In a way, this post is about how to be a good friend. More importantly, though, this post is about why you should be.
Fire Your Friends: Drop the Negative People in Your Life is my #1 most popular post on this site. It gets a pretty good amount of traffic every day from people searching for:
cutting people out of your life
how to cut people out of your life
…and a lot of other similar searches that tell me this is a problem that many people face every day. It also gives me hope that a lot of people are aware that negativity in relationships is affecting them to the point of taking action to do something about it.
My heart broke a little when I was going through some recent comments on that post…
One person wrote in saying that she is one of those negative friends, and was currently experiencing a slow exile from the life of one of her best friends. My heart really goes out for her.
I know how it is to be on the other side of the equation. I was that negative friend for a long time. There were years that I wasn’t aware of how much my complaining, self-deprecating, and all-around negative comments dragged my closest friends down.
Some people stopped talking to me, or said hurtful things in an outburst of fed-up-ness. I didn’t understand where it came from.
Now, I look back at those warnings and realize:
They were trying to save the friendship. They were trying to help.
They were so scared to hurt my feelings, they never brought it up with me because it’s such a sensitive subject. I was very negative back then and no doubt would have taken their words of concern as an attack.
Not feeling the freedom to discuss that subject with me lead to their insensitive outbursts. I don’t blame them.
How frustrated would you get, trying to help someone you love over and over, only to have them refuse to help themselves?
You can only help someone so much before they have to take the reigns. That’s where you have to step up to the plate.
I’ve lost a lot of friends from my refusal to change, and since I’ve changed my life, I’ve fired quite a few as well in cases where the tables were turned.
But being fired SUCKS.
You don’t know what to do. You don’t necessarily know why it’s happening.
So what I want to address today, is how to save a friendship if you’re feeling the threat of being phased out.
The friendships that mean the most to you are worth saving, because these people support, encourage and motivate you to be the best YOU you can be. These friends are the ones who want you to be happy, who hurt seeing you miserable.
Keep an open mind here, please, and realize that you are entirely capable of change. You just have to want it. These steps will only work for those who do.
1. Have a heart-to-heart
This is probably the hardest part of the whole process. Make sure you are alone with your friend, or at least in a setting in which you can talk openly and honestly to him/her.
Simply state that you’ve felt a change in the way they’re acting towards you and if your actions have been the cause.
Don’t accuse them of anything that would cause them to raise their defenses immediately. Keep this open and positive, with the intention of speaking and acting from a place of love.
The reason you want to bring this up is not to scold them into keeping you as a friend, but to genuinely learn what it is they’d like to see from you.
•What are their concerns?
•What do they see you doing that pushes them away?
Listen to them. Let them do most of the talking; they’ll probably feel relieved that you brought it up instead of them having to do it.
2. Tell them what they mean to you
Be honest: tell them why you appreciate them.
Do they support you when you’re feeling down?
Do they make you feel loved?
Do they encourage you to grow?
Do you have a fun time with them?
Do you feel like you can talk to them more openly than to other people?
Let them know exactly why you want to save the friendship. Obviously, this person means enough to you to open up to them completely.
3. Ask them what you can do, and determine if it’s in line with your personal values/goals
What actions are they looking for you to take?
Be prepared for them to surprise you with suggestions.
Their answers can be interpreted as either hurtful or helpful. It’s all about how you determine to process them.
How does that align with your values and goals?
Some questions to consider for yourself:
Is it a priority to you to have supportive friendships?
Is changing the only way you’ll be able to retain positive, loving relationships?
More than likely, if this friend is someone who truly is a positive inspiration in your life, she will be telling you things that you already know you should be doing to create happiness in your life.
This just may be the swift kick in the ass you needed to start taking those actions…
4. DO something about it
Friends on the edge of pushing you away completely want to see you take action, they don’t want to hear words of repentance.
SHOW them that you want to change.
If you have determined that the actions they’ve suggested are in line with who you want to be, then start taking small steps at a time.
Make This Your Moment is full of suggestions on how to reframe your mindset and start down the road of leading a more positive life. Other good resources include Breaking Down Your Goals or How Can You Get There? Well, How Did You Get HERE?
BONUS TIPS FOR SAVING FRIENDSHIPS:
•Realize that not all friends will be able to sympathize with your situation. Maybe this friend is either a) not the person to talk to about the situation that bothers you, or b) not the friend for you if she can’t support you the way you need.
•Don’t give up your values. If she asks you to take actions you don’t feel comfortable with or aren’t in line with what you want in life, don’t take them. Just be prepared to move on without her friendship.
•Be prepared for her to tell you that she doesn’t want this friendship anymore and there’s nothing you can do about it. It sucks, but it might just be too late to save this one.
•It’s not an attack, and it’s not your friend’s fault if she wants to protect herself by pushing you away. As I say in Fire Your Friends, negative friends can be draining.
•You are worthy of friends who treat you with love and respect. Don’t keep this one just because you feel like you should.
The most important thing to remember is that you can change your life.
No amount of complaining, self-deprecation or sh**-talking is going to make your life better. Right here and now, you have to take the reigns. You have to take action.
So what’s it going to be?
Many of us at Strong Inside Out have cut out a friend or two, and had it happen to us as well. Since this is a community that supports each other, I’d love to make this more of a conversation than a lecture…
In the comments below, share any tips or advice you would give someone going through this type of situation.
Your comment could help someone else live a happier life. Don’t be shy! Help a fellow SIO-er out!
Make sure to read up on these similar posts: Fire Your Friends: Drop the Negative People in Your Life and After Firing Friends: Dealing with Regret, as well as my recent guest post on The Change Blog, How to Make Space For Happiness: Fire Your Friends.