No one wants to be “that guy” as far as their friends and family are concerned. You know — the one that everyone avoids.
When the need to contact him arises, everyone hopes the call they make to “that guy” goes straight to voicemail or the text gets overlooked. “That guy” still gets invited to dinner, but you can be sure the rest of the gang has been warned beforehand.
There is one in every family. There are three in mine.
While reputations are hard to reinvent, there are things you can do to start cleaning up your family and friends rap sheet.
1. Start by owning it.
You have been a flake. In a private moment, tell your sister you haven't forgotten you still owe her that thousand she loaned you for the recording studio when you were going to be a rock star. Believe me, she hasn’t forgotten. Ask her if you can create a payment installment plan. She will appreciate the effort.
2. Follow up.
Stick to the plan. Make it important to you to do what you said you would do.
Once you have opened the can of worms by acknowledging and committing to fix the problem, here are a few other things you can do to steer clear of the “that guy” status.
3. Don’t Mooch.
Families are generous, and most are willing to offer the shirt off of their back. Just don’t ask for the shirt off their back. And if your family and friends have been generous, be generous back. Be generous, anyway — just for fun.
4. Keep your promises.
Did you tell your sister-in-law you would watch the kids for three hours on Sunday evening? Write it down, and keep it on the fridge. When Sunday evening comes around, be ready to babysit the kids. If you flake for anything less than a hospital stay, your name will be underlined on the “that guy” list with a fine-point Sharpie. Make a habit of it, and you will be on everyone’s list.
5. Don't borrow money
This is a general rule that will keep your family and friends speaking to you. Today's economy makes life difficult, but remember that it is difficult for your family and friends, as well. Don't borrow money. But if you absolutely must, don’t just forget about it — promptly pay it back.
6. Stop blabbing.
Sharing something with you in confidence should not require a disclaimer given at the beginning of the phone conversation. Your friend shouldn’t have to swear you to secrecy when she tells you about her possible divorce. Don’t hop on Facebook and say good riddance to the fool until it is common knowledge. When it doubt, keep it to yourself. If you have been a blabber in the past, own that, as well. And if you hear something from someone about where he keeps all of his pin numbers, ask if he is making that information public before you post.
7. Don’t wait to be asked to help.
If your friend is moving, ask what day he wants you there to help. And if he does ask for assistance, find a way to help. The “F” word — Fairweather — is not for friends and family.
8. Follow the golden rule.
Be the kind of friend or family member that you would want to have yourself.
9. Don't be Eeyore.
Remember Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh? He was a sweet blue donkey thing, but everything he had to say was sad or negative. Real Eeyores are not cute nor sweet. And they usually sit alone because no one wants to be brought down — except for other Eeyores.
An extra hint: Remember to forgive as much as you can, and be grateful; Don't hold a mistake above other's heads for years. You would want to be given another chance if you were — by some outrageous imaginative stretch — to have made a mistake.
What goes around will, indeed, be passed around like mashed potatoes at a family dinner.
Davison Cheney was “that guy” and has worked hard to lose the status. See his other writings at davisoncheneymegadad.blogspot.com — and be sure to Ask Prodigal Dad.