How To Make Friends: Part 6 – Pulling Weeds


(Note: Need to catch up with all or part of this ~10-part series on how to make friends as an adult? Click here to revisit part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5)

I fell in with a bad group of friends in my second year at college. Not rotten bad. We were just lost, anxious kids who spent too much time drinking and partying, even though it didn’t make us happy and even though we didn’t really like each other.

Looking back, it was sad times. My grades dropped. I lost interest in hobbies. I neglected the wrong people. I was a crappy person to hang out with.

And yet it wasn’t till February 2008 that I realised how bad things really were.

Because despite what I now know, at the time I was feeling pretty popular. The business I’d started a year earlier had a monopoly on the university night life. I was a VIP at all the big student events. According to one student paper I was “Oxford’s most eligible bachelor”. I felt like a pretty big cheese. 🧀

And so you can imagine what a blow it was to my ego when I invited 12 people I’d been spending lots of time with to a dinner for my 20th birthday and only ONE of those people actually came.

ONE person. 😱


I still get sweaty palms when I think about sitting alone at that big empty table as the manager comes over to ask after the rest of the group. 🙈

Now, at the time I felt sad, foolish and angry. I swore my one friend to secrecy (love you Gwenny) and the first time I’ve ever shared that story is today.

But these days I’m very grateful for that lesson in friendship and humility.

Because it taught me three valuable things…

It taught me that I clearly wasn’t as wonderful as I thought I was.

It taught me that quality ALWAYS beats quantity when it comes to your friends.

And it taught me the difference between true friendship and two strangers just using each other out of convenience to comfort or scratch at an itch.

Anyhow, I sat down after that evening and realised things needed to change.

So here’s what I decided to do next…

First, I went through all my contacts and Facebook friends and for each person, I asked two simple questions:

  1. Would I get into this friendship again, knowing what I now know?” and
  2. Is this friendship a ‘Hell yes!’?

(Note: I didn’t have my list of ideal core traits at the time but I still repeat this exercise every 6 months and it’s been a super valuable tool to help me sense check those question ever since.)

Next, whenever I answered “Yes” to both questions I wrote that person’s name down on a sheet of paper (back in 2008, I think there were two people on the list).

And finally, I slowly stopped making new plans with, getting updates from, sending new messages to, or spending more time than I had to with everyone else.

Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go full hermit. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. I wasn’t rude. I didn’t burn bridges. I still did what I needed to for my business. And, if I had a good reason, I still turned up to the occasional event.

But what I did do, was just to gradually and deliberately stop nourishing weeds in my flower bed. I focussed on the roses instead.

And you know what?

It was pretty darn scary and depressing.

Within a few months my whole life felt like my 20th birthday. It was astonishing, when I stopped making it easy, how fast people stopped calling to play.

But just as I was starting to question my sanity; just as I was wondering if I hadn’t made a terrible mistake, I started to notice something magical…

Because instead of wasting my time, space and energy on toxic and empty relationships I suddenly found myself with more time for everything else. And while it didn’t happen overnight, the extra thought and effort I invested in the few friends who were left was slowly helping those relationships flourish.

Even more amazingly, my grades improved. I started playing sports again. I felt happier and healthier than I had done in years. And all those things made it easier and easier to meet and to cultivate new friends.

Now, your current situation may not be quite as extreme as my little university drama but here’s the thing, I’d be willing to bet excellent money that you have your own share of weeds in your life; your own relationships at work, school, online or in your local community that you keep feeding despite them only getting in your way.

And though those little coffees and catch ups and galas and dinners and other interactions may feel like victimless crimes… they add up… and that matters.

Because time is a zero-sum game.

Every minute you spend nourishing a relationship that’s a weed is a minute you won’t spend looking for or nourishing a rose.

So here’s what you need to do next:

  1. Grab your table of friends and ideal qualities from part 4 of this series;
  2. Go down the list of people in your core and ask of each one:
    1. Would I get into this friendship again, knowing what I now know?” and
    2. Is this friendship a ‘Hell yes!’?“; and
  3. Cross out anyone you find on that list who isn’t “Yes“, “Yes“.

You don’t have to tell them about it. You don’t have to be impolite. You don’t have to unfriend them. You don’t have to start ghosting their messages.

But for your sake, and theirs, you do need to stop actively investing in toxic or redundant relationships. You need to stop or see less of those people if you want to start seeing or see more of new ones. You need to reclaim your time, space and energy so you can invest it in friendships that are great.

Not sure where or how to find those?

No worries, we’ll get into exactly how to make new and strengthen old friendships in the next couple of updates.

Run through this exercise for now, hit reply and let me know how it you feel about it, look out for my next update tomorrow.

And until next time, be awesome, be picky and go well.

Keep Reading Part 7 →

Arthur is a productivity coach and writer who helps top young execs and entrepreneurs be more productive, find more balance and live more meaningfully. Want to know more? Take this 2-minute quiz to discover your Productivity Quotient (PQ) and learn how to get BIG things done. Take the Quiz →
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments