Conflicts with Friends

How to Respond When You Feel Betrayed

On a pretty regular basis I hear so many of us share how we feel betrayed by our friends.  Have you felt betrayed by friends? Disappointed by their actions (or inactions)? Here are some examples I hear pretty frequently:

  • "We used to see each other at work all the time... now she never even reaches out to me."
  • "I can't believe she's not coming to my wedding. She says she doesn't have the time off work but if she really cared about me..."
  • "After my divorce, she stopped calling and inviting me to things..."
  • "She knew how important this event was to me, but you wouldn't have known it by her actions."
  • "When I needed friends the most... she was too busy. Guess she wasn't the friend I thought she was!"

Does that pain tempt you to want to pull away and protect yourself? Do you tend to devalue the other person and assume they're phony, fake, toxic, or not a good friend?

In this video-- I share with you some big things that have been rolling around in my heart on this topic for quite a while.  I challenge you to listen to them, hold them with a non-defensive heart, and consider what might be done to help foster a healthier relationship! 

xoxo

The #1 Thing You're NOT Doing that is Hurting Your Friendships

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...

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:

“Thank you for keeping the ball rolling on us staying in touch. I know I don’t do it as well as you do, but I want you to know it means a lot.  Thank you for not giving up on me.”  

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? 

Loneliness Can Be A Result of Social Exhaustion!

Loneliness Can Be A Result of Social Exhaustion!

Do you come home from work too tired to do anything except crash on your couch? Does the very idea of calling a friend sound like too much work? Do you panic at the idea of scheduling a social event into your calendar? Do you end your workweeks so tired that you need the entire weekend to simply pull the blinds and recover? Do you wish you had time to go meet new friends but by the time you prioritize your partner, your kids, and others in your family-- you've reached your limit?

Empathy: The #1 Misunderstanding

We all know how important empathy--the ability to understand and share the feelings of another--is to a friendship, but sometimes it's easier said than done!

Do you ever hear a friends complain about her finances and think, "I'd give anything to have as much money as she has! Why is she so worried?!?"

Or, hear a friend complain about gaining five pounds and just roll your eyes and think, "She's so skinny-- she has no right to complain!"

Or, listen to a single friend vent about how busy and exhausted she is, and feel like screaming, "Are you crazy? Try working full time and raising 5 kids at the same time!"

While we want our friendships to be safe places to complain and vent about our lives, the truth is that we often feel more frustrated or annoyed with our friends if we don't feel like their circumstances warrant their feelings.

Since it's impossible to be both empathetic and judgmental, watch this 3 minute video about how to show up with more of the former, even when tempted to feel the latter.

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?

--Sincerely,

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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How Important are Shared Political Views to Friendship?

"I can only get along with people who have a similar worldview as I have," I've heard a thousand times. Or other variations have included statements similar to "I could never be friends with someone who votes for ________." Because we're on the eve of one of the most divisive presidential elections in history, it seems a good time to remind us what does and doesn't bond us to each other.

What Do We Have to Have in Common with Friends?

Not only are we increasingly convinced what we need to have in common with someone in order to like them-- be it age, life stage, or political party preference; but we're also sounding more likely to have devaluing and disrespectful feelings toward those who aren't like us.

friends feeling divided over politics

But what does the research say about what we need to have in common in order to bond with another human being?

In fact, hard data tell us that it doesn’t matter which particular parts of our lives are similar to those of our friends, only that we end up finding those similarities. The Brafman brothers, who co-wrote the book Click, share research that reveals people bond more deeply over the quantity of perceived similarities than over the quality—the number of similarities matters more than their content.

They wrote, “Sharing a strong dislike of fast food, for example, was just as powerful a predictor of attraction as favoring the same political party.”

In other words, what we consider as the “big” thing we think we need to have in common isn’t as effective at bonding us as having two or three “small” things in common.

The Brafmans further explained, “You’d think that people who share the same religious convictions and political views, for example, would be more likely to hit it off than those who share only similar tastes in films and music . . . but it didn’t matter at all which topics underlay the similarity—it was the degree of similarity that was important.”

What might that mean to those of us who are at risk of thinking half the population is disqualified as being someone we might like?  It reminds us that we need to engage in more conversation with people who don't share our political views so that we can eventually bond with them because we took the time to find out that we have both traveled to Japan, both love green smoothies, and both enjoy reading sci-fi.

Why It's Important to Find Those Commonalities

Understandably, similarity matters.  We not only feel closer to the people with whom we can find commonalities--be it fans of the same sports team or voting for the same presidential candidate; but experiments actually show us rating those who we're told agree with us (even if they don't!) as more attractive and better people than if we have to rate those same people but are told they disagree with us. Indeed, we have a bias toward commonality.

