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Pettiness, Moodiness & Other "Friendship Irritants" To Work Through

A good friend is too great to let go, just because they might irritate you from time to time.

What About Your Friends?

Man. This certainly brings new meaning to the "seven-year" itch. According to scientific research, guess how long most friendships, on average, last? Yep. Seven years. Why? Well, the article that I read said it's due to a few different factors—never having a formal ceremony to profess your platonic commitment (that might sound weird but I get it; it speaks to intention), lifestyle changes that can cause people to drift apart and other relationships coming along that eventually take a higher priority (like marriage, kids, etc.).

All of that makes sense, but when I think of why a lot of my friendships now have the word "former" in front of them, it's usually because 1) they didn't need to be friends of mine in the first place; 2) my and/or their friendship needs shifted and/or 3) I didn't know the difference between what I call "friendship irritants" and straight-up deal-breakers were at the time.

What I mean by that last one is this. It is true that, sometimes there are people who come into our lives, who get closer than they should, and receive more benefits than they ever deserve. Once we come to the realization that they are not good for us, it's time to release them and move on.

But sometimes, if a lot of us were honest with ourselves, some friendships tank simply because we don't exercise enough tolerance, patience and forgiveness. Because, let's be real—even the best friendships consist of two imperfect people who are gonna do all kinds of imperfect things; including to each other sometimes.

That's why it really is important to know the difference between a friend who is toxic and a friend who sometimes simply irritates you. If one (or some) of your friends is guilty of the following friend irritants, maybe these tips will help you to work through them, so that they don't have to be thrown into your every two-, five- or seven-year friendship rotation. So that they can last much longer than that.

Pettiness

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Petty is one of those words that is used so much that I think it's important to go over what it actually means, just so we all can be sure if we truly do have a very petty friend or not. When someone is being petty, they are caught up in things that are "of little or no importance or consequence" or they are operating from a place of "having or showing narrow ideas, interests, etc." Whew. I don't know about you, but the first thing that comes to my mind, with both of these, are all of the petty exchanges that transpire across social media.

Anyway, if you were to apply these definitions to interactions in friendships, someone is truly petty if:

  • They screenshot conversations and share them with others
  • They are passive aggressive (aka sub-tweet a lot) on social media
  • They like to be condescending or patronizing
  • They continually dish what they can't take
  • They hold grudges and seek revenge about things that aren't that big of a deal

Whew again. For the record, all of these might seem the opposite of "little or no importance or consequence" but the reason why I think they are spot-on with that definition of petty is because petty folk are kings and queens of making mountains out of molehills; something out of nothing. In other words, they cause drama out of stuff that, at the end of the day, isn't all that important. And, if they handled things differently, there would be far less fall out (consequences).

Anyway, on the surface, a petty individual might seem like a toxic person to be around. But I'd say that it all depends on how often a friend of yours displays this kind of behavior. If it's only when they're really upset or super stressed out, cut them a break. But if it's a pattern, I suggest bringing their pettiness to their attention, along with some clear examples (because petty people also typically have a bad memory and are never wrong). If they value the relationship, they'll tame their pettiness, even if it's just when it's around (or directly affects) you. If they don't, then it might be time to realign your boundaries. Because something else that people who are consistently petty do is drain the energy of those around them. If not immediately, eventually.

Moodiness

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I don't know about you, but I've always been the kind of person who would prefer for someone to be pure evil all of the time than an angel on one day and Satan's cousin the next. Why? Because at least when you're always mean as a bat, I can come up with a way to deal with you. But if you're unpredictable, it's literally like being on a non-stop emotional roller coaster ride. One that gets sickening, after a while.

Although moody friends can be totally annoying in about every way imaginable, the reason why I don't recommend automatically cutting them off is, oftentimes, their mood swings are connected to underlying issues—hormonal imbalances, stress, problems that they're internalizing, sleeplessness, PTSD or Fantasia's version of "PTSD" (Post Traumatic SEX Disorder).

