When you look around your circle of friends, are they truly the type of people you want surrounding you? Do they help you be ever-more the person you want to be? Do they engage with the world in meaningful ways that you respect and admire? Then as you look around, turn your glance inward: are you the kind of friend to yourself and others that you desire?
I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship for several months now. Initially a couple of interactions with people led me to think about who my true friends are and what I really value in them. These experiences lit up a hyper-awareness and time of reflection as I’ve engaged with friends since then and tried to remember the image of a finger pointing out mean three are pointing back at me. So it seems reasonable that any standard held for others must be one I uphold for myself. Here is a chance to consider some of the traits you may seek in friends…
A Genuine Listener
To be honest, this was the first trait that struck me as vital to being a true friend in my book. Someone who listens without an agenda to teach me something or prove a point. A listener who is open enough to consider where I’m coming from out of genuine care. Thank you Kritika for showing me this.
Not everyone is blessed with the gift of being funny, and some may struggle to even mildly learn the skill. I know I’ve always wanted to be funny, but let’s face it, we can’t all be great comedians. At our wedding, my vows brought mostly a few sentimental tears while my husband had our guests rolling with laughter. I get to appreciate that he brings something to the table with far greater potency than his counterpart.
Another consideration is that some of us live more serious existences than others. Do you tend to prefer conversations with complete sobriety, a sprinkling, splash or ongoing waves of humor? Do you have friends who bring what you’re looking for? And even if you aren’t that funny, do you show your appreciation of those who are?
Motivator or Empathizer
I have found that there tend to be very different types of listeners. Commiserators and motivators at times are found in the same person, but more I often I think they are separate individuals. Do you know who to call when you just want someone to hear you and say: “Wow, sorry, that sounds rough!” and someone else when you know you could use a little: “Dust yourself off and I’ll help you back up on the saddle.”?
Honesty, Tact, and… What You Think Someone Wants to Hear
Do you prefer the friend who tells you there is something in your teeth at a dinner party or the comrade who tells you look exquisite no matter what? In the honest framework, there is also tactful and then there is knit-picky or unable to let things go. Some of us are gifted with more gentle ways of giving feedback than others. Like humor, this can be a skill to learn, while for others it may come more naturally.
Do you know anyone who absolutely loves you -just the way you are? Isn’t this why we love having dogs for pets? A dog will faithfully comfort, accompany and adore you no matter how your hair looks, what right or wrong thing you say, and will endlessly forgive you for showing up later than you planned. While I’m all for healthy personal boundaries, there are people who for one reason or another put you on edge and then there are those who put you at ease because it feels like they truly accept you as the person you are.
Is it just me, or is this the factor we (at least under stress) tend to struggle with the most around those for whom we have the deepest regard and the closest relationships- including ourselves? When I started at one of my previous jobs, I walked into my office the first day to find a pearl of wisdom left on the whiteboard:
The Dalai Lama’s simple, poignant statement remained as a wonderful reminder all three years I taught at that school.
There are countless other points you can consider, from respect, to shared interests, to people you like learning with and from. The bottom line: friendship is a choice. You get to decide with whom you associate in your free time (even on social media), how you treat others and how you treat yourself. So I hope you invest your precious time with the kinds of people you truly value and who value you.