Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Hard Facts: Don’t Worry

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“Most people worry from time to time. A new research study…shows that worrying can be so intrusive and obsessive that it interferes in the person’s life and endangers the health of social relationships.” (“Worrying Can Impact Interpersonal Relationships, Study Finds,” Science Daily 7/26/2011)

I can attest to this firsthand. I have a friend who once seemed to enjoy worrying. She was one of those people who, if she didn’t have something to fret over, felt she wasn’t being productive. (Despite people saying they just want to live stress-free, I’ve found that plenty actually find relaxation boring. If they aren’t worrying, they feel unproductive. I am no such gal.)

This friend’s inability to calm down would have been fine–not my problem, right?–except it wasn’t fine at all. It was my problem.  Her stress was contagious. Whenever we hung out, her anxiety rubbed off on me. In a matter of minutes I’d go from totally zen to teetering on the edge.

(And these weren’t legit, big time worries. I’m talking every day stress. We’ve all been there.)

There’s plenty of research to support the idea that we adopt the emotions of those around us. And while there seem to be defense mechanisms (“those who are [emotionally spongy] can learn to protect themselves from inadvertently taking in other people’s stress,” writes Martha Beck in O Magazine) learning them takes work, and practice. All the stuff we don’t necessarily want to focus on when we’re off the clock.

Instead of doing the work, people often choose to cut ties. My friend and I grew apart a bit in the wake of her non-stop worrying. We never spoke of her stressful demeanor, and how susceptible I was to it, and I’m sure she attributed our fade-out to something entirely different. Now that we live in separate cities all is well, but her worries most definitely endangered our social relationship.

Stress contagion isn’t the only way worrying can threaten a relationship. The act of worrying itself manifests in different ways. Your worrywart friend might express her concern by calling every five minutes on the night you offer to babysit. Another anxious bestie might talk about the stress that plagues her nonstop, bring a real Debbie Downer vibe to your girl-dates. Either way: endangering the relationship. Big time.

My worrying friend has calmed down in her old age. And I’ve loosened up a bit, too. I try not to get so affected by other people’s moods. The key word being “try.” I’m a work in progress.

I can’t say I was surprised to read today’s research. Friends should help you forget your worries, not trigger them. Who needs it?

Have you ever experienced this stress contagion? Has a friend’s worrying tendencies ever endangered your relationship? Have you ever been the worrying culprit?

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High School Yearbook: Facebook Edition

When I came across this infographic, I couldn’t help but think of last year’s high school reunion. It was totally devoid of surprises, and I blame Facebook.

Everything I needed to know, I learned from my newsfeed.

Have you come across these high school Facebook culprits? Did this list leave anyone off? And are you as obsessed with Internet infographics as I am?

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When No One Sees What You See

Last week, we discussed the very specific joy of other people recognizing just how great our BFFs are. As one commenter so aptly put it: “It’s a great feeling to have someone else see exactly what you see.” I couldn’t agree more.

But, of course, there is a flip side. Isn’t there always?

Another commenter asked: “What if it’s the opposite? What if your casual friends aren’t huge fans of your BFF and constantly point out the reasons why?”

Ugh.

I’m guessing this happens all the time. New friends don’t understand how we ever got along with those BFFs we’ve had since birth, the ones with whom we have nothing in common anymore. Or maybe it’s that our oldest friends don’t get our interest in our newest pal (a la Bridesmaids). Or perhaps it’s your husband who can’t stand to share a room with your bestie.

When I’ve found myself in this situation—’cause we’ve all been there at some point, right?—I usually shrug it off. If one friend doesn’t like another, I hang out with them separately. If someone points out why another friend is no good, I attempt to defend her. But I’d be lying if I said I always stick up for my friends as much as I probably should. As much as I try to protect one pal against another, I also ignore complaints and change the subject just as often. Sometimes I don’t want to get into a big thing, and if I know trying to force a friendship is a lost cause, I let it be. I mean, I love my friends, isn’t that what matters?

Of course, if I were a character in a sitcom, I’d concoct an elaborate scheme to force the friends that don’t like each other to spend the day together, during which they would come to appreciate each others’ quirks. Like Joey and Janice’s Day of Fun. Or The Parent Trap (sort of). The Breakfast Club!

And yet, in a shocking turn of events, I get the sense this might not work in real life. Every time I’m stuck in a room (or, you know, a Saturday library detention) with someone I truly can’t stand, I want to tear my own arm off just to have something to throw at her. But then again, I’m working on my patience and tolerance.

So I ask you: how do you handle it when friends/significant others are put off by your BFF? Let it go and keep them away from each other? Or try to warm them to each other?

{Housekeeping note: Beginning at the end of August, I’ll be blogging every Thursday at The Debutante Ball. I’ll be joining four other 2012 debut authors to talk all things writing and reading. And sometimes we’ll talk about my love of TV. It’s all fair game. But mostly writing and reading. I’d love for you to check out the site, and meet the fabulous authors I’ll be sharing duties with.)

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