I am a 14-year-old girl. I am arguably the smartest in the school and have never lacked confidence. I admit I am prideful and have never questioned my self-worth. I am always the one in the group with a sarcastic remark, although I am always careful never to hurt anyone with my words. I consider myself literate beyond my years.Darnell: Immediately, this girl has Asperger's. She is Tiny House. ...Bungalow?
This past week, my friends said they didn't think I could be truly "nice." I don't question my friends. I know they are the best of the group, and I am thankful for them. But one of them described me as "cold." This upsets me a great deal, as I thought I had been doing better opening up to people and being less aloof. I thought I was succeeding, but I have failed miserably.
I don't particularly want to be Miss Congeniality, but I also don't want to be labeled as cruel or cold. I am fun loving and can be sweet and compassionate. It appears to be overlooked that I do volunteer service regularly and have befriended "outcasts" when others wouldn't look their way. I really do try, and I know my personality is getting in the way. But I don't know how else to present myself.
I don't want to alienate myself from others. It sounds really stupid, but I want to be the stereotypical girl everyone wants to be with. Just a little. How can I open up after 14 years of acting totally self-sufficient?
Lulu: The thing about House is that he is (or professes to be) fine with not being liked.
Darnell: Maybe he secretly writes into Dear Annie when nobody is looking.
Lulu: I bet he does! "I love them, but I keep pushing them away! What is wrong with me?"
Darnell: I think that every middle-to-high school outcast thinks that they are the smartest person in the school. It is the only thing they can cling to.
Lulu: True. I'm not sure she was condescending as much as she thinks she was to the outcasts she befriended. Maybe they were also like "Oh, i better befriend this outcast."
Darnell: And now regret it EVERY day.
You sound smart, sassy and completely self-centered. Nearly every sentence in your letter has "I" in it. It seems as if you behave in order to be admired, and this is what your friends are reacting to.
If you truly want to open up, take a genuine interest in your friends without comparing their accomplishments to yours. Ask how they're doing and how they feel. See if you can make it through the day without saying something snarky.
Don't brag about yourself. Make your friends feel important to you. You can be assertive and still develop some humility. It will help.
Darnell: I love advice that boils down to "Stop being yourself." Because that is clearly not working for this girl.
Lulu: And to try to appear nice, which I think she has been trying. It just seems like her previous attempts to appear nice have rung false and insincere in her friends' ears.
Darnell: Probably because those attempts were both false and insincere.
Lulu: I'm not sure she can invent sincerity though. Annie tells her to be genuinely interested in her friends, can you do that?
Darnell: No, you cannot. I think what you can do is make a real effort to not be such a self-important doucher.
Lulu: I do agree that trying to not think about everyone else as peons will help her stop treating them in a way such that they recognize they are so many peons to her.
Darnell: We said the same thing but you said it more nicely! An alternate route is to play up being cold and mean. Focus it outside of your group, obv, for laughs!
Lulu: Yeah, I mean, we started off talking about House, and his method is: be a jerk, be known for being a jerk. Show a TINY AMOUNT of basic decency to those closest to you. SOMETIMES. They will grow to crave it.
Darnell: If you're aggressively cruel to people outside your group, you can probably ramp it down to just neutral with your friends and it will be mistaken for kindness. Warning: May get you punched in the mouth.
Lulu: If she really is somewhere on the autism spectrum, it could be that she doesn't communicating in a way that most people expect, and that is why she is coming off as cold. On Wrongplanet.net users with autism and Asperger's have written some useful step-by-step guides to social niceties. Which I know for no reason. No reason in particular.
Darnell: Wow, actual advice.
Lulu: I'm also asking Ashley for her take!
Ashley: Yeah, I mean, it's hard to fake being nice if you aren't.
Lulu: Right. People can tell when you're being insincere. I speak from experience.
Ashley: Although people think you're insincere regardless of your sincerity.
Lulu: I don't know why! I don't mean to be mean!
Ashley: I don't believe you. I guess not being nice occasionally prevents me from doing things other people might want to do, but they're never things I want to do. I guess I don't see the problem of being cold.
Lulu: Well, if she has zero friends, it might be lonely.
Ashley: She has friends. They're the ones who told her she's cold. If my friends told me I was cold, I'd say that you have friendships with different people for different reasons. Presumably I have good qualities that are not "niceness," and the friendships should focus on that instead of expecting me to be something I'm not. It doesn't sound like she expects intelligence from her friends, so why do they expect niceness from her?
Lulu: She shouldn't say THAT part.
Ashley: Ha ha. I WOULD.
Lulu: Ha ha. Ashley said the girl in the column should say to her friends, "I don't expect you to be smart, so why would you expect me to be nice?"
Darnell: That is a good way to not have friends!
Lulu: I love our advice.
Darnell: Their response would likely be that they are both smart and nice. After all, they are outcasts so they are the smartest people in the school.