Thanks to social media, reaching out to people has never been easier. Easy come, easy go – ditching contacts shouldn’t have to be hard, either. As social psychologist Dr Dina McMillan puts it, “We’re a limited resource – our time, efforts, energy and emotions are restricted. So expend them where you can get the most return for you.”
Facebook foesWith instant access to family, friends and acquaintances worldwide, we’re faced with a modern conundrum – where do you draw the line?
“Delete anyone who hasn’t been in contact – online or offline – in the past 12 months,” says social media commentator Dave Abrahams. And be rational. “Do you really need to stay in touch with the guy who lived around the corner from you 10 years ago?”
The perks? “You’ll notice a cleaner news feed with updates from people relevant to you, as opposed to those who just take up ‘screen time’ with what they had for breakfast or pictures of their baby.” Not sure you can make a clean cut? Invite them to connect elsewhere. “With LinkedIn, this can be seen as an ‘upgrade’ in your status of them as you’re genuinely interested in them as a professional,” adds Abrahams. “If you’re suggesting Twitter, tell them you look forward to following them, too.” These services are less intrusive and you’ll be less involved in their lives – and they in yours.
The ex’s familyA relationship break-up is hard enough without having to deal with his mum, who’s made no secret of her desire to see you as her daughter-in-law. If she’s interfering with your new life, or making it hard for you to move on, it’s time for a difficult conversation, says Clare Mann, psychologist and communications expert at Communicate31 (www.communicate31.com).
“Say, ‘Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t work out and in order for me to move on, I need to make sure there’s some space between us – and that kind of means you, too, at the moment,’” suggests Mann.Using “at the moment” implies the possibility of reacquainting in the future (which is polite, even if you have no intention of following through). “You don’t want to confuse the other party,” says Mann. “They might think, ‘Why are you cutting me off; nothing happened between us.’ It’s all about making it
clear that you need some space, and nobody can question that.”
Toxic friendsSome friends are more trouble than they’re worth – such as the part-time pal who only wants to catch up when she needs a shoulder to cry on, or the girl who constantly criticises your appearance (“You look so tired!”). So why do we persist? “People assume that some long-term relationships are healthy by default,” explains Dr McMillan.
A great phrase when raising an issue in any relationship is, “This isn’t really working for me,” says Mann. “It’s not critical, and it puts the problem up for discussion. It also gives the other person an opportunity to pull their socks up – great if the relationship is worth saving.”
And if it’s not? Cut off contact. “Stop sending a Christmas card, delete their number from your phone, and don’t ‘cc’ them in on emails with mutual friends,” says Rod Matthews, author of Change Starts Here (Impact Human Performance Technologies, $29.95). “Avoid large emotional words like ‘terrific’ and ‘fantastic’, and increase the use of neutral words like ‘OK’, ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe’. Together these micro-behaviours send the message that you have less energy for this relationship.”
And more energy for those people who are worth it. Mission accomplished.Follow marie claire on Facebook