In fact, in one study at Santa Clara University, participants were more likely to double their small financial donation if the person asking them for money shared their same name.  In another study, people were twice as likely more likely to sacrifice a couple of hours to help a stranger with a task if they discovered that they shared the same birth date with them; and 80% of them agreed to help if they were told they shared a rare fingerprint pattern!

The truth is that once we accept certain people as "like us", we start to see them differently.  And when we see them as similar to us in some way, we treat them better: we are more kind, more generous, more accepting, and more loyal.

I, for one, don't want to live in a world where we focus more on how we're different and unlike each other if we know from research and personal experience that our inability to find commonalities tends to put up walls, create defensiveness, increase paranoia, and decrease our kindness and generosity.  The answer to feeling safer isn't pushing "others" way, but rather the peace comes when we step close enough to see what we do have in common. (And there is ALWAYS a lot to be found if we're willing to explore!)

Examining Why Some Commonalities Feel More Important

I will not minimize how bonding it can be to any two people to find commonalities and feel closer and more trusting of those individuals. But just as few of us would insist that we can only bond with others who share our names, our birth dates, or our finger print patterns; as hard as it is to believe, who we are voting for is no more important to whether we can bond or not. I find it hard to remember that truth when I'm scanning my Facebook news feed, but just reminding myself that simply finding out someone is voting for the other candidate doesn't prove we couldn't be friends.

And note that in all these studies the bond wasn't actually because of the similarity, but because of how we felt about the similarity.  In other words, participants gave bigger donations not because that person's name was really the same as theirs, but because they were told it was the same as theirs.  They rated their classmates as more attractive or not, not based on real agreement that impacted real people, but because the psychologists simply told them they had more in common, or not. It was all in their heads.  Their kinder actions were based on the belief that they had something in common, even if they really didn't.

When I am reminded of the research, I feel a genuine humility. I am reminding myself how easy it is for me to create an entire narrative or story about people (and how attractive or good they are) based largely on my perceptions of whether they're like me or not. I am reminding myself of all the people I love whose vote I don't understand and am refusing to view them in any way that diminishes them down to just this one difference. And I am reminding myself that while I can't control how someone else votes, I can control whether I'm willing to look for something I have in common with them.

A presidential candidate is going to win and about half our country is prone to feel dismay, disappointment, fear, anger, and/or paranoia. The only way to heal is to practice connecting with each other.  We can do that one relationship at a time. One conversation at a time.  One commonality at a time.

Any tips you've tried that has brought your stress levels down when conversing with others who are voting differently than you are? Anyone willing to try to be someone who repairs and connects people together after the election? Anyone else up for the challenge of reminding yourself that you could still bond with someone even if they are voting for the other side?

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How to Say "Not Interested" Nicely?

I'm often asked "What do I do if someone wants more of a friendship with me than I want with them?" Or, "How can I tell someone, without hurting their feelings, that I'm not interested in spending more time with them?" Most of us need more community in our lives, but some of usShasta Quote need to say no to some people in order to say yes to others.

I'm not gonna act like this is an easy question to answer... I still struggle with it and sometimes find myself sitting on a coffee date simply because I found myself agreeing before I could figure out how to decline the invitation.

In romance, we tend to eventually find a way to say, "Thanks, but no," but rarely do we give that gift to other women.Most of us just play nice or just go MIA.  There has to be another way.

Simply ignoring women or continuing to act interested even when we're not isn't being honest with them, isn't leaving us feeling aligned, and it's contributing to our collective fear that if someone isn't reaching out to us that it means they don't like us, which isn't always the case.

Principles for Saying No to Others

Our goal in life is to live as aligned as possible: having our insides (feelings) match our outsides (situation/circumstance). Which leaves us with the options of either saying yes and truly being open to it, or saying no instead of just ignoring someone.

Here are my guidelines to practice saying no:

  1. Always affirm.  Affirm how much it means that they invited us; acknowledge how much you admire them.
  2. Then say no. Then check in with yourself so you can clarify your no. "Is it not now?" Or "Not as often?" Or "Not ever."
  3. End with thanks.  Thank them for having thought of us, for reaching out, and encourage them in any way that feels kind.

In most areas of life I encourage women to simply practice saying "no" more often as a complete sentence without needing to explain or justify. But because in these situations it feels like we're often saying "no" to a specific person and because everyone's greatest fear is rejection, I think we can err on the side of showing as much value to the other person as possible, while also gifting them with our honesty so they aren't left wondering in uncertainty.

