14 Mar Friends: Keep or Ditch
Drama queens, liars and whingers are probably the worst friends a girl can have. Do you ditch them or love them ? Sometimes – perhaps not often – you are faced with choosing to keep or lose a friend through no one else’s fault but yours: you made a bad friend – a perpetual whinger; a high-street drama queen or an insufferable story teller.
Zethu’s ex-bestie Bonnie says:“Looking back now, I don’t know why I became friends with Zethu.” At first, she seemed very exciting. The stories she told of her conquests – with men, her career and her exercise regime – all sounded like true-life accounts, and Bonnie felt like she could learn a lot from her. But as it turnedout, most of her tales were fiction. Yet even after Bonnie began suspecting that Zethu was prone to stretching the truth, she continued the friendship. “She was immensely popular,” mulls Bonnie. “She always knew what the hottest gossip was — I say knew, as in ‘knew’,” she continues, making air quotes. But a lot of the gossip Zethu passed around had no basis. If she saw two people together, she’d say: “They’re sleeping together on their best rated mattress.”
If a lecturer spoke to a student alone, she’d say: “He failed his exams, you see ?” Zethu seemed to have thrived on turning other people’s lives into a soap opera, of which she was the director. Bonnie thought she was the only one excluded from the harsh untruths of Zethu. Until one day, someone came up to her and asked her if she really was a part-time call girl. “I was stupefied,”
Bonnie says.“ I asked her where she heard that lie and she pointed me to another girl, who pointed to another girl, who pointed me to Zethu. It hurt so much to think that someone I regarded as one of my best friends had done that to me.” Bonnie confronted Zethu and asked her what was going on, but Zethu was non chalant about the whole thing, saying she was only joking and adding “a little spice” to everyone’s lives. What harm could come of that? “With people like her, you always think you’re their confidante, a so-called ‘bestfriend’,”says Bonnie, again with the air quotes. “But if she can tell lies about others that way to you, you can bet that she has no problem telling lies about you to others.”
Keep or ditch : Bonnie walked awayfrom the friendship. Michael Wano, author of Refill for Life, does not think she could have done any better. “There’s little debate here,” he says. “Negativity is like gravity–both work equally hard to bring things down.”
Although liars, when caught out, are easy to break away from, complainers are a lot trickier to deal with. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the way they live their lives or the way they can be friends. But there’s something downright depressing about having them around. They are wet blankets wherever you go, and dampen spirits no matter what the occasion.
Philile and Refilwe, both 28, have been friends for six years, but the two couldn’t be more different. Philile is an optimist, gung ho about her opportunities in life and relaxed when crisis strikes. She does not let much get her down for long, and her motto is: “I fight hard to keep my spirits up in the face of adversity.”
Refilwe is quite the opposite. Although she starts off looking for the bright side to everything, it’s not long before she’s blinded by negativity. She’s a perennial jobhopper, having had six jobs in the past four years. She starts off every one with a positive attitude, but within a few months, her enthusiasm wanes and she’s soon reduced to a sighing heap of gloom just waiting for her next pay day. “She complains about everything,” says Philile.
Refilwe complains about her bosses and company,which seems quite normal, but she also complains about her younger sister, her parents, her car, her bills, the government, her helper – basically everything. “You cannot put an end to that list,” says Philile. “She really does complain about everything.” Yet she’s only like that with her closest friends, who get to see the “real Refilwe”. “When she’s around others, I always notice that she’s very upbeat and zealous,” says Philile. “But it’s asham,really. In a way, I suppose that makes me special because I’m one of the few folk she feels completely at ease with.” What makes it bad is that when Refilwe comes visiting, she brings her negativity with her. And like a cloud, it descends upon the room and depresses Philile. The negative energy surrounds her. She fights it as best she can but sometimes Philile really cannot help but wish she had not come.
Keep or ditch: Bill Cottringer, a sociocultural researcher and author of You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too suggests that with people like Refilwe, you take a specific situation and give them some detailed feedback about how they could approach something differently and get better results.
“First, create a nondefensive climate in which you acknowledge that everyone feels this way now and then,” says Cottringer. “Then say that if you have a valid criticism to offer, take some more time and instruct them how they may do something differently to get better results.” Philile won’t desert Refilwe just yet because, she says, although she has a lousy air about her, she’s a good person at heart and that’s what counts. “She’s depressing to be around,” says Philile, “But I’ve been in jams before and she’s always been there to help me out. She’s just a pessimistic complainer, and I think that makes the friendship I give to her all the more valuable.”
THE DRAMA QUEEN
Possibly the worst kind of friend you could make–and probably the easiest to ditch–is a drama queen who lives for the next crisis and tries to rope in those around her.“If I wanted publicity, I’d have become an actress, ”says Winnie,23. “My former friend insisted on making a hulla baloo about the smallest things. Once she found an antin her drink and she screamed. The waiter ran to her to see what the matter was and she positively yelled at him!”
According to Winnie, her friend was not really scared but the incident gave her the opportunity to make a scene. She grabbed it. She started talking loudly to Winnie, trying to get her involved. But all Winnie wanted to do was leave. “I never hated her more than that time, ”says Winnie. “ I wouldn’t have minded a private word with the manager, but she really overreacted.”
Keep or ditch: In this instance, Wano can only offer a little tongue-in-cheek advice that may very well be the answer to all of us who are terrified of being in Winnie’s position oneday.“Find a king for your drama queen, ”he says. “It may help to reduce your stress levels.” These days, Winnie spends as little time as possible around her “royal” friend. Of course, this has given her even more opportunity to dramatise her life by bitching about Winnie,but she doesn’t mind. “Soon, she’ll get bored of talking about how stuck-up I am and move onto something more exciting,”Winnie says.“So what? At least I’ll still be sane.”■