Have you ever felt alone among friends? As if you were having a conversation, but nobody was really listening to you. In this difficult situation, when you reached out for support, they didn’t show up. It seemed like your friends were uncomfortable with moving beyond the surface level.
Maybe, in those moments, you asked yourself: “What would happen if I really needed support? Will I feel comfortable the next time I ask for support from the people I trust?”
It’s a scary feeling, and, unfortunately, a very common one. This negative experience is necessary for your growth and evolution as a person, moving us away from unfulfilling or even toxic relationships.
We all need support in different forms: some people lean on their families, while others find friendships, mentorships and other affirmative relationships. Support is one of the fundamental aspects of human relation: providing someone else with help, understanding and empathy. Closeness in a relationship implies mutual support: being unsupported in a close relationship is unbalanced.
Does this mean your relationship with this person is toxic, and you should cut them off? Not just yet! There is likely a gap in communication, meaning they might not have any idea how you feel. You could think that your desire for connection is not reciprocated, but you’ll never know if nobody addresses it. It’s about taking responsibility for your role in the relationship by expressing your desires. That is the only thing you have control over. When you communicate maturely and effectively, the way the other person responds will teach you exactly what you need to know.
In order to do that, you first have to ask yourself what, exactly, you want. Do you want to feel heard? Do you want people to respect your time? By making your desires specific, they become achievable for the other person.
Next, you want to ask the person if they’re open to having the conversation, rather than springing it on the other person randomly – it’s all about timing. This will make them more likely to hear you out, because it doesn’t feel like you are suddenly attacking them.
Lastly, you want to own all your emotions. This means that you speak in a way that does not blame the other person. This means using the phrase: “when you do X, I feel Y.” This keeps the situation objective and focused on the topic at hand.
For more insight, I recommend the book Authentic Relating by Ryel Kestano.
Now, if the other person is receptive and committed to meeting your requests, you work it out with them. Remember, the key is not to make them feel guilty, but rather inspired to support you.
They also have the right to say no to you. It would be easy to take that personally. But in reality? There could be any reason they did not want to be relied upon. If someone is not willing to fill that place in your life, you need to know. Some friends may have different desires and intentions than you. And that’s okay, as long as it’s known and communicated.
This last part might bother a few people, but it’s important. On top of your responsibility to communicate, comes your responsibility to make the people who support you feel appreciated, and your responsibility to offer what you wish to receive. These tenets of reciprocity help the people around you to feel good about being in your life. I think that’s what we all want. So if you notice someone’s been showing up for you a lot, ask how you can show up for them and watch the bond grow tighter.
In the tapestry of human relationships, we all tread the delicate path of seeking understanding, connection, and support. The beauty of the human experience lies in the ability to bridge gaps, to mend what’s frayed, and to weave stronger bonds of connection. Each vulnerable conversation becomes a step towards true authenticity. I hope that everyone can find the people who treat them with honesty and compassion.