Why this type of social situation can cause feelings of anxiety
Humans are primed to seek security – a sense of belonging is an instinctive need. So, being left out of social occasions can make you feel anxious and low and impact your perception of yourself. Introducing plans that other friends potentially won’t like might make you feel insecure about your own place in the circle.
Psychotherapist Alex Carling, based in Hull in the UK, says: ‘Decisions such as whether or not to bring additional people into your already established friendship circle can feel like big ones. We might worry about hurting people’s feelings and losing people we care about.’
How to weigh up both sides before making a decision about inviting a new person
These choices can be difficult because there are pros and cons to consider either way. There are many upsides to extending an invitation to an extra friend.
Showing kindness to others is good for you and it could mean that everyone gets to know each other better. The chances are you’ll probably end up retelling old stories for the new person, which might deepen friendships all round. If everyone comes away having enjoyed themselves, it means you’ve accomplished something, which improves your self-confidence and makes you feel good.
But it’s also okay not to include everyone every time. There might be several reasons for wanting to keep numbers low. A new friend will probably mean the conversations you have are slightly different. Some people just don’t get on and you might worry that the person you bring along wouldn’t fit in.
How to strike a balance when inviting new people into your friendship circle
There might still be occasions when you want to keep the circle small. Meeting at a particular time or place might be a long-standing group tradition, and it’s fine to be hesitant about changing things.
Alex suggests aiming for honest and open communication that makes it clear you don’t want to hurt the other friend or make them feel left out. She says there are ways to show you’re honouring someone’s wish to be included while explaining why the situation isn’t straightforward.
Being clear and kind means there’s less room for them to fill gaps with assumptions they might have (that you don’t want to hang out with them, for example). Remember, if your worries about how to handle the situation feel overwhelming, talk them through with a trusted adult. Whatever you decide, the most important thing is to be kind and sensitive to others’ feelings, as well as keeping sight of what feels right for you.
Some more tips on resolving a guest-list dilemma
Examine your feelings: This can mean asking yourself why a request feels difficult to accommodate. Is it that you feel overwhelmed in larger groups? Are you worried you’ll have to do all the talking or that others won’t appreciate the extra guest? Clarifying what the barriers are to including someone might help you work around them.
Know the limits: There might be some events where it’s not up to you to write the guest list. One rule of thumb might be to say a polite but firm ‘no’ if it’s a get-together that someone else has planned. And it’s worth speaking to the organiser if the event has been paid for on your behalf, like a birthday treat organised by a parent or guardian. Saying yes to everyone can up the cost.
Test the waters: If you’d like to invite an extra guest to a pre-arranged get-together, check in with the others who’ll be there to see how they feel about it.
Hold the line: If someone can’t be included and they’re making you feel bad about it, remember that being told you can’t join in can bring up negative feelings. It’s okay to stick to your boundaries once a decision’s been made, though, as long as you’re understanding about how they feel.
Offer reassurance: Suggesting an alternative plan shows that you want to spend time with someone. Perhaps saying something like: ‘I know you’d really like to join in, but I’m struggling with it a little because [doing the activity] as planned feels important to me. Would you be up for meeting a different day instead?’
Read more about friendship in Teen Breathe issue 44.