A Joyful Introvert's Guide to Maintaining Friendships

Current Joyful Read: Joy of Missing Out by Tanya Dalton

Just a note that I am not an affiliate and will receive no profit from my suggestions, so any recommendation of products or businesses is my own opinion only which is a gift that keeps on giving.

Joy Challenge Update: As per my last post, I am now on Day 3 of 14 of writing every day. This is despite having company over and then heading to a family dinner. However, sometimes, honoring your writing challenge does not have to look like blogging or creating a novel. It can be something a little different…

Maintaining relationships with people outside of my immediate vision has always been an issue for me. Being first and foremost an introvert, but also an introvert who has many hobbies and interests I would like to develop but have very little time for (excuse or legitimate reason still to be determined), I find myself treasuring pockets of time at home.

Also on the introvert spectrum, I find outside interactions very energy-depleting which is another reason for my preference to not eliminate but keep them to a minimum. I also really feel most comfortable with my immediate family and enjoy their company; yet, I still feel better I could be doing better in this regard (for another blog post). Another time/energy excuse/reason.

In this vein, I am ashamed to admit that I let people contact me. These friends who I count myself so lucky to attract are willing to put the bulk of time and energy into chasing me for a walk or a lunch date. When I sit down and think about it, I am truly, truly fortunate to have these wonderful people in my life and feel like I am abusing this privilege. I don't come to the relationship table empty-handed though. My ability to show up on time with my best self and no wishy-washy schedule changes makes me dependable. After all, what I lack in initial connectivity, I make up for in reliability.

Recently, I had a conviction of sorts that I am not setting myself up for long-term close relationships by being so one-sided. Therefore while I am not into New Year’s resolutions, I decided to do better in this area for 2022. However, to cleverly avoid the resolution label, I started before the new year. Read the small print.

If reading the above book and other self-help genre books has shown me, a decision without a plan is an impending failure. While reading JOMO, the author discussed lumping tasks together for time efficiency for things like checking and responding to e-mail. Instead of doing fits and starts throughout the day, assign a time and take the time to focus on that task alone. If you could do it with e-mail, why not relationship lumping? Terrible name, I agree. Relationship clumping, it is.

I love this idea. It takes me off the hook for responding to every single text message or email at the moment it is received and gives me a set time where I will give someone my undivided time and attention. If I am not able to get that clump of time in a day, no worries…it will happen the next day. I’m trying it on for size. I can already see that perhaps there will have to be a separation of quick responses, e.g. text and Facebook messages, and time set aside for phone calls/longer e-mails. At this time, I also try and set up one visit with someone each week which often seems to be all I can manage currently.

Back to my writing challenge, I had the epiphany yesterday that writing is about exercising your creative muscle and expressing yourself via text. Instead of sending generic, “hi, how are you" e-mails, I made the extra effort to ask a more personal question, add a juicy tidbit, or add a little info about what we were up to depending on the medium of the interaction. What ensured was 45 minutes of enjoyable connections. I made a list of people who I needed to contact and checked them off one by one. And I made one tea visit. This friend doesn’t like coffee. This would normally be a deal-breaker to the relationship, but she offers so much wisdom, I am willing to forego this huge deficit in her character.

Afterward feeling the afterglow of a fully checked list, I felt like I had been a good friend and gave myself chocolate. Good girl!

The Cliff Notes – How to Relationship Clump
  1. Make a list of all the people you have received an e-mail, message, phone call, or text from and left them hanging. I suggest you prioritize your list in order of most neglected to least.

  2. Decide if anyone on the list requires a face-to-face visit and set up a few options on your calendar beforehand. Do not say "let's do lunch" if you have no attention to follow through. Be impeccable with your word.

  3. Set aside a block of time, each day for the easy ones…messages and texts but include one or two big-block sessions a week where you tackle the phone calls and long-form emails.

  4. Respond in kind. If they reached out via phone, call them…as much as your introvert-loving heart would prefer to e-mail.

  5. Set up a time limit for the session. You don’t want people on the clock, so just cycle the missed ones to the next block of time.

  6. Congratulate yourself for a job well done and eat chocolate.

We all know maintaining relationships takes effort. The payoff though of a friendship maintained through many years, having people in your life who know your history, have seen you at your best and your worst, and still love you is a source of continuous joy.

Psychology Today – Eight Tips for Maintaining Friendships by Gretchen Rubin

A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though they know you are slightly cracked."

- Bernard Meltzer

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