|How To Cut Toxic
Friends Out Of Your Life
Who should you keep on speed dial and whose number should be deleted? The secret to leading a more meaningful social life lies in auditing your friends
Amna sighs as she flicks through her diary, noticing there's barely a gap anywhere. There are trips to the cinema, brunches, shopping trips, evenings in restaurants, several fashion launches it seems as if every minute is spoken for with her wide circle of friends and she barely has a moment for her husband Saad.
"He has always accepted I'm sociable person, but I know I'm driving Saad mad now," says Amna, a 36-year-old marketing executive.
"Every time I tell some friends I'm not going out they make me feel bad, saying I'm the linchpin of the group and they'd miss me if I didn't go. Most of them are single, where I have James, and elderly parents who rely on me. I feel stretched in every direction."
Amna is an example of someone who's added to her social life over the years, making friends with people from school, university and all the companies she's worked at. But striving to stay in touch with them all especially those that now don't add anything to her life or are toxic has taken its toll. According to experts, we should all do a friend audit now and then to make time for the people we really want to be with. We wouldn't stay too long at a job that makes us unhappy or wears us out. Yet we hold on to friendships, often seeing people we've outgrown as friends, and then resenting the time we spend on them. But where do we start, and what can we hope to achieve from 'un-friending' the toxic friends or the ones we've outgrown?
Breaking Out Of The Rut
If you are growing as an individual, then the people in your lives will naturally change. So many people say they've been friends with someone from school and they feel they have to be friends with them for the rest of their lives, but that's unrealistic because we all change… it's easy to get stuck in a rut with friends too. For example, if you've always met Ali every Thursday, it will be hard to stop seeing him. You may feel guilty too but if it's no longer working for you, the arrangement needs to be reviewed. Likewise, if you always go to a film with a friend, you'll never catch up with their news. Go for a coffee instead.
We should use our intuition when deciding whether a friend stays or goes. If you feel terrible when you are with a so-called friend then it's time to let them go. If your friend doesn't enhance your life, and in fact leaves you feeling worse, they are toxic and you don't need them in your circle. A good friend supports you, cares for you and serves you for the highest good they're good for you and you love being with them.
A lot of people are scared to audit their friends because they're scared they will be lonely or won't have enough friends they can turn to. But it's better to have one good friend than 20 who drain you or leave you feeling bad about yourself.
There's no specific number about how many friends we need. You have two or three really amazing friends and that may enough for you or you may have ten. Friendship is about quality not quantity. Likewise there's no recommended amount of time to spend on friendship if it's a good one you won't even be aware of how much time you spend together because you'll enjoy every minute. Friends come and go in your life as you grow and change and you need to know when to let go.
Knowing When To Let Go
We have people who we turn to for certain problems Salman may well help us with our health and fitness problems while Farhan is brilliant when we want to talk about money. Yet friendships work best if we're open and authentic. If these people are your true friends, you'll be able to share everything about your life with them and if you confide in them, you may get some amazing insights. Once you've decided which friends make your heart sign and which drain your energy, it's time to start spending more time with the good ones and stop seeing the bad ones. But how? We all know how painful ending a romantic relationship can be, is ending a friendship as traumatic? If one of your or both are changing, your friendship is going to fizzle out naturally because you'll no longer have the same interests.
It's fine to just let it out. But if you want to stop seeing a friend and they don't take the hint, then it's time to sit down and explain to them that your lives are going in different directions. Tell them that you've appreciated their friendship in the past and that you've had good times but it's time for you to move on now. Making it about you rather than them will make it easier for both of you. If you find yourself avoiding your friend, deliberately ignoring their phone calls or going out of your way not to speak to them, then it's time to tackle the issue and say something. Avoiding people doesn't feel good and if that's happening, the problem is never going to go away. It's best to deal with it and move on.
We have to remember we have a choice when our social life becomes a drain on our time and finances and learn to say no. If we don't, we end up in a constant fire-fighting state, rushing from one thing to another, and going to events we don't want to be at, wasting our time and money. You'll know the things to say yes to. They're the events you can't wait for. Similarly, the ones that make your heart sink are a definite no. When you have invitations for things you're not sure about, ask for 24 hours to check your schedule, make a decision, then make sure you give your answer quickly. If you follow this system, you'll gain a reputation for being reliable, not someone who looks bored at an event, or some who's always crying off at the last minute.
If your friends cost you too much money, now is the time to examine what you're buying is it a meal out, or a connection with another human being? If that's the case and your budget is tight, suggest something cheaper like going for a coffee or a walk in the park. Be assertive and set some new boundaries if your friends all have a three-course meal when you've just had a starter, tell them you're paying for just the one course. Once you've audited your friends you'll feel richer, more energetic and liberated and more inclined to go out there and have some fun!
When To Ditch? Three Questions Will Help
Our relationship with friends tell us a lot about ourselves. Ask yourself these questions:
1. If you have friends who mess you about, or use you, ask yourself if you somehow believe you're not worthy of better treatment. What advice would you give to your child or a young niece or nephew if a friend were treating them this way?
2. If you have grown apart from your friend, or if you both now have different values, ask yourself how you can gracefully remove yourself from their presence.
3. If your friend is doing something to annoy you, ask yourself why you've reacted in this way, then sit down and discuss it with your friend. Say how you feel, do not accuse. There may be a perfectly understandable explanation for their behaviour.