Thoughtful Thursday: Friendly

July 11, 2013

Thoughtful ThursdayBack to the series of questions that I like to ask Burrito and Tamale about their preschool classmates…

“Is she friendly or unfriendly?”

Burrito and Tamale readily answer this question, but I don’t think their answers are always accurate. If a kid is usually friendly but has ever wronged one of them, the child gets declared unfriendly. Other kids that I have observed to be unfriendly get labeled friendly. The default label seems to be friendly.

This is clearly not the case for adults. Most people are fine, but not as many seem to be genuinely friendly. I am decidedly not friendly. I am extremely helpful, but I do not come across to strangers as friendly. I’m not unfriendly either, just neutral, at least I think so.

I think part of the problem is my smile. I have a small smile, and my natural “how are you” smile is really barely a smile. Burrito also has a small smile, but his exciting personality means that he’s often beaming rather than smiling. DH and Tamale have giant smiles, and not coincidentally they are both perceived as very friendly. It’s not only the smile that makes them seem friendly, but it definitely helps.

DH has a friend whose smile lights up the room. He is calm and quiet (to use the descriptors from earlier in this series), but his huge, warm smile makes you feel like he is truly happy to see you.

As much as I enjoy dazzling smiles, I am also drawn to people who are amusingly unfriendly. Sarcastic curmudgeons. They can be a lot of fun. They can also be annoying and draining. But at least they’re genuine.

DH’s closest-in-age sister (Murphy‘s mom) is extremely friendly, but in a totally fake way. She used to work at the front desk of a spa, and she’d totally pour it on with customers. “Oh you are going to have such a wonderful time today! Mitzi is the best, you will be sooo relaxed.” Ugh. My mother was always dubious of her: “Why is she so friendly? I don’t like it.” I think I care less about friendliness than genuineness.

Burrito and Tamale aren’t old enough to detect genuineness. I guess when they get older, though, I’ll have to change the question from “Is she friendly or unfriendly?” to “Is she genuine or fake?”

What kind of friendliness do you like? How friendly do you seem to others?

11 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Friendly”

  1. St. Elsewhere Says:

    I like the make-you-comfortable kind of friendliness.

    I hate fake/over the top friendliness. Absolutely despise it. A colleague of mine will be all foggy spray can jasmine if she has some work to extract out of you. I hate that falling-all-over-you kind of stuff.

    I am a smiler, and am generous with my smiles. I always used to perceive myself very approachable, and I have found that the perception is mostly true. though there are times when there can be a vibe of discomfort in interacting with me (for myriad reasons).

    My kid is friendlier and more open to interacting with children than adults. In daycare, she already has friends, and it’s a pleasure to see the twinkle in her eye, and her wide grin when she sees one of them. Her best part? She tries to bear hug everyone in the daycare. That’s genuine love untainted by adult cynicism or knowing-better.

    BTW, the spa lady that you have mentioned possibly has learnt her professional manners far too well and carried it outside her workplace. She must be expected to fuss all over the clients and make them feel special, but she has become too thoroughly conditioned and is repeating the same thing elsewhere. That behaviour would be grating for me.

  2. Mel Says:

    I have no clue how I seem to others. At all.

    And I can’t even really tell what I like. Is that odd? My desire to be touched or talked to literally changes from person to person, minute to minute.

  3. a Says:

    I am not friendly, but I’m not unfriendly either. I am pleasant enough, but unapproachable. I absolutely hate fake friendliness. I am also socially awkward, so I’ll be happy to talk to you, but you have to keep the conversation moving, because I can’t. And I don’t mind awkward silence. Also, I generally say the wrong thing. Fortunately, I usually have friends who like to talk or have a lot to talk about, and don’t mind that I would prefer to listen and throw a comment in here or there.

    My daughter is pretty friendly…but mostly to adults. I think she finds it difficult to relate to other kids, because she’s very much a leader, but doesn’t know how to lead yet. She can’t figure out how to get the other kids to buy in to her ideas, but she knows she doesn’t want to follow them. I need to send her to a friend for manipulation training, so she can be prepared to rule the world. And we’re working on not making incredibly elaborate rules for everything – playing does not mean 30 minutes of lecture on how to play. It’s hilarious to me that she knows who almost every kid that goes to her school is, but she won’t actually say hi to them. Since I know the theory of how to be social, but can’t actually implement it, I’m trying to advise her. But since she’s more like her father, it works better when he does the advising.

    One of the main reasons I don’t celebrate my birthday, and always take the day off work is because I do not want people who would prefer to see me dead wishing me a happy birthday. If it isn’t genuine, I don’t want to hear it. Also, my husband, when he’s trying to be kind/sweet/complimentary totally comes across as insincere. It makes me crazy.

