Claudia’s Counsel: I have a friend who always crashes my plans with other people. How do I stop this from happening?
It’s tricky trying to create plans with a set group of friends and feel like you’re not being exclusive. No one wants to feel like he’s shutting someone out, and no one wants to be shut out. At the same time, it can be frustrating and feel like a breach of personal space when a friend consistently includes himself in your plans when he is not welcome.
I think the key here is to be as straightforward as possible with your friend without being overly aggressive. You have to convey that you genuinely appreciate spending time with your friend but that you also need time to either be alone or be with others. It is a hard conversation to have, but you cannot be blamed for being honest. Though it takes a lot of confidence, there is nothing wrong with telling your friend how his behavior truly makes you feel.
Try to be as upfront and honest as you can; phrase your concern so it focuses more on your feelings than on your friend’s actions. Perhaps say you’ve been worried about not branching out enough socially and that you want to get your friend’s thoughts on the matter.
Using this kind of phrasing is much less aggressive than simply placing the blame on your friend. Don’t point fingers! Calling your friend out certainly won’t solve any problems, so it is much better to approach the problem in a way that is direct but not accusatory.
So long as you explain that the situation is not personal and emphasize that you still value spending time with that friend, he should understand that you are not trying to be selfish or exclusive. This could very well be a great opportunity for both of you to branch out to new groups. And if your friend reacts in the complete opposite way, becoming angry and accusatory, then perhaps, unfortunately, he is not the kind of friend you want to dedicate that much time to in the first place.
Tips and Tricks
Set aside one-on-one time. If you schedule a consistent time for just the two of you to hang out, you will ensure that your friend knows you enjoy and appreciate spending time together. Your friend will be less likely to intrude on your other plans if you already have plans with him.
Don’t sneak around. Intentionally hiding plans from your friend will only be that much more harmful if he finds out. You can keep your plans to yourself, but if your friend asks you directly about them, don’t lie.
Establish reasons for meetings. If you establish a specific reason for your outings with other people (for something like a group project), your friend will be less likely to crash your plans.