Staying Balanced When Spending Time with a Self-Absorbed Friend

To stay balanced when spending time with a self-absorbed friend, create healthy energy boundaries.

It’s challenging to have a friend who is self-absorbed. Self-centered people need to be the center of attention; they dominate conversations with their latest drama or escapades, sucking the energy out of everyone around them. If the friend has a negative attitude and is no fun to be with, it may be time to let the friendship go. But if they are charming, joyful and the two of you have a strong bond, you might want to explore the following ways to stay balanced when spending time with them.

How to Stay Balanced with a Self-Absorbed Friend

Stay centered within your self. Don’t focus all of your attention and energy on your friend; keep some of it for yourself. Center within yourself and create healthy energy boundaries by being aware of your own breathing, sensations, emotions and thoughts while listening to your friend. This will help you stay balanced and not feel as depleted.

Turn the conversation around. Interject in the dialogue to bring it back to yourself from time to time; don’t let them control the conversation. Share your own stories and if they interrupt, politely ask them to wait until you’ve finished.

Choose when and where. Set clear boundaries around how you want to spend time with your friend. Agree to get together when you feel strong and uplifted, not when you’re tired or unwell. And suggest places and activities that energize you so you’ll feel less drained by their self-absorption. Know what your boundaries are

Tease them with amusement. If your self-absorbed friend has a habit of interrupting everyone else’s story to add their own, joke with them about how they do this. Humor makes it easier for people to see their own foibles.

Have a heart to heart. If you’re really triggered by their self-centered behavior, but you want to keep the friendship, talk to them about it. Avoid judgment and blame and instead communicate from the heart and soul. Let them know how much you appreciate the friendship. Be clear and specific as you share your feelings; what behaviors affect you, and what is the result? Do you feel unheard, unimportant, drained? This discussion may spark a personal growth opportunity for them.

I hope these suggestions help. You also might enjoy reading Dealing with People Who Drain Your Energy.

Do you have any questions or additional ideas for how to stay balanced when spending time with a self-absorbed friend? Please comment below.

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Dear Readers,

I am not able to be on the computer much these days due to my current activities, so I won't be able to respond to comments very often.

I encourage you though, to use the comment section as a place to share your experience, read about others' and to respond to and support each other with your situations.

Take care,

Gini

This entry was posted in Friendships and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Staying Balanced When Spending Time with a Self-Absorbed Friend

  1. Meg says:

    Why be friends with someone like this? They will drain your energy and make you feel worse. I say dump them; self-absorbed people should end up alone in life.

  2. Gini Grey says:

    Hi Meg,

    It is challenging to be friends with someone like that – the only reason I can think of is if they have other endearing qualities like being joyful and loving as well as being self-absorbed. I think on some level we are all self-absorbed, but some people take it to the extreme because of their own neurosis – which we can have compassion for and hope they overcome one day.

    Take care,

    Gini

  3. Lechuga says:

    Good article. Will come again. Thanks

  4. Gorin says:

    Nice article!
    Thanks

  5. Catherine says:

    I am torn about what to do regarding a long-term friendship that fits this description. My friend is friendly, happy and upbeat – I am a better person when I’m around her – because of her. But, our conversations encompass her experiences and her life about 80-90% of the time. When they don’t, it’s because I’ve forced myself into the conversation – not because she’s included me – but because I want my 10+ minutes.

    I don’t see this friend often since we live far apart, so I would be okay letting this friendship fade – as something that once worked (and once had room for me) to something that no longer does – I’d have no anger, no sadness. But, she doesn’t want it to end and makes a greater effort than I.

    Your tips here are good. I’ve attempted a few of them, and there is temporary success, but then it’s all about her. When we’re together, I do end up happy for a time, but only *if* I’ve let myself be resigned to the fact that while she cares about me in the big picture (like if I was really sick, she’d be there for me, no question about it), in general, I don’t feel she has any real interest in my ordinary experiences or feelings. She’s prepared to be the heroic, shoulder-to-cry-on friend – but I rarely have a need for that. I want an everyday type of friend.

