This is a theory I’ve been working on for a while, and I’m writing it down to see how it looks.  There’s probably a lot to do here…

I people-watch quite a bit… live and in person, or on social media… wherever people are. 

And I’ve noticed something, I think, about how we interact with each other.

Some people seem to be, by their nature, someone other people want to be around.  They have lots of online friends and followers, they’re hardly ever alone when they’re out and about, they’re the life of the party.  They’re the forethought people. – the ones whose absence is notable when they’re not around.

At the other end of the spectrum are the people who don’t have large friend circles, the ones who are more often alone than with others, and might not even get to the party.  They’re the afterthought people – the ones whose presence isn’t notable when they’re standing in front of you.

Now I’ll give you that it’s a continuum – nobody is 100% forethought or 100% afterthought – but there’s a lot of folks at the extremes.

And this is what I’ve noticed – the four major types of friendships that I’ve seen can be explained, I believe, within the forethought/afterthought continuum.

BFFs, for example, are clearly what happens when two high-forethought people get together.  They can’t be more than a few feet apart without pangs of loss, and they’re the reason we can get unlimited text messages from phone carriers.  Put them around others and they get attention.

If I’m a high-forethought person and you’re a high-afterthought person, I’m likely going to find you wearying.  I’m going to hear from you a lot, and you’re not always going to be happy because I’m stretched out and may not reply right away.  I’m the rabbit and you’re the fox, and the chase is always on, it seems.

On the other hand, imagine how it feels in the other direction, if I’m the high-afterthought person and you’re the high-forethought person.  I’m usually lost trying to figure out what happened and why you never return my calls.  I just want your friendship and you’re running away.

And then we get those “hey, we may not talk for 12 years but by gum, we’ll pick up right where we left off” friendships.  Yeah, two high-afterthought people who are friends on social media and are quite happy to “interact” by reading each others’ status updates.

Now you’ve probably noticed that I’m kind of assuming some people are always forethought types and some are afterthought types, and I admit it is probably an oversimplification.  I won’t rule out the idea that there’s a scale, but you have to admit that there are some people who everyone wants to be around, and others who everyone fails to notice.

There’s definitely something here.  The details might not stand up to research, and maybe there are more categories (forethought/neutral/afterthought?), but it’s what I’ve seen.

Some people just know how to keep themselves on other peoples’ minds… and some don’t.  Forethought/afterthought. 

And it’s not just a restatement of “introvert/extrovert”.  I’ve known introverts who still manage to be forethought people (and they hate it).  I’ve known extroverts who are afterthought types (this may explain stand-up comedy).   This is a different dimension of interpersonal relationships. 

It’s the natural effect you have on others, and it seems to be separate from what you want from them. 

Clearly, I don’t know exactly what’s different – if I did, this’d be a full-length paper and not a blog post – but I would certainly like to find out someday.


Author: Rob Hoffmann

Occasional blogger, slightly less occasional improv player/ref/tech, full-time computer techie, radio producer (basketball, mostly), generally nice person (if you ask me).

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