This article was posted in Rajagiri Media. To view the magazine version - please click on Media Publications Link. Thanks. Here are 25 practical tips to keep you on track with your friendships.
1) LET IT GROW NATURALLY
Allow your friendship to grow naturally. Don't force it to move at a certain pace or in a certain way. If it's meant to be, it will be!
2) AVOID MAKING A BIG DEAL OVER LABELS
Avoid titles such as "best friend" or at least cool down on the intensity. The term "Best" can be very scary and can create some very unrealistic expectations in your head sometimes or for your friend. However, each friend is special in his or her own way. Justifying your friendship under a certain title forces your friend to act in a certain way towards you, creating unrealistic expectations, pressures and demands for both of you. If the bond is special or spiritually strong between the two of you, you will both know and sense the love and know you are best friends - have faith.
3) AVOID HIGH EXPECTATIONS
Don't expect the world from your friend. They have the free will to be who they are. If you don't like them for who they are, don't pursue the friendship or force them to change. It's as simple as that! Having high expectations leads to disappointments and obligates, and pressures your friend to act a certain way towards you all the time causing them to resent you.
If something is bothering you about your friendship, talk to your friend and be honest and straightforward. Express your feelings and avoid misunderstandings. Nothing is as bad as it sounds or feels. Go to the source. Your friend can't read your mind, so verbalize your thoughts and feelings right away. Don't run to other friends to solve your issues, because in the end you will think and choose to do exactly as you please anyways. So speak up! Chances are, they will appreciate and respect your honesty.
5) AVOID THE TRAP
Don't be friends with someone if you feel obligated. It's not fair to them or to you. Have the decency, maturity and respect to be open and honest with them about how you feel and then cut all ties. The truth may hurt, but it will set you free. You're not forced to be someone's friend and they shouldn't be mislead or deceived into believing your feelings are mutual. It's very painful to be on the receiving end of a surprise break up, or to be dumped when you've been friends with someone for so long believing they genuinely cared. Don't lead them on, confuse them, don't waste their time, and don't waste your own time either.
6) RESPECT AND BE RESPECTED
If you feel that your friend is using you, taking you for granted, leading you on, mistreating you, gossiping about you, taking advantage of you, never trusting you and so on, either read tip number four or cut all ties. You deserve to be treated with respect at all times. You shouldn't be a tool in the shed that is used when needed and then stashed away when you don't serve a purpose!
That's not how healthy and loving friendships work. Also, pay attention to double standards.
7) AVOID JUSTIFYING BAD BEHAVIOR
Don't tolerate or make excuses for your friends bad behavior. If they are treating you like garbage, then they are treating you like garbage! If you have never been a priority, then you will never be a priority. If they are finding excuses to avoid you or to exit the friendship, accept this and realize that some friends will never care or love you, as much as you love them. And no matter how much it hurts, truth is, some friends just don't give a bull butter to value friendship as much as you do. However, be mature enough to take responsibility for your feelings and be honest with yourself and with how you are truly being treated. Follow your intuition, suck it up, respect their choices and move on!
8) MAINTAIN A HEALTHY DISTANCE
Give your friend space to grow - don't cling on to them, micromanage them, make their problems your own, hover over them, expect them to baby you, protect you, validate your feelings or decisions, solve all of your problems or be there for you 24/7. You're friends, but also two complete different and unique people with your own lives. Respect their privacy. They don't owe you anything, and you don't owe them anything either. Giving each other a healthy amount of space from time to time allows the friendship to grow and gives you a reason to miss them. If you two are very close and chat everyday, then perhaps take a few days or a week or two away from each other. It will strengthen your bond.
9) PERSEVERANCE MATTERS
A strong friendship consists of compassion, open communication, transparency, honesty, patience, respect, effort, love, appreciation and of counting all the little blessings; of making each experience count. This is what creates and forms those special unbreakable bonds - the one's that pass a lot of hurdles, pass the test of time, endures a lot of up's and downs, but still manages to make it through the storm; the one's that last. These type of friendships are rare, courageous and special, so cherish your friendship as best as you can, when you can!
10) DON'T PURSUE UNHEALTHY FRIENDSHIPS
If you feel like someone is unhealthy for you, then take some time off and reflect on the nature of your friendship. Are they forcing you to take drugs, smoke,drink, take silly risks, gossip, entertain negativity or lead you into trouble? Have you fallen behind on your own life? If you feel that they are hindering your growth, if you have a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach, if their not helping you become a better person, but stopping you from growing, causing you to doubt yourself or feel insecure, then cut all ties. Go back and read tip number seven.