    I will try your ‘centered w/in yourself’ context the next time. That’s one that I haven’t tried. Instead, I have an approach of reluctance and negative anticipation – not healthy.

  6. Gini Grey says:

    Hi Catherine,

    I can relate to your experience. I had a friend who was fun and a joy to be around, except that the conversation was all about her unless I was in a crisis (but who wants to be in a crisis just to get some attention from a friend!?).

    One thing that comes to mind regarding your friendship is that given it is a long-term friendship there is probably a good foundation with a certain level of trust. What would happen if you shared with her how you don’t feel heard or paid attention to? Could you do it with humor? If she is willing to shift this, then you two could decide on a ‘cue’ such as a teasing word which would let her know she’s become too self-focused – who know’s, she might appreciate this. I wrote an article on Suite 101 for people who are self-absorbed and many have thanked me for it saying they want to be less self-absorbed.

    If your friend is triggered by your suggestion, she might decide to contact you less and then you can easily let go of the friendship.

    Good luck with it,

    Gini

  7. Catherine says:

    Thank you for your reply. I’ll be seeing her soon and am getting a bit anxious about it. I’m not good at humor around things that I feel frustrated about – I end up making biting remarks, which is worse than just being direct and heartfelt…which is something I need to muster up the courage to do/be.

    It’s hard when she says things like, “I can’t wait to see you!”, “You’re a wonderful friend,” or “I’m blessed to have you in my life.” It’s nice she’s feeling blessed, but I’d rather she say, “Tell me how you’re doing,” and then really listen to my response.

    Thanks for your input. I feel like your friend and mine are the same person! :-)

    Regards,
    C

  8. Gini Grey says:

    Hi Catherine,

    Another idea that just came to me is for you to set your intention on how you want the interaction to go. We’re living in a time where our intentions are powerful. Imagine having a two way conversation with your friend (where she listens to you). Set your intention for the interaction to go in the direction you want it to and see if you can feel positive about it (to reduce the anxiety or doubt).

    Also, before you get together, center within yourself and have a telepathic conversation with her – a soul to soul chat so to speak. Just imagine connecting with her higher-self from your higher-self and ask that the communication space be clear between you and that she take time to show interest in you and ask about you and listen to your response. Also set the tone for amusement and ease.

    Let me know if this works once you’ve been with her again.

    Take care,

    Gini

  9. Catherine says:

    Hi Gini,

    (I wonder if others reading this are tired of my story…but I will share since you’ve asked…) Our get-together has passed, with a second one coming very soon – then I won’t see her again for quite a while. On the way to see her, I had a rehearsal conversation (aloud while driving, just me in the car) about sharing our stories/conversation equally and her being interested in my life. While not telepathic (I haven’t mastered that yet – and while I know and respect what you mean, that word is too sci-fi for me to embrace), I did try to see her as someone who wants love and acknowledgment as much as I do – and that we would share in this – and she would not monopolize our get-together.

    I also kept thinking your word “amusement” over and over to myself (I’d forgotten the 2nd word, ‘ease’). That helped. When she told stories I’ve already heard many times, I thought “amusement” and I relaxed and smiled a bit. I was able to interject my own stories/thoughts, but for the most part they were only in response to, or a way of showing parallels to her conversation. The ‘up’ side was that this was the first time in years I was w/ her whole family too, so while the conversation was still all family-related, I was included by all. And, they were willing to hear a couple little stories of mine.

    My friend did demonstrate how little she knows about my life by not remembering something significant about my family. And, she has yet to acknowledge a new project I started that I shared w/ her via email (I just don’t get that), but I still left the get-together with warm fuzzies. That was mostly due to how I was included and incorporated into the family – and my friend was the one to make sure of that.

