Are Your Friendships as Varied as Your Interests?
Photo courtesy of John Trainor.

Are Your Friendships as Varied as Your Interests?

Written by Emilie

Topics: Multipotentialite Patterns

As a multipotentialite, the whole “fitting in” thing can be a little tricky, not just in regard to career, but in your social life as well.

A few months ago, I was hanging out with a friend. We were sitting on her front lawn chatting, and she started telling me about how she felt like she didn’t totally fit in with her friends from Swing Dancing class because they were ALL ABOUT swing dancing. At the same time, she didn’t really feel like she fit in with her Kung Fu friends, because they were extremely serious about Kung Fu.

This was something she’d always struggled with. She would meet a lot of great people through her various activities, but she wouldn’t feel like she completely fit in with any one group.

Tight-Knit Groups or Random Friends?

Human beings crave belonging and community. We adopt identities and associate with particular subcultures to give us a sense of significance.

Listening to my friend talk, I realized that this is an issue I’ve dealt with as well. I’ve never really had one group or “posse.” Growing up, I was friends with people who could be described as “nerds,” “art kids,” “popular kids,” “stoners,” and everything in between.

Even now, when I throw a party, the people who turn up are an eclectic mix of random friends that I have accrued throughout my various paths and pursuits. I often get comments like, “you have interesting friends!” (In a good way.)

And it’s true. I do have interesting friends. In fact, I have the greatest friends. They’re very different from one another, but each of them is special, and allows me to express a different side of my personality.

Instead of worrying that I’m not a part of a group or subculture, I feel like I’ve gone through life, hand-picking the best of the best in each area I’ve explored.

How to Handle this Predicament?

First, stop viewing it as a predicament. Approach your social life the way you approach your interests: embrace the diversity and be proud of it. Don’t apologize for not fitting in with any one group.

Here are a few other ideas:

  1. Hang out with one group for as long as you like, and then float over to another group, and so on. Enjoy how each type of person brings out a different side of your personality, and don’t worry too much about what other people think. Just have fun.
  2. One-on-one hangouts can help lessen the pressure to “fit in.” They can also allow you to connect on a deeper level.
  3. Pay attention and look out for the other multipotentialites as you go about your activities. They’re out there.
  4. Be the connector and form your own group of multipods, based not on a shared interest but on a shared curiosity about the world and desire to live a plural life.

Aren’t Multipotentialites a Group?

I recognize that there’s something ironic about this whole discussion.  I obviously identify as a multipotentialite now. Isn’t that a group?

Yes, and in a way, I think starting Puttylike was an attempt to create that group that I never felt like I had.

But this group is different. It’s inclusive and accepting. It says nothing of WHAT you’re into, only that you’re into many things. What those things are, who knows. It’s an identity based on diversity, so it doesn’t feel limiting to me, the way that other labels have.

I’m really curious about this though. Do most multipotentialites have an eclectic mix of friends?

There may be multipotentialites with a core group of friends (maybe you’re one of them), but I’d beg to wager that these groups are likely composed of other multipotentialites who have glorious contradictions and eclectic backgrounds. Possibly the group formed around one common interest initially, but then you found that you all had a number of other passions and could connect on that level too.

Your Turn

Are you part of a tight-knit group, or do you pick up random friends here and there, as you go about your various pursuits?

22 Comments

  1. Olga says:

    I was actually wondering whether multipotentiality extends as far as the bedroom… I and a number of my multipod friends are also polyamorous. This got me to thinking whether embracing of lots of interests was common with poly people, and vice-versa? ;-D

    • Emilie says:

      There was a discussion about this in the Puttytribe. There seem to be multipotentialites who are polyamorous and others that really aren’t. I’m not sure if the correlation is greater than with the general population. It also could be that people who are more open minded in regard to work and lifestyle tend to be more open minded in relationships too. I’m not sure. Interesting discussion.

      • Emily says:

        Wow! I cannot believe there is a whole site for us! I’m a multipotential who’s sole focus is working with serial entrepreneurs, Renaissance people, and generally Richard Branson type business magnates :-) Thanks for putting together this site! I’m reading through some of it like, “I thought that was just because I was a nut – nope, we are a different breed for sure!”

  2. Hey Emilie,

    I’ve always been one of those “one-off” friends kind of people. I enjoy my time with friends the most when it’s just 1:1 and I find that actually helps me make more friends more easily.

