How to Build a Better Relationship With Your Friends, Your Mom, and Your Boss

A.k.a. the trifecta.

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Our resident psychiatrist Samantha Boardman, founder of offers an exit strategy for a toxic friendship, suggests the great outdoors as a way to bond with Mom, and spins a workplace meltdown into a career win.

Q: How do I break up with a toxic friend?

A: There is a saying that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with (meaning we are greatly influenced by our friends, for better or worse), and research backs this up. Good friends are the cornerstone of well-being, while toxic ones can take a toll on our mental and physical health. If a friend is a negative influence, doesn’t wish you well, makes you feel weak or inadequate, or is untrustworthy, it might be time to remove that person from your life.

Before you do, be sure that a misunderstanding is not at the heart of the problem. If you don’t want to talk it out or you know there is no point in engaging the person in a dialogue, allow some distance before making any hasty decisions. Unless the person has done something egregious, a gradual unraveling may be easier on everyone involved. Do your best to leave other friends out of it and not to incur your ex-friend’s wrath. Above all, be kind and try to minimize hurt feelings so you can both move on.

Good friends are the cornerstone of well-being; toxic ones can take a toll on our health.

Q: My mom and I don’t share many common interests, so how can we make the most of our time together?

A: While it may be tempting to persuade your mom to take you shopping, if you want to make the most of your time together, take a walk in the park. A University of Illinois study found that mothers and daughters had more positive interactions, which helped them get along better, on a stroll together in nature than a trip to the mall. No worries if your mom isn’t the outdoors type. It need not be a strenuous hike. Sneakers aren’t even required. Just a 20-minute walk is enough to reap the benefits.

Q: Does showing emotion at work undermine my authority as a boss?

A: On the contrary, it can underscore your commitment to your work, depending on how you spin it. If you have a meltdown, instead of saying “I was too emotional,” say, “I was very passionate.” According to a recent study, those who pulled the passion card were perceived to be more competent than those who said emotions got in the way. “Passion is associated with determination, motivation, and having a high degree of selfcontrol,” explains lead researcher Sunita Sah, assistant professor of management and organizations at Cornell University. “Being emotional, however, is associated with irrationality, instability, ineptitude, and a low degree of self-control.” Showing emotion makes us human. When I became a doctor, I burst into tears the first time I had to tell a family that their loved one had died. At the time, I was mortified, but a few weeks later I received a lovely note from the family, which said they were touched by my tears. It showed how much I cared.


This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands now.