My brilliant friend Maggieothevalley just wrote an excellent post about friendship, and it inspired me to do the same!
Disclaimer: This post is written about normal friendships, not abusive ones. In the case of abuse, please seek help! Also, read this.
My Friend Story
I write this as a person who has grown in the area of making friends and being a friend. Growing up I was always painfully shy. I’m talking about about hide-behind-my-mom-can’t-make-eye-contact-can-barely-hear-me-because-i-spoke-too-softly kind of shy. I also could not be vulnerable – if I was upset, I shut down. (I’m still working on this but I’ve gotten much better.) This all changed out of necessity, when I started working at a coffee shop. I had to call out orders and I got tired of repeating myself because people couldn’t hear me. This started my life long journey of learning to be more confident and charismatic. I am always reading books on the subject and watching YouTube videos. I think everyone can develop these traits, you already have what you need, you just have to learn to let it shine.
How does all this have to do with being a friend? Well, you can’t give what you don’t have. It’s very hard to have the confidence to make a new friend if you are constantly focusing on yourself and how weird you are. I believe it’s important to develop an arsenal of habits and mentalities that make you feel more confident and secure in yourself. I think we try to attract friends by appearing strong and showcasing our beauty, talents, intelligence, and accomplishments when really it’s more about being kind, welcoming, uplifting, and genuinely showing interest in someone else, and giving others permission to be authentic through our vulnerability.
My Definition of Friendship
In my life, I have picked up on the notion that many people have that a friend is someone who you have almost everything in common with. I completely disagree! This DEFINITELY could be the starting point of a friendship! But, some of the greatest people I have met may only share one common interest but they are very different from me in many ways. I believe a friendship is when two people are willing to care about each other, make time for each other, and listen to each other.
How to Start a Friendship
I have observed in my life people who wish they had more friends, but misunderstand how to start a friendship. They focus on themselves and think people won’t pursue them because they are just unlikable. That’s just the problem though! It’s not about you. To make friends, you have to be a friend. I was down at our swimming lagoon the other day and I witnessed two great examples of these mentalities. One family offered to share their floating devices and swimming toys with us. Later they asked us for scissors to cut stickers out of their dog’s fur, and when we were leaving they gave us some Caprisuns for our kids. They were so kind and generous. To me, they were being a friend. Reminds me of “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” but in regard to friendships, obviously. This other family approached us and started making conversation. While they were nice, it was more like “look at me, you should be my friend”. Do you see the difference here?
So if you want to become friends with someone, be kind. Compliment them. Invite them to coffee. Show interest in their lives. Get them to talk, ask questions. You will know they are your friend if they start to ask you questions, too. Sometimes when you do this, you will realize you don’t want to be their friend, and that’s okay. Trust your instincts.
There Are All Types of Friends
You are friends with people for different reasons, and the nature of your friendship will vary and that’s okay. You may have a few best friends you tell everything to. You may have childhood friends that you keep up with a few times a year. You might have friends from work or previous coworkers that you check on from time to time. You may have friends you no longer keep contact with but remember and pray for.
Maintaining and Nurturing Friendships
I wish someone had taught me more about friendship long ago so I didn’t have to learn the hard way. These things I have found helpful:
- Know yourself. Are you the type who always initiates or do you wait for someone to contact you? Both types have room to grow.
- Always assume positive intent. Did something your friend say rub you the wrong way? Assume they meant well, unless it really bothered you, which brings me to my next point.
- Be vulnerable and honest. If you are having a hard time, tell your friend. If you are at a point in your life where maintaining friendships is really hard, it’s okay to tell them that. Don’t get their hopes up in an effort not to have to disappoint them. You can disappoint someone but still take care of them in the process. Your vulnerability will inspire them to be vulnerable which will create a sanctuary for intimacy.
- Don’t make assumptions. Take things at face value. I suffer from anxiety so my mind tends to run away with things and makes mountain out of mole hills. Just don’t. If something is really bothering you, then please talk about it and check to see what the person meant. Otherwise, let it go.
- Make an effort. Things won’t always be 50/50 but it’s important to work at keeping friends. Don’t take them for granted.
- Persist with friends who have shown evidence that they love you, even if may seem distant at times. Some introvert types get so exhausted with being social. Also, anyone going through depression. I read this in a forum that describes it really well, ” Sometimes we’re not ready to talk about it, or are just completely shut down, that we can’t bear talking to anyone. I’ve had these moments. And I know it takes a toll on the people that care about us. But you’re going to have to forgive her. She wants to be her best self when she talks to you. She thinks her negative thoughts are poison to the people around her. That’s why we shut down. Unfortunately, that’s just how it is sometimes. ”
- People are just plain lazy and busy. I can get this way. I think most people just don’t live intentionally. It’s hard. They aren’t taking control of their relationships, nonetheless any other aspect of their lives. So don’t take it personally if you are the one doing most of the reaching out. You can tell them how you feel about this, yes, but you have to decide ultimately if the relationship is worth holding on to.
- Don’t be afraid to be the initiator, especially if you like to have a vibrant social life. Because like it said above, people are lazy and/or busy. When you are the initiator, you risk rejection. That’s okay. You also have to trust that someone will say no. Be considerate but don’t overdo it.
- Encourage them to be healthy. Don’t act like it’s okay if you see them engaging in harmful behaviors like drinking too much, spending too much, etc.
- Keep your word. Don’t say you are going to do something and not do it. Don’t over-commit. We all do this sometimes because we get excited. I think it’s important to be mindful of this behavior in order to stop doing it.
- Surprise your friend. Show up. Give a gift for no reason.
- Compliment your friend. I think this is so important. There truly is a scarcity of compliments in this world! I say lavish them with words of affirmation. Even if they seem like they don’t need it. They do. Everyone does.
- Celebrate their successes. Call them, dance around, have an ice cream, buy them their favorite dessert.
- Build them up. Look for all of their positive qualities like a detective and let them know what you find.
- Don’t compare yourself with them. Just don’t.
- Have gratitude for what you have. I say this because it will help save you from the comparison trap. If you find yourself feeling jealous, do something nice for your friend and it will alleviate this feeling. We all get jealous sometimes so it’s nothing to be ashamed of.I know I do. Just don’t let it fester.
- Respect boundaries and make boundaries. Read this book.
- Admit when you’re wrong. Ask for forgiveness. We all do stupid things. I know I have. Just say sorry, ask for forgiveness and make amends. Show you are sorry. Do something nice. This shows the other person you value them.
- Use technology to keep in touch. Sometimes I can’t reply to a text immediately. In fact most of the time I can’t. So, I will often set an alarm on my phone to remind me to text back or call back at a better time. If you know you are person who struggles to stay connected, find an app to remind you periodically to call or text your friends and see how they are. I like Balanced app.
- Prioritize the relationships that fill you up and the ones that help you grow. Make regular time with the people who share your values.
Here are some great video that I found super inspiring. Seriously, you won’t want to miss them. Don’t have a lot of time? Watch them while you exercise, put your makeup on, clean, fold laundry, or make a meal. You won’t regret it!