You have people in your life who bring out your best and others who bring out your worst. You know this, of course—yet when was the last time you wrote down the traits of each group?
The Payoff: Clarity and Courage
When you take time to reflect on your relationships, you start to see rather quickly which ones need adjusting, eliminating, or scaling back. And suddenly it becomes easier to do all three.
When you don’t take these steps, the result is a vague frustration that drains your energy—often without your realizing it.
Example: I’ve learned I can be assertive when I have to be—but I would much rather spend time with folks who don’t make it so necessary. You can find more about this topic in my post, When Not to Meet Me Where I Am.
An Easy, Eye-Opening Exercise
What you’ll need:
- Clean sheet of paper, or an iPad if you have one (I use the free app Penultimate)
- Pen or pencil you like writing with
- 10 minutes, give or take
In the left column, write down the traits in other people that leave you feeling drained or diminished. You’re not naming names here. Besides, this list is for your eyes only. Across from each item, write what you prefer instead.
For the sake of readability, I’m trading the two-column format for the one-column “list” format shown below.
- Constantly in crisis mode, to the point of making coffee nervous. Prefer instead: Easy to be around.
- Nothing’s ever their fault. Prefer instead: Able to apologize without over-apologizing.
- Yelling or fault-finding. Prefer instead: Safe and stable to be around.
- Flakiness; breaking plans often. Prefer instead: They’re reliable. If they say they’ll be there, they’ll be there with bells on (just an expression).
- Conversations are all about them. Prefer instead: Healthy give and take.
An Even Simpler Approach
Write down a list of a half-dozen or more people whose company you delight in. When you look at these relationships, what do they have in common (e.g., mutual warmth and respect, shared interests, shared values, similar size aspirations, humor, etc.)?
My own feeling is, and you’ll find this in my book Ultimate Reminders for Everyday Life, the people who stay friends are not simply those who have the most in common, but those who place a similar value on the friendship.
Keep being selective about who you spend your time with. Be less available for folks who drain you, hurt you, or hold you back—even if they’re not doing it on purpose. Friendships in particular should be low-maintenance and fun.
Put another way, save your energy for those who lift your spirits. You truly don’t have time for anything less—but as is often the case, the first person you have to convince is yourself.