Friend or foe?


You've just made a new friend and the two of you are going out to lunch next week. But there's something that makes you feel a little creepy and you can't put your finger on it.

It's always easy a couple of months down the line to wonder how you were unable to read the signs. We all have 20/20 hindsight. But how do you judge whether someone is good news or not? What are the things that should make you sit up, take note, and possibly hit the road?

Walking CV

Someone who prattles on endlessly about all their wonderful achievements is a social disaster. Their awards, their prizes, their high-flying jobs all come under the spotlight. At best, this person will be as boring as it is to watch grass grow. At worst, he/she will make you feel as if your achievements put you right at the bottom of the pile. Ask yourself what this person is trying to prove by making everyone else feel grim about themselves? And whether this might be driven by their low sense of self-esteem? And, whether this person might not just be a legend in their own mind only?

Name-dropping nightmare

When somebody starts dropping names, what they are basically saying is that they think they themselves are terribly unworthy, but if others hear whom they associate with, they might be held in higher regard. You can always pretend to have no idea whom they are referring to, and sooner or later, especially if it is a very well-known person, they will realise you're having them on. If a person's only intention is to make you feel unworthy, don't give them the opportunity to do so. Stay home and read a book. You don't need this in your life.

Too personal for words

Friendships are organic things and grow according to certain social rules and regulations. Things like money, sex, religion and health status are not things to be discussed with someone you have just met. If someone starts telling you about their bowel problems or libido problems the first time you meet, get out of there. This is socially unacceptable behaviour and heaven knows what else this person is capable of.

Gossiping gloom

Everyone gossips. Some people every day and others once in five years. It's a human thing. But you have to choose what you say to whom very carefully. If someone has just met you, they don't yet know if they can trust you. Run a mile if they start off by gossiping viciously about other people. You are likely to be next, the minute you turn your back.

Family feud fest

Everyone has a family member or two that they would gladly avoid for the rest of their lives, or send off on a Polar expedition lasting months. But to strangers, one puts on a united front. Saying vicious things about your parents or siblings at a first meeting will make you look disloyal and as if you have huge and insurmountable family issues. Who in their right mind would want to pursue a friendship under these circumstances? In other words, "Hi, I'm Wendy and I hate my mother" should make you hit the road. Fast.

Flirting fiasco

It's fine if someone is mildly flirtatious, but if every male or female that wanders past is seen as a likely target, get out fast. This person is not looking for a new friend, merely for a decoy for their flirting. And their own friends are probably sick of it, which is why they're not around. And should any of the flirtees show any interest whatsoever, rest assured that you will be dumped unceremoniously there and then while your new 'friend' pursues his/her new conquest.

Bigger and better

How much money someone has, their fancy house, where they went on their last expensive holiday, how much the shoes they are wearing cost – none of these make good conversational topics. On the contrary, they make you long for your Aunt Millicent's descriptions of the antics of her knitting circle. If someone feels that the essence of their being is reflected by how much money they have, know that you will also be measured according to these criteria. Brute materialism like this is scary and doesn't bode well for a budding friendship. Besides, who will this person be if all their money disappears overnight?

Clinging on for dear life

If this person starts telling you how lonely and desperate he/she is, watch out. It's different if someone has just moved to a new place, but if they've been there for years, something may be wrong. Why don't other people want to be friends with this person? Watch how you handle this one, as you might have a clinging vine on your hands. Set the limits from the word go.

Drug drama

If someone casually refers to their dealer, like they do to their hairdresser or their aromatherapist, take note. If someone is doing serious drugs, do you really want to be associated with them? Or with their friends? Apart from any health considerations, drugs are illegal, so give this person a wide berth.

In your face

In the normal development of a friendship, there are stages of intimacy. One starts off talking about general things and moves on, slowly to things of a more personal nature, once you feel you know and trust someone. If a person oversteps these boundaries in the beginning and makes you feel uncomfortable, don't stick around. Questions such as, "How much do you earn?", "So why did you get divorced?" or "So do you prefer sleeping with men or women?" are inappropriate and can be regarded as your personal business. You don't have to answer them, and you also should not accept a second invitation.

Instant best friends?

Quick assumptions about the seriousness of the friendship should alarm you. If you've only met someone a couple of times and they are referring to you as their best friend, be afraid. If someone starts pressurizing you into an increasing number of social commitments and seems to resent time you spend with other people, your alarm bells should be ringing. Friendships grow slowly and should not be subjected to this kind of unrealistic pressure.

Self-centred sagas

If by the end of your first meeting you feel as if you could write an unauthorised biography about the other person, but he/she does not know where you live or what you do for a living, there is a problem. Unless your definition of friendship includes having to do all the listening and all the giving and getting nothing in return, this friendship in unlikely to work out for you.

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