Hello everybody, welcome to episode 39 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino and speaking of which, we’re gonna bring you another question brought in previously through my website at GregAudino.com.
For those who don’t know, on my website I’ve created somewhere around 70 videos offering what are hopefully new and refreshing perspectives on common struggles. The videos are on their first little hiatus as I’ve been focusing more on the podcast lately — both this one and Optimal Relationships Daily — but they’re all up there for the world to see and a few of them answer questions that viewers sent in. So we like to share those on the pod from time to time as the questions are all quite valuable and today we’ll bring you another one. This question is all about loneliness and creating good friendships, so let’s sit back, relax, and have a listen…
QUESTION: “I’d be interested to hear about how other people deal with loneliness. I’ve been having a tough time as of late. I never hear from any of my friends, not that I have many to begin with. If I don’t reach out to them, I never hear from anyone. Kind of sucks. And I know having a friend and being a friend isn’t being in touch constantly, but for me, nobody ever reaches out to see what’s up and how things are with me. I struggle a lot with this. Just curious to see if other people have the same feeling and how they deal with it.”
Combat the Mindset of Loneliness
Believe it or not, I actually hear similar concerns from other people on a somewhat regular basis, and that’s exactly how I want to lead off with answering this question.
The fact that so many people feel this way, to me, is enough to dismantle the idea of loneliness. It depends on your definition of loneliness, I suppose, but however you define it, it’s important to understand that loneliness is a FEELING, not to be confused with a state of being.
Loneliness is not permanent unless you allow it to be — it’s not a plague anyone has been struck with.
This may be hard to grasp when thinking purely with emotion, but OBJECTIVELY, the amount of people out there seeking the same connection, feeling the same emptiness, desiring the same appreciation is countless. There are so many resources available to those experiencing loneliness and I understand that the feeling itself is draining and uninspiring enough that it can easily get in the way of your motivation to seek those resources or those other people. The feelings of emptiness and rejection can really take a toll on your psyche.
To anyone feeling this way, I hate to sound harsh, but beating loneliness is something that can be done with a certain amount of effort and taking certain steps.
Finding Hope When You're Lonely
Is it a particularly long road back for people who have just lost a parent, or a spouse? Yes. But there is hope.
There are steps, and for you, person who asked this question, I’m gonna try to shed some light on them now that you know there are literally billions out there who are on the same search as you are, and that your loneliness is a fleeting feeling. Not a state of being.
For you, there’s clearly a focus on friendships, so how can we shift your attention from feeling exhausted, beaten down, unappreciated to optimizing your friendships? Well we’re gonna look at it from three angles.
What Do You Want Out of Friendship?
Let’s look at you. Let’s look at your current friends. And let’s look at potential new friends.
But even before that, I want you to take a second or a minute or however long you need, and get very clear about what you want.
What do you want out of a friendship? What does your ideal friend look like and what are the dynamics of your friendship? How often do you hang out, where do you go, what are your common interests, etc. Anyone who has a goal they want to meet of any kind, I suggest taking this approach. It’s a matter of being highly specific and therefore being more deliberate in the approaches you take to getting there.
In general, a high-quality friendship is characterized by prosocial behavior and other positive aspects, with lesser emphasis on conflicts and other negative features.
Once you have that image, turn the focus temporarily on being a good friend rather than acquiring a good friend.
How Are YOU Being a Good Friend?
So how do you relate to this image? What are YOU doing in the friendship? What behavior are you displaying that makes YOU a good friend? Is this behavior something you’re doing in your current friendships or is there indeed something that you need to work on?
Be honest with yourself here. Obviously you want some sort of reciprocation in your friendships, it’s expected, but we don’t want too much expectation in any relationship. We want to love and care for people for who they are without any kind of conditions, and when any kind of relationship goes sour, a lot of the times it’s because expectations are put on one another. So get clear on how YOU can be a good friend regardless of what the other person can do, and develop some new habits based on that. Ask yourself, “Would a good friend do this?” before acting on certain things.
Next, let’s look at your current friends.
First of all, I love what you said about how you know a friendship isn’t being in touch every day.
My best friend and I (he lives back home) can go months at a time without talking, but it doesn’t change anything. You saying that makes me confident in the fact that you aren’t pressing or expecting too much of your friendships, but again, you can get clearer on that upon asking yourself some of the questions I just mentioned.
What Purpose Do Your Friends Serve?
But a big question to ask yourself about your current friends are why you have them and what purpose they serve. It can be hard to shine the light like this on people you feel close with, but it sounds like this is a healthy thing for you to be doing right now.
Are your friends products of circumstance or products of your desires? What I mean is, are they your friends because they have been for a while and there’s a sense of obligation involved and perhaps you’ve just grown into different people? If things are as rocky as you say, I’m betting these are friends that are still around because they’ve been around for a while.
There’s nothing wrong with this, necessarily. I feel like quite a different person from my childhood friends even though they’re the ones I value the most. But they still serve a purpose for me. I’m aware of how valuable they are and what joy they provide me with, where as a lot of people tend to keep friends, or lovers, or even inanimate objects around without taking that time to check in and really assess how valuable these longstanding items still are.
Finding Ideal Friendships
So do these friends match up with how you want your ideal friendships to be? Do they have the same interests and habits?
If not, maybe you’ll find it best to remove them. Or you might just want to talk to them and ask them the exact same question you asked me. There’s immense value in this. Their response to this is likely to tell you a lot not only about how they care for you, but also how confident you feel in just opening up to them in general. If you’re feeling uncomfortable being honest and open with them, is it not time to make a change for that reason alone? You never know how they’re feeling until you ask them, so don’t get caught up in this web of assumption. Get to the source and gain clarity and confidence by doing so.
Making New Friends
Now finally, let’s look at potential new friends. Finding new friends is like finding a new romance, really, and it starts with what I said earlier about being the type of friend you want to have and being cognizant of what you can provide in a friendship. But beyond that, how does one attract the type of new friend that they want? Just like in a romantic relationship, no one wants to be friends with someone who isn’t friends with themselves. This, again, goes back to sifting through your own behavior. Are you displaying habits of neediness? Is your self-love contingent on the love you receive from others? Befriending yourself, not being reliant on others, is an essential step in attracting new friends.
And how do you befriend yourself? Depending on who you are, this question could have different answers, but I’ve talked before about the value of action and I think it applies here. Take action and spend time with the part of yourself that you love. Do things that bring you joy regardless of what others think. Put yourself in situations that make you happy. When you’re making a point to spend time on the parts of you that you love unconditionally, you are apt to meeting like-minded people, and thus starting friendships true to who you are right now rather than who you were in the past, which, again, is where many friends that no longer serve us come from.
There’s a lot more to discuss on this one, but the tricky part is that it is a situation that’s particularly unique to you so it requires a lot of self-reflection and I just hope that what I’ve laid out here is a good start for you and anyone who is feeling unsatisfied in their friendships.
But in short, good friendships are about honesty and communication on both sides. So being mindful of that first and foremost should be a good driving force.
And there we have it, my dear friends. I think it’s often too easy to forget that our friendships operate much like our romantic relationships do, and though we tend to hope and assume they won’t require the same maintenance, they often do and it’s the friendships who adapt to change when need be that thrive — just as it is with romances that thrive.
I was grateful to have gotten this question, grateful to you all for having listened to my answer. I’m obsessed with friendship, so any chance I get to push my love for it onto others is okay by me.
If you have a question about something you’re struggling with — maybe it’s friendship or maybe it’s not — you can email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We’ll do our best to answer it for you on the show and help you out as best we can. We’ll also send you a free book from our collection if you’d like one to further guide you along, so keep those questions coming. All right?
Delightful. Talk to you next time everybody, have a wonderful day.