My last blog post polarized people. I got messages asking why I would be cruel and not give someone more than 3 chances to be my friend. I also got messages from people saying they agreed with me and that they had similar boundaries. Why the polarizing? I personally think it’s because people don’t understand the concept of a boundary.
You see, when I created that 3 strike rule for new friendships it had nothing to do with being upset or offended when someone said no to hanging out. I don’t have bad feelings towards another woman when she doesn’t show interest in being my friend and I certainly don’t wish her ill. I don’t judge her or change my behavior towards her after she “strikes out.” It has nothing to do with her and everything to do with me.
I’ve always been a people pleaser. I love seeing people happy. If there is something I can do to make them happy I do it, even if it isn’t healthy for me. Over the years, I’ve been hurt and my relationships haven’t been healthy because of this. When I was less mature emotionally, I would be offended when someone would turn me down from friendship. I was sure something was wrong with me, and I was determined to find out what it was and fix it. I needed everyone to be my friend and was distraught when someone wasn’t interested in me.
I learned about boundaries and started implementing them little by little. At first, it was really hard for me to stick to my boundaries, and honestly sometimes it still is. I hate making people uncomfortable and would rather suffer myself than cause someone else discomfort. However, I have learned that boundaries are the key to true connection and are the greatest form of self-love and self-care. Let me try to explain.
Boundaries are the way you share yourself with others. They are the key to trust and cooperation between individuals. If you think about it, this makes sense and feels true. Why are so many of us afraid of opening up and being vulnerable? It’s because we are afraid of being hurt. We are afraid that we will share too much of our story with someone and scare them off. We are afraid that what we share will be used against us, etc. What if we weren’t scared of any of those scenarios? What if boundaries could make you feel safe? Safe enough to share, be vulnerable, and be at peace.
That is exactly what boundaries are designed for. You create a boundary to protect and share yourself with another person. It’s the key to trust and cooperation between people. Boundaries aren’t only about “ME” they are about “ME AND YOU” and being able to connect. Boundaries require you to be honest and responsible with yourself about yourself. They require you to communicate those needs with others. When the people you share those needs with honor them, you are able to feel safe and at peace. It is a wonderful feeling.
Now unfortunately, some people misuse boundaries and create them to control others. This is wrong and burns bridges quickly. So how do you make sure you are setting them correctly and not trying to control others?
Boundaries need to be set from a calm place where you are feeling grounded. You need to be in an honest and responsible state of mind. You need to understand what’s going on inside of you.
When I created my 3 strike friend rule I was able to step back from the hurt and offense and see what was really going on inside of me. As I matured, I was able to determine that whether someone wanted to be my friend or not, I still had value. I didn’t need to change myself in order to accommodate what they liked in a friend and I wasn’t less of a person if they didn’t jump at the chance of a new friendship. Now, after setting up my boundary, I am able to freely and joyfully reach out to new people hoping they will be my friend. I have no reservations.
If after 3 attempts they aren’t showing interest, I don’t go into “people pleasing” mode and I don’t get sad. I have a boundary in place and I move on. I am at peace knowing that I did my part and I am happy with that. When I make a new friend, I know they are interested in being my friend because of my boundary. Because of that I am able to open up and be vulnerable with them. I am honest and share my good and bad with them. I have wonderful, deep friendships because of this. One of my greatest desires is to be a true and loyal friend. This 3 strike boundary is how I make sure I can connect with my friends in a real and valuable way.
1-Clearly state your boundary. Understand what you need to feel safe and at peace. Use specifics: what, when, how, and why. Share this boundary when you are calm and attentive. Use “I” statements when communicating.
2-Clearly state the consequences of the boundary and how you will enforce it. Enforcing your boundary isn’t about controlling another person. You don’t get to say “This is what you will do if you break my boundary.” Instead you say “This is what I will do if you break my boundary.”
3-Don’t set a boundary that you are not willing to enforce.
It might seem crazy that I’m writing about my friend rule during a stay at home order and a pandemic wrecking havoc on the world. When this is all over we will probably run and hug the mailman we will be so excited to be around people again. And as for friends…well everyone will be our friend right?
Even with the anticipated excitement of being able to socialize in person again, I still think it’s a good idea to have boundaries regarding the people you surround yourself with. I personally have a 3 strike rule for new friendships. That might sound awful but it’s really not. These “strikes” are just boundaries that I have made to insure that I make the right friends.
Here is my rule when it comes to new friendships. I give the people I meet and want to be friends with 3 chances to be my friend and if they don’t show interest after the 3 chances then I stop trying. That simple. Not so terrible right? Let me explain with an example.
