Maybe you have a friend you love, but it feels like they demand too much. Learn to be supportive of your friends without jeopardizing your own peace of mind. Consider taking these steps with yourself and with your friend, so you can build a healthier and happier relationship.
Steps to Take for Yourself
1. Develop compassion. It’s difficult for people to admit they’re clingy because of the social stigma. In some cases, dependency can be traced back to experiences involving abandonment during childhood. Remember that your friend may be hurting and having difficulty learning other ways to communicate.
2. Monitor your mood. Depression and anxiety are highly contagious. If listening to a friend’s troubles darkens your outlook, you may need to take a walk around the block or read an inspirational book to lift your spirits.
3. Hold your ground. In some cases, your friend may feel entitled to your attention. They may even become angry or manipulative if they’re unable to get it. Sticking to reasonable boundaries is a caring and respectful response.
4. Seek reciprocity. Relationships work best when both parties are willing to give and take, even though the balance may fluctuate over time. However, you may decide to continue a relationship that seems uneven if it causes you no distress.
5. Check your own tendencies. You may be irritated with someone because they remind you of qualities within yourself that make you uncomfortable. Ask yourself if you show any signs of being too self-absorbed. How often do you initiate conversations about topics unrelated to yourself?
Steps to Take With Your Friend
1. Set limits. Let your friend know the boundaries you require to feel comfortable. You may decide that you can take only one call a day, barring any emergencies. Maybe you’re unavailable during work hours and dinner time.
2. Pace your responses. Immediate replies can reinforce a sense of false urgency. Unless the situation requires an ambulance, you may want to answer your friend’s texts and calls according to when it fits into your schedule.
3. Focus on solutions. Once you validate your friend’s emotions, it may be time to stop commiserating. Support them in taking positive action. If they’re low on funds, discuss whether they want to ask their boss for a raise or look for a second job.
4. Clarify issues. Needy people are often desperate for immediate relief, but they’re confused about how to get it. The best way to help may be skillful listening that enables them to refine their plans. Talking things over may help your friend to see that they’re satisfied with their marriage, but would like a night out each week.
5. Praise positive behavior. Look for signs of progress and reward them. Congratulate your friend when they join a running club where they can meet people instead of staying home and complaining that they’re lonely.
6. Enlist others. Encourage your friend to talk with others, especially if they tend to rely on you alone. Tell them how they would benefit from a wider range of viewpoints and some expertise you may lack. Introduce them to others in your network.
7. Suggest therapy. If you believe that your friend needs professional help, consider approaching them directly or reaching out to someone else they trust. A parent, spouse, or minister may be able to guide them.
8. Be direct. Discuss your concerns before you become angry or exhausted. Prompt communication makes it much easier to be tactful. You may even save your friendship using this strategy.
Challenging relationships can be a balancing act. Have compassion for yourself and your friends as you work on being there for each other without taking advantage or getting burned out.