Note to Readers: My massage therapist gives me the best advice I’ve ever had and is teaching me to successfully and kindly manage my relationships. I asked her to share her advice with my blog readers. Send questions to email@example.com. Include your age and your sign if you like!
I have a friend that asks me to hang out two or three times a week. I’m a busy woman in my thirties who can’t/doesn’t always want to spend time with girlfriends, so I resist most opportunities with this friend. It makes me feel bad. She recently lost a close friendship and seems to be looking for someone to take that person’s place, and I’m really not interested – in addition to not being able to give her the attention she clearly needs. To make matters worse, she has really irritated me lately by inviting herself to my events, and even circumvented me and directly contacted a friend of mine from a different circle regarding one of those events. How do I politely get her to calm down?
This is all about healthy boundaries. Unfortunately you will probably have to put in some effort to make a necessary conversation happen in a compassionate way, since this friend isn’t taking your hints. Then, you just have to cut to the chase. So, maybe you invite her to coffee and say, “look, I know you need someone to hang out with, but this isn’t really working out for me.” Tell her that her contacting other friends of yours and going around you feels really awkward and makes you feel weird. And, you want to tell her before you get upset about it. I know you are concerned about her deep in your heart. You can approach her from that angle: “I’m concerned that you are reaching out to me a lot and I can’t offer you a lot of time. It feels like you need something I can’t give you – are you okay? I don’t know what you are going through, and it seems like there’s something going on.” Maybe this step will help her see the root of what is bothering her and making her focus so much on you. If she tries to point it back at your not having time for her, you can say “I want to be your friend, but I have boundaries and I can’t hang out with you all the time. I have another circle of friends that I’ve always known independently of you, and it suddenly feels like you’re trying to insert yourself into it and feels a bit unnatural.” Never forget the importance of “I feel” statements. If she’s receptive and it’s appropriate, maybe you can suggest activities that might help her reach out and meet some new people. You aren’t personally responsible for meeting her needs. If she gets more independent you might be interested in spending time with her again when the pressure goes away.
Interstalking asks: When a friend acts this way, I’m often so annoyed and offended by the pressure that I really don’t even want to be friends with the person anymore, I just want him or her to go away. Can you say, “I really don’t even feel like hanging out with you because you’re pressuring me so much?”
AMMT: Sometimes people will push and push and push. You may just have to say something like “Listen, I really don’t have the time to fill the position it feels like you’re looking for. Maybe you need to look for some new people and find your own path.” Say it with love and compassion. It’s possible he or she doesn’t get the boundaries at all – they’re not reading what yours are. Think about how you want to look back on your handling of the situation – that should help you be compassionate. It helps to think of the person you’re talking to as a child.
Interstalking asks: More generally, how do you handle the friends (well really, acquaintances) that just keep asking you to hang out and don’t read the signals? I know for myself, I stop asking if someone isn’t saying yes or isn’t calling me back. I assume they aren’t that into the friendship or don’t have the time or desire to see me at that moment and let it be – they’ll come back around when they have time or desire to hang out.
AMMT: When the invitation comes, say, “that’s really nice for you to keep inviting me, but I’ll let you know when I can make time to hang out.” If you don’t want to hang out and you really want the invitations to stop, you need to just have the conversation: “I’m not feeling the connection,” or, “a lot is going on in my life and I have to prioritize. I think you’re a great person, but it seems like you’re looking for a girlfriend to buddy buddy around with and I’m just not looking for that. I’ve got a job and a dog and a boyfriend and my plate is pretty full…” Whatever your personal situation is, just be clear and honest and let them off the hook so to speak. Let it come from the heart. You could also say “I think you’re an asshole and you probably stole my lip gloss,” if that’s the case! Just be honest. When it comes from the heart love and compassion comes across. Hopefully, people understand you cannot hang out all the time… or maybe you just aren’t taking applications anymore, and that’s ok too! We get to dictate our relationships with others and not the other way around – friendship is a two way street when it works for both of us. Sometimes a relationship keeps changing and evolving, or takes breaks, and some are just stressful and don’t add inspiration to our lives. It’s up to you to observe and make choices that are respectful to you and others via honesty.
Let the healing begin!