Out-of-sync friendships: A matter of timing

Published: October 19, 2007 | Last Updated: October 22, 2007 By | Reply Continue Reading

Characteristically, friendships change over time. And one
reason why many of them flounder, is simply because two friends are on
different wave lengths in terms of their perspectives about time.

Perhaps her pace is slower than yours. She appears to have
more leisure time, while you’re at a phase in life when you
are juggling a family and a career… You impatiently wait for her to finish a
long-winded story about her toxic boss that would have taken you no more than five minutes
to tell—Or you could be on the other side of the equation telling her a
compelling story about your toddler son’s problems in daycare (he’s a biter),
and she keeps interrupting impatiently because she’s anxious to get home.

Perhaps you are a student drowning in assignments and exams, and your
BFF is taking a semester off from school or is working a cushy 9-5 job. She’s
always begging you to spend a day in the city shopping or visiting museums and
you think to yourself, “If only I had an extra day!”—Or conversely, your
friend is so busy that she never has time for you. You haven’t seen each other
for weeks and each time you try to hook up, it never materializes. When you’ve
made dates to see each other, she winds up canceling.

Chalk it up to differences in timing. Even the frequency and
ways in which we communicate are subject to our own idiosyncratic sense of time.
You phone your friend and leave a voicemail message and don’t hear back from
her until three days later. Or else you call her cell and leave a message,
“Call me.” She calls back the next day with no explanation of why a day
elapsed. What was she thinking? In an era of instant communication, how can she
not have a moment to return your call?—She may be thinking, “If it was really
important, she would have called me again.”

The term “asynchronous,” popular in the field of data
communications, refers to a situation where this is a lag between when a
message is sent and when it is acknowledged. But asynchronous communication can
be electronic or non-electronic. Whenever female friendships are out-of-sync,
they begin to feel increasing uncomfortable.

What can you do if you want to maintain the friendship?

  • Be sensitive to how your friend perceives time and be aware
    of your own sense of timing.

  • Communicate openly and discuss your expectations of each
    other with respect to time.

  • When there are differences, be tolerant of one another and
    try to compromise. Maybe you can’t spend a day in the city but you have time
    for dinner together on a weekend.

  • Don’t play the blame game; having different perspectives
    doesn’t mean that anyone is at fault.

  • Don’t feel too badly if you can’t work things out
    immediately. Recognize that friendships tend to ebb and flow. If your
    friendship is out-of-sync with irreconcilable differences, it may signal a need
    to scale back the friendship now until such time as there is more reciprocity
    and balance.

  • When making new friends, look for early warning signs that
    the timing may be off.

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