11) IT'S ALL ABOUT MUTUAL LOVE
A great friendship is built on mutual love and support. Period. If you are the only one caring, loving, doing all the listening, extending a helpful hand, going out of your way to make time for your friend, initiating conversation, contacting them, wanting their company, wanting to hang out, compromising all the time, making an effort to keep the friendship flowing and growing, then chances are you're involved in a one-sided, unrequited friendship which can eventually feel very exhausting. You have become the giver and they have naturally adopted the role of taker. This is dangerous as it can create lots of resentment, misunderstandings and feelings of neglect down the road.
12) BE YOURSELF
Following number eleven, for the love of God control your emotions! No one wants to be friends with a sappy, over emotional, overly-kind, sentimental, uptight, self-absorbed, insecure or clingy person. It's overwhelming, uncomfortable and unnecessary. You don't need to suck up your friends (where the sun doesn't shine) to have them like you! That's insane! You don't have to change yourself to make them like you either. Respect yourself, grow a backbone and be who you are. Why should you change or compare yourself? If they like you for who are, great! If not, you will make new friends who will actually love and appreciate you for your qualities, allowing the right people to love you. Don't forget! Every stranger has the potential of becoming a great friend someday. Just as each friend has the potential of becoming a stranger. That's the reality of friendship. So learn to celebrate and respect yourself.
13) BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
Don't compromise your own happiness to compensate for your friends short comings. You can't solve all of your friends problems or short-comings, so avoid placing the blame on yourself all the time, making excuses for them, cutting them a break for the 10oth time, acting as if it doesn't affect you, or remaining ignorant to situations. A healthy friendship requires that both people are happy and healthy within their friendship. Both people are satisfied and clear on where they stand and what they mean to each other.
14) ADMIT YOUR MISTAKES
If something is your fault, then fess up! Part of being in a healthy friendship is being able to admit when you're wrong, being transparent and being able to apologize. There is no room for pride with someone you claim to care for. If you have done something to hurt your friend on purpose, and know it was 100% your fault, fess up and take responsibility for your actions. Take action and grow up! Just like any other relationship, if you can't be mature enough to face your faults, then you're not mature enough to be in that relationship.
15) CHECK YOURSELF
A healthy friendship does not consist of envy, control, manipulation, aggressiveness, constant criticism, jealousy, resentment, bad intentions, petty grudges, spiteful words or actions, revenge, immaturity, carelessness, selfishness, greed, or superficiality. If your friendship is running on one or two of these things, then I suggest you reflect on yourself or on your friendship and start being honest with your intentions. Face the facts and don't be in denial about how you truly feel towards the other person. Face your inner demons head on and deal with it.
16) STAY IN OR GET OUT.
This may sound harsh, but if you want to be friends with someone and expect them to treat you with respect, well, it goes both ways darling. Don't expect to be chased all the time. And don't expect someone to be there for you, when you never make the effort to stick around. If you're coming in and out of your friends life, threatening to break the friendship off 10 times a year, and treating the friendship like a revolving door whenever your heart desires or pleases, then chances are, you still need to grow up and learn how you treat the people around you with respect. This does not mean you have to ask for permission every time you take a hike or want space, (Oh no!) but consider some form of communication before disappearing like Houdini, specially if your friend is a part of your daily life. It's only common sense. Give them a tiny hint then go and explore the caves or oceans for months!
Why? because if someone cares about you, they will naturally wonder or worry, specially if you play dead in less then 24 hours. It's human nature. So be responsible and somewhat considerate while exercising your free spirit. Don't assume your friend will know or understand your wild mood swings right away. I'm sure they will understand this part of your nature and ease into it someday when your friendship is stronger.
17) GIVE EACH OTHER SPACE
Similarly, if your friend acts aloof or distant all of a sudden, give them some space and don't freak out! You'll look obsessive and ridiculous and will make them feel uncomfortable. Live your own life. Maybe they have a lot on their mind, maybe their dealing with their own personal problems. (they don't need to involve you in every event of their lives) so back off, give them some breathing room and try not to take it personal. Chances are, they will drop you a hint or return when their feeling themselves again. So have faith and trust in your friendship and know that it's not always about you. Pushing them to answer you will only agitate them more. So relax!
18) AVOID ASSUMPTIONS
Speaking of assuming - avoid assuming you know your friends intentions or the reasons behind why they said, wrote or acted the way they did. It can be very annoying and offensive being on the receiving end of this. You're not God and you can't read their minds no matter how close you two may be. Assuming you know why they said or did something can cause a lot of problems, specially when you approach them with this conclusion in mind. Remember, it's not always about you, so control your paranoia. Chances are you will piss them off for assuming something that wasn't true to be begin with. Instead, try communicating openly and calmly and ask if that is in fact the case. You're not always right, even if you've been right a thousand times before.
