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8 Mistakes That are Costing You Your Friendships

8 Mistakes That are Costing You Your Friendships

Maintaining friendships is one the most important and fulfilling things we do. But it’s also hard work. Here are eight mistakes we make that threaten our valuable friendships, along with ways to overcome them.

1. You don’t listen.

In familiar friendships, it is easy to fall into this trap. You’ve known this person for so long that you know what they are going to say before they say it. So, you interrupt constantly and miss important communication cues because of your assumptions. Over time, opportunities for misunderstandings and communication breakdowns will increase.

The solution: Don’t assume you know what your friend is going to say. Contrary to popular practice, listening is not passive but active. Develop active listening skills by learning to remove or ignore distractions. Great active listeners are also excellent observers of other communication cues, such as tone of voice and body language. Another good active listening technique is to ask as many follow-up questions as you can before you offer your own input. The truth is that your friend may not be seeking your advice, but simply your sympathetic ear.

Developing your active listening skills will revolutionize your friendships and other important relationships in your life.

2. You don’t keep your word.

This mistake is often subtle. Most of us don’t lie outright to our friends. Instead, you may find yourself saying yes to a request when you should say no. This is usually driven by fear of offending a friend or jeopardizing a relationship. The unhappy irony, of course, is that saying yes and not following through can be more harmful to the relationship than saying no upfront.

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The solution: Don’t agree to do something if you are unlikely to follow through. It is hard to turn your friends down. The key to doing it well is to simply be upfront and explain why you cannot commit to the request. True friends will respect you for your honesty and will stick around.

3. You take more than give in the relationship.

Again, most of us don’t consciously scheme on how to leverage a friend’s position, status, or personality traits for personal gain. We don’t think, “How can I take advantage of John’s generosity today?”

We exploit our relationships, often without being aware, in less obvious ways. You may find yourself constantly offloading your burdens to a friend while taking very little time to listen to his. You may get upset when he don’t call as often as you’d like, but never pick up the phone yourself. When you go out for lunch dates, you seldom offer to pay for the meal. In these and other little ways, you are in danger of overdrawing what Stephen Covey calls your “Emotional Bank Account.”

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey describes the Emotional Bank Account as “a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship.” You make emotional deposits through kindness, courtesy, honesty, and keeping your commitments. You make emotional withdrawals when you disrespect, ignore, threaten, and overreact. This perspective may sound cold and transactional, but Covey argues that awareness of this reality can lead to positive transformation within relationships.

Your average bank account cannot survive constant withdrawals with no deposits. Neither can your friendships.

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The solution: Begin to embrace the Emotional Bank Account model. Try to visualize where your account currently stands with your relationship. This is by no means scientific, but if you are honest with yourself you will get a sense of whether you have built up a surplus or are in the deficit zone. If you are in the red, start making deposits by becoming more proactive.

4. You’re not vulnerable enough.

Being vulnerable is hard, even among close friends. It means letting go of outward appearances and going deeper. It’s risky but it’s the only path to deepening our friendships.

The solution: Don’t hide weaknesses and struggles. Learn to talk about them freely with your inner circle. Often your ability to open gives the other person permission to be more open himself. People feel privileged when you trust them enough to be vulnerable and will likely treat these moments with utmost respect. Trust and intimacy will skyrocket.

5. You don’t stay in touch.

This one happens more easily and frequently than we care to admit. The days and months effortlessly become years. Eventually, we become afraid to get in touch due to fears of being rejected.

The solution: The truth is that most of us are busy. Our friends are more forgiving than we think. They may even be struggling with similar fears. End the standoff. Just pick up the phone and call. Send a text. You might be amazed at how quickly they respond.

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6. You’re more concerned about keeping up appearances rather than developing the relationship.

We all compare ourselves to others naturally, even subconsciously. This is true among good friends. We compare our jobs, clothes, cars, income, significant others, and the list goes on. This is natural and expected, to some extent. The problem arises when we are constantly chasing our friends who always seem to have more of what we have.

The solution: Go back to basics. What common values brought you together? What do you value most about this person? You were likely drawn to this person for who they are rather than what they do or what they have.

7. Your expectations for the other person are too high.

We often have to adjust our expectations of our friends as our relationships progress due to life changes. Still, we struggle to adjust to new realities and can make the mistake of expecting the same level of commitment from our friends after major life changes. This can lead to misunderstandings and may cause one or both parties to simply walk away from the relationship.

The solution: Prepare yourself for the fact that things will change and that your expectations will need to be adjusted over time. This does not mean that your friendships will be diminished. Approach this reality from a positive viewpoint. Be realistic about what this person can and cannot do for you.

8. You don’t apologize (sincerely).

We’re all familiar with the insincere apology. We see it in the media among celebrities and politicians caught in wrongdoing. We experience it in our own relationships. You may even practice it yourself.

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Here it is in two forms: “I’m sorry if you were hurt by X or Y” or “I’m sorry but you never told me Z.” The key words that make these examples insincere are “if” and “but.” These words shift responsibility from you to the person you are apologizing to. It’s not a true apology and will do little to repair relationships.

If you hurt someone close to you, you’ve withdrawn a sizable amount of goodwill and trust from your Emotional Bank Account. You must apologize sincerely in order to make a deposit equal to or greater than what you withdrew. You must take full responsibility.

The solution: Commit to eliminating the words “if” and “but” when making an apology. Make this your apology template instead: “I’m sorry for what I did and for hurting you in the process. Will you forgive me?”

None of us are perfect at maintaining our relationships. The key is to become more aware and correct ourselves when we make mistakes. Your most important friendships are worth the effort.

Featured photo credit: Argument Conflict Controversy Dispute Contention/RyanMcGuire via pixabay.com

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Cylon George

A spiritual chaplain and blogger who writes about practical spiritual tips for busy people.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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