5 Questions to Ask About Your Friendships

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Despite what many of us would like, friendships come and go. It’s rare to keep a friend for an entire lifetime, but when it happens, it’s due to effort on both sides of the relationship. Would you choose your current friends again, if you met them today?

But what about the friends you have now?

Will they last a lifetime?

Here are some questions to ask to know yourself better when it comes to friendships.

Do You Have Anything in Common?

This is the main driver when people become friends. Our first friends are our cousins—we have our family in common. Then it’s the kids from school, after-school activities, church, and around the neighborhood.

My best friend in elementary school ended up down a completely opposite path from mine, made decisions I did not agree with, and our friendship ended.

A similar thing happened with a girl from high school with whom I traded near-daily handwritten notes. We shared crushes, gripes about teachers, future plans… But somewhere along the way our paths diverged and we no longer had anything in common.

One of the more notable friendships that ended because we no longer had anything in common was because we only had one thing in common to begin with: a PE class. That was literally the only thing that held us together, and when the class ended the differences became so obvious that any interactions felt uncomfortable.

On a positive note, my best friends now are constant in my life because we still share the same values, interests, and look to each other for advice, encouragement, and support.

That’s the first thing to notice. Do you still have things in common?

Is It One-Sided?

Either side—it doesn’t matter. Are you the one always making plans with them, or are they the one who always reaches out to you? (Do you feel too busy to respond?)

Everyone’s busy with their own lives. I’ve found that if I want to keep friendships alive, it’s my responsibility to keep that friendship going. If I don’t take responsibility, then I’d fall into the trap of blaming others for the friendship falling apart.

Are you always the one reaching out, trying to set up plans, and it feels like they don’t have time for you or they don’t really care about the friendship anymore?

Or are they constantly trying to set up plans with you, and you always find an excuse not to follow through—or even respond?

Maybe it’s a sign that this season of friendship is closing, and it’s time to move on. This isn’t always the case, since again, people are busy with their own lives.

But that’s the next thing to notice. Is it one-sided?

Does This Person Build You Up or Tear You Down?

I’m often baffled by people who let “friends” tear them down. My gut reaction is “why are you even friends with this person???”

(Seriously, all Ron Weasley really ever did was make fun of Hermione Granger for wanting to study and learn magic—why did they get married???)

Ahem.

I know that one reason is fear. Fear that losing that friend will take all other friends away from them. Will they be able to make more friends at all? “Does losing this friend mean there’s something wrong with me?”

It’s easy for outsiders to tell when someone is building up or tearing down in friendships.

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Dismissing opinions, telling you you’re wrong, making fun of you, putting you down, telling you what to do, telling you you’re annoying… Do you sense a pattern here? All interactions are full of negativity.

On the flip side, how do builders act?

Support, encouragement, any humor is not at your expense, you feel loved and happy when spending time with them; they ask for your opinion on things and give it genuine consideration… All these interactions are the opposite of the ones that tear you down.

Think about the friends in your life. Do any of them tear you down more than they build you up?

Would You Choose Them Again, Today?

I heard this question on a podcast recently, but I can’t remember if it was from The Life Coach School or Happier with Gretchen Rubin. (Both are great podcasts.)

This question really makes me stop and think about the friends I have right now. Where are they in life? What do they value? What kind of people have they turned into since I first met them?

Would I choose them again, if I met them on the street today?

The answer may surprise you.

I know it surprises me. Sometimes we hold on to friendships because we’ve had them as friends for a long time. It feels like betrayal to let them go—to move on—even when their values, motivations, faith, or politics differ vastly from our own.

This question asks you to look deeper than the things you have in common and both sides’ willingness to make the time to meet up. It drives at what you really value most and whether that person is on the same page as you.

Remember: you don’t have to be friends with everyone. What you can and should do is to be kind to everyone.

And that’s another thing to consider. Would you choose your current friends again, if you met them today?

Is it Time to Let Them Go?

Letting friends go is an inevitable part of human life. Nobody is lifelong friends with everybody they’ve ever been friends with.

Do you ever look at someone’s list of Facebook friends numbering in the thousands and think “yeah, no…” you’re not alone.

There’s actually a term for the “maximum” number of friends people have. It’s called Dunbar’s Number.

“Dunbar’s number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships—relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person.” (Wikipedia)

That number? Between 100 and 200. Most people agree on 150.

What does that mean for you and your friendships?

Perhaps it’s time to phase out the ones where you have nothing in common, it’s one-sided, they tear you down whenever you see them, and if you met them on the street today, you wouldn’t want to be their friend.

Have you ever had to let a friendship go for one of these reasons, or a combination? How did you feel afterwards?

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