How to Clear Bad Energy Out of Your Friend Group

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We all need friends. Not to get all sciency about it, but human beings evolved as social creatures. We have long gestation periods, and it takes our offspring a really long time to grow up. Long adolescent periods are only possible in a species with very strong social bonds where an entire network of people help to create an environment where a developing human can thrive. Sure, your family is a big part of that, but friends and neighbors are a big part of it too.

So just how important are our friends? Well, 98% of Americans have one close friend, at the minimum. Judging by the numbers, that means the overwhelming majority of us need friends. In fact, maintaining friendships and strong social ties has been shown to be better for your health.

Friendships are important, but sometimes, even in a good friend group, things can go wrong. You know things have taken a turn when the group chat lights up and you groan and want to pretend you moved to Stockholm. Whether there’s just one person in your friend group you no longer vibe with, or there’s been an overall shift in the group dynamics, we’ve got some strategies to try to help you clear the air.

Name the problem

This can be a more difficult step than people realize. Sometimes just actually saying out loud (or writing down) what the problem is can help you confront it. Is one person the problem? Is someone’s new partner or significant other the problem? Has the discussion of politics suddenly become a mood killer? Did the group dynamic change after someone moved away? Is part of the group spending more time together than other parts which makes the others feel left out? Whatever the issue is, name it! It’s not Voldemort.

Are you the only one unhappy with the new vibe?

Assuming you’re dealing with a change in dynamics, try to evaluate whether other members of your friend group feel the same. Approaching an issue like this can be touchy. It’s important to stay open and humble and prepare to hear that no one else thinks there’s a problem but you. That can be painful to learn, but also vital information for you to learn how to proceed. There’s always a chance that you’re the only one who can’t stand Vanessa, and you’ll have to deal with that.

Consider boundaries

This is definitely a step that works on a case-by-case basis, but you may need new boundaries to deal with whatever your issue is. If everyone feels like discussion of religion makes gatherings go sour, then consider banning talk about religion when you’re together. Try to keep things light and set up a beer fund or something, like a swear jar, that anyone who violates the rule has to contribute to.

If it’s not a topic but a relationship dynamic that has gone awry, things can get trickier. Are there certain settings where bad dynamics work better? Maybe you hate to have dinner with Steve, but going to the club with him is fine. Try to steer group gatherings in those directions. If maintaining the relationship is important to you, consider talking to the person directly about your problem with them in a calm way that’s focused on keeping them as a friend, but be open to hearing their issues with you in return. If the relationship is not important to you, just opt-out of any gatherings you think will be more of a downer than a good time. Life’s too short to spend your free time with people who make you feel bad.