I have been thinking about friendship a lot, specifically friendship for adults in the age of social media. With so much of our lives being shared, the opportunities to be unintentionally overlooked or offended seems to be on the rise. It makes me sad even as I experience these things just like everyone else.
Because it seems so easy talk indirectly by posting things on social media it is easy to assume that I’ve updated everyone on my life and everyone has updated me. It is easy to assume that everyone’s lives are going pretty well even when they might not be. This indirect method friendship seems to exacerbate communication pitfalls among friends. I have been thinking about this, and in particularly thinking of the things that make me a better friend as I navigate friendships as an adult.
Let me make this perfectly clear – these are things I do, consciously and unconsciously that help me manage my own emotions and relationships. I am not telling anyone to adopt these, nor am I calling anyone out. Sometimes I will fail at being a good friend, even when trying my best. As always, if I have hurt someone, please let me know so I can apologize.
Anyway, onto the reminders for myself on how to be a good friend.
1. Own my mistakes and apologize.
I put this first because it is the hardest for me. I try to be a good friend, but sometimes, I fail at this. When that my failings become clear it is up to me to apologize and admit my mistakes. I don’t like admitting mistakes, it is easy to end up being defensive instead. But it doesn’t help to bring up past wrongs nor to give a conditional apology “I am sorry for x, but remember you did y.” I try to remember to just let it go and apologize with humility.
2. Don’t hold grudges.
Sometimes I am the one who was hurt. I try to allow my friends the chance to apologize and when that happens, I try to accept it and move on. It does no good to file those times in a database of wrongs. Friendship is never a zero sum game. If I kept track of all the hurtful things that have been said to me I would have no friends left. We all make mistakes and if people are willing to apologize, and it is not a relationship changing error, than I forgive and try to forget.
3. Let people go if your friendship has failed – but find a way to be polite in public.
Despite our best efforts to apologize and accept apologies, sometimes something happens that takes a friendship out. This has happened to me and I still grieve those lost friends. However, if that happens then I need to move on, but also find a way to see that person without causing chaos. It helps to be polite and manage my own emotions in those situations. (If someone threatens, attacks, or causes major damage however, avoidance is perfectly allowed. I am not talking about situations of abuse here, just everyday situations where people fall out of friendship)
4. Remember it isn’t always about me.
This is so hard. It is easy to make things about myself – I am always here in my head after all. But life is rarely all about me. Friends have other influences, good and bad days, and stresses that are not about us. Sometimes i can experience that brunt of a bad day but it was never really about me in the first place. Sometimes I can feel like someone is mad at me but they are just thinking about work. I try hard to remember that I am not the only player on the board.
5. Talk directly to the person.
I seek support and advice when needed from friends, but in the end if I am hurt then I should be direct about it. Chances are the person may not realize what they did. Likewise, if I hurt someone and I know they are upset, then I need to take the time to talk to them directly. 3rd party messages and bitch sessions rarely help me strengthen friendships.
6. It is ok not to be invited to everything.
This is one I can struggle with, but I have to remember that it is ok not to be invited to something. Often people have specific reasons for inviting a group as they do, and it may not be because I was forgotton or left out on purpose. My house is small and most games are for 4-6 players, so if I have a game night I might not invite 10+ people. Sometimes I will have dinner with a few folks, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to eat out with others. Sometimes people don’t want to hang out with me because they know it will cost sitter money or they will have to deal with my kids. That is ok and their right. So much goes into finding time to be with friends as adults that it does me know good to speculate why I might not be invited. Ultimately if I need to see my friends, I know I need to reach out myself.
7. Listen to others with compassion
I try to be there for my friends and listen to what is going on in their lives. Likewise, I try to offer advice if and when it is asked for. I try to listen and be empathetic without disparaging others or taking sides. My nature is to help whenever possible, and sometimes that is simply being present to a friend in pain.
8. Reach out when someone is hurting
One of things I find important is to reach out and check in with my friends if they fall silent, or are struggling (obviously or in a vague sense), or when I am thinking of them. I check in, tell them I love them, and ask what’s going on. Social media has really helped this. I hate talking on the phone and since the inventions of messenger, text, etc, it is so much easier to connect.
The people who I share the most with are those people in my life who reach out to check on me. It means a lot to me when they do that, and I try to do that with my friends as well.
9. Be grateful for what your friends bring to you life.
My friends are important to me. They fill a spot that my family, my husband and my kids do not. They are often people with whom I can be fully myself as opposed to places where I am more guarded. I value that immensely and knowing what my friends bring to my life helps me be grateful for them even when things are rocky. Some friends bring specific qualities – one may be someone I am adventurous with, another could be someone to talk to when I am hurting, another might be a gaming buddy, another a walking buddy. Not everyone fills every role in my life, but all the people I choose to have in my life are important to me and I am grateful for them in my life.
I am no friendship expert. I make mistakes and do and say stupid things. But I keep trying. If I had my way everyone would always get along but that isn’t life. Friends come and go, sometimes when you don’t want them too. Knowing this, I can only control myself in the situation – and that means being kind, not taking things personally and being willing to admit my mistakes. It doesn’t always work out, but I would hate for that to be from lack of trying.
These are my thoughts on friendships today. I find it helpful to write and come to the crux of something on my mind. But they are not meant as admonitions, nor are they a passive aggressive commentary on any friendships.
All my friends have places in my heart and I care for them all, because of this I try to be a good friend in return.