A friend indeed

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A year ago, I befriended someone who mostly leaves me exhausted and in a bad mood. He talks mostly about himself, is a poor listener, has to be right, gets preachy about any topic and always one-ups me. Anytime I mention an accomplishment, he interrupts to downplay my accomplishment by telling me what he has or has done that is better. He wants to hang out often and is not going to go away. I read a book that said I should be compassionate toward him and try to understand his behavior. Well, I’m not sure I can or want to do this. I’m a social person with many friends. He annoys me, but I don’t want to dump him because he’s not a bad person. What is the right thing to do?

Accept that you are a collector. You gather an assortment of different personalities and appreciate each one for the experiences and qualities they invite into your life. By embracing even the most difficult of people, you contribute to your sense of yourself as a social person. Socializing also allows you one more occupied block of time in your personal calendar, likely girding a deep-seated belief that being with others is living fully. Translation: You think you are being “good” if you are busy sharing time with others. The challenge with equating a personal choice with black-and-white thinking (good and bad, or right and wrong, etc.) is that it often blocks discernment. That’s why you arrive at the idea that you can only end a relationship with someone who is a “bad” person, and since this man does not qualify in your mind as “bad,” you cannot bring the connection to closure. Whew! That’s a lot of layers of thinking!

Authentic friendship demands intimacy. In the fullness of friendship, we can reveal the truth of who we are and are met with the same, allowing the relationship to mature and become more precious over time. There are plenty of other kinds of friendship, however. In a recreational friendship, for example, two people bond because of a passion for a specific activity, like playing soccer or salsa dancing. Their shared happiness is grounded in the shared activity; conversation rarely dips below the surface of things. There are friendships centered in a passion for social justice or weathering a life crisis, too. Is something like this holding your friendship together?

To create a solution to your situation, forget about trying to understand this man, at least for now. Your job is to understand you. Explore what motivates you to tell him about your accomplishments. Do you need attention or expect admiration? How wonderful, then, that he fails to provide it. Now you can learn to celebrate yourself whether others one-up you or not. And he doesn’t listen to you? You may need more time in meditation to learn to listen to yourself. You also say he insists on being right. Do you possess that trait? Could it be why you resisted the message of the book you read?

If being social is one of your talents, and it certainly seems to be, accept that you won’t get your needs met in this relationship. Focus on discovering why you are so bothered by this man. Or have a direct conversation with him about your interpretation of the conversations. Like this: “Sometimes I feel uncomfortable when I talk about an accomplishment. I realize I expect affirmation before hearing a new topic.” You might be surprised to learn that he feels the same way. Releasing the burden of expectations and black-or-white thinking will lift your energy. As you grow in self-awareness, it will be easy to determine how to proceed with this friend.

Meditation of the Week

After a successful career as a music producer, Saul Zaentz produced his first film. He was more than 50 years old. The 1973 film, <i>Payday</i>, was panned and made no money, but earned Zaentz a producer's credit. He produced nine more films, and three won Oscars for Best Picture. Zaentz, who died January 3 at age 92, said all 10 films met his goal to produce intelligent films for adults. So, was that first film a failure? Or an education?