Sample Scenarios

Of course this is a hard question to answer because there are so many levels of friendships and varied reasons why we're saying no, but hopefully if I can give a couple of examples of how I'd say it, that might help get the ball rolling.....

  • To someone we don't know well, but we don't feel like we have time for more friends.  "That is so sweet of you to ask me and typically I'd be quick to say yes as you are definitely someone I'd love to get to know; but unfortunately I feel like I am barely making the time to give to my current friends so I've been having to say no to other fun people in order to love those people well. But tell me what kinds of relationships you're trying to build and maybe I can help introduce you to people?"
  • To someone we'd consider a casual friend but we're not convinced we want to invest more time than we already are making.  "I'm always so impressed with you for reaching out and inviting me to things-- I know that's hard to do and I really respect that gift you've given.  And I feel like I've had to say no a bit, and while I don't see that changing anytime soon, I wanted to make sure you knew that I appreciate the friendship we do have when we see each other at x (church, work, MOPS). I used to think every friendship was supposed to become a best friend as though it had to be all or nothing, but I'm learning to really value that while I can't be close and intimate with everyone I like, I can still be happy they're in my life. Thanks for being such a positive person when we do see each other."
  • To someone we'd consider a casual/close friend but we don't really want to connect with much anymore. Basically if you're thinking about "breaking up" then I invite you to read these posts about The Five Questions to Ask Before Ending a Friendship, this post about how we can decrease the frientimacy in a friendship by decreasing consistency and vulnerability without having to break up, or this post helping identify if this is a friendship rift or a drift might help, too.  Because ultimately, we have to ask ourselves: is this a relationship I want to completely end (in which case I am a strong believer that we owe it to them to explain why) or is this simply a relationship I don't want to keep investing in a ton but am more than happy to still see her at parties or at the places we both frequent and keep up with her here and there? Knowing our desired outcome will help us shape that conversation where we can communicate the value of what we have shared and hopefully help establish expectations for both parties.

I often compare these conversations to going to the gym.  We don't get physically healthier by avoiding sweat, exertion, and stretching; and neither do we practice being our best selves (which includes honest communication and expressing value to others) without it feeling awkward, unfamiliar, or uncomfortable.

Let's become women who value each other so much that we'll line up our words to match our actions rather than just keep saying no or avoiding phone calls....

Have you been on the receiving end?  Do you prefer them just neglecting you or do you prefer their honesty? Have you had a conversation with someone you consider a success?  Share with us!

4 Ways to Not Let Politics Ruin Our Friendships

I saw on the news last night that the American Psychological Association says that "fully half of Americans say that the election has been a very, or somewhat significant, source of stress" for us.  In fact, a new term has been coined: Election Stress Disorder.  And more of us are prone to get it, if we're not already among the millions who already have it. Undoubtedly a huge portion of the stress comes from our fear of the "other side."

Certainly how we view the candidates, and subsequently their policies and worldviews, leaves a lot of room for discordant opinions and interpretations. But as an observer of relationships, the part that pains me the most is how this is impacting how we relate to each other.

Relationships At Risks This Political Season

I have caught myself judging others, "How can they believe this?" or "How can they possibly support that?" Perhaps you have, too.  Whether it's on Facebook, in our offices, or around our dinner tables-- the divide has never seemed so huge. Or so very deep.

This cartoon by Tom Gauld illustrates, only too well, how many of us are judging the other side:

b_aii9_xiaa67_tRelationships that experience an increase in judgment, a loss of respect, ongoing criticisms, and frequent misunderstandings are prone to leave us having lost that loving feeling. We know from research that our relationships need to keep a 5:1 positivity-to-negativity ratio in order to stay healthy and I'm fearful that we're engaging in battles and brimming with judgments that aren't being counteracted with nearly enough love, kindness, and empathy. That's a recipe for some serious disconnection.

And it's a vicious cycle because, as we've been studying nuerobiology and relationships in GirlFriendCircles.com this month (see the note at the bottom for more details), we are reminded that the less connection and intimacy we feel-- the more likely we are to feel anxiety, irritability, stress, distrust, rejected, misunderstood, and apathetic. In other words, the less love we have in our lives-- the more likely we are to lash out at others, devalue their lives and opinions, spew distrust, and feel fear.

It's a double-whammy: we have an epidemic of loneliness that is leaving most people feeling more irritable and anxious about others AND then the way we treat each other ends up creating even more disconnection and distrust.

Choose To Be a Facilitator of Connection

In the big scheme of things, I am reminded that indeed friendships can save the world as we'd undoubtedly navigate these political transitions with far more grace if we lived in a world where we felt truly connected to each other; but in the short-term, there are things that some of us can choose to do that will help remind others (and ourselves) that we are all human, valuable, and safe. We can still love and relate even if we see the world differently.

