Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I am going to be talking about friendship. Surrounding yourself with good friends makes life more complete and enjoyable. But what exactly makes a good friend?
1. Good Friends are Present
The first and most important thing is that they are there. You cannot build a relationship, of any kind, with a person that you never interact with. Additionally, you can’t maintain a relationship if you are never interacting with them either. Now there is no equation that tells us the amount of time that we need to spend with people to develop good relationships with them, but it is very true that we develop stronger relationships with the people that we spend more time with. So the first thing here is that if you want to have a good friendship, you need to spend the time with that person in order to build that relationship.
I’m going to go so far as to say that humans equate spending your time with them as caring about them. Yes. Time equals love. Whether it is an act of service like helping them wash the dishes or you are giving them a gift, both of these gestures of love take your time. And yes, the love languages apply to friendships too. Consider for a moment what the most valuable thing that you have is and it really comes down to your time. We cannot earn more of this precious coin. Once we choose to spend it, that coin is gone forever. Thus, it really is meaningful when we spend our most important currency on someone. Because in the end, spending time is really spending your life. This is how we spend our lives with our loved ones: with little every day gestures that build that relationship.
As a side note, this is the primary reason that we don’t have a huge number of good friends in our lives. Every relationship that we maintain costs the investment of time. Our time is of limited quantity and we have no means to make more of it no matter how many relationships we would like to have in life. Thus, we have to choose which relationships have the highest priority in our life and give those relationships the largest portion of our time.
2. Good Friends can be Trusted
Trust is the foundation that every good relationship is built upon. Without trust, you cannot have a good relationship. Trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. Trust is the faith you have in someone that they will always remain loyal to you and love you. To trust someone means that you can rely on them and are comfortable confiding in them because you feel safe with them. Trusting someone means that you feel safe with them. There is no way to have a good or healthy relationship without this feeling of safety.
3. Good Friends Accept You as You are
No human is perfect. We are all a glorious mix of hot garbage and unicorn dust. That’s right. Take a close look at any of us and you’re going to see things that you don’t like about them. But inside every human being there are also things that are beautiful and rare treasures. This juxtaposition is simply the nature of being human. All of us have parts of ourselves that we are not proud of that we wish we could be rid of or at least completely hide from the world. But all of us are also carrying gold and diamonds. A good friend will see and value those diamonds. They will acknowledge the pile of shit that diamond is sitting in, but feel that the beauty and value of the diamond is no less for its perch. That’s what real friendship is about.
4. Good Friends Respect Your Boundaries
Everyone has boundaries. Those boundaries are pretty much our rules for engagement or our user manual that we give to other people. These are our rules for being hugged and for coming over to our house and eating snacks. Part of a relationship is getting to know these boundaries. That often means that we are bumping into them or accidently crossing over them. In truth, you often don’t know you have boundaries until someone crosses them. Ever find yourself asking “Who does that?” This is probably an occasion in which they crossed a boundary that you either thought was universal or didn’t realize you had until they came along.
Here’s the thing about respecting boundaries: it’s not the same as never crossing them. That’s right. Good friends will cross your boundaries. Sometimes it will be because they didn’t know you had that boundary. Sometimes it’s because your boundary is conflicting with one of their boundaries. Sometimes it’s because they are in crisis and are falling apart. Sometimes it’s because you are in crisis and falling apart. Good friends will cross your boundaries.
Respecting your boundaries means that they will care when they have crossed your boundary. It will matter to them that you have been injured or offended. Respecting boundaries means that they will do their best not to cross your boundaries. It also means that they will do what they can to make things right when they do cross them. Respecting boundaries also means negotiating where those boundaries lie. Sometimes our boundaries will conflict with the boundaries of those we are building a relationship with. That means that where that boundary falls needs to be negotiated between the two of you.
Just a few things to say about boundaries here: First is that boundaries are not ultimatums. Crossing a boundary doesn’t automatically mean that person is terrible and needs to be cut out of your life. Second, your boundaries will look different in every relationship that you have and that is 100% normal and alright. It is normal to be comfortable kissing your husband but not the check out clerk. Different relationship, different boundaries.
5. Good Friends Have Your Best Interest In Mind
Having your best interest in mind means that they what to see that you are safe, that your needs are being met and that you are feeling content with the world. When these things are not happening for you a good friend is going to do what they can to help you. What does this look like in action? It means not airing the dirty laundry of your relationship. It means protecting your privacy. It means not giving out your number with out your permission. It means picking up food from the food pantry to make sure you have a meal tonight. It means defending you when someone is trying to bully you. Good friends will act as a sword and a shield. They do not what to see you come to any kind of harm and will do what needs to be done to make sure that you remain safe.
A good friend will expect you to do the same for them.
This doesn’t mean that they will sacrifice everything for you. It doesn’t mean that you get to take their stuff. It doesn’t mean that just because you are having a bad time their wants or goals are no longer important. Having someone’s best interest in mind is about doing what you think is the best for them at all times. It doesn’t mean that you have to give anything up in order to do that, but you will not intentionally cause the person harm.
