Every now and then, I get told I’m not putting enough effort in with friends. It is a common criticism that people get accused of at least once in their lifetime. In fact, I think it is quite easy to let your efforts with some people go by the way side from time to time. I came across a statistic many years ago that when someone acquires a new boyfriend or girlfriend they usually ‘loose’ one friend as a direct result. I am not sure whether there is some truth shrouded in this statistic, it may be more than one friend or it may be complete bogus. However, I can certainly remember speaking less to a couple of friends once I became involved with my first ‘serious’ girlfriend and perhaps people may have been inclined to accuse me of not spending as much time with my friends. That’s just one example of how one might not be spending as much time with friends as before, moving schools, going to university, changing jobs and having kids are just a few examples of when else it might happen. When these fingers of blame have been pointed at me, a few thoughts and questions have often come to mind. Am I not putting enough effort in? Should I still put an effort in with this person? People fall in and out of friendships all the time, should I be concerned if I do? How should I make more of an effort? Over the years, my responses to these thoughts and questions have changed, but I think the conclusions I have come to now can offer some morsel of good advice.
With regards to the first question, ‘Am I not putting enough effort in?’, an old saying proves pretty invaluable – there is no smoke without fire. If a friend tells you that you are not spending as much time with them as they believe you should, you can probably count on the fact that they are not lying. Although at first, an accusation can make you ask this question in disbelief, often in quite a snide and affronted tone, it is usually the case that you have been too busy to really notice that you have not been spending much time with your friend. Trace your steps back through the previous weeks or months and you will usually find that this person has not featured as much in your life. Even if you feel their accusation is exaggerating the truth, it is still cause to closely monitor how much time you spend with that person for the coming days and weeks.
What can follow quite sharply after this internal question is another – ‘Should I still put an effort in with this person?’ I have read quite a few scalding blog articles that suggest you can and should get more selfish when you are older, that you should start cutting strings as soon as you can with those who do not benefit you. I think this is a particularly egocentric and damaging way to look at the worth of your friends and friendships. Friends shouldn’t account for what you can or cannot gain from them, the idea of looking at relationships as some sort of economic marketplace is a little too abhorrent for me!
Having said that, this does not mean that you have to make the utmost effort to keep in contact with every Tom, Dick and Harry. Sending hand-written, thousand word letters to Yvonne from primary school who smiled at you once is not necessary. However, I would argue that it is nice to speak to acquaintances from your time at school once a year or so, these people helped create the person you are today. If a close friend or best friend feels like they have not seen you much recently then your history with them, good interpersonal relationship and shared experiences should compel you to make more of an effort.
The reply to this from people and indeed the inner monologue of your skull is the third question I have raised, ‘People fall in and out of friendships all the time, should I be concerned if I do?’ Yes. Yes, you should. There is a reason that you are friends. You get along, you share the same interests, have shared experiences, have the same friendship group. 99 times out of 100 these people make some sort of positive impact on your life, this should be highly regarded, respected and if possible upheld. Someone telling you that they are not seeing you as much as they would like should sound the alarm bells in your head and inform you that your friendship may be waning, and that you should begin to give them and yourself more time together.
If you have not guessed at it already, my argument is that you should try to preserve friendships. If someone tells you they feel like you aren’t putting effort in with them you should try and resolve this. However, sometimes friendships cannot always be the same as it once was. If we move far away from friends it will, regrettably, never be the same, at least for the time that you are that far apart. Other times, you will try to put more effort in with a person but you have both changed too much and the friendship will not be as strong as it was before. In cases such as these, at least you have tried. You have seen that things are not ‘right’ and you have made an effort to improve the situation.
The final question that remains is ‘How should I make more of an effort?’ There is a simple and obvious answer to this question – spend more time with them. If you have a pastime or a hobby you do together, go out and do it. If you like the same sports team go out and see them together. I don’t want to bore you with more obvious examples of how to successfully interact with your friends because you already know how to. There are other ways that can prove successful. For better or worse Facebook is alive and well, and with that comes the ability to talk to friends across the globe. Don’t bother sending someone a heartfelt postcard, just ‘poke’ them or send them a friendly message. It is quick and provides for a fast response. Snapchat has also burst onto our smartphones in the last few years, I have found an easy, and rather lazy, way of keeping in contact with friends is sending a quick snap of me with five chins or sporting a unicorn’s horn whilst eating my lunch. In sum, if you are struggling to see someone in person, make use of technology and social media to try amending the situation.
Friends and friendships are invaluable (not in an economic sense!), they improve your life no end and certainly contribute to having a good life. If someone feels like you are not giving them enough attention, you should try giving them more of your time. There are a plethora of ways to do this and if it is unsuccessful, at least you made a concerted effort to change your ways. If you have got your own views or questions on this area of discussion feel free to comment!