  4. Ana Says:

    I’m sure I’m seen as unfriendly by some simply because I am quiet/shy. I know some people in middle/high school thought I was a “snob” because I didn’t see hi to them in the hallway. I’m actually also quite distracted, so I don’t NOTICE people in the hallway, on the street, etc… I do have a delightful smile (if I say so myself!) and an unassuming, welcoming manner so that people who get to know me or actually speak to me, would probably call me friendly. Oddly, I don’t have many actual “friends” at this stage in life, though. Whole ‘nother topic.
    My kids use the word “friends” to describe any child their age…they don’t get the concept of “friendliness” or “being friends”. They use the term in daycare to simply mean “classmate” so I think that’s where it came from.

  5. I think I come across as much friendlier online than IRL. Isn’t that a curious observation? I’m kind of stand-offish in person, until I get to know someone. Which takes awhile.

    When do humans develop the ability to discern the genuine from the fake?

    I like genuine, even if that means a bit curmudgeonly.

  6. Elana Kahn Says:

    I think I’m very friendly. I always like to make people smile, and I try not to upset people if at all possible. I also like people to be friendly to me. If someone’s going to treat me badly, then they don’t deserve to be my friend. It’s also easy for me to talk to people I don’t know as I’m not particularly shy, so that’s helpful. But I don’t mind shy people at all…I just try to get them to talk. 🙂

  7. Sara Says:

    I find some of your post rather puzzling, after a few days’ thought on which I believe it’s because I don’t distinguish friendly and genuine. If you aren’t genuine, then I don’t find you friendly. The sort of situation you describe doesn’t sound friendly at all to me, and I tend to recoil from it.

    It’s hard to know if I am friendly or not. People I know and who know me probably would say Yes; but I’m not good at the sort of small talk a lot of people want, and if I don’t know you, I’m probably not going to make the first move to do so, or if I do, I’m probably not going to do so in the smoothest way possible; it’s hard and it takes a lot of work. So I think that to people who don’t know me, I might come across as unfriendly. I don’t know.

    I know that I can come across as unfriendly via email, especially on mailing lists, because I’m fairly direct and to the point, and I don’t put in all the little small talks that other people do. If you ask a question, I’ll answer it. If you’ve said something mistaken, I’ll point this out. And I won’t generally coddle you while I do so. (Similarly when I’m grading homeworks!)

  8. strongblonde Says:

    I love people who might seem a little standoffish. You know, the kind where a lot of people might not even talk to them a second time. But once you talk to them (and even just stand next to them) they are hysterical. I love being around people who are naturally funny. And dry funny, too, so that if you’re not paying attention you wouldn’t interpret it as funny. Does that make sense? Of course I like friendly people, but I would much rather be around someone who is cranky, but genuine. I cannot stand people who are not true to themselves or others (eg: B’s mom, my grandmother, my former friend D). It’s too much effort for me to try to determine what is real and what is not. And then I get so irritated that they just won’t say/act how they feel.

    As for ME, I think that I get interpreted as friendly, but that is just because I’m a smiler. I don’t really make chit chat and am very shy when I meet people, but I do smile a lot. Maybe that’s a coping mechanism for me? Not sure.

  9. Mina Says:

    At work I used to be called a bitch (a friend started calling me this) behind my back, or when I was present, that I lived in an ivory tower. All because I was there to work and my job was to manage my team, not to be drinking buddies. And I got fed up with the crap people had the gall of serving me as excuses for not having done their job, and the long hours and the effort to keep it all together without due acknowledgement, that I left.
    Outside work, I am neutral. I am friendly to a different category of people now though, for example I used to avoid mums with small children, now, well, quite the opposite. 🙂 and I used to avoid elderly as well, because I knew everything I needed to know and I had no time to waste. Now I know I know far less than I thought I did, and my time has chaged value. And I appreciate spending time with older people, they have time on their hands, they are more welcoming to foreigners such as myself, because they are lonely mostly, and they have a wealth of experience and fascinating stories to share. Even when they are shallow fools whom life has taught nothing, even they have a very valuable lesson to teach me and I welcome it.

  10. Cat Says:

    I prefer genuine friendliness or genuine unfriendliness. As long as it’s genuine, I’ll go with it. Fake people annoy me. I just don’t have the energy or inclination to try to figure out any underlying meanings.

    I seem aloof and sometimes even unfriendly to many people upon first meeting. It’s even come up on occasion in performance reviews back when I had a job with a paycheck. I usually warm up over time, but only if I actually like the person.

  11. Shelby Says:

    You hit the nail on the head. I absolutely value genuineness over the ‘fake’ friendly. My mom had an impeccable ‘fake’ detector and I have carried that tradition on. I can smell it from a mile away and will not stay long to tolerate someone who pretends they are enjoying my presence so much more than they actually do.

    I am very talkative and connect easily with others who are as well, so I probably strike people as being pretty friendly, but at the core of this is someone who is quite socially anxious. I must admit that because social situations tend to make me nervous (which seems totally at odds with how talkative I am), I react with too much talk, which makes me appear much friendlier than I probably actually am. God forbid the awkward silence ever rear its ugly head!

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