Knowing When to Say When — In Your Social Circles


Doctor Neha: Hi, and welcome to TalkRx with Doctor Neha. I have Salma with me, a brave soul who is willing to ask her communication questions so that all of you can learn as she does. Welcome.

Salma: Thank you. Great to be here.

Doctor Neha: What have you been thinking about?

Salma: Well, I’ve been thinking about the idea of Facebook and de-friending friends. So much of our lives are on Facebook, and I suppose our cyber relationships affect us in the same way our daily relationships would, especially in the sense of cutting people off. So often people tell me, “Oh I cut this person off, and I keep cleaning through my Facebook friends and cutting loads of people off.” I haven’t done that, and I was wondering what you think about the Facebook friendship as well as about cutting people off in general.

Actually, I’d like to rephrase that by saying I think friends who pose difficulties are an opportunity to grow and learn from. What is the difference between continuing to learn from people who pose challenges or knowing when there’s a time to cut someone off?

Doctor Neha: Let me first make sure I got your question. Your question is about all these friendships on Facebook and there’s the opportunity to unfriend someone or block them, right? When do you figure out when you have an opportunity for growth and a time to block or de-friend or unfriend someone, right?

Salma: Absolutely. That’s it.

Doctor Neha: For me, there are many people on my Facebook who don’t know me very well and I don’t know them very well. As I’m traveling, I have friended many people—even on this trip [to Bali] alone. As I share a wonderful meal with them, we have something in common and they ask, “Do you communicate by Facebook?” Yes I do, so my bar personally is lower for whom I allow onto Facebook as a friend versus someone I would spend in-person time with.

I think what you’re really asking about is boundaries. What are boundaries in this cyber-world, and what are healthy boundaries? Does that seem right?

Salma: Yes.

Doctor Neha: It would probably be different for each person. For me, I can disagree with people or have differing opinions with them [and still be Facebook friends or friends in general]. Where I personally cut things off is when I feel that there’s an assault because they’re disrespectful or demeaning. That feels different to me than someone with whom I disagree but they are compassionate about it, honest about it, vulnerable about it and willing to share. But when people somehow get the bravado behind a screen to say and do things that they wouldn’t do in person or feel harmful to my own personal space or energy, that’s when I cut someone off.

Now even with my good friends, I would tell you I grow and learn. I have misunderstandings. We may have missed an engagement like, “Hey I thought we were going to meet here; you didn’t show up. What happened?” To me, that’s all a normal part of life. For everything else, this is what I do: I have a three-time rule. If I have a particular experience three times with the same person, where I think, Oh God, in my body that didn’t feel good, and I feel contracted or disconnected or distant from it, that’s a sign. And if they don’t align with what I value, it doesn’t resonate with who I am or what I’m ready to learn next, then I would consider removing that person from my space because I have the choice not to be there.

That being said, I’m not on Facebook a lot. So to me, I allow people there because I probably miss a lot of what they’re saying. And I know that what I can tolerate now and experience now and feels okay right now, didn’t feel okay 10 years ago, so the issue comes down to who am I now. That’s how I do it. And in my life in general, I use the three-time rule.

What are your thoughts on this? Anything I said resonate or not?

Salma: Absolutely. It’s very interesting. What you said about boundaries is what it’s all about. I question some situations where I feel like okay and there’s an opportunity to grow but after a while a friendship is continuing to challenge me constantly. That makes me feel like the boundaries are not clear anymore, or I haven’t created the boundaries and I need to put some of those boundaries out there.

Doctor Neha: Yes. You need to create them, or they’ve been created, or you’ve outgrown a relationship. That happens too.

The way that I come back home is by grounding in my body and determining what the physical sensation is that I feel when a certain situation happens. Then I breathe into it, and I allow it to inform me. I journal about it. Sometimes I meditate, but I sit with that discomfort for a little while to see if I don’t feel the desire to have a conversation or it violates my values or it’s hit the three-time rule.

Here’s how that works: The first time I pay attention, “Oh, that didn’t feel good.” The second time I mentally file it because I might need this for the future. It might be a pattern. The third time it happens it’s either time for me to have a conversation and get clearer. It may be time for a difficult conversation, or it’s time for me to not allow that person into my space.

Salma: That’s great. Thank you.

Doctor Neha: That’s my way of doing it. It’s one way, but I don’t think I’ve blocked many people on Facebook because I haven’t spent a lot of time there.

Salma: Absolutely, I think I was using Facebook as a metaphor for real-life relationships, because even the Facebook cut-off made me question the real-life cutting off.

Doctor Neha: It makes so much sense. Also sometimes we do outgrow people. It’s okay to take some space for a time. It’s good to tell someone that you’re actually taking space: “Hey, I just need a little bit of time here. I need to be more focused on my experience and my travels and learning and growing personally. When I’m ready I’ll reach out again.” Okay?

Salma: Okay. Thank you very much.

Doctor Neha: For any of you who have found yourself in the dilemma of whether to unfriend someone on Facebook or in life, I think of it as weeding a garden. Imagine you have this beautiful garden of life. This circle is a community that nourishes you, and you nourish it. And sometimes there are some people in there who don’t nourish your soul or you’ve outgrown the relationship. Remember the three-time rule. Check into your body, see what physical sensations come up, and then trust your gut. It’s also a good idea to give people a heads up that you might be doing things a little bit differently for a while. Assure them you’ll be back if and when that changes.

Thank you for joining us. Thank you, Salma. You have such great questions. Saying goodbye from Bali. Please write below in the blog any ideas or questions you’d like me to cover, please drop me a Tweet at #AskDoctorNeha.

Awareness Prescription

Three-Time Rule

  • The first time, pay attention to any physical signals from your body (heart racing, stomach turning, etc.) that indicate your reaction.

  • The second time, notice that this is becoming a pattern. Store it in your mental filing cabinet. You may need this as data in your future conversation.

  • The third time, acknowledge the pattern, and take action or ask for a conversation.

See chapter 22 (Prep for Success) in TalkRx for more information on this topic.


To trusting your intuition,


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