    Our next visit is in a few days, and I’ve changed the setting a bit (for the first time in years) to at be a place *I* want, not her choice. And, I’ve requested a new activity for us, vs. something that’s been her choice that she’s assumed I’ve wanted to do too, but never asked (and I was bored w/ it). So, it’s a start. I’m really not a wuss in other areas of my life, but in this, I feel I give away my power.

    BTW, Sterling Institute of Relationships teaches something similar to what you’ve said. They call it a CPR (Context, Purpose, and (intended) Result) – that’s a lot like what you said, re. setting your intention. In either case, it’s a great way to create a vision – and while things may not go as planned, ’cause we cannot control others – we can control our reaction to them – and this helps tremendously with that.

    With much gratitude,
    Catherine

  10. Gini Grey says:

    Hi Catherine,

    That’s great that you had a better experience with your friend while with her family (it helps to have others around when with a self-absorbed person). Re your friend not acknowledging your new project – I know how that can feel hurtful or at least puzzling, yet with people who are self-absorbed, they just aren’t able to focus outside of themselves (unless they consciously attempt to do so) so it’s not that they don’t care (and they probably have no idea how it affects others, unless someone tells them).

    I hope setting your intention and remembering to be amused and at ease helps you with your private visit with her. And if you notice you are giving your power away (there’s always someone in our lives that triggers this – creates an opportunity to play with it and own our power in all situations) you could try this humorous excerise: as you converse (or listen to your friend go on and on while you play “nice”), imagine you are filling up with all of your inner power so that you are growing bigger and bigger until you see yourself at least 10 ft tall in comparison to your friend. This might help to balance things out or at least give you a giggle :)

    Take care,

    Gini

  11. Catherine says:

    a belated reply -

    Our second ‘date’ was cancelled. She had a serious situation to attend to in her family. The timing for me to mention anything is not good now.

    I hadn’t thought of a self-absorbed person quite as you wrote it, but it’s very helpful to look at the situation that way. I have always assumed people know when they’re dominating a conversation (unless there’s a major drama/issue at hand), ’cause I know when I do (and I talk a lot). But, perhaps they don’t.

    I like all that you said – esp. that someone like this may have no idea how it impacts others. I am, I’ve discovered, a true ‘empath’. I not only get a good feel for others’ emotions, I also take on those emotions at times. While I have learned to detach in a healthy manner from time to time, I often don’t. So, it’s difficult for me to understand when others don’t have a similar awareness and sensitivity to *my* take on things. I then think they’re less sensitive – which technically may be true. But it’s not a bad thing, just a natural difference in personality.

    Thank you!

  12. Gini Grey says:

    Hi Catherine,

    Yes, I find it helps me to remember that the self-absorbed person isn’t aware of their behaviors – this way I don’t take it so personally. But I find the timing of your friend not being able to get together very interesting. It reminds me of a time when I decided I wasn’t interested in having a friendship with a certain self-absorbed drama queen friend of mine unless things changed. I reflected on how I would like us to relate and decided I was going to talk to her about it, but just at that time she became angry at me for something and ended our friendship (was a relief in the end).

    I also notice how when family members want to come for a visit (I live on a small Island) I set my intention for it go smoothly (so for example, in my mind I say, “yes, I’m willing to have so and so visit if it’s an uplifting, easy going, fair exchange of conversation etc.) and there have been numerous times when family members suddenly can’t make it over (or miss the ferry etc) and I believe it’s because I’ve set a clear boundary within myself and they pick up on it on some level (although not consciously) and that’s why it only works out when it’s a fit for both of us.

    Given that your an empath, you might also find this article helpful: Dealing with People Who Drain Your Energy.

    Take care,

    Gini

  13. NYn@ says:

    hi do you think i should end a relatioship with a friend if she makes me feel bad but she doesnt know it.

  14. Gini Grey says:

    Hello NYn@,

    Well, I guess it depends on why and how she makes you feel bad. If she’s criticizing you etc. then it might be in your best interest to end the friendship. It might be helpful to talk to her about it as you said she doesnt’ know how she’s affecting you.