Next time you scroll through Facebook or find yourself in a political conversation, I dare you to try one of these:

  1. Look for Common Ground: What can you agree with this person on? Can you both agree you want fewer abortions? Can you both agree you want less mass school shootings? Can you both agree that sexism and racism is being revealed? What if you and the other person actually could agree on the desired outcome and really only differ on best strategy? Let's not fall for the myth that if we agree with them that we're "giving up ground," or "losing." Challenge yourself to always find one thing you have in common with them.
  2. Say Something Affirming About the Other Side: The last question of the last debate challenged our politicians to say something positive about the other and you could just feel a collective sigh from all of us watching. It's exhausting to always be on the defensive. What if you actually wrote a comment on a friends post saying "you know this is one thing I admire about your candidate..." Challenge yourself to sincerely affirm something with whom you disagree.
  3.  Assume Good Intentions:  This one is so hard as we are so quick to assign motive to each others actions. But we can either assume the worst and be wrong at least 50% of the time; or assume the best, and risk being wrong sometimes in that direction, too-- so why wouldn't we start from a place of hope and trust in each other? Research shows us how blind we are to our own levels of emotional health, almost always scoring ourselves at our highest because we know our justified excuses, valid reasons, and good motives; and that we score others at the lowest of the range because we can't see what battles they're fighting, what wounds they're acting out of, or what hopes that they had for that action. We can afford to be more generous knowing how horribly inaccurate we actually are at judging each other. Challenge yourself to try to defend "the other" as quickly as we defend ourselves and our candidate.
  4. Increase our Positive Interaction:  It's impossible to not feel some angst in our relationships, but whether it's on Facebook or in real life-- let's be cognizant of the fact that those around us need 5 positive interactions for every negative interaction in order to keep the balance.  So plan activities you both enjoy, post positive articles, write affirmations, share jokes, and overall make sure you're not just spewing, fighting, and complaining more than you're loving, shining, and leaving others feeling better about life.

These might sound Pollyanna-ish, or like I'm asking for the impossible.  Your entire ego and sense of "what's right" might feel challenged.  But the truth is-- at this point, with the methods we're using, we're not changing anyone's viewpoint and we're destroying the fabric of our humanity.  Maybe it's time for us to give the "muscles of our best selves" a bit of a work-out and see if we can't get to election day with a bit more love left in our hearts.

What other ideas do you have? Share them with us!

Namaste (the best in me is choosing to look for the best in you),

Shasta

P.S. An illuminating take on this subject that helped inspire this post, also includes some great data and analysis:  The "Other Side" is Not Dumb".

P.P.S. I couldn't be more proud of the emotionally intelligent women who have joined GirlFriendCircles.com as they've committed to paying attention to their relationships in an ongoing way, learning about how to develop healthier connections with monthly classes, and choosing to be counter-cultural as women who practice placing the value on their relationships that science shows makes us happier and healthier. Join today to access this month's class "The 4 Ways to Rewire Our Brain for Safer Relationships" featuring, Dr. Amy Banks, the foremost authority in the combined fields of nuerobiology and relationships.

 

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When Our Friends Disappoint Us: What We Can Do

I listened to a client tell me a story last week about how hurt and disappointed she felt when her friends didn't rally around her after a recent surgery. I empathized with her, expressed regret with her that they didn't wow her and love her in a meaningful way, and then asked, "Do you think they knew that you needed anything from them?" "But it was a surgery!" she said, as though that answered my question.

"Yes it was," I concurred.  "But tell me how you talked about the surgery with them before and after the event.... Did you ask for help? Did you express your fears? Did you tell them what you thought you might need?"

When Our Friends Aren't "There" For Us

I continued, "In other words, if I called your friends now and asked them what they thought you might be needing or wanting, would they be able to tell me?"

After a few more minutes of conversation, her narrative--that many of us can probably identify with in one form or another--emerged:

  1. We want our friends to automatically know our need. She held a belief that if they were really her friends, or even just good people, then they should know what she might need without her needing to tell them.
  2. Even if we haven't yet articulated our needs. Yet, when I asked her what help she needed, she didn't have a ready answer and acknowledged that if she couldn't even articulate it to herself, that it might be asking a bit much to have others guess it.
  3. Even when we know deep inside that they aren't unwilling to help. She acknowledged that chances were high that most of them assumed she didn't help because her husband was taking time off, her adult daughter was home, and she had lots of friends. And admitted that while it hadn't been meaningful to her, a few had said to her, "Let me know if you need anything."
  4. Because we give to them, this is the least they could do.... But she couldn't shake the feeling of betrayal by her friends since she felt like she was always giving to them and this was "the one time I needed them."