A new girl, Cindy, moves into my neighborhood. I invite Cindy to do something with me. She says, “Thanks but I’m busy. Maybe another time?” She’s very polite but not available. I think okay no problem. I’ll ask again. STRIKE 1
Next time I invite Cindy to do something she has to decline again. In between both of these invites she has not reached out to me at all. STRIKE 2
I reach out to Cindy a third time, but again she declines and doesn’t show any interest in scheduling another time for us to get together. She doesn’t say anything that even resembles, “I can’t on Tuesday but next Thursday I’m free. Want to get together then?” STRIKE 3.
Cindy is no longer a woman I will be reaching out to. We may very well become great friends later on, but only if she initiates it. If she reaches out to me and tries to plan something then I look forward to it and the chances of us becoming friends is high.
You see, I believe in being around people who want to be around me. If after three attempts and invitations to hang out there is no reciprocation on her part, I will put my focus on making other friends. I don’t hold a grudge against Cindy and I don’t judge her or wish her evil. I don’t gossip about her or tell others “oh yeah I tried to hang out 3 times and she didn’t want to be my friend.” No nothing like that. I don’t hold anything against her, I just won’t reach out to her anymore until I see some level of interest from her.
You might be saying well what if Cindy really was busy or had other plans on the days you invited her. To which I would respond yes, she probably did. The difference is that if Cindy really was interested in being my friend and I invited her to do something (3 times!) then she would have suggested another day to get together. It’s that simple.
It’s just like dating but for friends. If a guy asked you out three times and you politely declined each time didn’t you hope he got the hint and didn’t ask a fourth time? It just gets awkward. I don’t want to force anyone to be my friend.
I love all my friends and I love having so many friends. I value friendship. I don’t think there is ever a point of having too many friends, I always want more. I hope my friends know how much I value them. My life is better with each and every friend I have.
What do you think of my 3 strikes rule? Do you have any boundaries around new friendships? If so, I would love to hear them.
I’ve met people I don’t mesh with. People who I don’t have much in common with and people who I don’t feel happy around. But even with those people I’ve never met a person where, after hearing her story, that my heart didn’t change toward her. Sometimes we just need to give people a second chance at understanding each other.
Take my friend Hollee, for instance. In high school, we had the same circle of friends. There were five of us in the group, and one of her best friends was also one of my best friends. But Hollee and I didn’t get along.
She was the cute girl, confident, wore makeup, had boyfriends, and I was the shy one who didn’t understand fashion or makeup and had very little self-esteem. We were different and never gave each other a proper chance because we were superficial and judgemental.
During those high school years Hollee said some mean things to me, and I said some mean things to her. I simply didn’t like her and she did not like me. When Facebook came around we ended up friending each other on social media. (Remember we weren’t enemies just not fans of each other.) Whenever we’d comment on the same post as friends of friends, I would have a sour taste in my mouth. The negative feelings between us would show up all over again.
Out of the blue, Hollee reached out. She sent me a Facebook message, apologizing for being a brat in high school and for treating me badly. “I’m really really sorry,” she said.
Her message of apology meant a lot to me. I responded back to her message with thanks and that was it for several years.
Then I moved from Virginia to Utah. I needed someone to do my hair, Hollee was a cosmetologist and she lived near my new house, so I called her up. I was willing to trust her because she had sent me that contrite message. I thought that she’d do my hair and we could have a pleasant relationship.
But things changed after that appointment. I went in, she did my hair, and we connected. It turns out, we’re actually a lot alike. As she shared her story and I shared mine, we clicked. It’s been almost 5 years now that we’ve been besties.
We, who disliked each other for so many years, have now been able to share some of our hardest times and some of our greatest heights together. She knows the worst of me and my life and the best. We have a really deep friendship. I love Hollee. She is a genuinely good person who treats others with love and acceptance. She likes to have fun, she gives good advice and she listens with her heart. I feel blessed to have her in my life.
I’ve thought about our story a lot. All the superficiality from high school has melted off and we’ve ended up in a really beautiful friendship that has blessed both of our lives. If we had just written each other off, we’d have missed out on this friendship. We’d never have known how good of friends we would become.
I think the life lesson is: We shouldn’t write somebody off as not worth knowing. Don’t judge others. Just don’t do it! Instead listen to each others stories. Once you hear a person’s story the judgment melts away and there is only room for love. Who knows maybe there is someone in your past that could be your future bf?!