When you start to grow and change over time, you will inevitably find certain folks who are a negative influence on you. Not because they are bad people. It’s only an unconscious protection mechanism. If you get’too good’ then they fear that you will look down on them.
The normal type of friendship where this is likely to become a matter for you is when the interaction is parasitic. They get far more out of the friendship than you do. It appears logical to simply’cut them off’ but doing this is not that simple. For starters, most people lack the confidence in their ability to be assertive enough to simply flat-out tell the person that they wish to end the friendship. So they go about it in unhelpful ways. 1 method is to set another person up to position yourself as the New York City Bat Removal. The other thing lots of people do is just stop answering calls or responding to messages and expect the parasite just gets the message and goes off.
Either way however, there will be an underlying feeling of guilt that will make this process difficult. And for good reason. The reality is that you probably played to the parasitic connection at least a bit. So that guilt comes from the fact that you know you’re more responsible than you would feel comfortable acknowledging. If you admit your part then you risk looking like the poor guy that has just used their friendship when it was convenient for you and now that you don’t want them any more, you simply abandon them.
So the first step would be to confront the uncomfortable reality that part of this has some truth to it. But that does not mean you are entirely bad. It just makes you’re human. All of us do this when we crave the approval and link from people with no self-confidence to do so in a way that produces healthy boundaries. So you can leave the parasite behind in the event you wish, 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 will have to face in order to grow from the experience is to accept that their parasitic interactions with you is just part of the reason you wish to cut them off. The other is that there’s a very real probability that they remind one of the parts you do not like about yourself. So it’s important to admit that your choice to cut them off is not to punish them but to help you grow. The lesson you will want to learn however is that if you do not work on growing your own 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 completely, there is another way. And that’s to change how you interact with them.
However, you start to realise that some of their off-handed remarks are in fact subtle put downs to keep you down. It is probably going to feel awkward as hell, but there is no real reason to stop you from saying words to the effect of:
“Look I appreciate your concern, but if you say things like that it feels like a subtle sort of put down. I’m confident you don’t mean it but I will have to insist that you respect my wishes to not speak like this any more. I don’t want to lose your friendship but I need to let you know that I’m only going to keep on speaking with you if you respect that.”
That sounds easy but here’s the hardest part.
There’s a good likelihood that they have held the upper hand by being the more dominant participant in the relationship. So standing up to them like this is going to necessarily create tension, and they’re not going to like that. The reality is however that good relationships including good friendships, will defy this tension. That’s how you create boundaries.
It is however important to be ready for the inevitable retaliation from them however, which is likely to be”but you’re not saint yourself.”
And there is an excellent chance this is true. The significant hurdle stopping someone from insisting on a more respectful interaction with a friend is how they know they are guilty of similar interactions. Because if you are going to stand your ground with this new border then you have to accept 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’re true, then you might have to change your interactions with them as well. In other words, you have to give them no excuses by modifying your own behaviors as well. And that’s the toughest part.
If you do this however – you acknowledge your flaws to them. You work on changing your own behavior in return for expecting an improvement in their own.
It won’t probably happen easily mind you. They will inevitably complain to your friends and try to turn them against you by telling you that you believe you are’too good for them now’. Anticipate this and hope that you may inevitably have to lose both them and other friends in the process.
This is another hard part. You’re going to feel like your behavior is under scrutiny and be judged for being unjust if you hold others to standards you aren’t ready to live up to. They may also attack you for your inconsistency if you allow it or even invite it on some occasions when it’s convenient for you but disallow it if it does not 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 are open and honest about it. If you’re consistent. If you learn how to exercise mutual respect. And most importantly, if you acknowledge your flaws rather than attempt to prop yourself over the other individual as being superior to them. If you do these things then there is a very real possibility which you may 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 rescue themselves without being tempted to grab onto the other person to keep them afloat without pushing their head under in precisely the same time. If you manage to do this however, then this is by far the best outcome by far.
As soon as you learn how to master this process however, you will not just have made leaps and bounds on your social skills but you’ll also have learned to step up and develop your own limiting immaturity as well. So it’s a win-win.
If this sounds like a goal you want to accomplish in your own interpersonal relationships, then just remember this.
And the quality of communication you have with other folks will be most heavily affected by the standard of intrapersonal communication you have with yourself.