Is It Possible to be Too Friendly?

In general, friendliness is seen as a good trait to have. Friendly people show us that we are liked, which makes us feel good or accepted. But can one be too friendly? Certainly the creators of The School of Life video “The Problem with Over-Friendly People” think so.

The video lays out three problems with “over-friendly” people:

  1. They don’t seem to have their own opinion and agree with anything.
  2. They compliment us so much that getting compliments from them is close to worthless. Even worse, they compliment us on things we don’t value.
  3. Their positivity is overwhelming and makes us think of the darker side of ourselves we would rather ignore.

It then enumerates three things people who are not “over-friendly” do well:

  1. They realize that intellectual disagreement can be exhilarating and can hold interesting conversations
  2. They don’t give praises as frequently, which actually ends up making the rare praises they do give much more valuable and closer to what we want to be praised on.
  3. They know that sometimes we need to feel sad and they are able to feel the sadness with us rather than forcing cheerfulness on us.

Then it goes on to speculate on what exactly makes overly-friendly people act that way. According to the video, over-friendly people are not confident in the validity of their own experiences. Thus, they can’t use their own experiences as a guide for how to interact with people empathetically. Finally, the video concludes with ways in which we may navigate social situations and make true friendships by not being over-friendly and believing in our experiences.

There is a kernel of truth to the argument that perhaps it is possible to be too friendly. We have all supposedly met people who might be called “over-friendly” — they are just a little too upbeat, or they give just a bit too many compliments. We do sometimes feel tired or unnerved when the epitome of sunshine and smiles beats down on us without rest.

But why do we feel distrustful of “over-friendly” people? One reason may be that when someone is constantly cheerful or flattering, it can come off as insincere. This is because humans desire empathy. When we are happy, we want others to know that we are happy and to share in our happiness. However, our lives are not always in tiptop shape. When things take a downward turn, we prefer comrades in misery because they are in our shoes so they can understand us. So, when we are unhappy, we are turned off by 24/7 positivity. It becomes easy then to understand why we wouldn’t want to surround ourselves with “over-friendly” people.

Okay… but hold on. Does this mean I agree with everything in the video? Actually, no. I do have one rebuttal to make here: the type of person described in this video is not “over-friendly”. Rather, they are just the opposite: fake sycophants whose shallow behavior prevents them from making friends. “Friendliness” involves a willingness to be a friend, and a friend is one who can listen to and empathize with you and give you what help they can when you truly need it. Regardless of whether the excessively cheery complimenting character in this video had good intentions, this cannot be “friendly” behavior.

This sounds harsh, but I haven’t finished. In the end, I don’t think there is such a thing as being “too friendly”. Being an extremely friendly person simply means that person has the intent to be as good a friend as possible. So how could being the friendliest person in the world be bad in that case?


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