Help! I Have Too Many Friends

Dear Shasta,

I’m completely overwhelmed when I look at my schedule. Most of my scheduled events, in and of themselves, aren’t things I would typically dread: coffee with a possible client, a call with someone who wants some advice, dinner with some friends from my husbands work, a lunch with a friend who’s in town, dinner with my brother, date night, a quick happy hour with some girls I work with, weekly Sunday call with my parents, meeting a good friend for a walk; but collectively it is TOO much!

Honestly, after working with people all day, trying to stay in intermittent touch with my family members, scheduling the people in my inbox who “want to connect,” and keeping up with all the networking… I don’t even have the energy or time to call the people I actually want to feel the closest to.

How do I shorten the list? How do I say no?


Too Many Friends

Dearest Too Many Friends,

Let’s start with the reminder that “people we’re friendly with” and “people we’ve developed friendships with” are two different categories of people. This might actually be a case not necessarily of too many friends, but perhaps of too much socializing?

In fact, you even said it: the biggest problem is that you don’t have the time for your close friends.

We have to figure out a way to say no even to people we care about, like, and consider to be friends, in some way or another, so that we have the energy to say yes to the relationships that we know sustain us,

So here’s what I think we need to do:

  1. List the relationships you want to prioritize. Who are the friends you want to talk to often so that you really feel supported and not just scheduled with intermittent “catch-ups.” Who are the relationships (including kids, spouses, parents, siblings) that are important to you to stay in touch with?
  2. Group them together by ideal consistency. In other words, who are the names on the list that you want to connect with daily? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly? Keep in mind that the more consistent we are, the more “intimate” those relationships will feel as those are the people who will really know what’s going on in your life.
  3. Schedule them in first. If you can find the consistent blocks of time–driving home from work, happy hour after work, lunch– to give those people, do it! Or at least block that time off with “Call one of my closest friends.”
  4. Then comes the really tricky part: figuring out what relationships/types of relationships you have time or energy to add in.  For me, I have a second list of friends who I love and want to stay in touch with but with whom I haven’t developed the intimacy/consistency that I have with my first list. I also want to leave a few slots a month for networking contacts, and a few slots for doing favors for others (i.e. a phone call for a friend of a friend).  What other groups/types of relationships do you need to pay attention to? I think for us to actually look at our calendar/life and see how limited those spots are can help us be more strategic with who we give them to and how frequently we give someone one of those slots.  The truth of the matter is that whether we end up feeling like we have 1 extra slot a day to give, or only one each week: we need to know it and offer it strategically and thoughtfully.
  5. Think through your strategy for how to decide with whom you give your extra space/time. If you don’t decide then it will end up being the squeaky wheel (i.e. whoever asks the most or will be the most upset if you say no) or simply first-come, first-served. Which puts other people in charge of our schedule instead of us.  Some possible questions could be: Does this person interest me? Am I clear what the objective is of why we’re getting together? Do I think I can be helpful to them? Do I think they can be helpful to me? Can this be scheduled with ease (i.e. without me having to travel far?) Is this the best way to connect with this person (or can I meet them at some event I need to go? Or can it be an email instead of a get-together?)

And then comes the hard part of learning to kindly say no to everyone else.  Which we simply have to do. (Here’s a blog post I wrote last year about How to Say ‘Not Interested’ Nicely)

Our time is finite with only so many slots and its our job to make sure that the relationships that matter most to us are the ones with whom we are making time.

The most important other piece I can say is a reminder that you can’t use whether it feels “good” to determine whether or not to be honest with them.  For most of us, saying no to someone, or disappointing them, won’t feel good. But neither will it feel good to be overwhelmed, exhausted, or unavailable for the people who fill us up the most!

I am the master, not the victim, of my schedule, my calendar, and my life. Shasta Nelson

This is maturity at it’s best: women learning that they aren’t victims of their calendar, but are in fact, in charge of them.  So we if we don’t like how it looks then we have the power to do life differently.  But the calendar won’t look any different until our behaviors reflect what we say matters most.


