When you begin to grow and change over the years, you will inevitably find certain people who will be a negative influence on you. Not because they’re bad people. It’s just an unconscious protection mechanism. If you get’too good’ then they fear you will look down on them.
The normal type of friendship in which this is very likely to turn into a matter for you is when the interaction is parasitic. They get far more out of their friendship than you do. It appears logical to simply’cut them off’ but doing so is not that simple. For starters, most people lack the confidence in their ability to be assertive enough to just flat-out tell the individual that they wish to end the friendship. So they go about it in unhelpful ways. The other thing many people do is just stop answering calls or replying to messages and expect the parasite just gets the message and goes off.
Either way however, there is going to be an underlying feeling of guilt which will make this process difficult. And perhaps for good reason. The truth is that you probably played into the parasitic connection at least a bit. So that guilt comes from the fact that you know you are more responsible than you would feel comfortable acknowledging. If you acknowledge your part then you risk looking like the bad guy that has only used their friendship as it was convenient for you and now that you don’t need them any more, you simply abandon them.
So the first step would be to confront the embarrassing reality that part of this has some truth to it. But that does not mean you’re entirely bad. It just makes you’re human. We all do this when we crave the approval and connection from people without having the self-confidence to do so in a manner that creates healthy boundaries. So you may leave the parasite behind if you desire, but it is still important to learn healthier boundaries for future friendships. It is okay to make mistakes but repeating them isn’t useful.
The other uncomfortable reality you’ll need to face in order to grow from the experience is to accept that their parasitic interactions with you is just part of the reason why that you want to cut them off. The other is that there is a very real probability that they remind you of the parts you do not like about yourself. So it’s important to admit that your choice to cut off them isn’t to punish them but to help you grow. The lesson you will need to learn however is that if you don’t work on growing your self-esteem, you will just wind up repeating the same cycle along with different friends.
If you’re feeling too guilty about cutting them off entirely, there’s another way. And that is to change how you interact with them.
Let’s say you have a friend who on the surface, pretends to have your best interests in mind. But you start to realise that some of the off-handed comments are in fact subtle put downs to keep you down.
“Look I appreciate your concern, but when you say things like that it feels like a subtle sort of put down. I’m confident you don’t mean it but I’m going to have to insist that you respect my wishes to not speak like that any more. I don’t want to lose your friendship but I need to let you know that I am only going to keep on speaking with you if you respect that.”
That sounds easy but here’s the toughest part.
There’s a good likelihood that they have held the upper hand by being the more dominant player in the relationship. So standing them up like this will inevitably create tension, and they are not going to enjoy that. The truth is however that great relationships including good friendships, will withstand this tension. That is how you create boundaries.
And there is an excellent chance this is true. The major hurdle stopping someone from insisting on a more respectful interaction with a buddy is the fact that they know they are guilty of similar interactions. Because if you are going to stand your ground with this new boundary then you need to take it when they respond by pointing out your own interpersonal flaws. So to remain consistent, you have to step up and accept that if there criticisms of you are true, then you may need to change your interactions with them too. To put it differently, you need to give them no explanations by changing your own behaviors as well. And that’s the toughest part.
If you do this yet – you admit your flaws to them. You focus on changing your own behavior in return for anticipating an improvement in their own. Then one of two things are inevitable;
The first is that they’ll just cut off you, saving you the guilt from cutting them off. It will not probably happen easily mind you. They will inevitably complain to your friends and try to turn them against you by telling you that you think you are’too great for them now’. Anticipate this and expect that you may inevitably have to lose both them and other friends in the process.
This is the other hard part. You’re going to feel like your behaviour is under scrutiny and be judged for being unfair if you hold others to standards you are not willing to live up to. They will also attack you for your inconsistency if you enable it or even invite it on some occasions when it is convenient for you but disallow it if it doesn’t suit you. They won’t take your boundary seriously and you’ll inevitably wind up looking like the bad guy.
Butif you measure up. If you’re open and honest about it. If you’re consistent. If you learn to exercise mutual respect. And most importantly, if you admit your flaws instead of attempt to prop yourself over another individual as being superior to them. If you do these things then there is a very real possibility which you can actually lead the relationship in a healthier way.
This will be difficult at first and will feel like two people floundering around in the water trying to save themselves without needing to grab onto another person to keep them afloat without pushing their head under in precisely the identical time. If you both manage to do this yet, then this is undoubtedly the best outcome by far.
Once you learn how to master this process however, you won’t only have made leaps and bounds on your social skills but you’ll also have learned to step up and grow your own restricting immaturity also. So it’s a win-win.
Again – although this is the most ideal outcome, it is tough to do but learning the skills is well worth the effort. So if this sounds like a goal you want to achieve in your interpersonal relationships, then just remember this.
At the end of the day, the quality of your relationships return to their communication lively. Along with the quality of communication you have with other people will be most heavily influenced by the standard of intrapersonal communication you have with yourself.