One of my friends had their birthday this week and that got me thinking about one of my favourite subjects lately; adult friendships. This coincided with me listening to a really insightful compilation of ideas about adult friendships on Blinkist called Finding and Nurturing Adult Friendships. So while my mind’s on this, let’s talk about friendships.
Psychologist Marisa Franco, author of “Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—and Keep—Friends”, gave a Ted Talk in which she made a point that really stuck with me: The thing that’s particularly difficult about adult friendships is that, unlike in childhood, it doesn’t happen organically. It takes effort. We’re not used to this because our entire friendship paradigm is modelled around how we did it as kids. When you’re an adult, there are no occasions that create organic communities for you, you have to make that happen yourself by prioritising it. When you were a child, you had to go to school every day, and many things at school would force you to interact with other people, from group projects to sports and everything in between. As an adult, you can live completely disconnected from others. Sure many of us have to go to work, but you don’t have to talk to anyone at work and even if you do there’s no incentive or obligation to befriend anyone.
Since I’ve already shared a great guide and book on how to make and nurture friendships, I want to close the loop with the guide to losing all your friends. Then, equipped with all the knowledge, you’ll be better at making your own choices.
What if you were tired of all the friendships you have and you want to know how to lose friends instead? But you want to be so clinical about it that people choose to leave you of their own accord. The following is a non-exhaustive guide to driving everyone away.
Sidenote: With it being the end of February when most of us are falling off our new year’s resolutions, I don’t want to give you yet another difficult thing to do. Unlike many other how-to guides out there, you’ll find that you have to put very little effort into being good at many of these points. In fact, you’re probably already quite proficient at some of them.
Anyway, here’s how to make everyone you know and love slowly drift away from you.
1 Talk only about yourself.
The first thing you need to do is develop a strong tendency to steer any conversation back to the topic of yourself.
This shouldn’t be too difficult, you have lots of topics to choose from; what do you have going on in your life? Your dreams and aspirations? What are you excited about? What’s something terrible that happened to you last week? Why waste any time talking about anything else when you have all this about yourself you can talk to people about?
Get used to the idea of getting into monologues about yourself. If you’re really proficient, you’ll even master the art of steering every discussion topic to eventually be about you. Now that will really make talking to you an agonising experience. If the other person is not talking about you, then don’t pay attention to what they are saying. Use that time to think about the next thing you’ll say about yourself. If you’re listening do it only to spot cues where you can jump in with an interesting segue to the time when the same thing happened to you. When your friend is telling you about something going on in their life? Never miss the opportunity to bring up a relatable situation that happened to you and focus on that.
Don’t ask them questions either—unless they’re about you. Always be the one who answers questions. Do not, under any circumstances, give people the impression that you are interested in them or what they have going on.
2 Spill the tea on other people.
I know, I know. You obviously can’t talk about yourself the whole time, even you won’t enjoy that. So take breaks from it by talking about mutual friends and acquaintances. Not in the way you talk about yourself though. No! That would ruin your progress.
When you talk about other people, be sure to focus only on their most negative qualities. Never miss a chance to voice your dissatisfaction and disapproval of their behaviour, their life choices, their fashion sense, etc. you get the idea. When you know something wrong that someone did, spill the tea, even if it’s none of your business.
The key here is to make it clear to everyone that you’re not someone who roots for people who don’t deserve it, according to your standard. Then make sure to set that standard impossibly high. Bonus points if you can do this while clarifying that you’re highlighting their negatives because you want to see them do and be better.
You want to be known as someone who’s critical and generally disapproving of the people around you and you aren’t afraid to voice it.
3 Don’t be helpful.
Never extend your hand to help another person.
Don't waste your time lending a hand to those in need. Your own problems should always take precedence, and you should avoid contributing to your community of friends at all costs. Make sure to dodge any responsibility or labour, and let others do the heavy lifting while you take the credit.
Keep your talents to yourself and never share them with others. Imagine you're at a party and the music suddenly stops because there’s something wrong with the computer. As the resident computer expert, everyone turns to you for help. Don't be a hero - refuse their pleas and watch the party spiral into chaos. After all, you're not a plaything to be used and abused by those around you.
