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Have you ever had a friend who was particularly needy? You know, the kind of friend that seems to take a little (or a lot) more energy, emotional strength, and time from you?
It can be difficult to balance these kinds of friendships. Not only are we busy mamas, but it can be emotionally exhausting to support others (emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, or in any other way) for an extended period of time.
But you’re a good person and you love your dear friend, even if they do need a lot from you right now.
You want to help in any way you can.
You would never ever give up on them!
So how is a busy mom supposed to balance these friendships in such a way that will be supportive and loving to the person, but also not emotionally draining to you??
1) Let Their Problems Go After the Conversation is Over
I had a friend that I loved dearly. She would confide in me deep problems from her past that continued to scar her present- abuse, phobias, poor family relationships, and more.
I had never faced challenges as intense as hers, and I felt terrible that she had to deal with that! I felt so bad about it that I just couldn’t stop thinking about her problems even after the conversation had ended.
After a while, her problems were constantly on my mind. I wanted to think of everything I could possibly to do fix them, to help out, to save her.
The problem is, she wasn’t looking for a savior.
She just needed a little love.
All she wanted from me was a shoulder to cry on, and then she was good! That meant that the only person stressing and stewing was me!
I learned that other people’s problems really are their own. Those problems aren’t mine, even if that person chooses to share them with me. I can sympathize and offer comfort without adding an unnecessary burden to my own shoulders.
Have a great conversation, help as you can, then let it go.
This was really difficult for me to do at first. I found that if I offered specific help to my friend (“Please, please call me if you need to talk again.” or “I want to hear how you are doing with this. Will you please let me know if the situation changes?”) then I could relax. I had done everything I could do and the ball was in her court.
After all, my friend is an adult and a very capable person. Why shouldn’t I trust her to handle her situation with poise?
2) Ask What They Need
This brings me to my next point. In this situation with my dear friend, I assumed I knew what she wanted from me. I assumed she wanted a solution, a cure, a fix.
But she didn’t.
That wasn’t her intention in telling me the things she did. All she wanted was support.
When your friends confide in you, they might be looking for one or a few of the following things:
- Emotional Support or Comfort
- A Solution
- A Poll (You might be one of many friends being told the same information to see if there is common consensus about what to do now)
- Pros and Cons (Help to think through the good and bad consequences of a particular course of action)
- Brainstorming (Ideas of what can be done)
- Understanding (Helping you know where they are coming from or why they think the way they do)
- To Inform you of a Life Decision (Bad time to give advice- they already know what they’re doing!)
- To Strengthen your Relationship (Sharing details of your life that other people don’t know can deepen the friendship or can mark a milestone in your friendship)
3) Allow Them the Pride and Satisfaction of Finding their Own Solutions
I remember a sweet girl that I worked with came to me once to ask if I thought she should get a divorce or not. I had learned a few things by then, so I didn’t assume I knew her intentions.
I dug a little deeper and I found out that she was conducting a poll of sorts. She was asking as many people as she could what they thought to see if the majority seemed to agree one way or the other.
(By the way, I really don’t encourage this method. By the time this poor girl came to me, she was so discouraged and confused because she had heard so much advice that she couldn’t sort through it all!)
I was blown away that she was even asking me. We weren’t that close and I really didn’t know her or her situation well enough to have a valid opinion.
So instead of tell her one way or the other, I told her that my only opinion on the matter was that she shouldn’t take anyone else’s advice.
I told her that she is the only one out of all these people who was going to have to live with her decision, so she should be the only one to make the choice. I suggested that she go back to the basics, think about the positives and negatives in her relationship, take whatever time she needed to think it over, and make a well-thought out decision.
I never did find out what she decided (again, we really weren’t that close) but I’ll never forget the look in her eyes as I told her these things.
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It was like she was empowered.
All the sudden, her survey of people didn’t matter. She was able to own her solution to the problem, and that gave her strength.
Don’t rob people of that. Offer advice, encouragement, ideas, solutions, pros and cons, or whatever the person needs- but always, always, always give them the satisfaction of solving their own problems.
Don’t try to do it for them.
4) Find Simple Ways to Lift Them Up
If your poor friend is acting “needy”, there’s probably a good reason for that.
Every single person around me (in the grocery store, in the gym, driving in the car next to me, or at the restaurant) is going through something. Always.
Give others the benefit of the doubt, assume that they mean well and that their reasons for acting the way they do is perfectly valid.
In our case, you can help to lift your friend in simple ways that won’t overload you. Go have lunch together, leave her some cookies on her doorstep, play a card game together, watch a movie, send her a note or a text, forward a funny meme, watch her kids for an hour so she can have some alone time, whatever works for you!
Just go back to the basics and be a friend. Friendship isn’t stressful, it’s fun! Find that again in your relationship.
5) Remember that They are Still Themselves
In most cases, needy friends are only needy temporarily. That’s because it’s situations and life stresses that make us needy, and thank goodness those come and go.
Don’t forget who it is that you’re talking about here– they are a great friend, a wonderful person to be around, a ton of fun. They just need a little extra help for a bit.
Who better to step in than you? You’re a great friend, you have awesome advice to give, you know what you’re talking about, you’ve experienced things and have a ton to offer!
Sometimes when all that gets emotionally draining, it’s nice to just remember that it’s temporary. Your friend will get back to their old self soon. And if not, they’ll be even better than they were before!
6) Make Some Time for You in the Relationship
I used to think that I wasn’t allowed to talk about myself if a friend was going through a challenge. I used to think that this is their time and I shouldn’t interrupt.
I recently had an experience that changed my perception. I was keeping my mouth shut about me and trying to be a good listener to a friend in need.
Her reaction surprised me.
After a long time of her telling me about her problems, about her family, about whatever she wanted to talk about, she finally said, “Ok, seriously, why aren’t you saying anything?”
I was so confused. It wasn’t like I’d been silent, I just wasn’t bringing up stuff from my life because I thought that this was her time.
She said, “No, I want to hear about you too! It’s not like I need more time to focus on my crappy life.”
I learned that day that there is another thing friends might be looking for in a conversation: a distraction.
Sometimes, it’s a great idea to talk about your normal, boring, routine life. It can take your friend’s attention off of their struggles while also filling your needs to be an active part of the friendship.
Your needs are filled, their needs are filled.
Test out these methods. Find what works for you, and share with the rest of us!
Do you have any other great tips for being a good friend without owning other people’s problems? Let’s hear them! Comment below!!
Need more? Check out this awesome post- How to Be A Good Friend (And Signs to Avoid Being a Bad One)
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