Minimizing Your Risk When Starting a New Friendship

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Back in January 2013 after feeling particularly inspired by a friend who was having great success at making new friends and business contacts, I made it a goal of mine to put myself out there more and start making my own new connections. I had moved back to Southern California in 2011 (after being gone for seven years) and was ready to start seeking out new friendships both personally and professionally.

However, when we open up ourselves to people we also become more vulnerable to those who can hurt us emotionally if we are not careful. Now that I know the warning signs, I am having the time of my life establishing new friendships and business relationships not worrying if I will get hurt and growing the ones that show potential like in an earlier post I wrote –Help New Connections Grow.

Tips to Help Reduce Risk of Getting Hurt When Making New Friends

If you are new to your area or have gone through a life transition and wish to get back out there or just desire to make some new positive connections, here are five tips I follow to minimize the risk for getting hurt when I start a new friendship.

  1. Stick to general topics. As they say, in the beginning stay away from religion, politics and anything that you feel overly opinionated about. Treat a new friendship like being on a date—show your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses because the wrong people can use that against you later on.
  2. Look for patterns. Like Dr. Phil says, when people show you who they are, take notice. If someone is joking about what a hot head they are and how people in general always frustrate them that might not be the person you want to hang around with on a regular basis.
  3. Heed warnings from other people. A few years back, I started hanging around a gal who a few people came up to me on the side and told me she had a track record for having big fights with women she got close to. Unfortunately, I continued my friendship with her and sure enough, I got burned from her exactly as the others had told me she would do!
  4. Beware of the instant best friend. Close friendships take time so be wary of the person who is revealing a lot of personal information and wants you to do the same. They have not earned your trust yet and you don’t know them well enough to know their true intentions.
  5. Be wary of the convenient friend. Just because you see someone on a regular basis through perhaps carpooling, sports or a regular event you both attend doesn’t mean you have to be best buddies. Logistics brought you together but it is similar values and complimentary personality traits that will determine if your “friendship” should go any deeper.

Have you been burned in a relationship by going too fast too soon? What warning signs do you look for? Let me know your thoughts!

September is a Good Time to Evaluate Friendships

I personally love when the calendar page turns to September and it is back to school season.

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I think of it as another January – a fresh start for a new year ahead. It is a great opportunity for all of us to take a look at areas in our lives that might need a change up as we enter into a new “school” calendar year.

One area I suggest is your current friendships. Not only your close female friendships but your children’s best friends as well. It is funny how we start friendships with people for different reasons but what might have seemed like a good idea a year ago, may not work for the person you are today. We might like a few aspects of their personality at first and are drawn in but over time when we become closer to them, we may notice that they have mean girl tendencies or like to put us down saying they are “only kidding”. Or perhaps they love to gossip a lot more than just friendly talk of what is going on in someone else’s life—it comes across judgmental and condescending.

I can best describe it as that icky feeling you get in your gut when a friend who you think of one way is showing another side to them that doesn’t fit your vision of how a good friend should be. Yes, no one is perfect and as friends we do disappoint each other from time to time but what I am talking about are all those little things your friend is doing that makes you pause and feel bad—whether they are doing it to you or to someone else. Just as research shows we become better people when we witness others doing good for others, it has the same effect in the opposite way when someone we call a “friend” does things that feel mean, spiteful, rude and uncaring and they do it on a consistent basis.

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Keep the Friendships that Make you Feel Good and Minimize the Not-so-Good ones

My advice is to take this new season to look closer at the friendships that leave you with a positive feeling and if you have those that leave you feeling less than that, perhaps this is the time to minimize your interactions with that person. If the relationship is feeling especially toxic to you, it might be best to leave the friendship altogether and I will discuss that in future blog posts. When you do, you leave space for other more positive friendships and that is a good thing. Are there friends you might want to leave behind or others you would like to pursue more? Now might be a good time to consider a change.