12 June, 2011

The Competitor

A little bit of competition is healthy and to be expected. An appropriate amount of competition will motivate and stimulate. But too much competition between friends starts to destroy the friendship. One of the primary ingredients in a positive friendship is that one or both friends feel that they can be "themselves" and that they don't have to put on airs or impress one another. Competition implies a race in which one wins and the other loses; those conditions are quite the opposite of what someone typically expects in a positive friendship, especially a close or best one.

Friends who are competitors probably compete in every area of their lives and find it difficult or impossible to ease up even when it comes to close or best friends. They may compete at work, at school, and even in community affairs. They may be in competition with their spouses or romantic partners, or even with their parents or their children. The Competitor may find this distinctive personality trait hard or impossible to change or eradicate.

You can help the situation, however, by trying to avoid setting up overly competitive situations. For instance, if you share about a success in your personal life or career, especially if you ease into bragging, you may be unwittingly setting off an "I'll show you" reaction.

Helping to heighten the Competitor's awareness about this tendency might help her to deal with this proclivity. If you do want to share something that you think will propel her into a "me too" reaction, you could preface your comments with, "Let me just share something with you without it having anything to do with you, okay?"

The onus for changing the Competitor's behavior, however, is on her; developing a better self-image will diminish her need to compete with everything you say or do.

If you wish to stay friends with the Competitor, you may have to be willing to listen to her brags and boasts far more often than you can share your own.

(source: Jan Yager / photo copied from another website)

The Fault-Finder

Nothing you do, say, or wear is good enough for this overly critical friend. The Fault-finder was probably raised by extremely judgmental parents who were also rearing equally hypercritical siblings. Being criticized during her formative years laid the groundwork for an overly critical adult. It's a hard trait to reverse, and your friend may even be unaware that she is so critical or that it annoys and upsets you so much. Before labeling this type of friendship as hopelessly destructive, you might want to see if your friend could recognize this excessively derogatory behavior and, with time and help, change that orientation. Otherwise, you may decide that you just have to accept this trait in your friend and realize that it reflects on her, not on you or your friendship.

If you value this friend and want to try to maintain the friendship despite the Fault-finder's criticisms, try sharing with him or her how his or her behavior makes you feel. "I know you like me, and I know you may not even mean to make me feel bad, but when you find fault in everything I say or do, it makes me feel bad about myself." He or she might get defensive, even saying it's "your problem," not his or hers. But if you emphasize how the Fault-finder's behavior impacts on you, it may help him or her to reassess what he or she is saying or doing without having to be "right." Furthermore, by sharing how it makes you feel, you may be less resentful if you decide you are willing to put up with the Fault-finder.

However, if you are at your wit's end and willing to try one more thing before calling it quits, try finding fault in the Fault-finder. Those who criticize and find fault are often unable to take it from others. If you do criticize the Fault-finder, it may break the spell of negativity that is now allowing this friend to say and do anything toward you. When the shoe is on the other foot, she may suddenly have an "ah-ha" awareness of what it feels like to others. But beware: The Fault-finder might cut off your friendship forever rather than deal with your criticisms or even try to understand the larger message you are trying to convey.

(source: Jan Yager
/photo copied from another website)

The Discloser

When you say to this friend, "This is just between us," she nods her head but unfortunately that promise will last only as long as it takes her to get to her phone or e-mail. Although there should be an assumption of confidentiality and trust between friends, this friend can't help herself. Telling this person a secret makes her feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. Like the game "hot potato," she has to pass the hot secret along to someone else in order to relieve the anxiety knowing the secret made her feel. There are also some Disclosers who simply have a big mouth. If someone you know has this personality trait, avoid telling her your innermost secret -- unless you don't mind if it's shared with the world.

This friend quickly gets a reputation for being a gossip. Unfortunately, there may be some secondary gains to having that distinction. Maybe the primary friend is annoyed by the betrayal and the secret sharing, but everyone else, including other friends, may be delighted by the confidential information that is being shared.

You also have to be sure that your friend understands that you consider the information that you are sharing should always be confidential or secret. Spreading the news that you just got a raise or are expecting a child may seem like information that is fair game for retelling. If it is something you do not want retold, or if you want to be the one retelling it, let your friend know before you mislabel her the Discloser.

How do you know if someone will betray your confidence? If you suspect someone has this trait, share an unimportant secret that you could live with her spreading and see how fast or widespread the confidence is shared.

