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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

6 Subtle Mistakes that Can Wreck a New Friendship FAST

Even if we hit it off with someone immediately, something as simple as an unanswered text could mess things up soon after. Here are the friendship faux pas to make sure you're not making.

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You’re an open book—or a lockbox

When you make new friends as an adult, you may be eager to move past ho-hum subjects like the weather or your kid’s soccer game, but you’re not sure how to proceed. You don’t want to start blabbing about your colonoscopy or your crazy mother-in-law if your new friend is more reserved—and the opposite is true as well. “A good way to test the waters is to ask semi-surface level questions,” says John Matthews LCSW, a licensed psychotherapist with Virginia Counseling, in Midlothian, Virginia. Matthews suggests asking where they grew up or what their family is like. “These questions will give your friend the opportunity to go deeper if they want, or stay on the surface if they aren’t ready to deep-dive. Either way, you’ll get a sense of how far they feel comfortable going.”

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You’re a little too eager

Science agrees that friendships makes us healthier and happier. It’s no wonder we’re excited when we hit it off with another person and want to spend our free time with them. The other person may be equally interested in making new friends but may not have much extra time to hang out. It’s a pretty common phenomenon, according to Matthews. “Often, we look for new friends when space has opened up in our lives. But that may not be the case for your new friend, and it could take some time for them to make space for you.” He adds, “It’s okay to reach out a little more often if you’re the one forging the friendship, but try to keep it as close to equal as you can.” He suggests thinking about how much they are contacting you and try to reciprocate.

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You like them too quickly

If you have social media accounts like Facebook or Twitter, you’ve probably already stalked your potential friend’s accounts. But you may want to hold off before officially “friending” or “following” them. “I’d advise against connecting on social media too soon, suggests Matthews. “Give them some space, and wait until you’ve socialized in person a few times.” If you don’t hit it off or see a friendship growing, it could be awkward later. However, if you’ve met someone while you’re out of town and may not see them often but want to stay connected, social media may be a good way to connect without giving away your digits. Just make sure you don’t make any of these social media mistakes.

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Not everyone is your mini-me

Besides your shared loved for book club, you may find that your new friend also loves to hike and hits the same deli for lunch on Fridays. But as the friendship develops, subtle but occasionally meaningful differences start to emerge. “If you’re a texter but she prefers to talk, or if you like to dress casual and your friend wants to get dolled up, those differences may put a dent in your burgeoning friendship. It’s important to discuss those preferences,” says Shatavia Thomas, LMFT, owner of Dr. Shay Speaks, LLC. You’ll have to decide which are deal breakers, if any. For example, “If your friend blows up at everything, and you’re not the type to extend the olive branch, your bond may short-lived, be easily broken, or become beyond repair,” says Dr. Thomas. “Or if you wear your heart on your sleeve and your friend likes to keep it real or shoot from the hip all the time, one of you is bound to get irritated, embarrassed, or exhausted.”

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It’s business, nothing personal

You weren’t expecting to meet anyone other than the usual business associates, but during a networking reception you find yourself having an enjoyable conversation with someone. Far from forced or stiff, the conversation is genuinely friendly. The trouble is that the other person may just be putting on a “friend” face for business. “It’s the person who goes to the networking party and targets the people in the room that they can get something from, like business contacts, or invites to events,” says Dr. Thomas. “Or it could be the ‘friend’ doing better professionally or financially, but they may need the social connections to feel better about themselves or enjoy bragging or showing off.” You’ll know in due time if it could be a true friendship when mutual trust and rapport develops on a personal level outside of business. If you suspect the relationship is career driven, Dr. Thomas suggests limiting your personal information and keeping it professional. A little on the shy side? How to network when you’re an introvert.

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all aboutiStock/Paul-Bradbury

It’s not all about you

Friendships are a give and take. There are times for listening, times for talking, and times to say nothing and offer a hug. “As you develop friendships, you have to be mindful about your place. While most people value honesty in relationships, some may be put off if you start offering unsolicited advice about their appearance, family, or significant other,” says Dr. Thomas. “We want to feel comforted by our friendships, not smothered.” To build a strong foundation for friendship, make sure you are showing a genuine interest in your friend’s life. One-sided conversations are a surefire way to wreck a new friendship fast. Strive to pay attention to the details when the friend talks about her job or her trip out of town last weekend. Ask non-intrusive questions, and remember the answers so you can follow up later. Tap into a shared experience and talk about it. Long-lasting friendships involve two people who are empathetic, trusting, caring, and responsive to each other’s needs.

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, HealthiNation, The Family Handyman, Taste of Home, and, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center. Follow her on Instagram @lisamariewrites4food and Twitter @cornish_conklin.