Learn how to be thoughtful about your friendships to create strong friendship networks, even if it means breaking up with some friends.
Erin Falconer is an author, digital entrepreneur, and Psychotherapist. In 2018, she released the critically acclaimed self-improvement/female empowerment book, How To Get Shit Done: Why Women Need To Stop Doing Everything So They Can Achieve Anything. Since 2008, she has been the editor-in-chief and co-owner of PickTheBrain. PickTheBrain is not only a great passion project but is also one of the most trusted self-improvement websites and communities on the web. With over 400 bloggers from around the world contributing content, named to over 100 “best of the web” lists, and read in more than 35 countries daily, under Erin’s guidance, PTB has truly become a powerful global voice and brand in the self-improvement space. In 2017, off of her blog, Erin launched the PickTheBrain Podcast which ranks consistently in the top 20 in the Heath and Self-Improvement categories on iTunes and in 2018 was featured on the iTunes homepage, twice.
Erin has been heralded as one of the most influential female voices online. Pick The Brain has been named Top Motivation Blogs for 2017 by WealthyGorilla. She was designated one of the Top Digital Entrepreneurs in Los Angeles by LA Confidential Magazine as well as being honored by Cadillac & Refinery 29 as one of “Top 7 Women Changing the Digital Landscape for Good.” In 2013 Forbes Magazine named Falconer’s blog one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Sites for Women” (alongside such powerhouses as Pinterest, BlogHer, and Hello Giggles, among others). In 2014, The Wall Street Journal included Erin in their prestigious “Women of Note” network, an exclusive network of powerful female leaders, designed to recognize and foster the continued success of innovative women. In 2019, Maria Shriver noted Erin as one of the year’s ‘Architects of Change.’
Erin is also the co-founder of LEAFtv, a video lifestyle brand for the Millennial woman. In 2015, LEAFtv was sold to publicly traded Demand Media – now trading as The Leaf Group. As a result of her work with LEAFtv she was honored as one of the Top 10 Most Influential Women in Tech. Erin has a large, captive audience and is a very well-respected voice in the self-improvement space, she has produced over 1000 viral videos and has over 900,000 followers on social media.
Erin’s second book, How To Break-Up with Your Friends: Establishing Boundaries in Modern Friendship, was released in January 2022.
She lives in Venice with her husband and young son, George.
We recorded this episode on June 23, 2022.
Nobody can be your everything; only you can be your everything.Tweet
Timeline of the Chat
01:15 – Erin’s Friendship Life
04:41 – What types of friendship do we need in our lives?
06:37 – Why you need a friend network versus BFFs
11:41 – Know your needs for the most enjoyable, robust relationships
13:39 – When do you need to talk through friendship mismatches
22:20 – What do you do when a friend can’t be what you need
26:21 – Main causes of disconnect or discontent in friendship
27:40 – How to make friends in a new place
30:40 – Rediscovering our selves through old friends
32:40 – Diversity in Friendships
40:07 – How to Break Up With Friends
47:32 – Invitation/Challenge
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I think that at a basic level, we have to get very comfortable identifying wants, and needs and non-negotiables, and then advocating for them.Tweet
- How to Break Up with Your Friends: Finding Meaning, Connection, and Boundaries in Modern Friendships by Erin Falconer
People are too complicated to spend any amount of time with one another and not rub up against each other at a certain point. So we have to be able to navigate conflict.Tweet
Transcript of the Episode
[01:15] Erin’s Friendship Life
[01:15] Erin Falconer: My friendship life, I’m really satisfied with it now. One of the big kind of Genesis of the book was well, number one, I was looking to write the follow up to my first book, which is very rooted in the female productivity, female empowerment space. And I went down, oh, over the course of six or seven months, a bunch of dead ends. I had ideas and then I come to find out, I felt like a retread, or I just wasn’t that engaged. And so I was getting really frustrated as was my agent.
So one day I woke up at, you know, 6:00 AM, which is early for me, kind of half awake, half asleep. And this phrase, how to break up with your friends was just in my head. And I was like, what? And I kind of tried to go back to sleep, couldn’t really.
And over the course of the next couple days, it just kept resurfacing, this idea. I was actually waiting for a friend who was late, who was chronically late, and I was irritated. And this how to break up with your friends came into my head. And I was like, what is this about?
And so as I sat there irritated because my friend was late again, I started to look at that particular relationship. And what surprised me was that outwardly or on paper, I would’ve said, this is my BFF. We are like, you know, totally best friends, deep connected love for one another. And what I started to realize is that actually, when I looked at it, there was a lot of irritation, a lot of built up frustration. And the chasm between us was pretty deep. But the thing that really surprised me is that I had not looked at this before. And then I was like, I haven’t done this with anybody in my life with friendships. So I started to do this process.
And what I found was that there was so much in between a lot of these relationships. There was so much kind of noise and some much bigger than others. Some relationships I found that I was missing the person, even though we were actively involved. And so I was like, what’s that about? And so I had kind of a reckoning in my own friendship world.
