Monday, September 12, 2011
I have a ... friend, let's call her Cindy. Cindy and I were close in college, but in the five years since, our relationship has dwindled. Things began to drift away when Cindy stopped initiating or reciprocating acts of friendliness: social phone calls or emails, meeting up for dinner, invitations to gatherings, etc. We now see one another only at friends' functions, and since Cindy is socially competitive, I tend to give her a wide berth at these events.
There is, however, one notable exception to Cindy's apparent lack of interest in our relationship: she likes to call me when she needs a recommendation. ANY kind of recommendation: restaurants, wine pairings, travel destinations, a hair stylist, health advice, etc. She contacts me 2-3 times a month, and only because she wants something (i.e.: she usually doesn't bother to make polite conversation or ask any personal questions). Of late, I've been screening her calls, giving her vague answers to questions, taking my time responding to her emails or texts if I respond at all, and generally trying to give her the impression that I'm not interested in being her personal Zagat guide. She is not, however, taking the hint.
Any advice? I would love ideas about how to graciously let her know that if this keeps up, I'm going to have to start charging for my services.
I understand your frustration, and you have managed it in the best way possible. Graces avoid scenes at nearly all costs, but your friend is making that increasingly difficult. You have two options:
1. Continue on your current course. Ignore the calls and emails; whether or not she takes the hint is up to her; you can simply delete the message and forget about it. A variation on this theme is to respond with no information: "I don't know of a good Thai restaurant in town, sorry," or "I can't recommend a dog groomer for your high-strung Peke," or, "No, I don't know of a cost effective way to vacation in Hawaii; if you find one, please pass it on to me." If you dry up as a source, she may simply stop contacting you.
2. Speak up. "Cindy, I haven't heard from you for weeks.....not since the last time you needed to find a 24 hour pharmacy for Alka Seltzer at 2am." That is not terribly subtle, so it should get the point across. If not, you can either use a version of the strategy outlined above, or go further: "Cindy, I'm not your personal search engine. Concierge services run about $40.00/hour; maybe you should hire someone." This is the less Gracious course, but even Graces can only be pushed so far. This remark will undoubtedly put a cease and desist on the pesky calls, but could invite retaliation. You mention that Cindy is socially competitive; if vengeance is an arrow in her quiver, you may want to opt for the low key approach in choice #1.
One aspect to consider, this from a more generous angle. Cindy's competitiveness likely stems from insecurity, as does her apparent inability to choose a restaurant, order wine, or take an aspirin without your approval. She clearly trusts and values your opinion and admires your ability to make good decisions. This is not to talk you out of Options 1 and 2 above, but just another way to view this less-than-Gracious conduct by Cindy.
Posted by Social Grace at 7:00 AM