It never feels good to be left out by a friend, especially if you don’t understand why. Friendships don’t necessarily last forever. When a friendship loses its value for one of the friends, the friends tend to drift away from each other. Your sense of being left out could be an indication of this change in your relationship. However, your feeling of being left out could just be a misunderstanding or because of a conflict. Conflict is inevitable - how you deal with it is what matters. Don’t give up on the friendship yet. Try working through the issue with honest communication.
Get clarity on what you are feeling and reacting to before initiating a conversation with your friend. Is this a new experience? Does it seem to happen in particular situations? Are you unrealistically expecting to be included in all your friend’s activities? Understanding what you’re feeling and why will help you express those feelings and communicate more effectively with your friend.
Don’t assume that your friend is intentionally leaving you out. Friends don’t usually plan to do things they know will be hurtful. Your friend may not be aware that you are feeling left out. It is your responsibility to bring the situation to her attention.
Choose a place to bring up the issue where you can talk privately. In order to effectively communicate and try to resolve the situation, create an environment in which your friend will feel safe and not put on the spot or called out in front of others.
Let your friend know how much the friendship means to you before you tell him how you are feeling. This is also important in helping your friend relax and be open to what you are sharing with him.
Silence all your electronic devices. Cell phones and computers are disruptive. You want your friend to listen to you, and you need to listen to her. Focus your attention on being present in the moment with your friend.
Take responsibility for your feelings by using “I feel” or “I think” statements. This is a way of owning your feelings and not blaming the other person for making you feel or think in a particular way. Taking responsibility for your emotions will make your friend less defensive. He will be more inclined to listen to you and share how he is feeling.
Listen to what your friend has to say. She wants to be heard as much you want to be. Maintain eye contact, focus on what she is saying and don’t interrupt her.
Offer a possible solution to the problem. Let your friend know what you would like to see happen as a result of the conversation. It may be something as simple as asking him to ask you directly if you would like to participate in a particular activity instead of just assuming that you do not. Offering a solution to the problem helps your friend better understand your needs. If he understands clearly what you feel you need, he is more likely to respond in a way that is sensitive to your need.
Sonya Lott, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, who offers online and in office counseling to individuals struggling with grief, loss or a life transition. She also facilitates mental health workshops for educational, professional, and community groups and maintains a blog on her website www.drsonyalott.com.
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