One of the traits of being a good friend is sympathy and, where it applies, empathy as well. If you've got a friend who seems to be any and everything but emotionally stable, set some time aside to treat them to dinner or to go to their house, look them in the face and ask what's up. Sometimes, just by you putting the (extra) effort in to show that you care, it can be the first step to getting your friend to a place of balance.

“One Upping”

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Know-it-all friends. Oh, you know the type. Argumentative. Patronizing. Condescending. Prideful. Always got a series of hyperlinks to send you to back up their theories on something. Then, if you do prove them wrong, they find some way to minimize your hypothesis. They give advice but can't take it. They're always talking but can't ever seem to listen. They can easily point out your problems but are somehow never fully capable of resolving their own. These are the type of people who always seem to be in a weird form of competition with those around them. You just started a business but, instead of congratulating you, they spend 15 minutes talking about their own goals and plans. Your man just proposed and when you want to tell them about it, suddenly they decide to discuss the trip they are about to go on with some friends. Everything is about one-upping, whether they are self-aware enough to realize it or not.

Still, you don't want to toss the friendship away because they are mad loyal, always have your back and can be a lot of fun, more times than not. In this case, what do you do? Not too long ago, I penned a piece on here entitled "According To Aristotle, We Need 'Utility', 'Pleasure' & 'Good' Friends". Friends who think they know everything oftentimes can't handle an in-depth conversation about humility (which is something that they definitely need). So, maybe scale back a bit on some of the things you typically discuss with them. Also, take some time out to figure out what kind of friend they are. Maybe they're not meant to know a ton about your life. Maybe they are the friends you visit a winery with or pray with. Not every friend has to check every box. Accept that and life—and your friendships—will be so much easier for—and on—you.

Unsolicited Advice

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An author by the name of Shannon A. Thompson once said something that I totally agree with—"Sometimes an outside perspective is the clearer perspective." If you're truly on the quest for wisdom, maturity and evolution, you will be open to receiving advice; especially from people whose consistency in your life has proven that they really do care about you.

But as someone who has a strong personality and gets paid to give advice, I have learned that when I'm having a conversation with a friend, they say something that seems crazy, counterproductive or I just don't agree with, before forcing my opinions and insights, I'll start off by saying, "Do you need me to listen or did you want me to say something?" If they go with Door B, sometimes I'll follow that up with, "OK. Do you want Shellie at 100 percent or watered down a bit?" It might sound funny, but you'd be amazed how much tension those two simple questions are able to alleviate.

If the thing that super duper gets on your nerves about a friend of yours is they have appointed themselves to be your personal sensei, it's OK to let them know that you are not always looking for a counselor, therapist or teacher; that when you need their advice, you will totally let them know—by asking for it.

Only ego maniacs will take offense with this kind of boundary. And, if that is the kind of friend you're dealing with, trust me, you've got a lot more challenges going on than the advice that they're constantly trying to force on you on your hands. Just sayin'.

Social Media TMI (or Passive Aggressiveness)

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While recently watching an episode of Righteous and Rachet (shout out the KevOnStage and DoBoy) on YouTube, they were interviewing a fellow comedian by the name of Akaash Singh. As they were chatting it up about how to pronounce words like "Pakistan" and "namaste" and what real Indian cuisine consists of (it really was an enlightening conversation), Kevin mentioned that he's got some friends who get in their feelings (my words, not his) because he, as he puts it at the 12:50 mark, doesn't like "the social media version" of them.

When you read that, didn't you have a friend who immediately came to mind? Maybe they are constantly telling ALL of their business, they seem to post 10-15 times a day, they are selfie addicts, they sub-tweet their man every chance that they get, or they always have something to complain or throw a pity party about.