    Think about it. When you meet someone new, even if it’s a group context, you don’t often become friends with the group. You become friends with individuals in the group. I enjoy a big ol’ get together as much as the next guy, but mostly because it gives me the chance to conveniently interact with a bunch of different people 1:1.

    That’s why I’m so excited to go to New Media Expo and WDS in 2013. There will be thousands of people gathered for a common purpose, but I’ll have the opportunity to chat up the individuals without ignoring the group dynamics that brought us together in the first place.

    P.S. Awesome picture at the top of this post.

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Joel,

      Yup, I can relate to that. Hopefully you and I will get some 1:1 time at some point. (Maybe at WDS? :)

      Thanks for the comment!

      • David Delp says:

        WDS 2012 was the first place I ever felt like, “this is my tribe!” Before that I felt way to “scattered” or “stretched” or “diversified” to feel like I fit into a group. I’ve always had a super wide range of friends and felt like they weren’t a cohesive group. Now, when asked what I do I proudly say, I’m a father, lover, gardner, homemaker, playwright, singer, artist, neighbor, illustrator, son, brother, community organizer, and oh, I teach people designing a balanced life. At WDS it seemed half of the people there could say the same thing!

  3. Patrick says:

    Hey there Emilie
    I’m rather new to puttylike, I found you guys maybe a month or two ago from a google one night along the lines of “I have too many interests”. I do relate to the whole multipotentialite thing.
    In regards to this article, I have introverted tendancies and have only a few friends. When I eat out in public like at Applebees or somewhere similar, I marvel at groups of young people(sometimes non-drinkers) all together at a table together seeming to have a good time and enjoying the big company, I don’t know how they accumulated such a group, am I just happening to see a group of social butterflies all at once.
    The most recent attempt at having two of my best friends in one place was awkwardly strenuous, after the two had a few initial “hows school going” “see any shows recent” convo prompts I was seated in the middle while we were all eating doughnuts between silent people, the three of us as a whole didn’t have a major unifying interests, at one point in our lives we were all active in a scouting group, but now not so much. I have things I talk about with each best friend individually but while they a both present it almost is dis-including the other to discuss something they aren’t in on or interested in.
    I have some other familiar friends who I wouldn’t class as best friends, I wonder how awkward it would be to integrated say 3-5 people around a table who likely have rather opposing views in general than similarities. I’m a sober person currently, I went against the vast majority of society on my last bday(21) and didn’t go on alcoholic escapades, I didn’t want to be sick on my bday…, and I’d be the only person in my immediate family to be a drinker. I often wonder if I alcohol would open up more social opportunity however, I’m leery of what sorts of people use alcohol as catalyst for obtaining social interactions.
    Any ideas and suggestions on how to relieve tensions and successfully integrate my diverse friends?

    • Larrah says:

      Patrick, alcohol is a good catalyst for socializing because laughter is a common joy and alcohol helps people act silly or think they are free to act silly or just less self-concious in general. . . you can practice being less self-concious and learn to play the jester for your friends without alchohol (I come from a family of non-drinkers as well, so I understand your mixed feelings.) When I don’t want to drink (or use other substances), I make a joke about myself that I naturally do what other people do drunk, etc. – which is true about myself – I don’t know about you – I’ll dance, I’ll take a dare, I’ll laugh too loud at a dumb joke. People want other people to drink so that everyone feels permission to laugh or be silly or daring and have fun. A fun, bold personality is a healthy substitue for alcohol.

      When I integrate my diverse friends, I try to have a funny youtube all ready to go on my phone or a new song downloaded that most people will get excited to hear. I play the entertainer by telling an interesting story (I’m an actor so I’ve found most people are interested in stories of being “on set.”) I am not above going and doing something interesting when I know I’m going to a party or something just to be ready to go with a universally entertaining, non-controversial story (like trying a new workout or finding a rumored-about historical graveyard). I am also not above bringing a prop. The prop is perfect for shy people because the attention can be on the prop instead of yourself. Ideas for props: wearing an unusual accessory that draws comments, preparing a really complicated drink (alcoholic or not), or bringing little inexpensive or homemade gifts for everyone to unwrap. It can really break the ice and give your friends something to talk about when they don’t have much else in common.

