Advice for Awkward People

Hi Ruth,
I have a serious question that needs answering. Most people are familiar with the scenario of liking someone romantically and having them not feel the same way back. You're either casually friendzoned or just straight up rejected. It's totally not fun, but at least it's not nearly as confusing as the less common conundrum that I'm currently experiencing.

What do I do when someone I just want to kick it with doesn't feel the same? Like c'mon, man. I don't want to fluff your nut, I just want to be your friend, so why don't you feel the same way?! I might be coming off a bit too strong, but I just want them to know I think they're really cool! Or maybe I'm not coming on strong enough? I just can't figure it out... I mean, who wouldn't want to me by friend? I give good hugs and I'm always down to buy you a cookie from ABP.

Anyways, please help. I just want to be friends!

Platonic Admiration Only

Dear PAO,

You know, I’ve been writing this column for nearly a year now, and I’m honestly surprised that I haven’t yet had to answer “how do I make friends.” Which, if we’re honest, is not exactly what you're asking, but hang in with me for a bit.

The big secret on making friends, or at the least getting people to think positively about you, is to find a connection. Literally any connection. That old small-talk joke about how people just complain about the weather? That counts. Is something happening on the Cut? Counts. Do you both have a shared professor who neither of you like? Definitely counts.

Look, people like people that they have things in common with, especially if it’s easy to hold a conversation with that person. Of course, you ideally won’t just talk about the weather for the rest of your acquaintance, but that’s what being an interesting human being is about. (You’re an interesting human being, I promise. Everybody has something they’re passionate about, and passion is what makes people interesting.)

Once you’re ready to move past the small-talk phase, assuming you guys haven’t already sort of fallen into a friendship, all you really need to do is start inviting them to things. Things you think they’d be interested in, obviously, but don’t be discouraged if they say no.

The first time they might think you're just being nice, so you might want to invite them to a few things before you rule them out. (If they keep saying no and not offering to reschedule or don't have any legitimate excuses, then maybe you should give them the space to come to you. They could just be going through a busy period in their life, but you shouldn't be putting in all the effort.)

But here's the thing — it sounds like you've already done all this. You've chatted with them, you've asked them to hang out, and they just seem... uninterested. Well, I hate to break it to you but you can't force anyone to be friends with you. I know, I'm sorry.

Even if they seem really cool and you really want to hang out with them, if they don't feel the same, there's really nothing you can do. Friendship isn't all that different from love in that way.

If someone doesn't want to befriend you when you've been nothing but a decent person to them, it's going to feel like a rejection of you as a person, but it's really not. It can't be, not if they don't know you that well. Sometimes that's just how life plays out. It's kind of a bummer, but you shouldn't waste effort on someone who you're getting no response from. You deserve better.

Keep hugging,