19)SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE FRIENDS
Surround yourself with friends that encourage you, make you laugh until your sides hurt, love you for who you are, are patient, loving, caring, genuine and who bring out the best in you. The one's that don't give up on you, empower you, inspire you, can be brutally honest with you, are mature, healthy, full of passion, life and positivity. More importantly, surround yourself with friends that genuinely want the best for you. The one's you can call up at 4 am, the one's you can feel 100% yourself with, the one's where you don't feel the weight of time or place, the one' s that motivate you, cheer you on, give you their undivided attention, and can love you selflessly. Those are the friends that matter and are priceless- the long lasting souls that can endure hardship, can put up with your crazy days and stick up for you through thick and thin. Distinguish between the real vs. the fair weather friends. Google the term Anam Cara.
20) DON'T ALLOW MONEY TO GET IN THE WAY
Don't allow money to ruin a great friendship and don't always treat your friend every time you're out! The best way to handle this is to pay for yourself and allow your friend to pay for themselves. You may love your friend a lot, want to spoil them from time to time, treat them to a drink or two, lend them money or help them financially when they're down in the dumps, but money can ruin many great friendships. For one, when you constantly spend money on them or treat them out every single time, it can become very uncomfortable and confusing for your friend as this forces them to accept your generosity for fear of hurting your feelings. But realize that they WANT to pay for themselves too. Imagine yourself in their shoes. Everyone wants to be independent, so don't force your friend to accept your kindness. It can make them feel obligated and eventually avoid your company. It can also make you feel unappreciated when your gesture is rejected - so avoid all this drama by balancing the amount of times you spoil your friend or treat them out. Perhaps spoil them on special occasions such as birthday's or Christmas, or when they're strapped for cash. Playing fair and respecting each others boundaries are key.
21) QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
If you're friends with someone or groups of people because they enhance your social status or because you consider them fashion forward, and "cool," or convenient to your life, chances are you're not going need or want these type of friendships someday in the future when you realize you lack true friends, friends that actually care for you, as apposed to how you make them look or how they make you look. As they say, it's quality over quantity.
22) AVOID IMPULSIVE REACTIONS
Friendships will get boring and friendships will feel overwhelming- and that's a simple fact of life. What can you do about it? Well, before you go off ruining or ending a great friendship in the spur of the moment - take some space away from your friend and make some new friends. Perhaps that's all you needed. A break! Explore new personalities but don't place your cherished friend completely on the back burner, or drop them like a hot plate because you weren't sure of how to deal with your feelings in that given moment. That's insensitive, immature and not fair to them. Express your feelings or just ask for some space. Perhaps you forgot how to love them, how to appreciate them and started to lose your respect for them. Chances are, they probably feel the same way about you too - so don't over react and ruin a good thing - because sometimes you don't know what you have, until it's finally gone. Yes, cliché, but it's true!
23) DON'T PLAY GAMES
If you're trying to play the victim or making new friends with the intention of making your old friend jealous or just to confirm if you're friend still cares for you based off of their reaction, then you are not only acting immaturely but wasting your time trying to get validation by testing your friend. Chances are, your friend already senses this. That is not only confusing for your friend, but very, very unhealthy and childish. You shouldn't need to act in such ways, because healthy friendships should be simple, open, honest, trustworthy and drama free!
If you find yourself playing your friends, then take some time off and reflect on yourself. Perhaps you're feeling insecure somewhere else. Perhaps you're lacking attention somewhere else. Perhaps you strive of off drama and confusion, because you're lacking direction in your own life. Reflect deeply on your mental and emotional well being and put an end to the drama, because you could risk losing many great friends along the way.
24) DON'T PLACE YOUR FRIENDS ON A PEDESTAL
It's not healthy and creating an unrealistic image of them in your mind will only lead to disillusionment and disappointments. If you accept them for who they are, then accept them for who THEY are and not what you want them to be. That's a lot of pressure for one person to handle! You are just as beautiful and amazing and wonderful as they are, so celebrate your goodness together with them rather than measuring them against yourself or placing them on a throne.
25) FRIENDS CHANGE
Don't ever expect your friend or friendship to stay the same forever, although it can be quite painful and scary, specially when you've grown to love your friend so much. The truth is, some friends will change, some will grow with you, some will grow beside you and some will drift apart from you. Other times, the friendship will end abruptly. After all the trials and error's, when it's over, it's over. You can't do much about it, except allow time to heal all your wounds and allow the experience to make you a better person. It is what it is. It may throw you off guard, it may come as a surprise, it may feel excruciatingly painful, it may hurt you, change you for good, you may feel betrayed, you may never really know why, you may be unable to forgive them, or you may be okay with the outcome, but everything really does happen for a reason! Perhaps you both needed some space apart, perhaps the friendship wasn't healthy or perhaps you just grew out of the friendship. Whatever the reason may be, remember that nothing is written in stone. Not the friendships that begin and not the friendships that end. If something is meant to be, it will be. It's never too late to right a wrong. That's the beauty of friendship.
So go ahead - miss them like crazy and don't fear the unknown; time changes people - it takes two to make it or break it.