If you suspect that your friend is unaware that he or she discloses secrets, start by bringing this behavior out in the open. Pick a specific instance when your friend revealed a confidence, and see if he or she acknowledges his or her transgression. Does he or she apologize? Does he or she deny doing it? Does he or she ask your forgiveness, explaining that he or she was unaware the information was privileged?

If you suspect your friend is incapable of changing this pattern and you want to maintain the friendship, protect yourself by being more careful about exactly what information you share. You might also want to reconsider the level of intimacy for this friendship; if you want to maintain your relationship, perhaps it should be on a less frequent or less confidential basis.

(source: Jan Yager
/photo copied from another website)

The Double-Crosser

It could happen when someone does something to hurt you, such as spreading a malicious rumor about you. Or it could be an emotional double-cross. For example, when a close or best friend stops speaking to you and you never find out why.

The Double-crosser may have some real emotional issues that need to be addressed if you are to continue a friendship with her. If your friend was betrayed by a parent or sibling during her formative years, she may have a need to repeat that behavior with her friends. The betrayal could have been as subtle as being disappointed by her parents or as blatant as being the victim of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Your friend may need outside help to reverse the cycle she is in, of doing to others what was done to her.

If you have been double-crossed by a particular friend, you may want to consider ending the friendship. If you have not been directly harmed by this friend but have evidence that she has hurt others, you have to decide if you are risking too much by maintaining the friendship.

If you do decide to walk away from this friendship, do it in a low-key way that avoids incurring the wrath of the Double-crosser. You do not want to be her or his next victim.

(source: Jan Yager
/photo copied from another website)


The Self-Absorbed

The Self-absorbed is a tamer type of negative friend than the Risk-taker. Still, especially over the long haul, a friend who does not make the time to listen to you will eat away at your self-esteem. For you to feel good about yourself, and for your friendship to thrive, you have to be more than a sounding board. The Self-absorbed does not care; she listens to you only because she is waiting to speak.

Self-absorbed chatter is a way of covering up an inability to tolerate silence which some, especially those who have intimacy problems, may find excruciating. You may ask your friend to try to become more aware that she is talking non-stop, and about herself, when it's really a nervous habit designed to fill up the time and space. Could your friend learn to relax more? Enjoy silence? Learn how to ask questions so that you don't feel like a dumping ground?

Is this a trait your friend is aware of and choosing to ignore, or is she unaware of it but once aware of it, she will be capable of changing it? If change is not possible, is there enough that is positive about this friendship that you are willing to continue it even if it is decidedly lopsided?

Perhaps, in a gentle and non-offensive way, you could ask the Self-absorbed friend if she seems to notice that the give-and-take is unequal, that she shares more about her life than you get to share about yours.

With the Self-absorbed friend, you might want to plan an activity to share that minimizes this problem, such as playing tennis, going to the movies, or taking a class. You might want to carefully consider sitting next to the Self-Absorbed on a five-hour train ride or having lengthy meals together, just the two of you. As with the One-upper, whose profile revolves around excessive jealousy, involving more friends with the Self-absorbed might help to offset her nervousness as well as create some additional 'air times' that will even out the balance of power.

(source: Jan Yager
/photo copied from another website)



The Promise Breaker

She always disappoints you... or breaks her promises... your friend is unable to stop herself from repeating that pattern.

It is most likely because she herself was constantly disappointed during her formative years. It is annoying for you, but a comfortable pattern for your friend, and without psychological help, it may be hard for her to alter this pattern.

You could abandon her, or you could find a way to detach yourself by lowering your expectations for this friendship. If she promises to do something for you, even to meet you for a cup of coffee, you can say, "Sure," but protect yourself by knowing, in the back of your mind, that this friend "nine times out of 10" is going to cancel on you.

One way to try to change the Promise Breaker is to help her to understand the consequences of your ignored pledges. Try telling her how it makes you feel --
"Of course, I'll understand that you're not in the mood to drive over, but I was really looking forward to our visit."

Perhaps she is unaware that this is a pattern rather than an isolated incident --
"Yes, of course, I understand, but do you realize this is the fourth time in as many weeks that you've backed out on something you promised to do with me?"

If she has always been there for you, through thick and thin, has only recently become less reliable, you might want to cut her some slack. You have to decide if this is a lifelong trait that will be hard or impossible to change, a temporary condition that will be short-lived, or something, if it does continue indefinitely, that you are willing to accept and handle.

The next time she promises something, try saying, "Yeah, right." When she gets angry at your sarcasm, explain that you are simply pointing out her habit of breaking her promises. Then reframe it in a more positive vein by saying, "Prove me wrong. This time, keep your promise."

(source: Jan Yager)