The following post is a guest article by Ami Tori.
Reciprocity is one of the most important components of a strong, lasting relationship between two friends. Being a good friend means returning the favor when someone pays for your dinner, picks up your son from school, or invites you over for a party. In fact, reciprocity in friendship stems from the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. If you want to be asked to hang out or go out to dinner, it makes sense that you should do the same for your friends.
However, many of us have been in situations where our friends aren’t reciprocating. For example, if you always invite your friends over to watch the football game on Sunday and they never ask you to hang out at their house, you’d probably feel bad that they’re not returning the favor.
Alissa Verland, a customer service agent at SocialDrift, says that “dealing with these situations is always tough, especially when you’ve been friends with the person for a long time.” In well established relationships, it can be hard to change behavior or habits. Additionally, if you haven’t set a precedent of communicating about your problems, it can be hard to bring up topics that make you feel uncomfortable.
For both lifelong friends and for people you’ve just met, there are several steps you can take to remedy a situation where someone is not returning the favor. Here are the best ways to deal with people who don’t reciprocate in friendship.
1. Have an honest conversation.
One of the biggest sources of frustration and anger in relationships of any kind is a failure to openly communicate. In friendships and marriages alike, people who fail to communicate with each other cannot take meaningful steps toward resolving issues. Similarly, people who lie or misrepresent their feelings impede the conflict resolution process by withholding important information.
Here are a few things to consider to make the communication process a bit less painful. First, find the right time. Set aside a few hours to be alone with your friend when you don’t have any other obligations or commitments. Try your best to resolve any other issues that you have on your mind so that you can clearly focus on the problem at hand. Have the conversation in a place where you both feel comfortable, and make sure to collect your thoughts beforehand so you know what to say.
2. Take the initiative.
While you may think that your friend is the one not reciprocating in your relationship, it’s possible that they feel the same way. Some people will intentionally not reach out to their friends if they feel that it’s no longer their responsibility to make plans. In these situations, it’s important to recognize that taking the initiative in a friendship can often resolve any problems that arise due to assumptions or miscommunications.
For example, if you recently invited your friend out to dinner, and they haven’t reached out to you in a few weeks, be proactive and send them a message. Ask them how their day has been or invite them to grab coffee. Oftentimes, taking a small step like that is exactly what a friendship needs to get back on track. If your friend was neglecting to reciprocate simply because they were too busy, they’ll very much appreciate your thoughtfulness. Next time, it’s likely that your friend will recognize that you took the initiative before, and they’ll return the favor.
3. Reconsider the relationship.
If you’ve tried the two suggestions above and you still feel like your friendship is one-sided, it may be time to reconsider the relationship. If your friend consistently doesn’t return the favor when you do something for them or never invites you to their plans, the best course of action may be to find more thoughtful friends. This can be challenging, because the relationship may have lasted a very long time. Cutting friends out of your life is a difficult but necessary step toward a happier and healthier mindset.
Friendships or meaningful relationships in general are a two way street. important relationships should add value to your life. If you’re ever in a situation with a friend, colleague, or family member where you don’t feel like you’re getting anything out of the relationship, it may be time to find better friends.
Amy Tori is a women’s rights activist and a graduate from USC.