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7 Responses to Help! I Have Too Many Friends

  1. Cindy L says:

    Another wonderful, thought-provoking post, Shasta. I have wrestled with similar issues in the past, so your response here hit a resonating chord with me: “This might actually be a case not necessarily of too many friends, but perhaps of too much socializing.”

    You’re so right — there’s a major difference between genuine friendships and people you’re “friendly with.”

    We all use the term “friend” more loosely today. A lifelong friend with whom I have dinner regularly (and can call on the phone at midnight with a problem) is NOT the same kind of friend with whom I socialize at work — or communicate only on Facebook. But generally speaking, we call all of these people “friends.” The trick is figuring out how to have boundaries.

    You also hit the nail on the head when you touched on the guilt we feel when we say “no” to people when they ask us to socialize. I used to feel guilty if I didn’t say “yes” to everyone who wanted to spend time with me or asked for my help or advice. It takes a long time — and books like yours — to grow the strength and courage to say “no” so that we have time for the people we love the most.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Ahhh Cindy– your comments always mean so much. I appreciate how much you think things through and process information! So great to hear your own thoughts and wisdom! Thank you! xoxo

  2. Wow I wish I had her problems! I have a friend who is constantly “complaining” about how every weekend she has a bachelorette party, wedding, etc to go to and all I can think of is I wish I had your life! I’m realizing more and more that one problem I’m having with making friends is that I really think what I want is just people to hang out with and a busy social calendar outside of just my husband, not close relationships. Maybe I’m in the minority? Not sure if it’s due to anxiety or if I’m just a private person who likes to keep my life to myself. Are there other women out there who feel the same?

    • ShastaGFC says:

      That’s a great question to ask! Although even just having a busy social calendar often requires building healthy relationships as it requires risk and work to initiate, plan, and follow-through for future get-togethers. Eventually a friendship would be built? 🙂 Unless you join something like meetup where you just show up and meet different people every time??

      • Dov Rotenberg says:

        I am a male doctor , retired 18 months ago, and moved to a different city and state. The development of new associations, and friends after many years of living in a different city became a crucial part of my new life. Having read your book{s}, as well as the blogs, I incorporated many of your thoughts, started a new MeetUp group for men 50 and older, and subsequently was able to gradually develop a small number of people into the “circles on the right”. Sometimes it is possible to become a victim of success, and am now challenged to allocate limited time to meaningful rather than many relationships. Your blog on saying “no”, is very helpful.
        My main reason for this comment is wondering why you chose to address female relationships? In my experience, males have similar friendship issues, yet far less ability to share emotions and develop meaningful friendships, based on emotional intimacy, rather than on activities. Your thoughts?


        • ShastaGFC says:

          Dr. Rov, I SO appreciate this post. A lot. And it means a lot to me, and says a lot about you, that you’ve read my books and have been willing to study and grow even when my languaging has been female-focused. I, in fact, have a huge heart for men and their friendships, and am holding a curiosity about where that might take me next. 🙂 Here’s a recent facebook post of mine that you might find interesting:

          So stay tuned! (And I’d love your ideas and insights, too! My next step will most likely be some kind of survey that we send out to as many men as we can find so we start having some better sense of what they feel would be most helpful to them, etc.)

    • Jennifer says:

      Crystal – your comments really made me think, “am I like her? Do I overload my calendar so that I don’t have time for deeper connections because I don’t really want them?” I have a pretty busy social calendar, which I love, but it actually makes it difficult to develop close friendships because there just isn’t enough time or energy to do it all. I don’t want to give up my socializing but I am evaluating the decision making process that I go through when working on my calendar. Unlike you, I would love to have a couple of friends that I have a deep relationship with but in order to have the time to develop those friendships I need to cut back on the socializing. So, I think in response to your comments, joining a few Meetup groups would be helpful, as Shasta mentioned. You’re likely to fill up your social calendar with fun things that you will enjoy but most Meetup groups do not focus on the connections you make, just the activity that you are participating in. Yes, you’ll develop casual friendships with those that you see at events often but they are not going to be deep, frientimate relationships.