And again, what kind of stuck with me is this idea that we’re a culture that’s just obsessed, at least in the United States; I’m not sure in Prague, but maybe you’ll relate. We are a people that is kind of obsessed with information about ourselves. We know every calorie we’re eating, every gram of fat. We wear stupid watches that track every step we’re taking. Marie Kondo has us holding up chairs and sweaters asking if they bring joy. And yet, you know, the friends in our lives, the relationships, the people, crickets. We’re just not doing that. We’re not flexing that muscle.
This is a very long answer to your question, but when I first started this journey, I would say I would give my friendships, if I had to grade the health of them, would kind of be like a C. Now that I’ve really kind of been active and thoughtful about myself and the relationship and all the stuff that I write about in the book, I’m at a much better place. I feel a lot more honest and authentic. Has not always been easy, have had some very awkward conversations with friends, but also feel so much closer and more alive in most of the relationships. And so I feel really good about that.
[04:41] What types of friendship do we need in our lives?
[04:41] Damianne President: your book, you go through many different types of friendships. I was trying to think as I read it, do I have all of these different types of friendship in my life? And I think most of them, but not all of them. Do you think some of them are essential, whereas others may be more optional.
[05:00] Erin Falconer: I don’t think you necessarily have to check every single box, but I think what is essential is really understanding what your essentials are. I kind of lead the book by starting talking about the first friendship you need to have is with yourself and really have a deep understanding of your needs and your wants and kind of how you wanna show up in the world. And then start really looking at the friends and saying, okay, who supports this vision of myself? And it has to be reciprocal and am I supporting their vision of themselves.
I can’t remember how many things I listed there, but let’s just say, you know, 10 or eight. You do need to know what are the things of those categories that are really important to me and really speak to who I am. And then make sure that those bases are covered. So like if you are an extrovert, you don’t need the person in your life that’s pulling you out of your shell and taking you to go do things. You do that already. You don’t need more of that necessarily in your life. It might be nice to have something that is similar to you, but it’s not a necessity. So looking at it critically, and again, it all kind of starts back to you because right now I feel like, or until now we’ve sort of just been out there collecting or keeping relationships blindly because we haven’t done this kind of self work at the beginning to really understand, like, how do I need and wanna be supported? So that’s kind of a crucial first step. And then you can start to assess, okay, based on that, what really are my needs and where do I need to fill in gaps or where do I need to take a step away from something or someone.
[06:37] Why you need a friend network versus BFFs
[06:37] Damianne President: The other thing I was thinking as I was reading the book is, for example, it talked about with girls, encourage them to have friend networks instead of a BFF. And I wonder does that then apply to adults as well, where it’s really about building a friend network versus having that one ride or die?
[06:58] Erin Falconer: Yeah, And you know, it is funny because from the time I was really little, I was the little girl that had only like the one or two best friends. And they were everything to me. It was like we were hanging out exclusively, in the locker rooms exclusively and studying together exclusively.
And like, I was well liked and liked other people, but it was like just this… And the truth of the matter is, I think it’s really great to have that kind of person in your life to a certain extent where it’s like you really don’t have to explain anything about yourself; you just kind of can be with that person.
But the problem with that, if that is kind of exclusively the world you’re orienting yourself in, is that that puts a lot of pressure on the relationship. It puts a lot of pressure on the other person and a lot of pressure on you because you start to become that person’s everything, and nobody can be your everything, right. It’s also true of a romantic partnership.
Nobody can be your everything; only you can be your everything. And so the importance of understanding that friends can play different roles and support different needs, and that you don’t have to be able to call the person at three in the morning crying, but also have them have a fun cooking session with you, and also them be your travel buddy. You can have different people for that.
One of the most interest interesting things that I kind of discovered when writing the book is this idea that these relationships, although they’re totally relational and about the other person and your interaction, what they do is they open up parts of you that would otherwise be left dormant. And so when you open up the aperture and kind of increase your exposure to people in an intimate way, what you’re doing is not only more dynamic and more interesting, you are unlocking different parts of yourself.
So from a self growth and self actualization standpoint, I also think it’s very important to be able to, again, kind of spread your wings and understand this is the person I go to the laughs for or I bring the laughs for. And that’s really important to me because this is the person that if I’m having stress or a problem in my life, this is what their kind of prime role is in the relationship for me. And what is mine for them?
You’ve also gotta understand what you are bringing in each relationship, but I think when you can do that, it number one takes a lot of pressure off of these BFF relationships, which are wonderful to have if you can find somebody that really, you just feel like, kind of like a twin with. But you don’t wanna just exclusively live in that zone. I think there’s more out there and I think there’s more of you to be discovered than just playing that one note as great as that one note can be.
[09:44] Damianne President: And you also talk about being intentional in creating friendships to maybe fill some of those gaps. I definitely could relate to that because I think for most of my life, it’s been one or two friends that I like to do almost everything with, but then I move and then that person’s not there or they move or they have a child or whatever. As life evolves, people will be able to play different roles in your life also.
And I think the other thing that comes up for me is what you said earlier about what you need and the rules that you need people to play really depends on you and knowing yourself to see what is missing or what would you like more of.
[10:26] Erin Falconer: Right. As you go through life, even though you might fundamentally stay the same, I think that the hope is that we’re evolving and kind of always trying to be better versions of ourselves. Of course, the core of who you are is probably gonna stay the same. But situationally, as you just mentioned, we are moving, we might be having a child. We might be getting married. We might be changing careers. We might be experiencing grief or loss. And so there’s also just the circumstances of life; you require and have different needs.