This can sometime have farther reaching implications depending on the friendship. But there are often times that the friend is effected by social and political events. Having a friend’s best interest in mind means making sure that you understand these issues and do what you can to be a good ally. This means that a good friend will use the correct pronouns, even if they change over time. This means that a good friend will advocate for a friend’s rights to be maintained, restored or instated. This means that a good friend is for gay marriage and equal opportunity. It means that a good friend will make sure that they know if their friend prefers to be called black or a person of color. Because a good friend understands that these things are in the best interest of their friend even when they have no impact on their own life.
6. Good Friends Give Emotional Space
Giving emotional space means that you give the person permission to feel what ever it is they are feeling without judgement. This means that you let them talk about the dark and difficult emotions. It means allowing them to feel the neutral or negatively viewed emotions. This doesn’t mean that they will accept anything in regards to behavior. They will accept that you are feeling angry but not physically aggressive actions. Because this flashes back to wanting what is best for you and wanting to keep you safe. A good friend would not accept inappropriate behaviors being driven by valid emotions. Instead, they would try to help you channel those difficult emotions into more appropriate and safe outlets. A good friend would take you boxing if your anger was making you feel aggressive. That’s giving your emotions space and helping you cope with those feelings in a safe and appropriate way.
Good friends will sit with your emotions even when there is nothing to do and even when it is uncomfortable just because they don’t want you to be sitting in those feelings alone.
7. Good Friends Listen
Friends listen to each other. About everything. A good friendship means that you can talk to the person about the every day mundane things in life, your interests, the weird book you read or the strange encounter you had on the bus that has you waxing philosophical. A good friendship is one where both people are given time to share their thoughts and what each person has to say is valued.
But listening is a difficult skill to master. Our brains are programmed to always be thinking about what we are supposed to be doing with the sensory input we are getting. This isn’t the best for good communication. This means that we are programmed to be thinking about what we are going to say or the deeper meanings while we are trying to listen. So, keep in mind that it is more important that a friend is trying to be a good listener then they are a perfect listener because this is a really difficult skill set to master and one that takes time.
8. Good Friends are Loyal
Loyalty is a strong feeling of support or allegiance. It is dedication. It is knowing that you’re devoted to each other. That the choices and decisions you make have been considered with the impact on your relationship in mind. What does this look like in action? This means that a good friend will not accept an invite to hang out with the ex-boyfriend of their friend because they know it will cause their friend emotional harm. This means that a good friend would not talk negatively about their friend even when their friend isn’t there. It also means that a good friend would never tell their friend that they need to choose between them and another friend. It also means not competing for the job that your friend has always wanted when it is just another job for you.
Loyalty is the desire to see your friend and your relationship with that friend succeed. Everything you do, everything you say and all that you are is invested in your relationship with your friend. You’re determined to be a successful friendship living a great life together. And this here is here is the other big reason that we cannot maintain a huge number of relationships in our lives. With each relationship that we try to be loyal to we add a layer for potential conflict of interest which leads us to having to make choices about who we are most loyal to. Thus, like our time, our loyalty comes in a limited quantity that we cannot make more of and thus we need to choose which relationships we are going to give this loyalty to.
9. Good Friend are Impeccable with Their Word
Being impeccable with your word is about balancing the two values of kindness and honesty. Good friends do their best to be both kind and honest with their friends at all times. But they can also recognize that there is value in allowing honesty to fall behind kindness as a secondary value. Does your friend really need to know that they don’t bake the best cake you’ve ever eaten? Maybe. Maybe not. If they are making that cake for a competition or because they own a bakery it is probably in their best interest for you to be honest with them and hurt their feelings in the moment in order to help them reach their goals. But if the friend is just excited about having learned how to make a cake and are excitedly sharing that cake with you, they probably don’t need to be told that it could be improved upon.
Because life often puts us in the situation where being honest isn’t being kind. A good friend will always weigh these two values in consideration of what is in the best interest of their friend before taking action. Telling your friend that their being cheated on will absolutely cause them suffering, but it is also in their best interest to know what kind of relationship they are in. Telling your friend that you don’t like their makeup style probably isn’t in their best interest. After all, they probably can’t do anything about it in the moment when you’re already out and about so there in no value in that honesty. There might be if you are telling them before you leave.
The thing is that there is a lot of grey area as to when a friend should be honest and when they should choose kindness. But it is important to understand that good friendships value kindness over honesty. This might seem counter intuitive, but consider what it is that you are being honest about in the first place. Most of the time what we are offering our friends is our opinion rather then a fact. We like their cake or dislike their dress. These are our opinions and there are other people out there who may feel differently about these things than we do. And our friend might be one of those people. So, asserting that we are “just being honest” when we are only offering an opinion isn’t really a good response to causing emotional harm.
