It’s natural for people to maintain friendships that are convenient, but sometimes the people we associate with aren’t necessarily people who bring out our best qualities. Friends of convenience are those people who happen to be easiest to associate with because of their physical proximity to you either at work, in your neighborhood, building, dorm or gym. But these “friends” may not necessarily connect with you on an intellectual, emotional or spiritual level. They may be the ones nearest you physically but as remote as someone on mars when it comes to meeting your core needs for intimacy.
Finding the right friends in some situations requires a concerted effort. You might need to seek them out through extra-curricular activities, volunteer work or through a social group such as young leadership groups or meet up groups like www.Meetup.com. Meetup is one of many online social networking portals that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world. Meetup allows members to find and join groups unified by a common interest, such as politics, books, games, movies, health, pets, careers or hobbies. Their slogan is “Find Your People.” The point is, there are many ways to meet new people who may share your interests and sensibilities. So if you feel stuck in your relationships, it may be time to venture out and try meeting new people who aren’t in your midst.
Be mindful to seek new friendships with others who complement your personality. Listen carefully to the topic of conversation s/he engages in. Is this person a perpetual gossip, or does she speak about meaningful things? Do you enjoy his sense of humor? Do you share common values and common interests with this person?
You might also be on the look out for people who are generally positive and engaged in wholesome activities e.g. running, skiing, tennis; you may try joining a “lean in group,” a yoga, dance, or art class, or try joining a poetry or chess club. People who are motivated to participate in healthy, growth oriented activities tend to be more uplifting to be around. Socializing in circles like these may provide you with a better chance of finding friends who are positive influences and who have a positive attitude about life as they’re engaged in a stimulating, productive activity.
When you join friends in sharing a meaningful or healthful, pleasureful activity, chances are you’ll develop a bond tied to sharing in this experience. In time, you may find more fulfillment in your relationships, feel happier and as a result have more energy to give back to others.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong or selfish about being selective with whom you spend your time with; recognizing who is a good fit for your social circle is a sign of emotional maturity. On the other hand, sometimes letting go of a supposed friend (someone who consistently drains you, competes with you or brings you down) can free you up to have more energy for others who you feel more compadre with and who will appreciate and value your friendship.
Here’s how you can assess whether your friends are boosters or what I call “drainers”:
1. Do they respect your opinions?
2. Do they share common values with you?
3. Do they engage in similar hobbies and if so can you enjoy sharing these hobbies with him/her?
4. Does this person inquire about you; are they interested and aware of what you do in your work and in your personal life? Do they ever inquire about what you do and show a genuine interest in your answers?
5. How much do you laugh with this person?
6. Does s/he use affirming words or diminishing comments?
7. Do you often feel this person is competitive with you or are they generally happy for your successes?
8. Do you tend to initiate plans and invite this person far more often than they invite you?
9. Is this person often negative?
10. Does this person always assume you have it all or can they empathize when you need support?
11. Do you find this person to be excessively needy?
12. Does this person really listen when you’re sharing your feelings or do you feel like they’re somewhere else?
13. How do you typically feel when you leave this person? Are you uplifted or left empty, drained or weirded out?
When you review your answers to these questions you should have a better sense for whether you have a healthy, sustainable relationship that’s worth your time and effort. If your answers to these questions lean more heavily on the side of not having the support, love, joy or reciprocity you need, you may consider spending less time and energy pursuing this person.
There’s truth to the expression that life is short and time is precious. Why not use your time wisely by spending it with people who help build you up rather than bring you down? Having high quality relationships will energize you and could become the fuel for giving back to those who will be better able to receive your friendship.