‘The Big Bang Theory’ – Why Did Sheldon’s Friends Tolerate His Behavior For So Long?

Sheldon Cooper’s character is one of the most irritating to be around in television history, so why did his friends put up with his behavior for so long?

It’s not a mystery Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) can be really tough to deal with, so why do his buddies in The Big Bang Theory embrace him?

CBS’s long-running comedy might officially be an ensemble effort centered on all seven main characters, but the actual lead of the series has always been the socially ignorant genius.

Some of the major plots of the sitcom mainly revolved around him, and on odd occasions when they weren’t, he somehow played a pivotal role in it. Sheldon’s quirks and peculiarities were quite funny. However, if someone had to genuinely deal with them, it could get beyond irritating.

Sheldon's friends put up with his behaviors on The Big Bang Theory.

Sheldon’s friends put up with his annoying behaviors on The Big Bang Theory.
Source: Insider

The initially planned storyline of The Big Bang Theory dramatically changed, but the showrunners Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady always wanted to anchor the sitcom on Sheldon and his connection with others, particularly his friends.

Not much had changed with his portrayal in the remodeled show; he remained unaware of other people’s emotions and consumed with his own intelligence.

Over the years, he gradually gained some social skills, but the improvement was quite slow. What made Sheldon’s attitude worse was how he handled his friends as harshly as random strangers who did not matter to him in the slightest.

This is in spite of the fact that they aid him during his grimmest periods, not to mention keep the friendship going despite his weird behavior.

Though Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), Bernadette Rostenkowski (Melissa Rauch) and Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) were not as tolerant, Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), Penny (Kaley Cuoco), and finally Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) were compassionate with him — given there were moments when his behavior was still severely disturbing.

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Considering the number of occasions Sheldon has offended, slandered, and insulted his friends, it’s interesting why they would want to tolerate him. But the reason is still Sheldon’s motives.

Bernadette put it more eloquently in season 5, episode 21 titled The Hawking Excitation — in the trip, Howard took full advantage of Sheldon’s willingness to visit Stephen Hawking by challenging him to perform unpleasant activities.

Bernadette was anything but fond of it, though. When Howard attempted to defend his behavior, pointing out that Sheldon too is mean countless times, she said:

Sheldon doesn’t know when he’s being mean because the part of his brain that should know is getting a wedgie from the rest of his brain.

In retrospect, this makes perfect sense and it is something that Leonard has worked on for years. Even when Sheldon was bullying him at practically every turn and hardly got some thanks for all the sacrifices he’d done for him, Leonard realized that his friend wasn’t doing it intentionally to make his life harder; sadly, he’s just programmed like that.

Penny also knew this when she pointed out Sheldon would be often clueless when coping with other people’s feelings. In season 8, episode 18, titled The Intimacy Acceleration, Sheldon spoke up about trying to read people’s minds to her since he misconstrues the emotions of others, and it typically places him in a tough situation — this implies he is aware of his issue and usually seeks to solve it.


This concept was again discussed in the final season of The Big Bang Theory titled The Stockholm Syndrome where Amy lambasted Sheldon for being narcissistic in the face of the crisis situation that other members of the group had encountered.

She told him the blunt truth that his friends only accepted him because they were nice people, and they knew he was not sure of what he was doing — if not for them, they would have abandoned him a long time ago.

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This prompted Sheldon to focus on his actions and finally to make up for it when he delivered a special speech mentioning his friends at the Nobel Prize ceremony.

Whether or not his attitude towards his group improved after that is unclear, but it is obvious that despite his poor habits, he’s got a great circle that loves and respects him for who he is.

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