      (I know some people will cringe that I am so calculating about my social interactions, but interpersonal strategy is legitimately an area of talent for many people and one way to earn a wage.)

      You might not be so comfortable with playing the role of the host that I do. Good luck figuring out your own way of navigating the challenge of bringing disparate groups of friends together!

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Patrick,

      I think that with practice, you could probably find a way to have fun in a group. It might take some experimenting with different combinations of friends, but I bet something interesting would come out of it eventually. At the very least, pushing yourself to get together with a group every week or two could be a good exercise in social confidence. It’s fine to have 1:1 friendships too though. I can get into groups, but I definitely prefer hanging out with my friends one at a time.

      I don’t drink right now either. I did when I was younger and I’m actually not sure how much of a difference it made. It does take a bit more planning since you have to find things to do besides going to bars, but that also sometimes makes for more interesting adventures. You end up doing things you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

      Thanks for sharing, and welcome! :)

    • Tessa Hawkins says:

      Patrick,

      Sometimes it helps to remember that whether other people get along or not doesn’t reflect on you. If your two best friends don’t have anything to talk about together, that is in fact their problem and/or responsibility. It isn’t yours to make them have a good conversation. Instead, if you focus on enjoying your interactions with each person, conversations and group situations become easier. It is up to each person to decide whether they want to have fun or not.

      Also, the more people in a group the easier it is for this to happen. When there are three people with one person being the common denominator there is a large emphasis placed on that connection. Whereas, if there are 5 people and the relationships are spread between more than one person, ability to find common ground/interests becomes a necessity.

      Re: using alcohol in social situations. I understand how you feel but from the opposite perspective. I used alcohol so much that I felt I wasn’t able to be in a social situation without it. I forced myself over time to go to events where I knew nobody and attempt conversations without drinking. It can be so challenging, but it is where I learnt that all social interaction begins and ends with you. You decide how to approach a person, and how to react. However, I believe that alcohol can help, as we do not always have enough will power to overcome shyness or embarrassing situations. It can help us along if used conscientiously.

      Tess

  4. Conrad says:

    I think it depends on where you are in life to be honest. Once you go from single to married or perhaps you move cities, go to college or settle down and even have kids, the whole friends aspect changes not only who you are friends with (people tend to drift away from you if you are the only on in the friends group who is now married etc)but perhaps why you are friends with those particular people in general. We all have friends for some reason or another. Some friends are lifelong, others are because of a assimilation in interests, others are because they are almost situational friends (parents of your children’s friends)

    I would like to think that my best friends from school (from 25 yrs ago) are still with me every weekend and we all continue to grow up together, however with many people moving, economic drifts etc, this just isn’t the case. I’ve found I have/and still are, leaving more friends behind, as we drift apart, and don’t share the same values as you grow older.

    • Emilie says:

      That’s very true. I think it also depends on the individual. I know some people who are coupled and still maintain outside friendships, even make new friends on a regular basis. I know other people who are content with just a few close relationships. I think location plays into it as well. In a city like Portland, you’re constantly meeting new friendly people everywhere. I would imagine it would be very different living outside of the city.

  5. Thea says:

    I’ve always had friends in a variety of different groups, but I never thought of it that way. They were just my friends. It wasn’t until high school, when a student teacher asked me to tell her how all the groups of friends worked at my school, that I even realized groups were a thing there. The reason she asked me was because I was friends with a bunch of different people who didn’t seem to be friends with each other (aside from knowing each others’ names -but everyone at my school knew each others’ names and generally who our siblings were as well. It was a small school).

    I dunno. I just want to be friends with cool people. And there are a lot of those. Besides, deep friendships could come from anywhere, so why limit yourself?

  6. Larrah says:

    I have found myself very integrated into different social groups at different times because of being the daughter of a Bible study leader or the wife of a dentist, for example, but I always felt like an interloper who was there under false pretenses since I don’t study the Bible or fix teeth myself – I’m just accepted because I am very diplomatic and have nice manners. It has always been bragging rights in my family to say about ourselves that we can talk to anyone anywhere about anything (with the anecdotal proof being that one of my distant cousins was a U.S. Ambassador), so I feel that I have the ability to partcipate in a variety of groups. However that causes me a lot of distress and I resist making any close friends from groups because chances are that I have also been embraced by a different group with competing priorities (i.e., Reps. v. Dems.), and I am frightened they will both ultimately reject me for aiding and abetting the enemy.

