each other... and one of the best ways of doing that is to get them to talk about themselves.
It seems a little narcissistic, but we are legitimately drawn to people who show interest in us. Scientists have found that talking about ourselves actually triggers the same pleasure centers in our brains that respond to eating delicious food or making money. So when people ask us about ourselves, it makes us feel good - and that makes us want to hang around them more. This is known as the reward theory of attraction: we spend more time around people whose presence makes us feel validated and appreciated. As long as the rewards - feeling good - outweigh the costs, we prioritize those relationships. So asking your acquaintances questions about themselves and practicing active listening is a good way of building up that sense of trust and understanding.
One of the best things you can do when it comes to meeting new people and striking up friendships is to get proactive with your hobbies and interests. Going to get-togethers from MeetUp, joining local activity clubs, taking classes finding a gaming group that needs a new player, even joining an amateur sports league are all ways of finding like-minded folks who're into the same things that you are.
Plus, by taking part in these activities, you'll be seeing these people regularly, which makes it easier to actually turn that acquaintance into a friendship. The thing to keep in mind is that it takes time to develop a friendship. I suspect from your letter - and the luke-warm responses you've been getting from your invitations - that you've been pushing for a friendship after hanging out once or twice. Just as when a guy pushes for exclusivity after one or two dates, that level of interest can be a bit intimidating and off-putting to other people. We may have been able to make insta-friends back when we were in grade school, but these days, we don't necessarily become BFFs with folks we haven't spent a lot of time around.
To give an example: it took a while to develop a friendship with the guy who is now one of my best friends. I was a regular at the bar where he worked and we'd chat about movies and comics and assorted geekiness during the slow points. Eventually, he invited me to a party he was hosting and things just moved along from there.
Pushing too fast can make you seem a little needy. Take the casual hang-outs in stride and let those be their own thing and arrange a get-together a little while after you've been getting to know one another.
Doc, I need your help.
Ok I feel really ridiculous asking this, but I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by the situation. Heres the thing: I just recently had a meet with a guy I met on OKCupid. We had only exchanged about a dozen short messages before he wanted to meet, because he preferred to talk to a voice/face. It seemed kinda early to me, but I've been making an effort to keep an open mind with respect to the whole process, so I said sure why not. So we met, and we had a decent enough conversation, but I didn't really feel a spark. But he has potential, so when he suggested we meet again for a dinner later, I was agreeable.
The problem is what happened after we wrapped up the night. About an hour later he sent me a text asking me to send him a couple pictures of my body in bra and panties, front and back, because he "finds me very attractive, but couldn't see what my body looks like because my shirt covered my shape."
First of all, I was weirded out by this, but I did have a bikini-type shot on hand, and not being all that shy, and despite my misgivings, I sent the frontal to him. I did not send a rear-view, though he asked me a couple more times for me to snap one for him, even though I expressed that I wasn't comfortable. So he back-tracked, and said things to the effect that he finds me hot, and that chemistry is important, and he likes to say how he feels. Was I attracted to him? I said, yeah he's definitely good looking, even though inside I was starting to not be attracted at all.
Anyway, that was last night, and this morning he asked if we could meet for a dinner this coming Wednesday. I'm still trying to keep an open mind, and I said yes since he stopped asking for butt pics. Maybe he figured out my boundaries and will stop being creepy, was my thinking. But then he asked me to wear tight clothing so he could check me out, and now I don't want to see him at all.
So what do I do; how do I handle this? I mean, I said I would go, and I feel kinda obligated to keep my word, but I'm not sure this guy deserves that. Should I go, be more explicit in my boundaries, and give him another chance? Or do I send him a flaky text ("oh gosh, somethings come up, can't make it! sorry!"), or an honest text, explaining my reasons? If that, how should I put it that makes it clear that I am not open for negotiation? Every time I try to shut down a guy they try to argue me out of it, which is why my normal course thus far has been to drop contact and disappear. But I hate doing that too. My instinct is telling me I need to send this guy a text telling him I'm not interested, but I dont know how to do that without getting argued at.
I'm naturally non-confrontational, and would prefer to drop off the face of the earth as far as this guy is concerned, but I don't want to be hassled by a stream of texts wondering where I am and why am I ignoring him? So I know I have to send him something. Ugh.
So, yeah I'm feeling overwhelmed by the panic of having to handle this guy. What do you think I should do and/or say?
--Too Old for this Shit.
Holy shit snacks do not see this person. Block him on OKCupid, delete his number and don't let him back into your life, because in the span of one text this guy went from zero to Creeper in a big way. Demanding pics of you in your underwear, plus ass-shots, because "he couldn't tell what your body looks like under your shirt" is a giant, giant red flag that this guy is to be avoided.
It'd be one thing if the two of you were just so hot and heavy for one another that it was a miracle that your first date didn't end with your clothes shredded. It's another entirely when it was a pleasant but otherwise unremarkable conversation ending with the vague promise of dinner some other time.
This guy is pushing hard at your boundaries, trying to get you to do more and more things that you aren't comfortable with. The instant you pushed back, he went from demanding to wheedling and trying to sound "reasonable" about it all. And then, as soon as he had you agreeing to see him again, he got fucking creepy one more time.
His rationale for his behavior is bullshit. Is chemistry important? Hell yes it is. That's got nothing to do with his demanding half-naked photos after the first date. "I say what I think" isn't always a virtue, especially not when he's trying to use that as a "get out of being mad at me free" card. There's being direct and then there's apparently not knowing that something is wildly inappropriate.
You don't know this dude. You're clearly not that comfortable with him. By making these requests, he's trying to pull a compliance ladder-the theory is that the more you say yes to reasonable requests, the more you're likely to say yes to increasingly unreasonable ones. Like, say, sending him pictures that you're not sure you want to send. Or trying to get you to give in when he decides he wants a blow job and you don't want to give him one. He already knows you're conflict-averse. Now he's trying to use that against you by positioning everything as "Aww, you know I like you baby, this is just how I am!" Then he can say you're being stubborn or wrong or frigid or what-have you and push your boundaries that much further.
Resist the way women are socialized to be indirect and to avoid giving offense to other people, even at the expense of themselves
Here's my advice: All you need to text to him is, "You know what? I've decided I don't want to meet up with you. Don't contact me again." Then, as soon as you send that text, go full nuclear on him. Block him on OKC, block his number and have nothing to do with him again. You don't need to give him a reason, nor does he deserve one. "I don't want to" is all the reason you need and you aren't obligated to explain any further or respond to him at all. Moreover, any toehold you give him will just give him another opportunity to try using your non-confrontational nature against you.
Again: Tell him you don't want to see him, then go full nuclear. Do not engage, debate or otherwise justify yourself to him. Cut him off. Completely. And hopefully, the next guy you meet won't completely suck at online dating.
Have you got surefire tips for making new friends post-college? Know the secrets for expanding your social circle? Share your thoughts in the comments section, and we'll see you in two weeks with more of your questions!
Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku's bi-weekly advice column for matters of the heart, hosted by the one and only Harris O'Malley, AKA Dr. Nerdlove. Got a question you'd like answered? Write firstname.lastname@example.org and put "Kotaku" in the subject line. Man, woman, single, married, he's got advice for everyone.
Harris O'Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove podcast. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove. Dr. Nerdlove is not really a doctor.