One of the biggest issues people face (which I also faced) when trying to change their friends is how to do it without fighting.
How in the world will I walk up to this person who has always been my friend and tell them I’m no longer interested? That they suck, or what?
This was my thought before I read Principles and Power of Vision where Myles Munroe introduced me to “dissociation,” an idea of just easing out of people’s lives, and they, all of sudden, won’t see you around them anymore.
Sometimes, it is safer than actually confronting them and telling them you don’t want to be their friend anymore. If someone has been your friend for some time, you have an emotional connection that might not be easy to break.
They might beg you, make you feel bad, or do something that if you don’t have a strong will, will make you come back to the friendship although you are no longer interested.
But from quiet dissociation, before they realize you are no longer with them, the gap is already too wide and no one understands how it happened. Maybe we just outgrew each other, they’ll say.
I’ve tried it and it works; not just once but severally. It is a repeatable model.
Should I Really Change My Friends?
Yes, you should change your friends if you have determined the type of future life you will like to have and have discovered they are not helping you get there or worse hindering you from getting there.
Get this understanding: the people you listen to determine all the things you do. How?
- Studies have shown that our thoughts are not really our own. They are only revisions and modifications of what we received from others (both audio and visual receptions).
- All our actions and inactions stem from our thoughts, our thoughts stem from the thoughts of others.
- All our actions and inactions determine the outcome of our lives.
So your friends (the people you listen to) determine your life.
If your friends are not exposing you to the kind of life you will like to live, then you know it is time to change your friends.
You can’t stop listening but you can change who you listen to – Olusegun Iyejare
How To Change Your Friends
1. Determine your ideal friends
For you to have concluded that you don’t want a particular set of friends, it means you must have identified certain disadvantages they are bringing to your life or some desperately needed advantages they don’t bring.
People who are the direct opposite of these people are your ideal friend i.e they give those advantages or don’t bring those disadvantages.
Now, don’t feel guilty for wanting to change your friends. Friendship is a relationship of mutual benefit. If there are no benefits (or desired benefits), then there’s no friendship.
Identifying your ideal friends won’t take away your old friends but it is the first step. It plays in the entire process.
If you are a writing person (which I think everyone should be), you can write down your ideal kind of friends. Writing will keep you focused and prompt your mind for serious work.
2. Start flooding your mind with the new thought patterns you need
Go to the internet, read books and begin to feed your mind with the kind of things you would want your ideal friends to bring.
You want to learn how to read for instance, but friends aren’t letting you… Join Facebook groups, watch YouTube videos that talk about reading, or find other means to introduce your mind to where you want to be.
When you do this, reading becomes a norm to you having seen people who it’s normal to. The strangeness leaves you, and you are one step closer to your goal.
Let me explain why this is important. The same way you are trying to leave your friends because they don’t have the “ideal” mindset your ideal friends have, your ideal friends may not want to associate with you because you don’t have their own ideal mindset too. So you need to kickstart the process on your own.
This is also necessary because the easiest way to ease out of your friends’ lives, is to outgrow them. You have been friends because you connect with each and can relate to each other’s viewpoints.
Once you can longer relate, it means someone has outgrown the other in that area of common interest or the “connection point.”
3. Don’t consciously initiate any conversation or bonding activity
At this point, you might still pick up their calls, reply to their chats, or smile at their jokes but only stay at the receiving end. Remember, friendship is a relationship of mutual benefits. If they don’t benefit from you, they will leave too. If it’s just them calling, initiating discussions, or asking after you, with time they’ll lose interest.
At this point, they might begin to notice your withdrawal but it isn’t clear enough yet. They just know something is wrong but don’t know exactly what.
If your friends are sticky or outspoken people, they might confront you with a What’s wrong dude? More on that at the 6th step.
4. Get new hobbies and stay super busy
If you aren’t spending time with your friends, you have to spend your time doing something else. Idleness is a trap. Not only does getting busy fill up the time that was to be idle, but it also saves you from the temptation of wanting to go back to them or breach Step 4.
If you don’t have anything to do, and you probably don’t have your ideal friends yet, you can easily “just check on them” “just once” “just once more”; “just spend some time” “just once more”, and you’ll continue in a circle of not changing your friends.
5. Start hanging out with some ideal friends
You must have been filling your mind with the right stuff now. You now have some connection points with the ideal friends. Walk up to them, start a conversation, and spend time with them. Let your old friends see you with them often, and again, and once more.
Normalize them in your mind as your friends and normalize the other set as ex-friends. Intentionally begin to build a bond with them (new friends).
6. Whenever you are confronted of dissociation, explain with busyness, never apologize, and don’t change
Whenever your old friends confront you about leaving them, if you are bold enough at that point, you might explain to them why you need to leave, but if you don’t want to, explain to them, sincerely and politely, how busy you are and how talking to them is taking the time you would have spent being “busy” in whatever your new busyness is. But never apologize, instead keep quiet.
After they’ve gone, start from Step 2 again and let the gap continue to broaden and your bond with your new friends get stronger.
While I was writing this I was feeling guilty: How in the world will you be teaching people to leave their friends? You are so proud. So in case you are feeling guilty while reading this too, my response to you and my inner critic is the same: would you rather stay with limiting friends or move forward?
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.