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10 Ways Not to Lose Your Friends

There are many reasons why your friends may drop you.

Key points

  • It is important to attend to patterns in relationships.
  • Sustaining friendships requires a set of skills.
  • There are times when you should consider ending friendships.

Dear Dr. G.,

I am 19 year old girl and am going into my sophomore year of college. I love my classes and I love my school. I continue to notice though that I lose friends over and over again. I make friends easily. When I was a sophomore in high school my friend group dropped me. I made a few new friends but never learned why my original friend group since the 6th grade dropped me. This happened to me again during my first year of college. I made a great group of friends and. then at the beginning of February they stopped asking me to do things with them. This makes me so upset and nervous. I'm not sure what to do and I am tired of getting dumped and having to look for new friends. I tried speaking to my mother about this and she really got me mad. She said that this is obviously my fault and that I must be doing something wrong. My mother, as you can tell, is not the most sensitive person in the world. Please help me.

A Rejected Friend

Dear Friend,

I am always happy to hear from individuals like you who clearly describe a problem and are looking for ways to change things for the better. I understand how hurt you must feel. Losing friends is almost always painful especially when you are under the impression that all is going well. I have a number of suggestions for you and for others who also have difficulty sustaining friendships.

  • In friendships, you must show your interest in others by reaching out and letting friends know that you both want to speak with them and spend time with them. Do not assume that your friends know this. You need to send the message that you are available.
  • Listen when friends speak and do not make the conversation about yourself. Being a good listener is one of the most important relationship skills to have. Everyone loves to be heard and understood without being dismissed or ignored.
  • Show empathy for others. This means that you are sensitive to both the feelings and needs of others. If a friend appears distressed, reach out and ask if you can be of any help. Similarly, if a friend is happy about an event in her life, try to join in and celebrate with her.
  • Be trustworthy. Do not divulge your friends' secrets. It will probably be tempting but avoid sharing privileged information like your life and friendship depend on it. Your friends will confide in you even more once they see that you are trustworthy. And, as you become confidantes, you will become closer friends.
  • Try very hard not to be a constant complainer. This is a friendship killer. Of course, friends need to share their problems with each other but not constantly. You want to be a source of good energy. If you have upsetting issues to discuss, find a great therapist. Often, friends feel ill-equipped to deal with issues and avoidance follows.
  • Be aware of a tendency to be possessive of your friends. Everyone should be allowed to have as many friends as they like. Try to avoid becoming jealous when you find out that your good friend is also spending time with others. Friends are not your possessions.
  • If you sense that your friend/friends are inviting you to fewer activities and have actually seen evidence of this on social media then ask your friends if they are leaving you out for any particular reason. This will take courage but my hope is that your friends will be honest with you. This may give you time to think about whether or not you want to change your behavior. If not, it may actually be time to find a new group of friends who are more appropriate for you. Not all friendships work and stand the test of time.
  • It is important to not only listen to friends but also to contribute to conversations. Do you have interesting things to talk about? Are you reading, listening to music, and involved in other activities that will help you join conversations? Think hard about this.
  • Do you make your friends feel good about themselves? It is important not only to compliment them but also to show that you enjoy their company by being a good emotional responder. Think of how much fun it is to laugh with your friends. Similarly, it feels good when you can make your friends feel emotionally validated by letting them know that you understand them and their feelings.
  • Try very hard not to become one of those people who repeats stories over and over again. This gets tired. Try very hard to keep track of what you said to whom. Also, try to keep the conversation fresh and not stay on the same topic endlessly.
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