And so if you’re just coasting through same old, you’re not really respecting what you’re going through in a holistic way, and just where you are. It doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily drastically changed as a person, but maybe your needs have situationally. And so it’s important to be looking at this and saying, you know, all of a sudden I’m a single mom who’s starting a business, like my first entrepreneurial endeavor, let’s just say. Maybe you need somebody that is going through something similar so that you can really feel seen and heard cuz that’s a difficult and challenging thing that you’re about to do. Maybe we should be intentional and say, who can I really learn from, grow from, feel supported by, and also vice versa.
[11:41] Know your needs for the most enjoyable, robust relationships
[11:41] Erin Falconer: Maybe you’re going through a grief, you know, maybe a parent or, or a sibling or somebody important to you has passed and, and you’re really in it. You’re the same person, but your need is different. So it’s like number one, do I have somebody I can go to in my world of friends that can really understand and hold this with me or is there somebody in my existing friendship group where now all of a sudden this becomes clear, this is their role and their value, and this is what I’m gonna lean into from them. And so just getting really clear on not just who you are, which is just absolutely crucial in my opinion, but where you are in life, where are you at right now and what are your needs?
And I think that’s where you’re gonna get the most robust experience and the most fulfilling and quite frankly, the most enjoyable in the sense that like, how can I feel lifted up or held by these things as opposed to even passively them kind of weighing me down because I believe that relationships are either giving energy or taking them. There’s no net neutral.
For example, at the beginning when I talked about my friend who over time grew apart for various things, there was no one big betrayal. There was no one big dramatic thing. It was more like death by a thousand cuts. And so if I had looked at any one point is this a bad or negative relationship? No. But was it bringing any energy? No. And therefore it was taking my energy and only when you start looking at things in that way, can you start to make, I think, informed decisions about what relationships need to stay, what relationships need to go, what relationships need to change in order to stay, you know, that kind of thing.
And of course I’m saying all of this with the caveat that in my responsibility and how to also show up in these relationships in the way that they need to be, and be honest about whether I can show up in that way or whether I can’t or don’t want to.
[13:39] When do you need to talk through friendship mismatches
[13:39] Damianne President: Yeah and I think the other part of that too is the reciprocity piece and not reciprocity in terms of, okay, you do this, I do this for you, but also just in terms of common understanding between you and a friend in terms of what value or yeah, the expectations of the relationship. I’ve definitely had situations where there’s been a mismatch. And I’m wondering when that happens, when do you decide to have an explicit conversation about it? Do you need to?
[14:10] Erin Falconer: I think, yeah, you do. I think you absolutely do. I think if you look at the landscape of that particular friendship and you say, okay, well, overall, this is a good relationship, but it’s starting to get off kilter because I feel like I’m giving X, Y, and Z, and the other person is just kind of showing up and nothing is coming in return.
If you look at the relationship and it’s valuable and you want it to move forward, it’s a time to have a conversation. It’s really just about paying attention, because the first time you have the thought I wonder if I should talk to her about this, that’s when you should talk to her about that. It’s left the subconscious and now it’s come conscious. And so these are the things we need to pay attention to.
Let’s say you think I wonder if I should talk to her and then you look at the landscape of the friendship and you go, God, I’ve just been feeling not great in this now that I realize, I feel like I’ve been really frustrated. I feel like the other person’s really dialed it in. I’m not sure how they could show up for me in a way that would be meaningful at this point. That’s a very different conversation then.
That’s important giving an opportunity to allow the other person, because we create these narratives in our mind like, oh, she’s doing this and I’m doing all the work and she’s not doing that. I’m thinking that she not interested in me or she’s disrespecting, and you’ve got this whole thing, right? When you don’t talk about it, all of a sudden it’s amazing how like a whole like cartoon strip appears in your head of everything that’s gone on.
Number one, the most common thing is just a total lack of awareness around it, and not a mean spirited, like, oh, I just didn’t know I was doing that. Just like I’ve been caught in my own little thing. Thank you for popping the bubble. Or I see a lot that something else is going on in their life. For example, they’re having a tremendous struggle at work and they’re kind of battling it to keep their job or something’s shifted at work. And so that’s very stressful. Or I had a situation recently where I talked to somebody where their father had been diagnosed with cancer and super upsetting, and they didn’t want to share or know how to share. And so they’re super preoccupied with something that’s very important in their life. But you know, there’s a disconnect between how they’re showing up in this relationship. So isn’t it good to know? Oh, wow, you’re going through that. This changes the entire narrative of what you were thinking was going on, right?
But also I think probably the most valuable reason to have a conversation if you’ve assessed that this is actually a relationship that has been really great and could be really great again, is just to see their reaction to you bringing an honest conversation. Because if their reaction is over the top defensive or evasive, this is really good information to have. Because one of the hallmarks of a really good relationship I think, is being able to navigate conflict.
And so if you’re in a real, alive, healthy, active relationship, there’s going to be friction at some point. There just has to be. People are too complicated to spend any amount of time with one another and not rub up against each other at a certain point. So we have to be able to navigate conflict.
