I am a 20-something professional woman and have a hard time making female friends. I work in an office with a strong female happy-hour culture and am always invited to these events, but find myself annoyed by how the women interact with each other. There is nothing interesting about their conversations and everyone seems so negative about their lives (and about other people’s lives: gossipy). I just don’t want to engage. But I know it keeps me on the outside and I actually think some of the women are pretty great when I spend time with them one-on-one. Is there something I can do to make this kind of conversation more palatable?
—Not in the In Crowd
Dear In Crowd:
My first reaction to your letter is, why do you My first reaction to your letter is: Why do you want to spend time with these gossipy women? But when I step back, I actually think I get it. There is gossip in any environment. That doesn’t mean these potential friends are proverbial “gossips.” It just may be the only way they know how to connect. You are part of a workplace that includes a clique of people who are building and deepening their friendships — why wouldn’t you want to be included?
So now we turn to how you define an interesting conversation and being negative. If you tell me these women are great in one-on-one interactions, I have to wonder if what you see from their Happy-Hour Selves is simply the classic, female process of connecting through complaint. Women bond over negative conversation. We’ve been conditioned to believe that the opposite — being positive self-advocates — is bragging and shameful. I’m not saying this is a good thing about women today, but it’s a thing. (Just watch basically all of the most recent season of “Inside Amy Schumer.”)
You don’t have to participate, but maybe you could empathize with the way they are seeking to get close to one another. If you hang out more, you might feel comfortable enough to change the subject or — gasp — point out the inconsistencies when Associate Director Susanna calls herself “stupid” or Media Manager Meredith says she doesn’t know anything about anything. You might just break through to the real female friendships you desire.
Stacy Notaras Murphy (www.stacymurphyLPC.com) is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to stacymurphyLPC@gmail.com.