Over the years you’ve developed a fair few friendships. While some are quite obviously close and fulfilling, there are some that you know deep down aren’t serving you anymore. You may struggle to find much in common to talk about or you may have noticed you both have developed different values, mindsets, or interests. Perhaps you or they are heading in different directions in terms of career or family life.
Humans are social animals and connection is important to forming and maintaining a sense of happiness in lives. But some connections just aren’t meant to last. Holding on to people despite a bad connection can end up draining your energy or even stunt your personal growth.
Embrace Labeling a Friendship
You’ve heard about the importance of decluttering homes every now and then, but what about friendships decluttering? The notion may seem harsh but it’s important to stop and reflect on the people in our lives that aren’t bringing us value.
In the book The Power of the Other, Dr. Henry Cloud discusses the influence that the people in our lives have on determining the amount of success we gain in our personal and professional lives.
There are three main types that can help you identify your current friendships: bad connections, pseudo-good connections and real connections. I’m labeling them with different colors so you know how to decide what friends to keep and ditch.
Red Label: The Bad Connections
These are the people who drain your energy. This usually manifests from a feeling that bad friendships are better than no friendships at all. They tend to make you feel negative emotions on a regular basis, drain your energy or just don’t forge a deep connection. Examples of this kind of friendship could be someone who guilts you into spending time with them, are needy, find it funny to belittle you on a regular basis or you feel you give a lot to the friendship with very little effort back. There’s also no feeling of trust between you – if you told them something in confidence, they would most likely spread your secret around.
Ultimately you can’t grow from a relationship like this but instead it keeps you feeling small generating feelings of guilt, shame or fear.
Blue Label: The Pseudo-Good Connections
These friendships are the tricky ones to decipher. While they are the people who are positive and even encouraging, the relationship tends to be shallow. There’s no vulnerability, no acknowledgement of the not-so fun side of life and you don’t share your troubles. They will have a tendency to tell you what you want to hear rather than having your best interests at heart. It could be a friendship where you know very little about what the other feels, or that they don’t confide in you and you feel you can’t confide in them. You do a lot of fun stuff together yet you still don’t feel you truly know each other.
While it feels nice, the friendship is empty.
Green Label: The Real Connections
These are the ones that really have your back. You’ll share your joys, fears, successes and failures with each other in a genuine and supportive way. There’s no judgement but a strong feeling that there’s a deep investment in each others’ futures. If you do something questionable they will be sure to be the ones questioning you – out of love and your own growth. If you have a crisis going on, they will be the first one there to help you through it.
Friendship Decluttering Is Hard but Essential
Decluttering is easier said than done. Once you’ve identified someone you may want to let go of, the fear of missing out may come to the surface. This comes from the human instinct to avoid feelings of loneliness and being ostracised from the main group. It’s also linked to our self-esteem and wanting validation from others even if it’s from people who aren’t the best for us. Common questions will arise such as what if they go off and do interesting things without you? What if you could develop a better friendship in the future? Maybe it’s someone you’ve known so long that it’s better to just stick with the friendship than to end it.
While it can be difficult, it’s important to understand that ditching the bad connections will help the good connections to develop further and help you grow in the process. Having people who are truly supportive will provide you with the positivity energy you need to thrive. Read more about The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You
When you control your environment, you control your life. If you cultivate the best friendships in your life, you will maintain a better quality of life all round. You’re much more likely to reach your goals because the influence of the people you spend the most time with shapes your mindset more than you think. People who motivate you, support you and see the best in you will consciously and subconsciously drive you towards what you want in life and you’ll ultimately achieve more.
Control Your Life by Creating a Good Friendship Circle
To build up a good network of supportive and invested friends in your life, take these steps to carefully declutter your friendships.
1. Filter out your red and blue friendships
The first thing is to re-evaluate the red and blue labelled friendships in your life by thinking carefully about each person. These are the ones that will make you feel more lonely in the long term if you choose to hold on and focus on them.
When you think about them, how do they make you feel? If it’s a constant negativity within you and you can’t see how they add value to your life, then it’s time to label them as a red or blue. The idea is to distance yourself from these friends so you can create space to let in more supportive and genuine people. You could choose to cut them out straight away or decide to say ‘no’ more often to their suggestions. Find out more in my other article how to face a toxic friend: The Fallout of Not Facing the Toxic Behaviors of a Selfish Friend
2. Spot out a potential green friendship
The more you identify with the traits that make a deep and healthy friendship, the more you will see it in other people.
Find people you can trust and shares your core values; someone who have your best interests at heart and aren’t afraid to sugar-coat if it means knowing you’ll grow. If you have a big decision, they will weigh out the pros and cons with you with your benefit in mind, even if it means you moving half way across the country from them. It goes both ways too – make sure you are giving them the best advice with no ulterior motives.
3. Be vulnerable and open up
This is essential to attract more meaningful relationships in your life. You reflect back what you put out so by opening up and not camouflaging yourself from others. This will allow others to do the same with you.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your fears and voice your opinions. If you have a big dilemma at work or you’re thinking about breaking up with someone, talk it out as this will make the other person feel they can do the same with you developing a trusted bond.
4. Put effort in the green friendships
Don’t dismiss a friendship because that person moved halfway across the country from you or they’re starting a new relationship. This can mean more effort to maintain a friendship but if the genuine connection, alignment and respect is there, it won’t be too hard. The connection you have is worth more than proximity or the amount of time you spend with each other.
This leads on to the importance of effort. The maintenance of a good friendship is what allows it to deepen, so exchange thoughts with each other regularly. If you have a big problem, talk it out with them and they will do the same with you. Interact with them using text, funny pictures or Facetime, call them up, share ideas, suggest plans, tell them about your day – this gentle connection with someone who is equally invested in you will help your friendship grow all the more.
By cutting out toxic relationships, you will start to see a massive difference in yourself and how you see the world around you in a more positive light. Don’t underestimate what a real friend can bring to the table!
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