I’m a therapist and in the classic kind of therapeutic world, we have individual therapy, couples therapy, family therapy, but no such thing exists for friendship. And while I’m not necessarily advocating that, you know, friend couples go and find an analyst, what it does mean to me is that out there in the zeitgeist there’s collectively agreed upon language for navigating conflict in this relationship. There’s no blueprint for how to get into new ones, how to get out of existing ones.
And so what we often do is not have any confrontation at all. We try and push it down, not deal with it. Oh, it’s not that big of a deal. But what happens is you’re trying to numb yourself to behavior that is hurtful or irritating or frustrating, but when you numb yourself, you don’t have the option to just numb yourself to one part.
What happens is you just numb yourself to the person. That’s exactly what was happening in this first relationship that I talked about. I was irritated over time. And so I was just like, I’m not gonna deal with this. I would talk myself out of saying something, make a million excuses. But what happens is then I just started to become numb to her and in this particular instance, it was really not cool because this is one of my longstanding friends who’d seen me, you know, through very important kind of definitive moments in my life.
And now I found myself totally numb to the experience of her and the relationship and what a shame. And one of the reasons is because every time I thought like, oh, I’m gonna bring this up, I was like, this is so weird. Why am I making this bigger than it is?
It’s not like this is my lover or I’m…
[19:03] Damianne President: only a friend.
[19:06] Erin Falconer: Right? And the thing is, that’s just not a real relationship. You can’t operate where you’re having all of this angst and you don’t feel comfortable or like you’re in your own right to say something. And I think that’s one of the goals of the book is to just get the conversation started and normalized, like, hey, you did this, this is upsetting to me. I really cherish this relationship, but we need to address this and how can we do that? And how can we move forward and not have it be such a big,
[19:37] Damianne President: yeah. weight.
[19:37] Erin Falconer: weight, where, it’s like, I mean, I’m a pretty self-confident person, but it was amazing. As you know, in the book, I actually ended up sitting down with this friend and saying my piece. But as I waited for her to arrive at the restaurant when I was gonna tell her this, she was late again. And so I had like 20 minutes and I watched myself just talking myself out of this and unbelievable. Such a waste of energy, first of all. I was so exhausted by the time she showed up because I just workshopped every possible scenario like she’s a single mom, she can’t take this. She’s got a lot going on. Her bandwidth is crazy. She doesn’t need to deal with this right now, you know, but that went on for 20 minutes. And I was like am I a crazy person? I’m definitely not. So if I’m doing this, I feel like many people are doing this, maybe not in that exact way, but still the minimizing or marginalizing of your own feelings and frustrations, which ultimately is to the detriment of the relationship.
[20:35] Damianne President: I just said only friendship and that was a joke because friendship is so important in people’s lives and more important even than romantic relationships, because we know that often one partner will pass away before another partner and who fills in as support and encouragement during those times.
[20:54] Erin Falconer: And that’s like in the book, when I talk about all the science, literally the physiological, mental and emotional benefits of having close knit friendships are astounding. Friendships aren’t just nice to have. There’s a ton of science on how they reduce heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes. Here in the United States, when you just go for your annual checkup, they ask how much alcohol do you drink a week, how many cigarettes do you smoke a week, do you do drugs recreationally? How often? the surgeon general is now, considering adding to that list how many times a week do you interact socially? That’s how important it is. So yeah, I definitely know you were joking. These aren’t only friendships. They really, really, really matter.
[21:39] Damianne President: I was thinking about some of my own friendship conversations, and definitely there has been difficult conversations. I can remember, for example, talking to a friend about feeling like they never asked me for help. They always try to do everything by themselves. And I think that’s something that if you’re in a caring relationship with someone, then you care to pay attention to the fact that maybe they’re always the strong person and they might need that support structure that they might not be able to ask for. And we have a much better relationship now where she can ask me for help with things. And sometimes we have to talk about it again, because patterns hard to break.
[22:19] Erin Falconer: Sure. Right.
[22:20] What do you do when a friend can’t be what you need
[22:20] Damianne President: The other situation that I’ve noticed is sometimes with needs, or even with boundaries, bringing up something with a friend and them not being able to engage with it. And one of the things that you said in the book is kind of assuming that people are doing their best. And I think sometimes that really is the case and they can’t fulfill the need for us that we want them to fulfill. And that can be a really hard lesson for us to then say, okay, where does that person actually fit in my friendship life compared to where I’d like them to fit.
[22:56] Erin Falconer: Right. Then you have choices to make. But that’s the position you wanna be in as tough as it is because you wanna be making choices. That’s where you’re active and intentional. And it’s tough. That’s really tough to do when you say, boy it’s not a case that this person doesn’t want to respect this boundary or show up for me in this way. This person actually does not have the ability yet to do that. So now what do I do? Am I going to just accept that about the person and then constantly feel a sense of being let down or frustrated or anger or whatever? Is that the way I wanna live in this?
Or is there a way that I can kind of shift the energy around this friendship and not necessarily have this relationship take a front seat, maybe kind of like a middle or back seat. Does that work? Would that work for that person? I’m not sure, you know, might. Or is it just a case where it’s like this is what I need in relationships: X, Y, and Z. And unfortunately, as lovely as this person is, and as nice as our kind of friendship history has been, I need to be honest and say if you can’t deliver X, Y, and Z, it doesn’t make sense, like we’re gonna be spinning our wheels here in this relationship because needs just aren’t being met. Once you have that information, I feel like it’s compelling to do something about it, as hard as that is to do.
