So since my last relationship post was so well-received and I think I am on a roll these days, I’ll talk a little more about relationships and in particular friendships. While I will not claim to be on top of these myself in any way, I do think these 10 pointers are very important in creating and maintaining solid friendships. And don’t you fret, I hear the voices of all the people who will instantly claim that I have already failed when I write the first step:
1. Mutual interest
There must be at least one thing you have in common. I’ve found myself questioning that one thing in a couple of my friendships… in that I have to ask myself what it is I had in common with this person in the first place. The thing to remember here is that sometimes that mutual interest is transitory and whether the friendship survives the transition depends a lot on the rest of my list.
2. Some affection
Even if it’s cursory at first, or even if there is none and it grows over time. And when I say affection, I don’t mean you “love” the person or “really, really, really like them”… I am referring to the standard dictionary meaning of “a gentle feeling of fondness or liking” – something simple and completely natural. Who ever heard of striking up a friendship with someone they couldn’t stand to even see or hear speak?
3. A reliable communication medium
That is kind of self-explanatory, isn’t it? You can’t NOT communicate with your friends. You can try and fail many times, you can even get mad when you or they fail to communicate, but you have to at least try. For me, this medium tends to more often than not be the internet – which is a whole different other post in itself (and a whole different kind of sad, according to some people). And what inevitably happens sometimes is that if both of you aren’t into the same kind of medium, communication drops off. I’ve lost touch with a couple of friends since moving here to the states (and also in moving to Texas from Kentucky) because either they aren’t into internet chat or I’m not into phone chat – or maybe a little of both.
4. A set of rules (of engagement?)
Whether you realize it or not, when you embark on a friendship, and in particular the first few times you speak a set of rules gets put down that pretty much govern the duration of your relationship. These rules get updated, shifted, adjusted and manipulated all through the life of the relationship and mostly it all happens transparently. Respect is a key ingredient in establishing rules of this sort, and in my case, I notice that one of my unspoken rules pertains to that personal space that is around us all. I don’t know why, or how, or even when .. but people understand quickly that I am not much of a touchy-feely person and they respect that. It changes depending on who and how close the relationship becomes, but it is the one consistent observation people make about me.
5. The ability to shutup and listen
Sometimes, you just need to shut the hell up and listen. Sometimes advice and criticism and complaints is NOT what the other person needs. Sometimes they only want to be heard. And I don’t mean shut your mouth and not HEAR them, I mean shut your mouth and REALLY LISTEN and understand what they are saying. I have had trouble with this myself, and couple of my friends will tell you that on many occasions they have heard me say (or seen me type) something along the lines of “well, maybe I just need to shut up and listen now and stop trying to give you advice”. Sometimes it draws a laugh, sometimes it just helps the other person open up and say what it is they wanted to say all along.
6. Conversely, the ability to NOT shutup but share your latest
Your friends want to hear what’s going on with you too. Don’t even bother with the “I know you don’t want to hear my dribble” kind of crap. It’s a two-way street, and whereas sometimes traffic tends to move you along that street at a pace non-conducive to sharing, there will come the time when sharing is going to be required. No one wants to think they’re the only one benefitting or contributing to a relationship. Hell, I can hear a couple of my friends thinking “If I wanted a one-sided relationship, I’d go pay a shrink”.
7. A level head
Trust me, your best of friends and your worst of friends is GOING to do something to piss you off at one time or another. How close you are to them will dictate only whether you say it candidly to them “Man you just pissed me the hell off” or whether you say it diplomatically “Well, gee – that kind of talk is a little offensive”. The key is to remain calm and NOT let your anger speak for you. And yes, this one I have had LOADS of problems with as well. That anger is a particularly dangerous devil and I still fight him.
8. The willingness to sacrifice
At some point, that movie you wanted to watch, or that novel you wanted to finish or that nap you wanted to take is going to collide headlong with a friend’s need. Whether they need an ear to listen or they just want company on an outing, that you have to sacrifice something of yours is a given. Be prepared for it.
9. The willingness to give
This probably sounds a lot like #8 to you. And in some ways, it is. Giving of time you had previously reserved for yourself, for example. However, what I was thinking about in particular was giving that is unsolicited and unexpected. It doesn’t have to be a physical gift, it can just be time and effort into something they would appreciate. I remember how appreciative one friend was when I spent the time and effort researching a particular subject for them.
10. The ability to receive
Whether it be a compliment, a book, a phone call, a gesture or a hug … be sure you are prepared to receive from your friends. Realize it gives them just as much pleasure to give to you as it does you when giving to them. And never forget that receiving is only one half of the equation … ensure you give it back in one form or another.
And there you have it, my list. It is by no means all-inclusive and I know you all have a contribution to make, so lemme hear ‘em – don’t hold back.