    Sidenote: I don’t have the right social skills for all types of groups. I found it hard to get in good with a certain women’s recreational softball team this summer where being diplomatic and well-mannered were not very useful skills compared to trash-talking, physical intimidation, and beer-drinking skills. I left that group in disgrace (I made champagne cocktails for a party I hosted – that was just one mistake.) but actually made one close friend from the group who appreciated my qualities and became my roommate for a while.

    My closest friends tend to be people I have once had as roommates which seems to prove the theory that we are better one on one.

    • Emilie says:

      Interesting Larrah. I think you’re going about this the right way. Trying out a group and then staying in touch with the few people you meet that you connect with.

      You’ve articulated precisely my problem with some groups; that when your ideals don’t match with the group’s ideals, you’re faced with the choice of either changing your beliefs, hiding them or leaving. I usually choose to leave when this happens, but hopefully staying in touch with the few more open minded people that I dig.

  7. Jo says:

    I’ve just realised that I used to enjoy going to a particular club because I’d bump into friends in all different friendship groups there! Thinking about it, now, my friends are all stragglers.

    I’ve never been very good at keeping friends for more than a few years. After a while I seem to just find other people more interesting. I don’t really have any lifelong friends. But I do have a handful of those friends who I don’t see very often but when I do it’s just as good as ever. They tend to live abroad, whereas the friends that come and go tend to be circumstantial – we’re on the same course or something. I don’t know if that’s just me or a multipod thing.

    • Emilie says:

      Interesting Jo. Maybe friends are like interests to multipods in that regards too. Some are more temporary, others tend to cycle back into your life again and again.

  8. Like you and your friend, I used to have lots of different groups of friends (my dance friends, my nerd friends, my entrepreneur friends, etc), and each group often didn’t know the other sides of me. My dance friends would be surprised if I happened to mentioning liking math & science, and my nerd friends often had no idea that I owned a store.

    But over the years and some random internet happenings, I’ve come to find a whole bunch of people who are multipassionate – who are infinitely curious about the world, who are up for trying new things, and who are a joy to be around because they accept all sides of me. Now my ‘one-interest’ friends have kinda dropped out of my life – I might still see them and talk with them at specific events or classes, but we don’t really hang out outside of our one interest. Whereas with my multi friends, we hang out a lot, and do all of our different interests together! Plus they tend to be much more ‘interesting’ people who are doing much more interesting projects in the world! :-)

  9. linda says:

    Very interesting topic. I think we all have different sets/groups of friends depending on interests. You have perhaps the childhood friends. You have perhaps friends from a particular hobby… friends that you talk about business with, friends that you just go do xyz with. It’s almost natural… as we connect with people in different ways. I think it’s a perfect “fit” for multipotentialites who have varied interests. We aren’t going to find people that have the same exact breadth of passions … so we connect with different people for each or a few… if that makes sense!

  10. Tessa Hawkins says:

    Many people have told me, from school, university and beyond, that I was never really in ‘a group’ but floated between many. I never thought I couldn’t fit it, I thought I didn’t deserve to. Looking back, I wouldn’t change it, and I haven’t. Not only do I have friends from all different areas of interest, walks of life and distinct eras in my past, but I have them all over the world and can go months and years without speaking with them and still maintain the intense understanding and affection for them.

    Having a gigantic spectrum of friends is so important for a multipotentialite, although we don’t actively contrive to do so. They act as points of information and possible contacts in regards to our grand ideas, they provide much needed perspective and feedback that another friend from a different area couldn’t give, and they stimulate our ideas and passions through their interests and opinions. People are so important to how we experience our world that a complex, varied and widely representative social network is only a good sign.

    So in conclusion, my tight-knit group of friends comes in the form of my close and meaningful relationships with so many interesting minds and beings in so many different times and spaces.

  11. Amy says:

    This article is great! I have struggled with this for years. I have had groups of friends in the past but I’ve always needed other friends as well. I sort of float among all my friends and group of friends and feel pressure when one group or friend wants me to spend all of my time with them. I have a several very close friends but they are all very different types of people and not in the same group. One on one time is key for me. Thanks for this article. It’s like social pressure has been lifted for me and I’m glad others feel this way too.

    Thanks
    Amy

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