I think that at a basic level, we have to get very comfortable identifying wants, and needs and non-negotiables, and then advocating for them. And if they can’t be met in a relationship again, to your point, they either need to be shifted or you need to gracefully part ways, because I think one of the hard things is like, if you are going to break up with a friend, let’s say, you’re like, oh my God, she’s gonna take this so badly. This feels so extreme and whatever. But the truth is if that person’s in this relationship and your needs aren’t being met, the chances are her needs aren’t being met. She’s just not aware of that. And so while it might be a blow at the beginning, kind of like shocking, ultimately this is not the relationship for either of you. And so take comfort in that a little bit, you know, cuz it is difficult to have these conversations,
[25:08] Damianne President: I’m also thinking that in that case where you are really feeling disconnected or where you’re feeling conflicted with a friend, then how can you really show up authentically with that person? I kind of feel like the energy you’re showing up with, maybe they’ll miss it because they’re not that aware, but yeah, it doesn’t sound like a great experience for anybody.
[25:31] Erin Falconer: Exactly. Definitely. Or even if you’re like the greatest fake in the world and can show up and be like, hi, you know, da, da, da, everything’s fine. Think of how much energy that takes you to do. So cumulatively over time, this is something that just pulling you down. And, again, probably you can’t even do that. If the person is even remotely aware, they’re gonna pick up on energy.
[25:55] Damianne President: Yeah, I think you’re gonna leak at some point.
[25:58] Erin Falconer: You are because it’s just too exhausting. You can’t keep doing that or you don’t wanna keep doing that. And so if they’re picking up on that, that’s not good for them either. The hope would be they’d address it, pick up and say, hey, what’s going on here, but we’re not quite there yet. Hence the book. That’s where we’re trying to get where the other person go, hey, I felt a shift here. What’s going on? Oh, glad you asked. Let’s talk about this.
[26:21] Main causes of disconnect or discontent in friendship
[26:21] Damianne President: What do you think, or what have you noticed are some of the greatest causes of disconnect or discontent in friendship? Do you think it’s that misalignment or something else?
[26:33] Erin Falconer: No, I think it’s that people have not taken the time to really understand their needs or wants. And so we’ve got people in their lives, even people that have great intentions, but just are not aligning. So that’s number one. You’ve got a collection of people that might be lovely or relationships that might outwardly be lovely, but that’s not where you are or who you are. And so you just don’t have a total synergy there. So you’re kind of leaking energy. And then the other thing is kind of going back to this idea of just not having the language or feeling like the right or entitled to speaking up and saying, hey, this is bothering me. Can we talk about this? It just feels so awkward because we haven’t done it a lot.
And so again, we don’t say things, we talk ourself out of things, and either become numb or what happens is we can’t push something down any longer. And so we have a big overreaction to something that is probably minimal, but it’s the cumulative buildup over time that then you have this big outburst and the person’s like, whoa, have you gone nuts? The punishment doesn’t fit the crime here. And so there’s a lot of disconnect and discord there.
[27:40] How to make friends in a new place
[27:40] Erin Falconer: I was talking to somebody the other day who had just moved actually and was like, well, I don’t know, like now I kind of need a whole new set of friends. I still have my couple really good friends from back home, but like, you know, day to day. And I was like, yeah, exactly. And so I was like, well, here’s the thing. You really need to orient as if you were trying to find a romantic partner. You put it out there in the world.
You say to your friends, Hey, I’m looking for a new friend. I just moved here. Do you know anybody that lives here? Oh, you do? Could you connect me? Oh yeah, great. You’ve gotta put it out there that you’re looking for people. If you like to jog, find a running club; don’t just run by yourself. You know you have at least one thing in common. You like to run. Perfect.
Put yourself in the situation where you can meet somebody. If you have a dog, don’t just take ’em for a walk, go to a dog park. You know that there’s a group of people there that have at least one thing in common with you. They have dogs, they love dogs. And then once you’re there, and this is the thing that’s really foreign to people is look around. See anybody I’m attracted to energetically. is there somebody that I’m curious about or think might be cool? Make your way over there. You don’t have to do a B line, but you know throw the dog’s ball. Get yourself over there and introduce yourself.
And I know that feels awkward cuz we are just not used to doing it. But once you put yourself out there energetically and kind of intentionally, all of a sudden, it’s not gonna be this big hurdle to meet new people. It’s just, we’re not conditioned to do this with friendships. We think that they should just, I don’t know, just happen so organically but no, not if you’re serious. In the example of you’ve moved to a new town. No, I need to have some friends. I’m gonna go out and get them. That’s kind of the way you need to approach it, I think.
[29:33] Damianne President: Well, it’s interesting because it’s not like we don’t have some experience with this from earlier in our lives. Of course in university, proximity helps, but you talk to people. You’re in classes together, you ask them something. So we have models to follow, but maybe we’ve forgotten some of those.