Unmet expectations in our friendships lead to massive disappointment, hurt feelings, grudges, and worst of all-- the feeling of not being supported. And if we can't count on our friends, then we feel very alone and vulnerable. We feel betrayed because we thought we had friends and now wonder if it was all a mirage or a waste of time. We feel used... thinking about what a good friend we've been, and wondering what the point of it is if we can't count on the in return.

We Must Learn To Express Our Needs

There are a thousand conversations we can have on this subject (and my book Frientimacy actually has several chapters in it that teach these concepts!)-- including,

  • being in touch with our feelings to know what we actually need (my client didn't actually need help as much as she needed to feel thought of and loved),
  • being willing to let our friends see us with needs and feelings, especially if the pattern of our friendship has mostly been with us looking like Super Woman (possibly calling up a friend and when she asks how you're doing, be willing to be seen: "Well, I wouldn't recommend a regime of being un-showered for 4 days, laying in bed in pain, and watching soap's as a recipe for feeling hopeful. ha!  I'm actually pretty lonely and the days are feeling so long it leaves me wondering if I'll ever recover!"
  • and learning to ask for what we want and need.  Which could look like either telling friends ahead of time "I'm worried that I'm going to go crazy or feel so alone that first week after my surgery.  Any chance you'd be willing to come over for a bit--better yet if you come un-showered--and hang out so I have something to look forward to?" Or even after the fact, "I'm going crazy and miss you.  I wish I could offer to come see you, but since I'm still not leaving the house much-- any chance I could entice you to come over here and hang out, if I were to order a pizza for us?"

Help My Friends Love Me Well

But what I really want to address is our fear that if we have to ask for something that it then defeats the purpose.

My client said as much, "But if I have to ask for it then they'll feel pressure or just do it from obligation or guilt."

Speaking Our Needs Doesn't Make Their Help Less Sincere

And to that I say:

"Actually, in my opinion, the friends who are willing to hear what we need and try to do it, if they can, are the best friends in the world. It's the most sincere expression of love to hear a need and attempt to respond to it.  And the most effective and strategic use of their energy and time, that has the highest chances of feeling fulfilling and meaningful to me, means that we both are as clear as possible what would be helpful. True friends don't read minds-- heck, we don't even read our own minds half the time!-- but rather they say "Yes!" when we reach out."

The goal is to feel loved.  And we can help our friends do that for us if we are willing to help tell them what that looks like. That they then step up is the highest proof that we are supported. It's our job to be in touch with what we need and communicate that to those in our lives who want to love us well.

Pssst: my next post gives meaningful ideas for how we can ideally show up for our friends without them having to ask us!  :)


 

p.s.  Want to learn more about preventing unmet expectations and practice speaking your needs?

We have a brand new virtual class titled "Preventing Expectation Hangovers in our Friendships" that features Christine Hassler, author of Expectation Hangovers, who teaches us how to communicate our needs to our friends to prevent disappointment and unmet expectations. Included with the 1-hr audio class is a worksheet, a monthly challenge to practice, and inspirational mantras!

August_2016_Bundle_GraphicOthers who took the class already said things like, "This class was illuminating. I learned so much!" and "This changed the way I view my friendships in life-changing ways. I can't even begin to describe how helpful this material was to me." and "I listened to this class three times this month just because there was so much I needed to keep hearing."

Buy this Friendship University class here and listen at your convenience!

Note: If you were an active member of GirlFriendCircles.com in August 2016 then you automatically received this class as part of your membership!

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2 Ways to Respond to Friends Who Annoy or Frustrate

While these two steps won't fix every friendship, they are certainly the first two steps we should practice in our attempts to repair or enhance a friendship that isn't feeling super meaningful. All too often we become increasingly frustrated or hurt by the actions of a friend-- albeit that she only calls us when it's convenient to her, that she talks too much, that she isn't vulnerable enough, or that she hangs out with a mutual friend and doesn't invite us.  In almost every friendship, there will be certain things that we believe could improve the depth of our friendships IF that one action were changed.  Certainly it's our responsibility to examine what meaning we assign that behavior, where that need comes from, and recognize it's our responsibility to get the need met as opposed to someone else's job to automatically know how to meet it... but there is also room in there for us to learn how to ask for what we need.

Having a need isn't the problem... we all have needs.  How we go about getting that need met can be what hurts us and our relationships.

In this video blog I share what I think should be the first two steps to having our needs met and I apply it to three different examples to help us see how we can apply these steps to our own friendships.