Are Your Friendships Holding You Back? AKA Living By The Abdul Principle

Are Your Friendships Holding You Back? AKA Living By The Abdul Principle

Friends are essential. Having folks that you can rely on, pals you can laugh with for hours, people that really “get” you. Without them, life would be harder, sadder, more boring. Thank goodness you have a crew in your corner.

For business women friendships are perhaps even more important than they are for non-business folks. After all, business is built on relationships. However, some of us are stuck in friendships that have become stagnant or even toxic.

Has your friendship become one-sided? Are your friends so negative that you find yourself seeing everything in a more negative light? Have you found yourself uncomfortable telling friends about your successes because of their reaction?

Friendships, like any kind of relationship, go through difficult times. But some high-school friends or college friends are not necessarily the best friends that you could have.

Supportive, helpful friends give you the confidence and support to go out and do incredible things in business and in life. Negative, toxic friends do the opposite. In fact, even if they are not consciously attempting to sabotage you, friends with a constant negative attitude sap your time and energy. And as a business woman, those are two of your most valuable commodities.

When I talk to women about this subject, this is usually when I face resistance from them. “But, we’ve been friends for such a long time” or “but he’s so much fun.”

I recognize these arguments well, as they were ones that I used myself to defend an unhealthy friendship with a woman I’ll call Jane that I had been friends with since high school. One day, I was discussing the difficulties in the friendship with a wonderful and supportive friend I’ll call Theresa. After patiently listening to me go on for an hour (she is a REALLY good friend) Theresa introduced me to what she called the “Abdul Principle”.

In the beginning of the music video to Janet Jackson 1986 classic “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”, Paula Abdul asks Janet (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty) how her boyfriend is behaving. Janet defends him, saying “he does a lot of nice nice things for me”. Paula then chides her with “what has he done for you lately?”

Much like the giant broach-ed Ms Abdul, my kind friend asked me to look past my early history with Jane and look at my current experience. It was not pleasant, especially since unlike the Janet video, every realization didn’t result in a sweet choreographed shoulder move.

When I really thought about my friendship with Jane, I realized that after hanging out with her I always felt drained and unhappy. Unlike when I engaged with friends like Theresa who left me feeling excited and confident about the future. Jane had been a lot of fun when we were younger, but since I started my own business she was really negative and critical. All that she had “done for me lately” was criticize my choices, make fun of me and complain about her dead-end job.

Jane wasn’t a bad person, but we weren’t a good match for each other anymore. It was painful to end the friendship, but the truth was, we were bringing out the worst in each other. In fact, a month after the friendship ended I landed a big client I had been very nervous about pitching to. No longer marinating in the negativity of my weekly coffee with Jane gave me the courage to try.

Now, what if you re-examined your “Abdul-ed” your relationships? This means looking at the present without being clouded by the past. Are there friendships that it is time to let go of?

And now the second, and important step: let the past go. There is no need to dwell on negative relationships (or the years we’ve spent in them). Instead, we can focus on making new connections, with people that are on the same wavelength with our goals and ambitions and direction in life.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Janet Jackson videos to watch. I mean a coaching session to go to.

I Believe In You. You’ve Got This

Erin is a writer, storyteller, and self proclaimed nerd, and we love her.
You can reach Erin at
and on Twitter: @mediumknight

For questions about this article, please reach out to Erin (above) or to us here.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.