I am probably the most “friend blind” person you will ever know. I meet everyone with an open heart, and assume they are going to be my friend.
While this may sound like an ideal way to live, it actually causes quite a lot of heartache, especially when a person whom I thought was a friend turns out to be anything but.
I also put a lot effort into other people. This also sounds great, if you are on the receiving end of that attention. When that effort and attention is not reciprocated, I feel drained.
Over the past year, I’ve had to completely reevaluate how I make friends, and who I spend my limited attention on. What I’ve discovered is that I have surrounded myself with some wonderful people. People who give to me what I give to them – attention, support, friendship, unconditional love and laughter.
However, I still have problems deciding who should be included in my small inner circle. I’m an extreme introvert, only venturing outside my shell for exercise, and to participate in my Pace Setters Toastmasters club. Otherwise, I don’t see anyone. I work from home, and I’m a writer. Enough said.
So I was completely baffled by an encounter I had last week. I am a member of a local cycle club and I’ve met some wonderful, strong and independent women. They are the cycling experts, and they take me on all kids of adventures I’m not ready for. In return, I take them to the mountains and keep them safe.
I have taken out this particular group three or four times. One woman, lets call her Marie, is always a bit prickly to start, but she seems to warm up to me by the end. Marie is an interesting person. She has a good job, is a single mom, and is seriously fit. I truly admire her.
Every time I think I’ve had a break through with Marie, I am wrong. The next time we head out for a hike, I have to start at square one with Prickly Marie, until she gets over whatever barrier she thinks separates us.
Normally, I let this slide off my back, ready to start fresh to be her friend. However, with my new intention to be selective as to who gets to be my friend and be showered with my attention, I needed to take a step back and re-evaluate this situation.
It was actually my extremely relationship savvy and intuitive husband who asked me this one simple question:
Do you like her?
Whoa. Wait. What? I can ask that question?
Honestly, this question never once occurred to me. Do I like this person? Yes or No.
If the answer is yes, then that gives me all kinds of permission to spend the time and effort to get to know them. To break down the barriers and make a good friend.
But if I don’t truly like them, then that also gives me permission to not put a lot of effort into them. To not shower them with love, attention and praise.
What a revelation! What freedom. What a great tool.
To be clear, this does not mean that I will write off Marie completely. This does not mean that I will be mean or exclusionary. It just means that I have the freedom to not care that much about her. If she wants to be in a bad mood and prickly next time we hike, it’s not my responsibility to draw her out and help her turn that frown upside-down.
This one simple question – do I like her – gives me a quick and dirty shortcut to quickly decide whether someone is worth it. As much as I would love for the whole world to just get along, I cannot be friends with everyone. That’s because not everyone wants to be friends with me! I need to be able to take those subtle hints people are giving out and act on them. I need to stop trying to make friends out of people who don’t want to be friends with me.
How about you?
Is this advice completely obvious to you? Have you done this for years? Or maybe you have your own shortcut to decide who to be friends with. Maybe you’re an expert at picking up those subtle hints that someone doesn’t want to make a new friend. If you have any advice, please let me know. It should be quite obvious that I’m in need of some basic help here.