Do you want to have better quality friendships like you did in the good ol’ days?
Remember when your biggest decision was who to play with after school. Eventually these friendships grow or change into who you are going to share your secrets with or cry on when you are broken hearted. Friendships become as important to you as your family.
“Many people will walk in and out of you life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” ~ Unknown
Our friendships peak and adulthood hits. People go away for school, get married, move for their job, and have kids. Friendships come and go and it becomes hard to keep up with your old friends. Yet you long for the friendships that last a lifetime.
While busyness and location may get in the way of growing great friendships as an adult, there is another culprit – having a negative focused mental filter. Often we have our mental filter set high to keep hurt out, yet we miss out on the opportunities for new and growing friendships. You can change your filter, letting the good in instead of keeping it all out.
Recognize Negative Filter
Recently I watch my daughter try to navigate through new friendship territory with a filter that needs an adjustment. She assumes that others don’t like her, leaves herself out of the activity, and then complains about being left out. As I coach her through the tears, I realize these friendship problems don’t end with adulthood.
Many adults walk around their world surrounded by people yet feeling lonely. Their negative thoughts leave them out. If you have your mental filter set so high that all you see are negatives, you are probably missing out on friendships and resources.
Take a moment to listen to the messages you are focusing on. Do you focus more on the negatives than the positives? If yes, you may recognize some of these negative assumptions:
- What if they don’t like me or I don’t fit in
- They want too much from me and I can’t say no
- I feel left out when I know I’m not their best friend
- We have too many differences that I can’t relate
- I can’t handle feeling hurt or rejected again
I imagine these negative thoughts didn’t evaporate after middle school, and that some of you still battle with these negative assumptions now. We all want to be known and connected, but what does it take to make it happen?
Change Your Mental Filter
Imagine that your body is surrounded by a screen. The holes on the screen can be enlarged or shrunk. You can change the size of holes depending on how much you want to let in.
Focus less on the negatives, and you will increase the holes in your screen. Instead of filtering it all out, you will be able to let more in. You will also begin seeing things in a new way instead of assuming the worst.
My daughter is able to see that the girls she wants to play with have a different idea on what to play – it isn’t that they don’t want to play with her. When she focuses less on her negative thoughts, she is able to move toward the girls even if her way is different. The result is making memories instead of tears.
When you look through your screen with new eyes, you can see positives looking back at you. People that are interested in you, what you have to say and spending time with you. If you don’t see these people trying to look through your screen, it’s time to change your screen and stop filtering so much out.
Friendships as Exchange of Resources
I think of friendships as an exchange of resources, one in which both people have a say in what they exchange. The resources may be tangible such as swapping babysitting or tools. Or the exchange may be intangible such as sharing stories and reassurances. Having someone to confide in, to reassure you, and to celebrate life’s milestones is an amazing resource.
While friendships may change as we grow, they are still important. Discover what you do or say to yourself that keeps people out. Then decide to not let your screen be set to negative. Instead be determined to view the exchange in a new way. In this way, you are letting more into your life than you are turning away.
“The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart. ” ~ Elisabeth Foley
How have your friendships changed over time?
Photo Credit: Happy Girls Under Rainbow by Sharon Pruitt