How To Make Friends By Being Selfish

Say your friend wants to watch a movie with you. They give you 3 options:

“Do you want to watch Deadpool, Kung Fu Panda or something else?”

You genuinely don’t mind either way. You never mind. You always prefer to let your friends choose, to make sure they’re happy. After all, happiness is a key element to any strong friendship.

You tend to feel awkward subjecting other people to YOUR preferences, so you’ve taught yourself to stop having strong preferences… because you’re an easy-going, good friend, right?

Actually, no. Always trying to make other people happy kind of makes you a bad friend… in a way.

And it’s probably hurting your efforts to build better friendships.

Let me explain.

Building Blocks For The Perfect Friendship (Not really…)

Have you ever had a friend who constantly does more for you than you do for them?

They cook you dinner, they offer to do it again when it should be your turn, they bring you gifts for no reason (that they’ve made… like with their hands).

And they always let you choose the movie…

You love it at first and you want to reciprocate somehow. You want to build a strong, balanced friendship so you try to give back. But they outdo your efforts three-fold and tip the balance too far for you to ever restore.

They know you like the stuff they do for you, so they assume it makes you happy. But in many ways it doesn’t, does it?

You can’t completely enjoy the friendship because you feel guilty that you can’t match their generosity.

They won’t even let you wash the damned dishes.

After a while the guilt builds up and you start to doubt your own value.. You think that they must think you’re a bad friend, because you’re not contributing anything.

They constantly reassure you that (“No, don’t worry about it!”) your friendship is enough, and they don’t want you to pay them back. But it never feels quite right to you.

Because strong friendships are built on balance, rather than blind selflessness. They’re evenly weighted on both sides.

If you’re the one who’s constantly giving… and suppressing your preferences, you’re not giving other people a chance to GIVE BACK.

We tend to like the people we invest in. We feel good when we give. We feel secure in the strength of the friendship when there’s balance.

So do you give your friends enough of a chance to give back to YOU?

Do you give AND selfishly take, to maintain the balance? Or do you rob your friends of every opportunity to make YOU happy?

Just Pick The Damned Movie To Keep Your Friendship Strong

When someone offers you a “gift”, like…

“Which movie do you want to watch?”

“What do you want for dinner?”

“What do you want to do this weekend?”

TAKE IT. Express your preference. Stop being boring and be selfish in that way. Let them feel like they’re making you happy, instead of the other way around all the time.

Don’t let THEM feel guilty in the friendship.

Saying “Oh I’m easy… you choose,” is equivalent to saying “I don’t want your gift…” and then handing it straight back to them. That’s not how you build a stronger friendship.

If you genuinely don’t have a preference in some situations, try making the choice anyway. See what it feels like to let THEM feel like they’re doing something for you.

Another interesting side effect of this wise selfishness is that it actually increases your value in the eyes of others.

People are often blindly selfless when they believe they don’t have much else to offer to the friendship. They compensate with gifts and generosity and surrendering their preferences in favour of someone else’s. They play the role of “easy-going good friend” and we unconsciously value them less for it.

If you can find the right balance between selfishness and selflessness, you’ll build stronger friendships than you ever would with blind selflessness alone.

So f#ck Deadpool and Kung Fu Panda. Let’s watch Pitch Perfect!

(It’s actually a pretty decent flick.)

And here are two more ways to build stronger friendships:

  1. How to be a better listener
  2. How to have a meaningful conversation
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3 years ago

Wow…I’ve not only never read anything like this before but also you just described the dynamic between me and my mum. Thank you!

David Morin
5 years ago

Wow, great insight! I agree we shouldn’t be afraid of being selfish in letting others invest in us (and our relationship). This helped me see how many people lose out on good friends just because they are afraid of “taking too much”.

6 years ago

You just worded something i experienced but never actually thought of it that way. I love your articles Pete, i relate to so many things you write about.

6 years ago

Is this your day job now? Like, do you only give social skills advice, or do you drive for Uber, or are you a waiter or something?

6 years ago

Wow! Just wow! I never saw it like this but it now makes a lot of sense.
Thanks Pete