How To Deal With One Sided Friendships
Let’s talk about how to deal with one sided friendships today. A dear reader wrote to me with this:
“I have no friends, but don’t seem to have the energy to make any? When I do, they seem so self centered, everything seems to be on their terms, and I am the one making all the effort, which I don’t mind initially, but then it becomes the norm and I get annoyed quickly and drop them. What can I do to change this?”
I had to do a double take when this message came in, as in “Did I just send myself an email?”
Because I have been there. I have SO been there.
I have shown interest.
I have listened.
I have accommodated.
I have said “oh, it’s fine” and “no problem” and “it’s up to you”.
And then I have gotten tired.
I have faded away.
I have disappeared.
I have never called again.
Over. And over. And over again.
Until I finally cracked the code. I figured out why one sided friendships kept happening to me and how to make it stop. And in this article I want to share with you everything I have learned.
How To Deal With One Sided Friendships
1. Know That There’s No Set Number Of Friends You Are Supposed To Have
I used to maintain friendships – even ones I was getting nothing out of – just because it was the “normal” thing to do. In our extraverted society, a large number of friends and acquaintances is the norm. Networking is all that and more. Nobody wants to be labeled anti-social.
But you know what I have come to realize? Normal schmormal. Normal doesn’t matter. What matters is what you need in order to be satisfied with your life.
Some people only need a few close relationships to thrive and I happen to be one of those people. It’s not anti-social to favor quality over quantity in relationships. It’s just a different style of socializing.
2. Recognize The Role Of Personality Traits In Friendships
I’m of the opinion that a lot of one sided friendships can be traced back to personality differences. Human beings are simply wired differently and we end up banging our heads against the wall a lot whenever we encounter someone who’s wired differently from ourselves. Below are some examples of how personality differences can lead to one sided friendships.
Introverts Need More Alone Time Than Extraverts
Introverts need more alone time to recharge than extraverts. This can easily lead to an imbalance of needs in an introvert-extravert friendship. Especially for introverts with people-y jobs and introverts with kids, it can be really hard to get even the bare minimum of alone time, so friendships fall by the wayside. And the extravert is left wondering why the introvert never initiates contact.
Even though I’m an introvert, I used to have tons of time and energy for friendships in high school and college. After a full-time job and especially after kids came into the picture… Not so much.
Extraverts Think Out Loud And Introverts Think Before They Talk
Introverts and extraverts also tend to have different communication styles. Extraverts like to think out loud. Introverts like to think before they talk and need pauses in conversation to gather their thoughts. This can create a dynamic where the extraverts keep talking and the introverts end up feeling like they never get a word in.
I’m really good at being the audience, so I used to get adopted by extraverts all the time. 🙂 I’m interested in people and their stories, so it always worked well initially, but inevitably I would end up feeling like I was just a set of ears and the extravert actually had zero interest in me as a person.
Some People Are More Sensitive To Other People’s Feelings
Some people are naturally sensitive to other people’s feelings and desires. Some of us are born that way. It’s our gift.
But not everyone is wired that way. Other people have different gifts and sensing what a friend might need is not one of them.
Again, this personality difference can easily lead to an imbalance in a friendship. The “other-focused” friend keeps going out of their way to accommodate their friend, and in the mean-time, the “self-centered” friend is just enjoying the ride, totally clueless that the “other-focused” friend might have needs too.
3. Recognize That People Have Different Expectations And Circumstances
Another root cause of one sided friendships is different expectations. Simply put, different people want different things out of friendships.
Some people like to have friends they can go places and do things with. Some people like to have long, deep conversations about common interests. Some people like to have friends they can rely on for emotional support. Some people like to have superficial acquaintances they can chit chat and joke around with.
Some people want all of the above. Some people only want one of the above.
Some people have a lot of time to devote to friendships. Some people are busy with work and family and they have less time.
Some people want friends they can hang out with every weekend. Some people are fine seeing their friends every few months.
What we look for in friendships also evolves over time as we get older and our circumstances change.
4. Stop Waiting For People To Change
People are who they are. They have been shaped into the person they are today by their genes and by their experiences. Some people stretch beyond their inborn personality, but most people don’t.
People’s goals in life, their expectations, and their circumstances are what they are. Some people are willing and able to go above and beyond for a friend, but many people aren’t.
The sooner you accept this reality, the sooner you will cease being disappointed by people.
The sooner you start recognizing how people’s personality and circumstances affect what kind of friend they are going to be, the sooner you will stop expecting the right things from the wrong people.
The sooner you stop wasting time on the people who were never meant to be in your tribe, the sooner you will find your way to the people who are actually willing and capable of being the friend you deserve.
5. Become More Choosy About Who You Make Friends With
For a long time, I made friends with anyone who wanted to be friends with me. I thought I was being kind. I thought I was being open-minded and accepting. I thought it was wrong to discriminate.
But those days are over and my definition of kind has changed. It’s not kind to start friendships that I ultimately don’t have the energy to maintain. It’s not kind to start friendships with people I can’t be genuine with. It’s not kind to start friendships with people who would be better off with a different kind of friend.
So these days, I’m in charge. I put great care into deciding who I spend time with. I have boundaries and certain criteria have to be met to get inside those boundaries.
And this is what I would recommend for you, too, dear reader. Paint a picture of the kind of friend you are looking for. What qualities does your ideal friend possess? How will this friend behave when you first meet him or her? What signs will be there to let you know this person has good friend potential?
And how does the person who is not your ideal friend behave? What are the signs that will alert you to nip this relationship in the bud?
The answers to these questions will help you find your way to the people who are capable of offering exactly what you are looking for.
6. Become More Intentional About Where You Look For Friends
For a long time, I just sort of expected the right kinds of friends to fall in my lap. And for a long time, I was left disappointed.
Until I came to realize that what I was looking for in friends was pretty specific and not mainstream and those friends were not going to just fall in my lap by chance. I was not going to run into them in the grocery store, the neighborhood potluck, or the kids’ dance class. Or maybe I would eventually, but I would have to weed through a whole lot of people to find the friends I wanted.
If you are the same way – if you have pretty specific wants and needs – don’t leave it to chance. Ask yourself where your ideal friends are likely to hang out. What kind of get-together would they go to? What kind of class would they take? What kind of organization would they join? What online forum would they participate in?
7. Lead With Your Authentic Self
People who are sensitive to other people’s feelings will adjust their behavior in order to make whoever they are with comfortable. This is a great skill to possess, but it can also get the wrong people to like you.
The quickest way to weed out the wrong people and find the right people is to lead with your authentic self. Let your personality shine. Speak your truth about politics or religion or whatever topic gets you fired up.
Yes, you will turn some people off, but those people weren’t meant to be your people anyway.
And YOUR people will recognize you instantly.
What Happens When You Put Your Authentic Self Out There
I used to feel pretty alone in this world. Like I was different from everyone and didn’t belong anywhere.
Wanna know when that changed big time?
When I started putting my authentic self out there. When I started copying and pasting my thoughts from my brain onto the computer screen and publishing them on the internet. Without censorship. Just putting out there exactly what I think. No filter.
Yes, some people disagree with me and tell me so and never visit my website again. Those are not my people. They belong in some other tribe.
But then there are the comments and emails from dear readers all over the world who tell me I have captured their feelings. Who tell me they GET me. Who encourage me to keep going. Who make me feel less alone in the world.