4 Be a pessimist
If you want to be the life of the party, make sure to bring your dark cloud of pessimism with you. It's the perfect accessory to make everyone around you feel like they're drowning in a sea of negativity.
When your friend is telling you about their promotion, don't celebrate with them. Instead, remind them that there's always a chance they'll get fired. When your sister is excited about her new haircut, make sure to tell her how much better she looked before. And when your co-worker presents a new idea, shoot it down immediately and tell them all the ways it could fail.
Pessimism is like a gift that keeps on giving. It's the ultimate buzzkill that ensures that everyone around you is constantly reminded of all the things that could go wrong. So the next time you're at a party, be sure to remind everyone that the world is a terrible place, and there's no hope for humanity.
And don't forget to add a healthy dose of complaining to your pessimism. Nothing says "I'm a joy to be around" like constantly whining about the temperature, the traffic, and the sorry state of your back.
Always find something to complain about. Call yourself a realist, even though in reality you’re a pessimist.
5 Be closed-minded
Be confident in your beliefs and don't be swayed by others' opinions.
Now that you have a strong dose of pessimism, assume that whatever information you have at the present moment is the gold standard. It’s better than whatever anyone else has been told. If someone tries to share their perspective on life with you, be default against it, even before you know what it is. It’s not what you think, so it’s probably wrong.
Whenever it turns out that you were right about something, make sure to make everyone know that you were right and they were wrong and they should listen to you next time.
Assume that because you read it in a book or heard it on the news, then it must be true. Never create a space for dialogue. Don’t talk about the nuances of a situation, but stay fixated on the negatives. Don’t let anyone influence you. Hold on with an iron grip on whatever you believe in right now and guard it with your life.
6 Forget humility - you're the best, and everyone should know it.
Maintain a constant facade that you are blameless and perfect. Refuse to acknowledge any potential shortcomings or mistakes, and instead focus solely on promoting your own virtues and talents. Allow your ego to consume you and bask in the glory of your own greatness.
Never look at a situation objectively and be blissfully unaware of your flaws. If you do find some flaws, hide them at all costs. You can’t let anyone realise that you’re not the most perfect human being. A great way to demonstrate to people that they can never get close to you is to never show any kind of weakness or vulnerability. This will help you to not be relatable whatsoever, again a perfect human being.
Then after that, all you have to do to keep it up, with reference to point number one, is to always build yourself up and talk very highly about yourself. And be very snappy and defensive immediately when anyone calls your perfection into question. Remember, modesty is overrated. Confidence is key, and you are the shining example of perfection that everyone should aspire to be.
Just as important as maintaining the perfection of your character is maintaining the perfection of your work. If you made something it’s the exemplar. If anyone criticises it, they’re wrong! No matter how valid or constructive their criticism is, if it’s directed at you it’s wrong. You’re the one who criticises.
7 Be flaky
Don’t be someone that people can rely on.
Keep people guessing about whether you’ll show up or not. A great way to develop this reputation is to always say yes when people invite you to things and reassure them you’ll be there, then cancel at the last minute possible.
It is important that you’re seen as someone who is always busy or overwhelmed and who is constantly plagued by unexpected obligations. So always have an excuse handy. You want to be the guy that always has something that comes up at the last second. Bonus points for the most creative excuses.
If you keep this up long enough, people will call you less and less until eventually, they leave you alone. You’ll grow distant from them—you’re not a pleasant person to be around anyway—and eventually, you won’t have any friends. Perfect!
8 Taking initiative is overrated.
Now that no one calls you anymore, we need to tie up the final loose end. Always wait around for people to come up with plans and things to invite you to. Never come up with your own ideas, never have your own things going on and never invite anyone to anything. Since you’re already a pretty unpleasant human and a bad friend, no one’s going to invite you to anything anyway.
Couple this with number seven well enough and people will eventually get the impression that you don’t want to spend time with them and they will move on to other people.
If you were just tired of having a thriving social life and you wanted everyone to just leave you alone and slowly drift away for the rest of your life. Then at this point my friend, you’re at the top of the mountain!
If you want more ideas on how to be miserable, check out Randy J. Paterson’s book “How To Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use” and Joey Schweitzer’s YouTube channel where most of these ideas were derived.