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Polite Spines Help Friendships

My friend Beth and I have known each other for well over 25 years. I was in her wedding and she is one of my favorite people. One thing that bugs me, however, is her tendency to whine when she doesn’t get her way. What’s bad is how I let myself get resentful with her for this behavior which only damages a very important friendship. I finally brought it up to her and she responded well but persisted in the behavior. Finally a few weeks ago we made plans to go shopping. Unfortunately I was delayed by an appointment that went longer than expected beforehand. I called to apologize and said we could still go shopping if she wanted or, if she was hungry, we could grab some lunch. It was up to her. She proceeded to whine when I wouldn’t agree to do both. She tried to get me to admit my later plans were less important and get her way. I finally reminded her that she wasn’t accepting no for an answer. She apologized, we got lunch (her choice) and she thanked me for letting her know when she had been too pushy. We had a wonderful time and I was so glad I could be honest with her. Spines help friendships! 1006-12

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Sarah October 11, 2012, 7:50 am

    What a refreshing post! It’s good to hear that the OP and her friend were close enough to give honest feedback and mature enough to accept it rather than argue.

    A year or so after I graduated high school, a friend quietly told me that I ramble on too much when I tell stories, giving too many irrelevant details that don’t add to the story, and they get a bit bored. Message received! If I can’t tell a story in five sentences, it’s no longer told. 🙂

  • Sarah Paige October 11, 2012, 8:11 am

    I think we have all had a friend like this at some time in our lives! It’s good that you can let her know when she is whining to get her way without it causing friction. Yeah for polite spines!!

  • Cat October 11, 2012, 8:59 am

    A friend of mine used to do this. Her husband stopped her by saying, “Tell me. Don’t whine at me.”

  • Enna October 11, 2012, 9:52 am

    Just goes to show how talking about a problem like this can resolve the problem. Nice that there was a happy ending. This is when rudeness can be forgiven because the perosn who has done it sees what they have done wrong and takes responsiblity for it.

  • Perpetua October 11, 2012, 10:33 am

    I don’t know – were your plans originally for lunch and shopping? Perhaps you should have done both since you were the one who was late. No excuse for the whining though, but you did let her down, allbeit unintentionally.

  • Lisa October 11, 2012, 10:56 am

    As my friend and I grow older together we tend to repeat stories but have an understanding that it’s ok to say “I remember you telling me that before” without being offended. That being said, I’d still like to know where I might be able to obtain a spine for other situations. 🙂

  • AS October 11, 2012, 11:19 am

    That is a nice post.

    Though I think your friend Beth is a mature lady. I can imagine quite a few people not taking criticism well, and the situation going downhill when you pointed out the flaw. Good choice of friend, OP, and an encouraging post. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Angel October 11, 2012, 11:35 am

    You are a better person than I. The thing that made me bristle the most at your post is that your friend tried to get you to say that your later plans were not as important and push you into doing both lunch and shopping with her. That would really piss me off and I would have been more inclined to say, I am sorry that you feel that way, maybe we ought to skip it altogether. Perhaps that’s not the most mature response either, but if it’s an ongoing problem then that’s really frustrating. I’m glad it worked out for you but frankly to me it sounds exhausting. Too high maintenance for me!

  • German Shepherd October 11, 2012, 12:14 pm

    Woohoo! This is why communication is so important; it helps both parties avoid problems and messes.

  • Psyche October 11, 2012, 12:52 pm

    I actually ended a stagnant friendship by using Polite Spine. It actually works!

  • Mrs. Goldfish October 11, 2012, 1:08 pm

    The reactions here confuse me, usually the ehellions are quick to judge people who are late to an appointment with a “Your time is not more important than another persons time”.
    So here we have the OP, coming late to an appointment with her friend, through no fault of the friend. Said friend expresses an interest in following the plans of the actual appointment, which is not possible because the OP has plans after. So the plans she made with Beth can be delayed, but her own plans can’t? It seems the OP assumes that her time is more important than Beths…

    I think Beth is the one who should be pissed off and have said “I am sorry that you feel that way, maybe we ought to skip it altogether.”

