I know, I know, I know... you're busy. Life is as full as feels survivable. You're barely keeping up with the inbox that continues to fill up, the voicemails being left, the demands by the people who live in your house with you, and the tasks being added to the to-do list. And so, oh how I hate to bring this up.... I really do. The last thing any of us needs is to feel like there's "one more thing" we need to be doing.
And yet, it's truly the #1 thing that can make the biggest difference to your friendships.
The Action That Would Make the Biggest Difference
To be sure, there are many different things that hold relationships together, such as doing favors for each other, making fun memories, being present in painful moments, practicing empathy, remembering her birthday, staying in touch, showing up at the big events, sharing a secret with her, and showering her with affirmation, to name a few.
But what if I shared with you the #1 complaint I get that causes your friends to give up on their friendships???
What if I spelled out for you the #1 action that would make the biggest difference?
The easy answer is: initiate reaching out.
I swear to you-- there isn't a subject that comes up as often as this one.
I get at least an email a week from someone about to give up on a relationship because they are tired of being the one to always reach out.
To be clear: I'm not one of those who believes that initiation has to be 50/50, and I don't believe in this "the ball is in her court" business. I'm completely fine hitting the ball repeatedly. I know many amazing relationships where one person is the primary catalyst, the initiator, or the scheduler. I know in our marriages that we settle into "roles" that we each play on behalf of the relationship, without each person needing to every chore 50/50. In a perfect world-- our friendships could be like that, too. I also think some people find it easier than others to reach out --based on practiced skills, insecurities, and personality types--and I'm all for each of us showing up with our strengths.
So believe me: I don't think you have to initiate in order to be in a healthy relationship. In fact, I know that the only things necessary for a healthy friendship is: time together/consistency so that we can have fun (positivity) and share our lives with each other (vulnerability.) And as long as those 3 things happen-- it doesn't matter who initiated it. (For more on The 3 Requirements of Relationships)
What This INAction Means to your Friends
But we live in a world where aren't just running into our friends automatically and so time together then HAS to be scheduled. There's no other way around it-- we can't feel close to people without interacting. And that means someone has to initiate it.
And your friends are WEARY of being the one. You're gonna have to trust me on this one: I hear from them on this. Often. They take this very personally. They feel like it means your don't value them or think about them. It leaves them feeling unimportant to you. They create a narrative in their heads that if they mattered-- you would reach out. They feel rejected. They feel like the responsibility of the relationships falls on them... that their initiation is the only thing holding you two together. They feel resentful of this giving and it leaves them feeling that the relationship isn't mutual or reciprocal. They feel used, they feel tired, and they feel unappreciated.
You and I know that probably isn't true.
And yet there it is.
I can keep trying to remind them that it doesn't matter who initiates as long as it keeps the relationship connected, but at the end of the day-- if you were serious and wanted to do the one action that would leave them feeling relieved, happy, and loved-- you would reach out and not wait for them to do it again.
What You can do
You can set an alarm on your phone to remind you to reach out to them, you can swallow your fear that you're interrupting them or not reaching out at a convenient time, and you can simply know that whether they say yes or no-- they will feel loved because you reached out and thought of them. And that's what they want: to know that they matter to you.
And at the very least-- one thing you will try to do more often is thank your friends when they do initiate. You will appreciate the gift they're giving and use it as an opportunity to tell them how much it means to you:
And with that acknowledgement-- you'll find that they might just be that much more willing to initiate. Yet again.
Not an initiator? Send this to a friend who is with a note of appreciation and expressing your willingness to practice doing it a bit more! :)
And leave your comments-- do you agree? disagree? What stops you from reaching out?