Being busy and feeling lonely can often go hand-in-hand. In an effort to avoid feelings of isolation, we may become “joiners.” Soon we find that adding activities decreases the time we devote to friendships, leaving us feeling even lonelier. It becomes an exhausting cycle.
Cyndi is an outgoing woman who thrives on being busy. Her time is divided between her career, her family, and volunteer commitments. Because she is surrounded by so many people, it’s difficult to see how she might feel lonely, but she does.
When I asked what she wanted to coach about today, she said, “I know a lot of people, but I don’t have any close friends.”
“You sound lonely and disconnected,” I said. “What may have contributed to you feeling this way?”
“Last week I had a terrible day at work. I had presented a report to my boss that I had been working on for two months. A lot of time and energy went into researching and preparing the report. As he read the executive summary, he said, ‘You must have misunderstood the project.’ He then explained what he wanted. He wasn’t mean, but I felt embarrassed and rejected.”
Cyndi continued, “The worst part was when I left his office, I didn’t feel I had anyone to talk to about how I was feeling. Several people popped into my mind, but I hadn’t been in contact with them in so long, that calling to get emotional support felt uncomfortable. It made me realize that I have let many of my friendships dwindle. I don’t have any close friends…and I feel it’s probably my fault.”
“How would you describe a ‘close friendship’?” I asked.
“When I moved here, I met Marcia at the health club. We had a lot in common and never ran out of things to talk about. We spent a lot of time together, talked on the phone daily and really understood each other. It was an equal partnership between listening, talking, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.” She paused, “When I started to work, I didn’t spend as much time with Marcia and our friendship faded. We are friendly now, but the closeness is gone.”
“What got in the way of you nurturing that friendship or developing others?”
“I’m busy. Between work, my family and their schedules, life seems full. I don’t usually call a friend to ‘hang out.’ I don’t have time,” she explained.
“How would you like your friendships to look and feel, and how would you keep them alive?”
“I long for a friend like Marcia. We had such a close connection.”
I challenged her, “Think of an analogy that would symbolize you nurturing your friendships. What other things do you nurture in order for them to grow?”
“I think of the rose bushes in front of our house. When I pay attention to them, they grow beautiful roses.”
“How do you nurture the roses?” I asked.
“I water them, weed out the beds, fertilize and trim them,” she answered.
“And when you do that, the roses blossom, right? How could you nurture your friendships in order to help them to blossom?”
“I could call my friend regularly to spend time together, letting her know I care. Listening, caring and sharing would all be part of how I would nurture our friendship.”
“What relationship would like to nurture and what is your first step?” I asked.
“I’d like to re-connect with Marcia. My first step could be to invite her to lunch. My goals would be to talk once a week and go to lunch at least once a month.”
“When will you take these steps?”
“I’ll call today to schedule lunch.”
“How will you remember to keep your friendships a priority?”
“I have a photo of Marcia and me at Lake Powell. I’ll keep it in my planner to remind me.”
It’s amazing how quickly roses and friendships blossom with just a little nurturing, intent and energy.
Coaching Challenge: If you’d like to deepen a friendship, consciously decide to prioritize this relationship. Decide and commit to how you can best nurture this relationship. Take one step towards this goal by the end of the week. Be diligent to prioritize these relationships into your life; nurture them and watch them grow.