Have you ever experienced that feeling of making a new friend too fast? That sensation that you ought to pull away from someone cause you? That, maybe, even though things have gone smoothly so far, its still risky to be going out on a limb so fast for someone so new?
I’m not talking about an acquaintance here. Not that ‘oh this person was interesting I’d like to get to know them better’ feeling or the ‘we have a lot in common feeling’ but the actual transformation from being a name you’d vaguely heard of into a proper – trusted – friend within days.
I’ve had that sensation twice that has stuck in my recollection. Both times were such different experiences.
The first time, the urge to pull back was spot on. I was under the delusion that the person I was dealing with was fundamentally a good person. They were, however, a bit lost and a bit clueless. Instead it turned out that there were levels to them that I hadn’t appreciated.
I empathised with this person, who faced, timidly the usual challenges inherent to new things: uncertainty, insecurity, a sense of being out of depth and the need for approval. I was right. These things did exist. What I didn’t understand was how deep rooted it was in their character.
How these traits manifested was unforeseen. Instead of positivity, rising to the challenge, knowing that it takes time and being willing to work on things, I learned lessons about self-interest, manipulation, false-facing and ruthlessness that I never expected to encounter.
I had to pull back and asses the dynamic of the relationship. Was I a fly in some complex web, a tool to an end or a easily duped patsy? Neither one. And so the shields had to come back up. The distance had to be reasserted. They had to be told (eventually) that there wasn’t a friendship left here. Which was an awkward conversation to have.
The second time the urge to pull back came the situation was remarkably different. I hadn’t seen, and haven’t seen, anything that suggests to me that there was before me anything but a honest person. Someone who understood that they have demons, that everyone has demons, and that life is what happens whilst your demons gnaw at you in secret and you ignore them.
A person who I enjoyed spending time with, who had a think skin to insult, a willingness to dish it back, a sense of humour, a sense of perspective and shared interests. This confluence meant that we often defaulted to each other’s company.
In spite of this, I still felt the urge to pull back. That urge was rooted in me. There was a little voice in my head, that finds it wrong to spend so much time with a new person.
It speaks, in the same voice that saved me before, that this was another new person. I don’t know them as well as I think I do. There were risks associated with that lack of knowledge. I should pay attention to those risks this time. That somehow, objectively, it was improper to spend so much time with a new person.
That voice is right. To an extent. Insofar as the past is a predictor of the present (ask your investment advisor all about it) I should learn the lesson about going too fast. I shouldn’t make the same mistake twice.
At the same time, I feel like every person is different, and every person deserves to be treated differently. I can’t refuse to extend someone new the same trust because some one else couldn’t appreciate it (funny how I keep trying to transform matters of feeling and intuition into matters of principle).
To an extent, it’s also about how I see myself. I don’t want to be that person who stops trusting new people even though I like them. I’ve seen the effects of loosing the ability to make new friends, and welcome new people, first hand.
I don’t want to go down that route.