[29:49] Erin Falconer: We have. And that’s the thing. I think once we kind of get out there into the world with our careers, we forget about that social aspect. And we probably do have quite a few legacy friends from university, from maybe late high school, whatever family, friends. So we’re like, oh, I’m good, I’ve got this. I mean, we don’t have that as a conscious thought, but it’s kind of like, okay, I’ve got my crew here. And so somewhere along the way, we stop putting ourself out there in a way to connect. And so that’s a big problem. And that’s why I think, you know, you wake up one day and you’re feeling like, ah, I don’t know, I can’t put my finger on why I don’t feel amazing. And I think it’s right there in front of you often. And it’s like, let’s look at the people in your life. Cause this could be the greatest asset or something that’s really a drag.
[30:40] Rediscovering our selves through old friends
[30:40] Damianne President: One of the things that you share in the book is about the type of friend that helps us reconnect with who we are. We know that identity is a big part of what happens in friendship. We discover ourselves, we figure out our identity and that self can evolve as we age. But then you talk about the friendship that helps us rediscover who we were.
You give an example of your lake friends, meeting somebody who was a lake friend and just being back in that place where you can have fun and excitement and be childlike not childish, but childlike again.
[31:18] Erin Falconer: Like yeah, tap into that inner child in the positive way. And really remember who you are, yeah.
[31:23] Damianne President: I notice actually, maybe during COVID, this came up a lot more for people where they went back and reconnected with old friends through social media, or even Zoom conversations.
I think more, what I really wanna stay here is just an invitation for listeners that if you are feeling out of sorts, then thinking about some of those old friendships could help you discover what it is you may have valued that are missing right now from your life.
[31:54] Erin Falconer: I totally agree. I talk specifically, as you just mentioned, about this group of friends I had at the lake. I would go to the lake every summer and it just was such a formative time. And these were the young people that were with me. And so reconnecting with them takes me back to just such a great sense of like, well, number one, just really remembering who I was, who I am, where I came from, but also that sense of hope and curiosity. It was such a shared experience with these people and being able to tap back into that has been amazing, just like energetically. For me it’s invigorating. And so definitely, I highly recommend taking a look at your own early on friendships and seeing if there is something to reconnect over.
[32:40] Diversity in Friendships
[32:40] Damianne President: You also talk about the importance of diversity in friendships. Why do you think that’s important? And what do you mean when you talk about diversity in friendship?
[32:49] Erin Falconer: I, first of all talk about the importance of having all these different types of friends in your lives and well, it is very important I think to have a friend or two that is like you in a sense that you have some shared experiences, maybe where you grew up, or maybe how you were raised or whatever, because you really feel understood in a way you don’t need to explain. It’s like this person or these couple people just get it. And I get them because I know we have so much in common with the way we are or operate in the world.
But what I see happening all the time is that people have created in their friend groups an echo chamber in the sense that everybody is like them. One of the good things about these relationships is you feel really comfortable and kind of safe.
Okay, but you don’t wanna ever feel honestly too comfortable because then we get lazy. Then we get fixed in our thoughts; we don’t wanna leave; we just want this little kind of safe nest where everybody looks and talks just like us. And so while there certainly is a place for that, that’s not where the richness is.
I think being intentional when you look at your inner circle of friends, you want it to be of diverse life experience. Did people grow up differently from you? Did they grow up in different places? Were they brought up in a different way, like with a different religious background? Culturally, were they brought up in a different way? This is not only important, I think, and again, not in a tokenism way, but in a genuine, having genuine curiosity about things that you don’t know, that you haven’t experienced, that you’re curious about, and also understanding that you can bring your own diversity into that relationship and feel excited about the differences. The caveat is the core values have to be the same.
You have to generally agree on core values, whatever that means to you. But I think the importance of having people with different life experiences is again, coming back to you, the more dynamic your friend group is, your interactions are the more dynamic and the more you open up the aperture on your own self. Because again, relationally exposing yourself, engaging, caring about, being curious about people with differences is what unlocks those different parts of yourself that otherwise would lay dormant. When you’re trapped in a friend group that’s an echo chamber, you’re opening up a very narrow part of who you are; the repertoire of who you could be is very, very narrow.
And then I think beyond just on a personal level, at least here in the United States, there’s so much division; it’s so divisive. It’s just so polarized that I think until we understand on a personal level about caring about different people and having those different people care about us, only then can we kind of really make any sort of change. Because when you know somebody and personally love and care for them, all of a sudden when you look at like a big divisive issue, you’re very clear on it. Oh no, that’s not where I stood. I know this person, I love this person. And I wanna make sure that we’re all being seen, as much as we can be, in the same way.
And I think that it’s so important to really, really just have exposure and curiosity and commitment and intention to want to get to know people that are different than you. At least for the United States, I don’t see another way forward. But then again, on the personal level, I just think it’s much more dynamic, much more interesting and much more fulfillment, and you can provide more. You do the same thing to the other person as opposed to just living in a very comfortable echo chamber.
[36:40] Damianne President: The interview that came out this week actually, at Changes Big and Small talks a lot about how having friends that are of different racial groups helps you understand the space that you live in, the space and place that you live in, contextualize some experiences that you may not even be aware of, and also helps you maybe access even a breadth and depth of experience and emotions that you may not have access to otherwise.
