Why the Happiest People “Bother” Their Friends
A therapist explains why we worry too much about annoying our friends.
People bring a lot of fears to therapy. One of the most common ones I hear from young adults is a fear of annoying their friends. People worry about seeming too eager when making new friends or too overwhelming when they talk with old ones.
They worry about:
- Texting too much.
- Always being the one to propose hanging out.
- Sharing too much of their personal life.
- Boring people with their weird interests.
- “Dumping” their emotions on people.
These are understandable fears. We are social animals, and the danger of being cast out of our social group is imprinted in our DNA. Thousands of years ago, being a little too chatty might have meant life or death. Today we forget that the stakes are much lower.
When a lot of people are worried about being annoying, you have more than a few friend groups where no one is willing to make plans. Or to take the conversation beyond superficial chatter. People will start to wonder why they’re even friends at all.
The past two years have only intensified this dilemma. The less face-to-face contact you have with people, the more you might assume that they’re upset with you. We experience the silences and let our imaginations run wild without data.
Too much focus on a friend’s potential reactions is a sign of increased anxiety. One way to calm yourself down is to shift from other-focus back to focusing on yourself. Here are a few examples.
Other-focus: Am I bothering them too much?
Self-focus: How do I define being intrusive or pushy?
Other-focus: Why don’t they ever initiate plans?
Self-focus: Do I want to see them enough that I’m willing to contact them first?
Other-focus: Do they find me boring?
Self-focus: What important parts of my life would I like to share with them?