  • Ann October 11, 2012, 1:12 pm

    In adulthood Plan A must often be substituted by Plan B or C and sometimes D. That’s something we all just graciously have to learn to do in our own lives and to accommodate in others’.

    (PS: can we all agree not talk about urine unless it’s germane to the post? Angel?)

  • LJ Briar October 11, 2012, 6:34 pm

    This is quite heartening for me to read at the moment because tomorrow I am sitting down with my best friend of almost twenty years, who is supposed to be my MOH in seventeen days, and we are going to talk about what appears to be a massive communication breakdown between us over the last several months (and between me and another friend of ours, who already decided to just cease talking to me about two months ago). Among a lot of other things, I want to help her understand that she can tell me if she has a problem with me, because I do believe that communication is what keeps almost any relationship going.

  • gramma dishes October 11, 2012, 6:53 pm

    I’m glad you said that, Mrs. Goldfish. I had been thinking kind of the same thing. It would seem to me that the friend had more reason to be upset than the OP. The two of them had made specific plans. The friend was ready to follow through with those plans. The OP changed the rules of the game and the friend was understandably disappointed. Maybe the OP is too heavily scheduled.

  • Cat Whisperer October 11, 2012, 7:46 pm

    People behave the way they behave because it gets them what they want. Beth whines (and I’ll bet OP isn’t only person she whines to when she doesn’t get her way) because that gets people to give her what she wants– either they give in to what she wants them to do, or they get apologetic and give her ego-strokes to try to make her stop whining.

    As OP found out, when you stop giving someone what they want when they behave a certain way, they will very likely stop the behavior.

    This is the take-away from OP’s story: when someone is behaving in a way that annoys or upsets you, instead of fixing on their behavior, take a good look at what you’re doing in response to their behavior. And then think about how you can change your behavior. You have complete control over what you choose to do. And it’s very rare that circumstances are going to lock you in to just one way of responding to someone who is doing something that annoys you.

  • Sol October 11, 2012, 7:58 pm

    I’d be pissed, too, if I were Beth. I’d be looking forward to a nice day out, and then disappointed. I wouldn’t whine about it, of course, but I’d be disappointed, and I’d kind of wonder about my friend – am I only worth it to her if she can schedule me in between all her other appointments?

    Now, that’s not true of course. Things happen, people are late, it happens. I think Beth is pretty great for being able to take the criticism, not only without getting defensive but realizing that her friend is right! That takes a real kind of maturity and self-awareness. I wish more people had that.

  • PM October 12, 2012, 5:52 am

    I have a friend is pretty pushy about getting her way. She’s always trying to “improve” me, by getting me to watch what she considers more intelligent TV programs or changing the way I do my hair or work out. I’d gotten annoyed to the point that I was considering cooling off the friendship and backing away.

    Once, after trying for the better part of a day to convince me to start a hobby that I had no interest in, she huffed, “Ugh, you’re so stubborn! Once you make up your mind about something, you just won’t budge, will you?”

    I point out that it was a good thing for me to be resolute (not stubborn.) And said, “You wouldn’t want a wishy-washy friend who changed her mind every five minutes, would you?” I also told her that when she tried to “improve” me, it made me feel that she thought I wasn’t good enough or smart enough to be her friend. And if she continued to do this, I would feel a lot less inclined to spend time with her.

    She stopped the behavior for the most part. Eventually, the friendship cooled off because she moved away. I think it was for the best.

  • Allie October 12, 2012, 8:58 am

    “Unfortunately I was delayed by an appointment that went longer than expected beforehand. I called to apologize and said we could still go shopping if she wanted or, if she was hungry, we could grab some lunch. It was up to her.”

    I disagree with those who are critical of the OP. The plans seem to have gone awry through no fault of hers and the above quote makes it clear she apologized and did what she could to lessen the impact on her friend. I don’t see what else she could have done.

