Dropping friends who bring you down can hurt, but improves your life

August 31, 2011 by Joshua
in Blog, Freedom, Leadership, Tips

Today I’ll take a short break from my thread on the Model to share advice to a client with a common problem: he has grown and changed and a former friend hasn’t. The former friend now holds him back. He wants to move on, but doesn’t know how.

His description of the situation described incident after incident of counterproductive behavior from the friend (and him accepting it), only briefly mentioning what held them together — their music (also going out to meet girls together). I felt the musical success had more long-term value, so I started there.

First, congratulations on the success with the music, sax, and rapping. Practicing your passions will improve your life more than anything. Music will be with you forever. Guys like him will come and go. Each time they do, they’ll open your schedule for someone who enhances your life more. Winning competitions is amazing, especially for performing in front of others.

I’ve let go of friends that held me back from developing. One of two things happened. Either my life outright improved, mainly by giving me more time for new friends whose interests aligned with mine and helped me develop more or they eventually returned to my life with changed relations that met my interests. In no case has decreasing my interactions with someone I didn’t like hurt me. As far as I can tell, it didn’t hurt them either.

Some background and tips to make the process easier:

Getting emotional reactions from others motivates getting more emotional reactions, so I recommend not calling him names or acting on anger. He’ll use those emotions to reel you back in.

Also, being judged motivates defending yourself, so I recommend not calling him names or even saying he’s a bad person or negative. He’ll defend himself and be motivated to counter-attack. If you want him out of your life, communicating judgment will likely move things in the opposite direction. Communicating judgment to third parties isn’t as counterproductive, but it still reinforces beliefs that will come out in your behavior with him, so I don’t recommend that either.

In other words, expressing anger, judgment, and name-calling attract and provoke people you don’t want in your life. They also repel people you probably do like.

I recommend calmness and coolness and reducing your interactions, not calling him names or saying he’s bad, just communicating that your interests don’t match anymore if you have to. I wouldn’t explain myself, just stop taking his calls, as it sounds like you’re doing. If he asked politely I’d afford him the respect I give any human being and explain that each of us will have more fun with our other friends and, sorry, I have other priorities now, but enjoy going out with others.

If your descriptions are accurate (they sound one-sided, so I imagine you share some good times with him), when faced with a loss, he’ll do what he can to keep you in his life since you sound like you improve his life tremendously. That means he’ll appeal to your emotions — I’d expect guilt or shame. He’ll do his best to make you feel bad. Prepare for it, though it may never come. Recognize the feelings he evokes will pass, especially while you’re having awesome times winning more awards, picking up new girls with new friends, and don’t engage. Not engaging someone who knows how to push your buttons is hard, but an incredibly valuable skill.

One day you may look back at this experience as one that taught you great skills and brought new friends and experiences into your life, as I do with the people I let go of. Or he may change and return to your life as a valuable person contributing to your happiness and success.

Read my weekly newsletter

On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Leave a Reply

Sign up for my weekly newsletter