And I think, even for myself, I realized at some point that I don’t have close friends that are spread out in age and that’s been something intentional for me too, because I do think that that adds great value to our lives when we can have people across age ranges.
[37:28] Erin Falconer: Totally, totally. And here in America, that’s one of the things that is never talked about, but I notice it so much, especially in Los Angeles. Even when I go out to eat at a restaurant, there’s no old people, none. It’s all, you know, within the same kind of 20 year block.
And yet when I go to Canada or when I go to France, everybody’s mixed and intermingled and there’s young people with old people and I’m like, oh my God, that is what’s missing here. I’m so glad you brought that up. It’s so important, this idea, if you just think about it, to be able to tap into somebody experience. How interesting, a person that’s older than you, that’s lived differently than you, longer than you. And then also, even in a sense, younger people too, because they have an energy, a different perspective on the world, a curiosity. So yeah, not just being locked in the, like I have friends with that are three years, either younger or older than me, because again, that’s kind of in its own way, echo chamber, right?
Like even if one friend is gay or Asian, but you’re all in the same age range, you’ve all kind of gone through life at the exact same parallel. Well, there could be more to learn more to experience, more to love when you kind of open up the age requirements of your friendship.
And again, it’s not like I’m gonna go get a friend that’s 70. It’s not like that. It’s about the first stop is let me get really curious what would it be like to have somebody that was older me? Wow, that would be interesting. And just energetically, when you start thinking and putting that out there, you’ll be amazed to find somebody will come into your life, and you’ll take the opportunity to engage, whereas before you would’ve just let them pass right by. And that’s what it’s about. It’s not about like, okay, I need an Asian friend and a black friend and a gay friend. No, that’s the opposite of what I’m talking about. It’s about getting really curious about people, no matter what walk of life, that are different than you. And all of a sudden, where you have an energetic connection, you’ll now be aware of it and won’t let it pass by. And I think that’s where you wanna be.
[39:31] Damianne President: Yeah. I think it’s really about paying attention and then also challenging your own biases. I remember having a conversation with a Sufi friend and it was about romantic relationships, but he said the soul doesn’t know age. And so we create all of those constraints around who we might date or who we might be friends with in this context. But really, it’s not a lack of opportunity or ability to connect. It’s just that we have our blinders on just to a large extent.
[40:01] Erin Falconer: That’s right. Yeah. I’m really happy you brought that up. It’s just such a conversation worth having and exploring.
[40:07] How to Break Up With Friends
[40:07] Damianne President: Your book is called How to Break up With Friends: Finding Meaning, Connection and Boundaries in Modern Friendship. And I just want listeners to know that it’s about a lot more than breaking up with friends. In fact, it’s more about how to think about your friendships, thinking about the energy of your friendship, how to be a better friend yourself, if that’s something that interests you and why shouldn’t it, the different types of friends and qualities of friendship, why friendship is so important in your life with some of the research that you shared earlier, Erin. So despite the title, it’s much more about how to be a good friend and how to live your friendship life than breaking up with friends. But it does also talk about the fact that sometimes you may need to have those difficult conversations with friends, and you may decide that your friendship does not have a future.
And I think for a lot of people, the default is to kind of ghost a friend. In fact, I was just listening to a podcast this week and one of the guys was talking about if you decide that a friend is not helpful in your life, what you do is you just wait longer and longer in between getting back to them until they get the hint. And I was like, oh, this is kind of disrespectful. And it leaves somebody wandering what did I do wrong? I don’t want somebody to do that to me. So I really feel strongly that I’m not going to do it to somebody else.
[41:36] Erin Falconer: That’s the action of passive. That’s letting life happen to you. And just like, I’m gonna hope this goes away if I don’t do anything. You never wanna be in that position. It’s not good for the relationship. It’s not good for you. And it’s not good for you psychologically. You are the choices you make in your life.
So if you choose really doing nothing, not responding, not addressing anything, you’re choosing nothing, right? It’s far better to make a choice around I have to have a difficult conversation, but as long as I do it respectfully, I’m paying respect to the relationship, I’m giving respect to the other person.
It’s a hard thing to do. Hopefully they will, even if it hurts respect that I had the courage to do this. I’ve taken action. This is something that builds respect. Again, even though it can hurt somebody, you’re ultimately saying I value you in the relationship so much, I have to end it because I’m not gonna waste your time. I’m not gonna ghost you and leave you guessing.
Look, if you’ve been in a friendship with somebody for four months and it’s like, oh, this isn’t the person I thought they were, this is weird. Okay. Maybe you don’t need to have some big dramatic I’m ending it. But if you’ve had a relationship with any weight or meaning that has gone on for a couple years or more, you know, just out of respect for yourself and for respect for the relationship to ghost that person and leave them wondering?
So, as you know, I interviewed many women for the book, all different walks of life. And two of them very successful in their own right, have great careers. They have different but both great family lives. And when we were talking, both of these women who don’t know each other had been ghosted by somebody, I think in their, around their early twenties. And when they brought it up, it was unbelievable that they immediately went into the head space and you could hear the hurt and they almost were wondering aloud, I just don’t know what happened. I don’t know what happened and they’re workshoping as though it just happened.