    It might be also helpful to see why you feel bad as other people don’t ‘make’ us feel bad – we choose how we react. If we feel really good about ourselves then no one can affect that – we then see that it is the other person who has self-esteem issues and is trying to bring us down.

    Check in with your heart and soul to see if you want to still be friends or not. When you reflect on staying friends notice how you feel. If you get a good feeling inside then that’s a “yes.” If you get a nauseous or anxious or depressed feeling, then that’s a “no.”

    In the end, you have every right to decide who you want to be friends with, no matter what anyone else says or does.

    All the best,

    Gini

  15. SueWho says:

    I am so happy I found your site. So far just what I have read between the article and comments have help me a great deal. I have a friend/neighbor who is controlling and self-absorbed. I recognized this early on but thought I was handling it fine. Recently, she pulled what I call a “stunt” where she reorganized a party at a neighbor’s house, behind my back, to suit her fancy when she knew the reorg would cause me great stress. What got me so upset, was not that she reorganized the party to suit her needs, but that she did this all behind my back so I had no say and completely disregarded my feelings. To boot, I then had to sit through a party with her where she controlled each conversation and constantly brought the attention back to herself. I couldn’t stand to be there, and wanted to run out of there screaming. I realize I have given her the power. Since she is a neighbor and we are in a circle of friends, I can’t end the friendship. However, I am having such a bad reaction to her, I can’t stand to be around her right now. How can I get my emotions back in line, get over this situation and deal with her in the future?

  16. Gini Grey says:

    Hello Sue,

    It sounds like controlling and power struggles are your neighbour’s favorite games. That’s great awareness that you notice you gave your power away. It’s a tricky one because if you get caught on the dichotomy of giving up your power vs fighting for your power you’ll only end up in power struggles of one form or another. But if you can rise above the game and be in a place of ease, amusement and compassion, she won’t be able to control you or push your buttons.

    Here’s an article you might find helpful: What to do When Triggered by Family and Friends and it has links to other articles on owning your power and releasing charged emotions.

    I think what is happening for you is that you are in resistance to her so she’s stuck in your space, hence why you don’t want to be around her in person. What I find helpful in these situations is to see the other person as wounded (she must be in order to play those kind of control/competition games) – see her wounded inner child as a way to elicit your compassion for her (but not pity as that will make you vulnerable).

    Another thing to do is to see the humor in it all (view the situation as if it was a comedy movie and you were one of the actors). Another thing is to touch into your self-love (as she is trying to invalidate you which triggers unloving feelings) as this will increase your vibration and energy so she won’t be able to trigger you as much. From this place you will be able to touch into love for her (on a deeper soul level even though you might not feel it for her personality).

    The next time you are with her, step into your bigness by focusing on your self-love and amusement. Shine this on to her and she most likely won’t be able to trigger you (think of her as a teacher who is helping you to own your power from a higher place).

    Take care,

    Gini

  17. SueWho says:

    Hi Ginny:
    That’s really great advice. I am going to print your response and read it to myself over and over especially when I am due to see her. I have also read the articles you recommended and they are a great help also. Now I will work on putting this into practice. I am sure I will see her soon. So, I will let you know how it goes! Thank you again! :)

  18. Red says:

    Hi,

    This is all fantastic advice on here but….a friendship should never be that hard constantly. I don’t think everyone is self-obsessed underneath it all. I am currently experiencing a truly awful existance all because of an unbelieveably self-obsessed, self-centered ‘friend’. She is no friend to me but regards me as one of her closest friends. In actual fact she has no real friends, just a group of followers who are one-by-one realising she isn’t a good person. Her bad attitude makes everyone feel awful about themselves. She has sucked the life out of me because I have no choice but to be around her a lot of the time. I agree with Meg, nice people shouldn’t have to waste time and effort on self-obsessed people . They should be made to realise the misery they can cause to others and pay the price for being awful to be around, which is being alone. There isn’t enough space on this website to mention every horrible thing my ‘friend’ has done and said to me. One day I will be free from her and I can’t wait for that day.

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