Quite Something

Rocket relationships

Yesterday my phone rang, and my caller ID read, “Phone Scam.” It turned out to be a recorded call about reducing my credit card rate, so it was not quite a scam, but I was impressed at how very helpful technology is getting to be these days!

When I related the incident to my brother, he mentioned that it would be cool if phones had lights to let you know how important the call was so you could decide whether or not to pick up. Perhaps a green light for my 93-year-old mom or one of the kids (especially when they’re in trouble), a yellow light for friends calling to chat, and a red light for those wannabe friends (with the never-ending lists of complaints) who just want to unload.

I took it one step further and decided it would be even more helpful if people had identifying descriptors written on their foreheads when you met them. “High Maintenance.” “Kind.” “Hopelessly Romantic.” “Snarky.” “Steer Clear at All Costs.” “A Definite Keeper.” Wouldn’t it be nice to know up front? But I guess part of the joy of friendship is in uncovering the mystery.

In Laura Berman Fortgang’s book, Take Yourself to the Top, she shares some very useful tips for creating the life you want. Most have to do with clearing out that which is not feeding you, and actively choosing people and activities which do. She describes three types of relationships:

• Those that will sink you. These are the energy-draining ones, which drag you down and, eventually, use you up. Fortgang says, however difficult it is to accomplish, those relationships simply need to go. You may feel some guilt when shedding them, but you will feel tremendous relief once you have done it.

• Those that will float you. These are more balanced, with give and take, and they’re pleasant enough, but they aren’t terribly special. It’s okay to have some relationships like this, but you don’t want to devote too much of your time to them.

• Those that will rocket you. These are the powerful ones that inspire you and spark your creativity. They give you energy and bring out your best self. You’ll want to spend the majority of your time with these types of friends.

As a highly-sensitive person, some people are simply too loud or demanding or intense for me. My tendency is to back off quickly, because I’m too nice, and too loyal, so once I’m in a relationship, it’s hard for me to disentangle myself from it. But I’ve learned recently that some relationships just need a little tweaking.

I may need to see someone less often, or for shorter periods of time, or do more emailing with them and less in-person visiting. At that level, even highly energetic friends with strong personalities can be quite enjoyable. It’s hard to set firm boundaries, and friends can balk at first when they feel us pulling back from them, but they can and do adjust. If they don’t get what they need from us, they eventually move on, and that’s okay, too.

We may not have lights on our phones that indicate how we should respond to others when they reach out to us. But we do have internal monitors that tell us exactly how we’re feeling when we’re with people, if we just pay attention to our gut feelings.

Now is a good time to do an inventory of your relationships. Consider which of your friends support you, light a fire under you, or make you happy.

Then you can decide whether it’s time for some paring down, or whether you just need to do a little tweaking.

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4 Responses to “Rocket relationships”

  1. Nancy LaPonzina Says:

    Great post!
    I’ve explored this issue in a small way in Nardi Point, when Leyla-Jo describes her friendship with Laurinda:

    “Laurinda was, well, thoughtful. She made thoughtful choices—effective and logical. Maybe because of the technology she worked with every day. But the girl had heart despite her technological orientation. Theirs wasn’t a dependent friendship, the kind where you got a phone call crying for help when a slapdash choice produced chaos. No, it was a deeper connection—an attunement of calmness, respect. Folks smiled when she described her as someone she knew from another lifetime.”

  2. Elaine Klonicki Says:

    Ah, I remember that passage. I love your characterizations in Nardi Point. Can’t wait until we see it in print!

  3. Maya Says:

    I really like this post, too. I was just thinking about my past friendships a few days ago.

    I thought about three of my closest high-school friends and it kind of made me sad to realize that while we had some great times together, all three of those relationships were dysfunctional for various reasons. And I think maturity (or really lack therof) on all of our parts had a lot to do with this.

    Any thoughts on how sometimes our friends can move into and out of the categories in Elaine’s post?

  4. Elaine Klonicki Says:

    That’s a good point, Maya. These categories are not necessarily fixed. Sometimes relationships serve us well for a period of time, and then something changes, and they don’t feel right anymore. Sometime it’s because we mature at different rates.

    And, of course, my post assumes that we are doing our part as friends. As one friend pointed out, it’s not just on others. We have to feed the relationships as well.

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