1. Make a list of what you value in friendships/ relationships
This is a very important first step because if you don’t know what you want in relationships, how can you attract the right people? For example, your list may include things like:
- Similar sense of humour to yours or just ‘sense of humour’
- Ability to be with pain and sadness
- Likes to do the same things as me
- Has a busy schedule like you and doesn’t expect to spend a lot of time together
These are just some ideas to get you started. Each person’s list will be very different because we all have unique needs and values.
2. Take an inventory of the people who surround you
Make a list of all the people you call “friends” and ask yourself which values from your list above each person possesses and what they are lacking in. If they have 75% or less of the values you listed as being important to you, you may need to find some new friends.
3. Look at your inventory and ask yourself the following questions about each of the people on your list:
- Does this person listen to me and not judge me?
- Does s/he make me feel better or worse than before we spoke/spent time together?
- Do we have fun together regularly as well as share hard times?
- Can I be myself with this person and be loved as I am?
- Do I feel energized or depleted after spending time with this person?
- Does s/he let me know how special I am to him/her by carving out time to be with me on a regular basis?
- Can s/he handle it when I share things that bother me about our relationship or does s/he attack me or withdraw instead?
The above are some of the most important qualities of true friendship. If you answer negatively to at least 3 of them; you could probably use some new friends.
4. Write a page in your journal or on a piece of paper entitled “What gets in the way of attracting relationships that bring out the best in me?”
In your writing, you may come up with things you were taught about yourself from your family or other people when you were growing up like, “You have to be friends with whoever comes your way, because it’s rude to reject someone who wants to be your friend.”
Or you may uncover some core beliefs you have about yourself such as, “I am not worthy of wonderful relationships.”
Or you may just simply discover that you have expectations of others that are too low for the person you are becoming now. Those people may have been fine for you in the past, but don’t give you enough of what you need today because you’ve grown and changed.
5. Make a list of people you know who you think would make great friends; but whom you haven’t approached yet.
This includes the people you think you’d like to get to know, but don’t think they’d be interested. Let yourself dream a little – write them all down, even if you think they wouldn’t be interested.
6. Next to each person on that list, write what qualities about that person you think would make them a good friend. Then write what you could offer them and what they have to offer you.
If you have a computer, draw up a “table” with 4 columns and 1 row. Title each column according to the above exercise.
7. Take some time to reflect on why you have the friends you have and perhaps why you don’t have as many of the friends you would like to have in your life. Just be aware of the whole concept of choosing people.
You can even write down what state you were in when you met those people and what you needed in each relationship at that particular time. Did those people meet your needs at that time in your life? Are they meeting the needs you have now in relationships? Why? Why not?
8. Make a list of the relationships in your life that are no longer serving you and that you’d like to let go of.
This is a type of “housecleaning” of your personal life. We often accumulate unwanted relationships just as we accumulate clothes that we don’t wear. It’s time to downsize your list and leave room for adding new people to your list!
9. Make an effort to slowly disentangle yourself from those relationships.
This is easier said than done, but with persistence and consistency, is very achievable. You might start by calling that person less frequently and waiting a while to return their calls. They’ll probably get the message as what you don’t do speaks volumes. Or you could tell them directly that you think it’s best that you not see one another anymore or for a while. Focus on the things you love to do and do them! You’d be surprised how many like-minded people will like doing the same things.
10. Take one step towards making friends with someone who is on your list from question #5.
This can be as simple as asking that person to go for a walk after work or to grab a coffee. You might want to make the first step short and sweet so that you don’t put too much pressure on yourself or the other person. If the first step goes well, then you might think about going to a movie together sometime or give them the opportunity to come up with something you can do together that you would both find fun.
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Esther Kane, MSW, RSW, RCC, has assisted countless people of all ages in freeing themselves of disordered eating, unhealthy relationships, and anxiety and depression. She is extremely passionate and dedicated to her work. You can reach her at 778.265.6190 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out her detailed website at: www.estherkane.com.