What to do when you feel like you initiate more than your friends

One of the most common friendship complaints I hear from women during coaching sessions is this:

"I feel like I'm always the one reaching out."

If you've ever felt this way, you're not alone. But it's important to know what our options are as we work to understand how to manage our frustration and disappointment.

There are three things you can do in response to feeling like you're the "giver" in your friendships. One has to do with a renewed mindset, one is a tangible action step, and the other is an attitude.

It takes a healthy combination of all three to begin shifting your focus and experiencing more joy in our relationships with the women you love.

1. MINDSET: Focus on the reception, not the invitation.

The trouble with focusing on who is giving the most is that you often overlook the sweet moments of togetherness. If, when you get together, you each enjoy your time together and look forward to seeing more of each other, then the matter of who prompted the occasion becomes irrelevant.

If you happen to be the friend who suggests brunch, movie night, and “Zoom happy hours”, it’s normal to wonder why your friends don’t extend the same level of outreach. This observation typically leads to frustration, as it’s common to associate our friends’ lack of initiative as an overall lack of concern.

But it’s important that we don’t begin “filling in the blanks”, especially with negative assumptions.

While you may feel disappointed, hoping to finally be on the receiving end of an invitation, your concern may be misplaced. The hard truth is that some women are naturally more inclined to coordinate and initiate connection. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not appreciated by their friends.

Try this: One suggestion from fellow friendship expert Shasta Nelson is this: Instead of focusing on who initiates, shift your eyes to those who happily and eagerly embrace your invitations. If your friend says “Yes” to spending time together, find a way to appreciate that. But for friends who are often saying no or making excuses, reconsider their investment in the relationship.

In summary, it’s less about who’s asking and more about who is saying “yes”.

2. ACTION STEP: Give opportunities for reciprocity.

During a recent session with a client, I noticed she was strong-willed and decisive. She was likely the one in her friend group who was initiating hang-outs because she was a vocal motivator, and her friends looked to her to coordinate and make decisions. Whether consciously or subconsciously, women looked to her to set the tone for the conversations and outings.

As much as a “go-getter” as she is, I suggested she try giving others an opportunity to create their own invitations instead of operating as followers.

If you often find yourself to be the “point person” for your friends group, try the same activity I suggested to my client…

Try this: If you’re leaving brunch (something you likely initiated), try saying something like, “That was awesome. Thanks for meeting me today. And hey, how about next week, you pick the place we eat at. Give me a call this week and let me know the day and place you want to meet next.—I feel like I’m always pushing my ideas for brunch spots onto you, but I’m sure you have some of your own and I can’t wait to visit a new spot with you!”

Phrasing things this way does a couple of things. It shifts some initiation responsibility to her without accusation. The last thing you want to do is present the, “I’m always doing all the work in this relationship” quip. That rarely ends well. Extending the opportunity for reciprocity also allows your friend a chance to be mindful of her outreach and to practice exercising her invitation muscle.

In summary: If you are relatively dominant in your initiative, it may help to allow other friends the space to suggest outings and prompt outreach.

3. ATTITUDE: Keep initiating.

It is never wise to keep score in any relationship, and friendships are no different. It is possible that you may be the one who initiatives more than others, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to you being more invested than your friends.

The key is to try to see the ways in which your friends enrich and add value to your friendship. Is she a great listener? A thoughtful gift-giver? A reliable caretaker? If you train yourself to notice the ways your friends add value to your friendships, you’ll feel less disappointment and resentment.

The worst thing you can do is withdraw, lessening your outreach and withholding your affection. You may be tempted to make a point or to test her friendship, but this lack of communication and effort leads to misunderstandings and, worse, the dissolution of a good thing.

Try this: Whenever you feel yourself measuring efforts, try to think of the things your friend adds to the relationship. Also, acknowledge the fact that there are things she may do for you that you are overlooking, and to think of how much pleasure and fulfillment you receive from the overall relationship. Zoom out from the minutiae and try to see the holistic friendship. And if there is balance overall, take it.

Because we naturally see our efforts more than others’, it’s easy to overlook the ways in which our friends contribute to our friendships. But the key is to keep giving, and to acknowledge the ways your friends pour into you. Soon, you won't feel such an imbalance.

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