Planning stuff with my friends is like pulling teeth. Help! – Geek Advice

Dear Pink Hair Girl,

Every time I try to organize something fun with my friends, they turn into total flakes. I’m usually the one putting together fun stuff to do, like going to conventions and setting up game days, but it’s real hard to pull off when most the friends I have are really irresponsible. They don’t bother to show up on time, they’re always late to chip in when paying for rooms and transportation, and just can’t be relied on in general. Even when it’s for simple get-togethers! And when I try to keep everyone organized, I wind up feeling more like the group Mom/Dad than just another one of the guys. How do I get them to be more responsible for themselves, so I can spend more time just having fun with them?

Sincerely,
The GeekFather

Dear Mr. G,

It’s not entirely a secret that we folks known as ‘geeks’ occasionally have an underdeveloped sense of social grace. Paradoxically, the general public thinks of being a geek as kind of hip these days. (About time!) Lately we’re seen as smart, creative, outside-the-box thinking, employees of Google with some zany yet loveable quirks. But let’s not kid ourselves. In real life, those loveable ‘quirks’ occasionally manifest in ways that impair our ability to socialize in certain ways. Sometimes we put “showering” on our priority list, well below “Being logged in to catch that 12-hour spawn”. Occasionally we fall back on relentlessly quoting Monty Python skits when we’re not sure what to say to someone attractive.

And yes, when it comes to real life, face to face confrontation, it’s not uncommon for us to want to just bury our heads in the sand, and pretend that our actions don’t have consequences, and no one is mad at us.

When dealing with a bunch of friends who all have their own ‘quirks’ when it comes to social situations, organizing group events can feel like herding cats. Or like getting your offspring to join the Dark side. I mean, right? Don’t they know how much fun things could be if they just listened to you? It’s bizarre that you gotta go cutting off twisting their arm trying to get them to just fall in line.

But therein lies the rub. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much fun you promise things will be, getting everyone together is like banging your head against the wall.  Here are a few tips to help you understand why, and how to deal with it.

  • Think about the group dynamic. Are your friends the kind of people who would be going to conventions or parties on their own?   Are they the kind of individuals who go out and actively DO stuff by themselves?  Or is that you?  There’s nothing wrong with gathering all your friends up and showing them a good time at a con they wouldn’t otherwise go to, but if you’re trying to organize this stuff regularly and it feels more like pulling teeth than having fun, then maybe it’s because your friends aren’t naturally motivated to go to these things. If this turns out to be the case, then you may have to reel it in. The impulse to invite your friends to stuff you find fun is an obvious one, but if they’re not naturally inclined to go do these things, then you’re always going to feel like you’re dragging them, and chances are they won’t always appreciate being dragged.  And I know, chances are you’re saying to yourself “But they have fun when we go!” Remember, they may be avoiding confrontation. I’ve seen the scenario a lot, where a friend thinks it’s easier to get dragged to a con, than to flat out say they don’t want to go, just to avoid letting anyone down.  So in general, your best bet is to just organize stuff with the few of them that ARE self-motivated to go, or find some new friends AT the conventions and game days to have fun with. It’ll be a serious load off your shoulders if you only go with people you don’t feel like you’re forcing, and you’ll stop feeling like a parenting control-freak!
  • Maybe it IS because they’re flaky. In case your group of friends (or maybe it’s just one or two of them in particular), really are showing up late all the time, never contributing properly to the check, and bailing out on you when they make commitments, then that is downright irresponsible.  If that’s the case then it’s time to speak up for yourself. You have to let them know face to face that they’ve done something that burdens you or the group. Do NOT rag on them as a group though, make sure when you have a talk with them, it’s on an individual basis in private.  Also, avoid exploding with frustration at someone and making a spectacle in front of everyone.  Do it with as cool a head as you can muster, confront them one on one, and tell them flat out what happened that caused you to be inconvenienced or disappointed. They may make up a bunch of excuses, or you may find out there was some miscommunication. Whatever the circumstance, the point is to let them know that their actions caused you to be let down. 

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  • Don’t set yourself up for disappointment.  You know them by now, you know who’s most likely to follow through or not. And chances are, they’re not going to change their behaviors any time soon. It’s also not up to you to try and change them. So the best thing to do is to not put them in the way of your fun. Either have a contingency plan ready for when they inevitably bail, or avoid making plans with someone who will probably poo on them.  Yes, that means sometimes leaving some people out of plans that are time sensitive or cost money. Just be prepared to talk to them calmly, rationally, and honestly if they ask you why they were left out. And when scheduling group events, avoid making them centered around specific numbers or requirements. If a couple people show up, great! If a lot of people show up, wonderful!
  • Stick to your guns. If you do decide to plan something that requires commitment, fulfill as much of the planning as possible BEFORE an event. Collect cash for gas/hotels rooms to get to conventions, require RSVPs to games that depend on a certain number of people to show. And then hold people accountable to these things. If they don’t chip in on time, or they don’t RSVP, then they don’t get to come along.  And if you’re sitting there saying “But then NO one would make it!” Well then there’s your answer. Your friends aren’t the type who do those things. Find other friends to enjoy those kinds of plans with. And while asking friends to stick to commitments in advance will help, chances are it’s not so cut and dry. You may have to make compromises here and there, and so being comfortable with your role in the group is important.
  • Make peace with what you do. Chances are, to some extent, you’re always going to be the one doing the pushing. That’s kind of the burden of being someone who’s more outgoing than others. It comes down to either finding other people who are as outgoing as you are, or accepting what your friends are like, and accepting that you’re the one who puts in the work to make fun things happen. Trying to change your friends isn’t an option. But what you can do is sit down and decide what would make you happiest. Putting in the work to make friends who jump on board more easily? Mustering up the energy to organize events and keep track of everyone’s participation? Or taking a back seat and accepting the kinds of hanging out that come to your friends naturally.  Think about what kind of memories and experiences you want to be having, and decide how much energy it’s worth spending to make that happen. If you can nail that down, you’ll have a little more conviction when it comes time to decide to be the organizer, or let things slide.

To sum it up, remember that it’s not really up to you to get your friends to be more responsible. That’s something they’ll either figure out eventually, or won’t. In the meantime, put yourself out of their path, and get to work on walking on your own. They’ll follow you to the Dark side when they’re ready. Spend your energy on ruling the galaxy having fun on your terms, with or without them. That way you’re less likely to wanna force choke hold it against friends when they make choices about how they spend their own time. You’ll start to relax around them and just have a good time. 

If you’ve got a snag in your social life, cramping your g33k style, feel free to ask me for some advice!
Write to pinkhairgirl@g33kwatch.com.

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Pink Hair Girl

After her DNA was spliced with that of a jelly fish, Olivia became known to all as Pink Hair Girl. She also gives advice to geeks all around the world.

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