That being said, there are times that we can offer actual facts rather then our opinions and this should be considered in a different way then when we are considering offering our opinion. The first thing to ask ourselves is how sure are we that this is actually fact? We saw their girlfriend with their ex at the bank, but does that actually mean that the girl friend is cheating? Could be that they were closing an account they had shared together or the ex was paying the girlfriend money they owed. We don’t know what was going on. So, we shouldn’t tell our friend that their girl friend was cheating. But we could mention that we saw her at the bank with her ex. Because that part is a fact. The rest is conjecture. A good friend keeps conjecture to themselves.
When we are certain that something is fact we can present it and state that we are using honesty, but we must also remember not to use honesty as a club with which to beat our friends with. It is a fact that wearing face masks reduces the spread of respiratory born viruses such as Covid. However, that being a fact doesn’t give us the right to say this to our friend every time we see them not wearing a mask nor does it give us the right to demand that they always wear a mask. Honesty doesn’t serve friendship when wielded in this fashion. Despite facts, there will be times that we will have a difference of opinion with our friends. This is the time to use honesty to express your feelings and to set boundaries. Good friends state the fact, then express their feelings and then mark the boundary. This means that a good friend would state that masks reduce the transmission of Covid. Then, they would state their feeling: “I am not comfortable being around you when you aren’t wearing a mask.” And they would close with the new boundary being drawn: “Because of that, you will need to wear a mask when you come to my house or I won’t allow you to visit.”
Sorry that this section is so long, but I think this is an area where many friendships struggle and the breaking point for many friendships. There is always a balance between kindness and honesty that has to be properly maintained in order for a relationship to properly thrive.
10. Good Friends are Supportive
Good friends will cheer you on when you are trying out something new or going for that intimidating job interview. They will also be there for you when you have a loss or fail to reach your goals. Being a good friend means doing what you can to lift the other person up. These means reminding them that they are still an amazing person even though they didn’t get the job. It means providing them emotional support even when you don’t understand why they are suffering. Because the truth is that we often don’t fully understand the perspective or lived experience of the other person, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot have empathy for them. Even if the death of a dog would not cause us personal sorrow does not mean that you cannot empathize with the feeling of sorrow itself. That’s what friendship is about: Doing your best to understand what the other person is going through and having an empathetic response to their situation.
There are many ways to provide a person with support. Sometimes it means helping them out by lending them money, if you have it. Other times it means giving them a ride somewhere. It can also mean going to a doctor’s appointment so they don’t have to go alone. Providing a friend support means helping that friend to keep from yielding, or losing courage and provide comfort in difficult times. That means providing support can be as simple as sitting in the same room as someone in silence.
11. Good Friendships are NOT Competitive
A good friendship will recognize that one person being awesome in no way precludes another person also being awesome in their own way. Instead, it is about ensuring that both people in that friendship achieve their own kind of awesomeness. It won’t be about who is reaching life mile stones and who isn’t. It won’t be about comparing who has a better life. It won’t be about who is struggling the most. In a good relationship it will simply be accepted that there is plenty of room for both people to be either achieving or failing to be excelling or suffering. Each person is simply allowed to be where ever they are in life with out comparison or judgement. A good friendship recognizes that everyone lives a unique life that looks different then everyone else’s life.
12. Good Friendships are Reciprocal
A good friendship is one that goes both ways. Everything that a good friend does should be happening in both directions. When friendships are at their best is when BOTH people in that friendship is a good friend to the other person. While good friendships don’t keep score, there is an awareness and a confidence that there is an equity in that relationship. It is important to note that I use equity here and not equality. Having a good friendship doesn’t mean that both people will do exactly the same things for each other. It means that they will both be giving into the relationship in a meaningful and healthy way.
That means that friend A always driving to friend B’s house who is home bound to make sure they have company while friend B provides emotional support is a good, equitable friendship. Each person is contributing to that relationship in a different way, but both people are getting benefit from the relationship. That’s what makes it a good relationship: both parties are getting benefits from the relationship.
The thing to keep in mind is that there is no magical equation to use to calculate what a good friendship should look like. Every person is there own unique combination of magical star sprinkles and atomic hot shit. Because of that, combining any two of together will be as unique of a mixture as the original strangeness was. People are complicated and so are all the relationships that they have.
When evaluating if a relationship is good, look for these things:
- You feel safe when you are with them
- You enjoy being around them and value the time that you spend together
- You feel that your needs are being met
- You appreciate them and feel appreciated
- You are able to work out conflicts with them
- You are not afraid to talk to them when there is a problem or they did something that bothered you
- You’re Comfortable in Your Own Skin when you are spending time with them
- You maintain a sense of yourself as a separate person when you are spending time with them
Well, that’s about all my rambling on friendships for today. I’m sure there is plenty more to say on this topic because it is complicated, but I feel like these are the core principals. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! And consider supporting the blog so I can spend more time writing.
Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!