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How to Create Sustainable Friendships

How to Create Sustainable Friendships

You look at your cell phone. No messages. No calls. No voicemails.

You check your Facebook account, and no one is interacting with your posts, and yet other people seem to be having an amazing time, out and about, having discussions online and off.

And you begin to wonder…

“Is There Something Wrong With Me?”

And the answer is quite simply: no.

It’s just that you’ve let your network slip. Yes, you may be private and shy. Yes, you may also not agree with the principles of facebook, but staying in touch and maintaining friendships isn’t something that you should give up on.

Having people you connect with and belong with is one of the very basic human needs. Without it, we can feel outcasted and neurotic. Human contact is one of the most soothing and grounding things you can ever prescribe yourself–and is much better than eating, smoking and working yourself to death.

And that’s just how being lonely affects you on a personal level! Don’t even get me started about how essential other people are to your vocational success!

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And it’s ok. I get it. Life gets in the way. Family stuff happens. Work stuff takes you out of it. But real, lasting friendships can withstand periodic absences.

So if you’ve let your network deteriorate and your little black book is so out-of-date your Christmas cards would be “returned to sender,” (if you were to ever send any!), then don’t worry.

Here’s how to rekindle your friendships and maintain them on an ongoing basis.

(Re)Kindling Existing Friendships

I get it. It can sometimes feel awkward to suddenly reach out to people you haven’t been in touch with for years. The reason it’s awkward is mostly just because you’re hallucinating rejection. The reality is, unless you’d left things on a very bad note, most people are THRILLED to hear from someone who they haven’t been in touch with for a while.

Reach out. Say hi. Take the risk. You’ll feel amazing when you get the message back, “OMG, where have you been? It’s been ages! So glad you got in touch again!!”

What do you say in that first message?

Well, start with hello. Acknowledge you’ve been off-the-radar. Apologize briefly if appropriate, and follow up with something like, “It’s been so long, I thought I’d reach out and just say hi. How is everything with you?”

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If they live or work locally, arrange to meet up. Go for coffee. Get it in the diary, and remember to always, always, always follow up. Don’t get them to respond with a “yes, when is good for you?” and then just let the rekindling lapse again. You laugh, but I see people do this all the time in business stuff.

Ok, so now you’ve rekindled a few friendships, and as you might imagine, this is only half the story. The trick is to never let friendships get to that embarrassing point where you need to drag them back from the brink and re-learn everything you knew about a person.

The thing is, you don’t need to be in constant contact with someone to maintain a relationship. You need to create meaningful connections and creating positive experiences when you do connect so that the other person will always want to connect with you.

Keeping The Flame Going

Ok, so staying in contact is useful, but doesn’t have to be every week. How frequently you need to be in touch with people depends on the relationship, what each person is used to and how many other friends and commitments each has.

All you really need to do is to think of people and just connect over anything, though. It could be something silly on facebook. It could be an email to say hi. It could be a quick coffee between meetings if you’re in the area, or drinks after work. It doesn’t need to be a chore, and even if you’re not very outgoing, elect to do something that you’ll both enjoy.

It’s getting easier and easier to stay in touch with people with modern tech–we have Skype, Face Time, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email. We even have the old fashioned text and phone! The list goes on. That’s not to say that you connect only through these means; far from it, there is no substitute to really connecting with people in person, but technology makes it easier in those in-between times.

Create Rather Than Consume

Here’s the biggest learning I’ve experienced in both business and personal relationships:

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Friendships are more meaningful and profound when they are based on creation rather than consumption. What does that mean?

Friendships based on getting a group of people together for dinners or drinks don’t tend to last long when people show up with the attitude that they want to be entertained. They go to consume, to get something from the experience, to be a passive component where the success of their experience rests on the restaurants, the other people, and the evening’s entertainment. This is why heading down to the same bar each night with the goal of just “consuming” soon meets with boredom.

The most meaningful and profound friendships I’ve ever formed have been with people who I’ve been creating something with, whether it was a video project, a marketing campaign, an event or workshop. Having a common goal to make something happen means that each party is invested emotionally and in terms of effort to show up and be present. Energy and intention is committed to the project outcome and the relationship in the process. Common objectives bring people closer and bind them together. Similarly, it’s no accident that people who survive intense experiences also bond on a level far deeper than in day-to-day experiences.

But it’s not confined to work-like projects.

People who share common activities create lasting friendships. I’ve recently started back at Tae Kwondo in the area I now live, and was invited to the club Christmas dinner. What was fantastic was the family atmosphere and air of cooperation and mutual support between people who train together. Common interests and goals create meaningful friendships.

Sounds like a subtle difference between showing up to create, or showing up to be entertained?

It is, until you start increasing your awareness in this way; then you’ll be able to see who is creating and who is consuming. Yes, that’s right–you can have creators and consumers all at the same event potentially.

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How To Create Meaningful Connections

Noticing this, I started to wonder: how does one apply this to an existing network? Whether they are new acquaintances or old friends, or contacts? In fact, how does this apply in a family?

If it all boils down to creating rather than consuming, a simple shift in attitude can make all the difference. Here are some simple guidelines to follow to create all the meaningful connections your contacts list can handle!

  1. Make the effort to show up to events, parties, and get-togethers. Don’t think, “what is in it for me?” Go with the intention to connect with people and contribute something, whether it is your energy, your assistance, or your own connections. In fact, if you can take someone new along, so much the better. (Obviously this isn’t always appropriate, but people love meeting new people, once they get over the initial awkwardness!)
  2. Meet people for coffee when you’re in the area.
  3. Make a point of dropping a note to a few people a week. Use your contact list on your phone, or your friends list on Facebook or wherever it is that you store contacts.
  4. Don’t know what to say? Just say hi, and ask them what is new in their world. Maybe share something that is new for you.
  5. Don’t be despondent if you don’t get a 100% response rate. People move on, phone numbers change, life is busier than any time in history. Plus, maybe they have not have read this article. ;) Cut them some slack!

Who Would You Love To Be Back In Touch With?

So there we have it.

Creating and maintain sustainable friendships isn’t rocket science, but it takes a bit of effort on your part. If done well, and consistently, you will never be short of friends, connections and people to share your life with.

And all it takes in the first instance is a tiny shift in attitude: create rather than consume!

Who would you like to be in touch with? Reach out to them right now, and just say hi. The holiday season is a particularly good time for this because people are going to be around at home and winding down work activities between now and the end of the year. Send a text, a card, or make a call. You’ll be pleased you made the effort, and so will they!

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

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Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

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6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

Final Thoughts

Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

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Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

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