  • Ergala October 12, 2012, 9:19 am

    I don’t think the OP was rude at all to be honest. It could have been a doctor’s appointment (which I have had run 2 hours over what it should have.), an appointment pertaining to work, pretty much anything. Work and doctors trump lunch and shopping any day. Now if OP had an appointment getting her hair and nails done, I could see Beth being irritated. Unless we know for sure what the appointment was for we have no right to judge the OP.

    I have a friend who gets very upset with me when I do things with other friends. If it is mentioned on FB (usually someone makes a post on my wall saying thank you) and she will comment on it “Um why wasn’t I INVITED?!?!?!” She wasn’t invited because I have several different groups of friends and it wasn’t my invitation to extend to her. I was asked to go somewhere by someone she doesn’t even know. Or she will comment saying how I never do XYZ with her but I did with Sally. Usually pertains to drinking, something I try to not do too often. When she and I get together our kids are in tow and I don’t drink around my children.

  • Shoebox October 12, 2012, 9:43 am

    Stuff happens, and the OP gives no indication that she blew off her friend for a better offer, intentionally or otherwise. So yes, the whining was a childishly selfish action way out of line in a mature adult, especially in response to an apology.

    So often in these stories we find ourselves cringing at people who’ve allowed self-absorbed divas to walk all over them; let’s for once celebrate an OP willing to speak up for herself, and a diva willing to graciously accept the rebuke.

  • Elizabeth October 12, 2012, 12:25 pm

    PM, it seems that your former friend was the stubborn one, making up her mind what she had in mind for you!!

  • Lacey October 12, 2012, 12:56 pm

    I can see getting annoyed because a friend’s delay led to some part of your plans getting cancelled, but it sounds like this was beyond the OP’s control, and who knows if her later plans were some obligation there was no way out of. I get really annoyed when people flake on plans, and try never to do it myself, but sometimes, stuff just happens and there’s nothing you can do about it. I have a friend who whines like a child if things don’t go her way – it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are that may have arisen, all that matters is that she was fixated on doing something specific and now it has to be altered slightly. She’ll start whining like a 5-year-old, “But you SAID…” So anyways, I understand where the OP is coming from. Nobody likes to be cancelled on, but some people are just unreasonable.

  • GleanerGirl October 12, 2012, 3:31 pm

    Kudos to the OP for standing up for herself, and kudos to the friend for accepting correction graciously. She sounds like a friend worth having.

    If she were perfect, she’d just make you feel inferior. But, since she has a flaw, she is human and equal, and since she accepts correction and works with you to maintain the friendship, she is far better than most! She’s a keeper!

  • GleanerGirl October 12, 2012, 3:38 pm

    As for the appointment running late, and causing her to be late, that does not make her rude. What makes a tardy person rude is when they do not even bother *trying* to arrive on time. If you’re due at noon, and you leave your house at 12:15, then that is just ridiculous.

    However, appointments running late are often out of the person’s control. For example, I once had a doctor’s appointment, and while I was actually WITH the doctor for only about 15 minutes, I spent so much time waiting IN THE EXAMINATION ROOM that I was able to watch an entire movie, interrupted a few times by medical personnel. Yes, I was in the examination room for over 90 minutes. I had expected to be in and out in less than 30.

    Of course, I was sick at the time, and not going to meet someone afterwards. However, I can really see how that sort of thing can happen. OP called to apologize, and to see if they can make alternate arrangements. She didn’t just blow her friend off.

    In the end, I think they both dealt well.

  • Enna October 13, 2012, 3:25 am

    @ Mrs. Goldfish and Perpetua it depends what the plans were and if they were something that the OP really couldn’t get out of. It’s not OP’s fault that she was late, if OP was being lazy then it would be her fault. What clinches it for me is the OP this

    “One thing that bugs me, however, is her tendency to whine when she doesn’t get her way. What’s bad is how I let myself get resentful with her for this behavior which only damages a very important friendship”

    If Beth has been unreasonable it grates, however OP identifies the problem, not only with the firend but also with herself and resolves it in a peaceful way.

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