Do you find that your friendships are dwindling, using your fingers to count them? Perhaps, you are disappointed in the remaining friends that you still have and consider ending some of them. You might say that you don’t care, “Good Riddance to bad rubbish!” However, you do care. You care deeply in that sensitive heart of yours. You might have read the latest research about how important friends are to your health. An interesting new study claims that lonely people feel colder than those who have warm friendships and in this economy who doesn’t want to save money on heating bills?
It’s time to take an honest, personal inventory: Is it them or is it you?
Look at some of these traits and see if any apply to you:
- You have high expectations for friendships.
- You have trouble accepting any criticism from others.
- You criticize others – a lot.
- You have become irritable.
- You can’t say no to anyone.
- You give a lot and then feel angry afterwards.
- You wear a mask to please others and they don’t really know you.
Obviously, these statements will facilitate introspection, since I don’t know your friends and perhaps you don’t either. Do you know yourself? In my workshops I have seen a pattern emerge for lonely hearts: the betrayal and loss of one’s best friend, the self. If you are unhappy with yourself and run away from being with yourself by distracting yourself with busyness, then how can you relate to a friend sharing intimacies? What confidences and vulnerabilities could you possibly share because haven’t you lost your intimate relationship with yourself?
If you do not value yourself, won’t many of your friendships become parasitic – where your friends take advantage of your time and money? You will be attracting this type of “friend” because you need to feel worthwhile as the go-to person. However, this depletes you as opposed to energizing you.
Even if your friends do meet your needs (demands), when you are stressed, your perception shifts to the negative because of the adrenalin surge. Stress causes you to feel uneasy, hyper-vigilant and ready to fight or flee, which includes your friends. You begin to keep score about phone calls, cards and gifts, car pooling, etc. You find yourself growing sarcastic and gossiping about people. Could this be you?
Friendships inevitably change because you change. Note, that sometimes when you are successful, you lose a few friends. It is easier for people to befriend you when you are down, but to be your friend when you are a success is more difficult for them. Affirm them!
To restore your relationship balance, rediscover your personal rhythm. When your rhythm is more natural, you slide into step with others without much effort. Relationships grow easier as your relationship with yourself improves.
To replace or revitalize your treasure trove of friends, here are some questions to consider:
- What common interests do you share?
- Are you focused not only on talking, but listening?
- Are you speaking naturally and honestly – being yourself?
- Do you paraphrase their comments before you assert your opinion?
Do you ask questions which show interest like, “Tell me more about that”?
- Do you stand too close? It’s important to observe boundaries.
- Do you maintain eye contact? It’s hard to relate to a person not looking at you when he or she speaks.
- Do you know the purpose of your conversation, or do you just ramble on? Do I want to persuade, sell, motivate, challenge, argue or create harmony?
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life
, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout
and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul,
a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com