By Scott Westerman
“Prioritize people who care, in the end they will be the only ones there.”
Giving hearts can be trapped in un-productive relationships. The flip side of compassion can sometimes be a tendency to hang on to someone when you should be letting them go.
This came home to me big time recently when I posted this quotation on my Facebook page: “If Someone wants to be a part of your life, they’ll make an effort to be in it. So don’t bother reserving a space in your heart for someone who doesn’t make an effort to stay.” Dozens of friends came out of the woodwork to say, “I fall into this trap all the time!”
Even the best of us can feel lonely, guilty and unworthy. This can drive us to keep throwing energy at relationships that don’t offer a psychological return-on-investment. By the same token, it’s easy to take real friends for granted, because they never seem to get in our way unless we’re headed toward the edge of a cliff.
So examine your current cadre of “friends” and make two important decisions.
First, jettison relationships that aren’t working. Stop trying to convince someone who doesn’t love you that they should. Start avoiding that self-absorbed energy sucker who can’t get out from “between the I’s”. Don’t keep trying to get someone to hire you who refuses to understand the value you bring to the organization (If they don’t appreciate you, they don’t deserve you.). If you lead a team, consider removing the players who may be dragging it down. It might be painful, but in the end, you’ll be glad you did it.
One way to bring this into sharp focus is to keep a log of who you spend your time with during a given week, both at work and after work. If you send a lot of text messages, review your text log, too. As you look at the names and the amount you’ve invested in each, ask yourself if you’re getting a return on your investment. You may be surprised by your answer.
Second, decide who the most important people are in your life and nurture those relationships. Make sure they know you care. Tell them. And show them by making the effort to add value to their lives. Schedule a lunch. Share a web link, book or article that they might enjoy. Call them to ask how -they- are doing. Send a handwritten inspirational note.
If you travel a lot, consider sending your favorite people postcards. Betsy Weber, the brilliant evangelist at Techsmith, does this. I look forward to receiving them and they tend to stay on my desk and keep her in the front of my mind.
And few things are more powerful than an expression of gratitude. We hosted a young alumna who couch-surfed at our place for a few nights as she was planning her adventures. She took the time to send us a hand written thank-you note that went well beyond the “thanks for the place to sleep” message. She referenced conversations she had with us and was genuine in her appreciation, not just for the accommodations, but for our friendship. Of course we’ll do anything we can for her in the future, because we invariably reflect back exactly what we receive.
Denis Waitley has a saying that he uses to describe a good friend. “I like me best, when I’m with you.” Seek out people like that. When you find them, your combined positive energy can jump off of the scale.
Who is really important to you? Who returns and amplifies that positive energy you seek to radiate out into the world? Have you told them? When did you last spend any quality time with them?
There is no better feeling in the world than the security of knowing that someone has your back, “no matter what”. Every time I sign off with my kids, either via email or text, I always say, “LYNMW.” Love you no matter what. If I’m on the phone or with them in person I say those words. Pick your LYNMW people carefully. Treat them right and they will reciprocate.
Gently disengage from the people in your life who don’t want to engage with you. The time you’ll recover can be an amazing gift to give to someone who “makes an effort to stay”.
Have a great week!
Feedback always welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published, October 2, 2011.