So, I have a flaky friend. It makes me feel insignificant and unimportant that she asks me to do stuff, or we arrange things, then she either shows up super late or doesn’t show up at all.
I know it’s not a reflection on me but of her, but it still really hurts. And I know I need to cut her out, but I like her and we have a lot in common. I just can’t go around feeling like rubbish anymore.
-With Friends Like These…
Dear “With Friends Like These…,”
Amen, sister… In a world full of ghosters, headache-inducing family members, and plain ‘ol annoying associates, you would think that the one safe place to find respect and upliftment among others would be the “friend-zone,” right? Well, wrong… Or as the French would say, “au contraire, mon frère.”
When it comes to any type of quality relationship, you can only extract from it what you bring to it. So, I hate to say it, mi amiga, but if you don’t like how the soup tastes, we gotta look at what you’re putting into the pot. (Some of ya’ll already knew I would get right into it, huh, lol.)
When it comes to your situation, “With Friends Like These…,” if you want to get treated in a manner that shows respect for you and your time, you yourself have to bring to the relationship a sense of respect for you and your time.
You teach people how to treat you.
And while you’re right that how she behaves is a reflection of her not you, how you allow her to behave in YOUR life, on the other hand, is a reflection of you and how you feel about yourself, not her.
Okay, ready to do the work? Here we go…
In order to get the treatment you want from your relationships, you have to: (a) first know what you value, (b) know that you’re worthy of receiving what you value, and (c) create boundaries that support your values and sense of worthiness.
The good news is that Step A – knowing what you value – is super easy as it’s achieved through pure ‘ol life experience. Observing what feels good vs. what feels shitty is the crux here, so all you have to do is note what feels good and store it under the “values” column. (In this case, her late or no-show behavior has either taught you, or reinforced, that you value punctuality and behavior that shows consideration for another’s time.)
When it comes to Step B, on the other hand – knowing that you’re worthy of receiving what makes you feel good – things can get a bit trickier as it requires a nurtured self-esteem; which, if not there, involves a great deal of conscious effort… Argh.
Fortunately, I’ve discussed nurturing your self-esteem in this article, as well as this one, where I even bring in the “big guns” via this Marissa Peer video. So with those resources, you’ll be well on the path to a healthy self-esteem in no time :).
Finally, once you know your values and have embraced the fact that you deserve good treatment, you’ll be able to perform Step C. In this step you’ll create boundaries that will not only repel those who don’t respect you and your values/time, but you’ll attract those who do, (you’re welcome ;)).
Now, if it’s a new relationship where you’re still in the courting stage, (yes, this stage even exists in platonic friendships), all you have to do boundary-wise is observe the other’s behavior and see if it’s compatible with your values.
Remember Maya Angelou’s words, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time,” and if who they are is a match to what you value, congrats! You just found yourself a new friend!… If not… Well, it’s time to have a quick “it’s not you, it’s me, girlfriend” talk.
If, however, this is a long-term, established friendship, where you both are already emotionally invested in each other, (like the one you’re talking about), you may be able to save the friendship by establishing new boundaries. After all, you’re now bringing a new-found sense of self, (thanks to your higher self-esteem), to the relationship, so you’ll have to redefine how you both operate within the friendship.
Let your friend know that when she does “x” it makes you feel “y,” and for the relationship to work you’re going to need her to start doing “z.” And mean it.
E.g. If you need her to show up when she says she’s going to show up, or call/text ahead of time when she’s running late or needs to cancel, tell her. You can give her a warning for one goof-up if you like, but let her know that you’ll have to let her go if she does it again.
When talking, make sure to focus on the request you’re making, and not your criticism of her behavior. That way you’ll keep the conversation focused on what you hope to get out it – which is a different behavior – opposed to a conversation full of blame on your part, and defensiveness and excuses on hers. (And for more advice on having hard conversations, I highly recommend this article by Iyanla Vanzant.)
If she decides to stay and respect your new boundaries, (and therefore the healthier you), great! She may be a good friendship fit for you after all. If not, she may either disappear and come back later when she’s changed, or she may never come back at all. But, rest assured, that in the space that she leaves in your life, someone who’s a better fit for the new and improved you will come in and fill that space perfectly. Works every time.
Best of luck!
Note: As this column is designed to be a judgement-free zone, only those who have been, (or know someone who has been), in a similar situation are invited to comment; especially if the question is unorthodox or hard for one to relate to. And for even more relevant insight, those seeking answers are always encouraged to go within.