So know that when you’re ghosting somebody, it’s so unfair to not give closure and it might hurt that person to end the relationship now, but I’m telling you, 20 years later I’m interviewing these women and again, they’re pulled into a space or place in time where they’re still actively hurt.
So find the courage and say what’s true. And it’s not that you’re doing them a favor, but you’re doing what’s right. And you’re closing something as opposed to leaving it open forever when you’re ghosting.
Also you think you’re doing nothing and that’s kind of the path of least resistance, but you yourself don’t have closure. And so you have left a tab open on your computer in your mind.
[44:19] Damianne President: Using resources.
[44:20] Erin Falconer: You just dunno it. It’s burning that battery and you dunno why your battery keeps shutting down so fast. Well that’s cuz of one of these tabs you left open. So that’s just taking the kind of easy way out. And there’s not a lot of respect in that again, unless you’ve just kind of met this person and it’s like, okay.
Or the other circumstance is, let’s say you’ve been friends with somebody for a long time and you’ve moved cities and you’ve kind of stayed alive on Facebook or Instagram, but you’ve generally kind of floated both of you in a direction that’s farther and farther apart. That’s okay. That’s the natural progression or the course of the ebb and flow of that relation. But the problem is if one person is still trying to engage and you wanna go a different way, well, then you gotta have a conversation.
[45:05] Damianne President: I can totally relate to that. And when you talk about closing it off for the other person, I think it’s also doing it for you, like you said. So for example, I had a situation like this where we used to meet every few weeks; we’d go out for dinner.
We would talk, we were in similar fields so we would workshop things with each other. And then the next time we were supposed to meet, they canceled and I tried to reschedule and they didn’t reply. Then I was like, okay, well it’s in her court. And she never got back to me again. And I was like, okay, that’s odd. What did I do? Because of course everything revolves around us. So we always take it personally. Maybe two or three years later, I run into her and she said, oh, would you like to get together for coffee? And I was like, not again, I’m not, re-engaging here.
Maybe it was just something going on in her life at that moment where she needed time to prioritize that. If we’d had that conversation, there might have been something there to salvage now, but as far as I’m concerned there isn’t
[46:09] Erin Falconer: Exactly. And that’s what happens. If you could do it again and you put the ball in her court and then you didn’t hear back, and then you said, Hey, look, what’s, what’s going on. Feels like a departure from what we normally do, or you know, how we normally operate. Everything cool, and then she still ghosted you. Okay. Well, you’re not gonna go on some big fact finding mission. You put it out there. If she wants to share fine. And not, not just you. If there was something going on, it is incumbent for her to share that because you’re just left guessing.
And so now you bump into each other two or three years later, and you’re like not interested. Even if I like you, I’m not interested in this relationship. And so that’s the importance of at least saying, you know, Hey, what’s going on with you? Where are you? Hello? Where are you? And then if they don’t take the bait on that, then you’ve got a decision to make. And you made it.
[47:07] Damianne President: Yeah, exactly. And, and as you’re speaking now, then I’m just thinking that it’s up to each person, each listener to decide how many feelers they wanna put out there, or how much investment they have in a relationship. And like you said, if it’s something where it’s a really close friendship, you have a lot of history, then maybe you’ll put more into exploring what’s going on than otherwise.
[47:31] Erin Falconer: right.
[47:32] Damianne President: Before we end, Erin, I’d like to give you an opportunity to share an invitation or a challenge for listeners of something active they can do for healthier, more satisfying friendships. I know you have a lot of homework in the book, so I don’t know if there is something in particular you might want to invite listeners to do.
[47:49] Erin Falconer: Yes, I would like everybody listening to take a pen and paper and write down every person that’s kind of in the inner circle or mid circle in your life. And just watch your innate reaction when you see their name on paper written. As you’re writing their name, mark that. That is very good information.
What I call this is the cell phone test, but we’re doing it with pen and paper, because I think that’s actually more of a catalyst. But most of us have cell phones and when we have the phone rings and we look, and we see whose name is on the call display, we immediately, whether we’re paying attention to it or, not have a reaction. We either do something like Ugh, or, oh my God and dive to get the phone. That is incredibly good information that we’re never paying attention to.
So what I want you to do is write down everybody’s name and just catch, as soon as you think of this person, what is your… Are you excited, irritated, frustrated, feel nothing at all; that’s probably the worst. Pay attention to that.
That’s the first thing. That’s kind of where I started writing this book. After the first realization I had with this friend that was late, then I went through everybody in my life and I wrote them down and I was just like, whoa, how come I’m so irritated when I see her name? Whoa, oh my God, I totally love this person. You can just feel it without thinking. Just what is your visceral reaction to seeing these names? Once you have that information, it’s hard not to do something about it.
[49:17] Damianne President: I like that. So what I’m hearing is, as you’re writing it, then get curious also about what it means
[49:23] Erin Falconer: Yes, exactly.
If you look at the relationship and it’s valuable and you want it to move forward, it’s a time to have a conversation. It’s really just about paying attention, because the first time you have the thought I wonder if I should talk to her about this, that’s when you should talk to her about that.Tweet
[When you’re curious] you’ll be amazed to find somebody will come into your life, and you’ll take the opportunity to engage, whereas before you would’ve just let them pass right byTweet
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