If other than this, they are a stellar friend, I say do what Kev does. Although I'm not on social media, back when I was, I always saw my profile page to be MY page. So, when people came over to my side of cyberspace to try and "police" me, that really got on my nerves. Post and talk about what you want to on your page and I'll do the same thing on mine, thank you very much. Here's the thing about that—this is a rule that I shouldn't only enforce but respect. Meaning, just like I should be given the space to do and say whatever, so should the folks I interact with on social media sites.

That said, just because you and someone are friends in real life, that doesn't automatically mean that you have to be connected on social media.

I actually know some married people who don't follow each other; not because there's something to hide but since they also share so much of their lives together, they don't really want to see each other show up in one another's feeds.

So yeah, if the biggest issue you have in your friendship is that they get under your skin whenever they are online, "hide" their profile or unfollow them. If you think they are going to feel some type of way about it, give them the heads up. If y'all are true friends, it really shouldn't be all that deep. It really shouldn't. After all, you're not rejecting them. You're simply letting them be without you getting triggered or irritated in the process.

Inconsistent Communication

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Here's a "friendship irritant" that is kind of subjective. I say that because, while you may think that friends should talk once a week, you might have a friend who believes that you damn near should be on-call 24 hours a day. In my world, I have friends who I talk to, pretty much on a daily basis. It's not because we're on our phones, though. It's because I write for a living and they are online doing branding stuff, promoting a gig or something along those lines. So yeah, it's nothing for us to shoot a few emails back in forth. Then I've got friends who are not the biggest fans of being online or talking on the phone. For us to stay connected, we have to literally plan out times to connect and catch up.

Before I figured out that that was how some of my friends are, I would get irritated when I felt like I was doing most of the calling or putting in the most proactive energy to make the relationship work. But once I stopped pouting about it and brought it up to them, the effort has had more of a balance to it.

No one person should do all of the work to make a friendship last. If you're currently irritated because you feel like that person is you, before you assume that you are being neglected or taken for granted, talk that over with your friend. If they are a good friend, I can promise you that 1) you come to their mind more than you think and 2) now that they are aware that your communication needs are different, they will figure out how both of you can be happy. Again, if they are a good friend, they will do this.

Incompatible Expectations

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Me? I'm the one who likes my friends to keep their word. My friends, though? One of them hates—and I mean hates—for you to not show up somewhere on time. Another one feels some type of way if I don't set aside quality time for her. One of my male friends just wants his birthday to be remembered and commemorated, on time. Another friend is big on words of affirmation.

The reason why I know all of this is because I've made the time to study my friends and ask them what they expect from our relationship. Personally, out of all of the things that I shared, I think this point might be the cause of the most irritation in a lot of friendships. The root of this one is either one friend not knowing what the other expects or assuming that a friend should have the same expectations that they do.

I'll give you an example of how this can cause things to go awry. I've got a friend who is pretty sketchy when it comes to her phone. What I mean by that is sometimes it's on, sometimes it's off. Sometimes she brings it to work, sometimes she doesn't. Meanwhile, she's got a friend who is, let's say "hyper-vigilant", when it comes to communication. Because my friend is very "blah" about her cell, it causes her friend to feel as if she is being flippant or dismissive. Then, by the time her friend is able to track my friend down, she comes off as needy or high-maintenance, which totally puts my friend off. Her friend is a good friend, though, so she doesn't want to cut her off, even though this has been a lasting issue that gets on her very last nerve.

From what she's shared with me about the quality of their relationship, she shouldn't let her friend go. But there does need to be an open dialogue about what's going on. Then both of them need to come to a point and place of compromise. That's what friendship is all about. Not necessary getting all of what you expect but finding a way to get what you need while providing what your friend needs too; even if they are not one in the same.

It takes real maturity to want to work through "friend irritants" but if someone means a lot to you, it's worth it. What they bring to your life is of far more value then the nerve that they get on. When it comes to friendship preservation, it's words to live by, y'all. It really and truly is.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

The 5 Must-Have Friends Everyone Needs

10 Signs You've Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend

Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone "Friend"

10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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