After a long and hectic work week, there are few things I look forward to more than sitting down for a meal or drinks with close friends. There’s this incredible bond that you can form with people if you allow yourself the time to invest in a mutual relationship with other human beings.
It’s not always in our nature to get along in harmony with others; I’m sure a quick scroll through my Facebook feed would confirm that. In fact, more often than not we tend to shy away from putting ourselves out there and meeting new people in unfamiliar, sometimes uncomfortable ways. But seeing as we are social creatures by nature, we can’t stay holed up all alone for too long on our own without needing the sound of another person’s voice.
Since friendships and relationships are so crucial to fulfilling that deep-seated need for companionship, it is only fair that we properly ensure that real connections are treated with the utmost care so that they can be maintained for a very long term.
I often relate friendships to business transactions. You clearly understand when you’ve had a good experience with the customer service at a restaurant as opposed to when you’re tempted to hop on Yelp and leave a 1-star review.
The natural ups and downs of life also translate into relationships. If you’ve ever been married or in a long-term relationship, you will heavily identify with that last statement. You can typically predict after a few weeks of blissful happiness, that one day soon after you will find yourself running around the house, closing in on your loved one, all the while screaming expletives and brandishing the frying pan in your hand.
Did I mention that relationships have their high and low points? And no matter how much you try, you will grow frustrated with your friends and family, and you will wind up taking a step back from the relationship to breathe, just for a moment, before continuing on in the mutual journey of life.
There are, however, some things that you can do to not only relieve the typical stress of a friendship but also make you a better friend altogether. And these key ideas are so simple, so you are most likely exhibiting at least one or two in order to gain friends in the first place!
The most important thing you can do in a relationship is listen.
It’s so easy to start a conversation with your friend, and have it quickly translate into a shared discussion. But the older I get, the more I realize that many individuals don’t realize just how one-sided they are being in the Talking vs. Listening department. And for those people who think that it’s permissible to talk about their lives and issues for 90% of the conversation, before hastily throwing in a, “Oh, how’s your life, by the way?” – Stop being selfish. You need to share the time spent with friends listening to what’s going on in their lives and also sharing what’s going on in your’s equally.
Also, be upfront with your friends at all times. Don’t lie, don’t ghost, and be flexible in understanding when things just won’t work out the way you had originally planned.
Sometimes I come home from a very long day at the office, knowing fully well that I have had plans to call someone or meet someone for a drink in a few short hours. But the thought of interacting with anyone other than my bed just sounds like too much to handle. Rather than making up an excuse (ie. “Hey, sorry, still stuck at the office,” or “Hey, phone died…whoops!”) please be honest with your friend. Tell them about the long day you had. Tell them that you don’t want to have pants on for another second. Tell them that you’re just so tired, and that you will make it up to them. Any good friend will understand, and in fact, they might have been feeling the same way! And while you shouldn’t make this a habit, maybe there can be time when you reschedule a dinner and drinks night to a PJs and TV night with that same good friend.
Leave the drama back in high school and be real with friends when they do something to hurt you. And when they genuinely apologize, forgive them immediately and never bring it up again.
This tactic will literally save all of your relationships. Stop the gossip, the back-biting, the drama, and be honest with your friend when they do something to hurt you. Allow them to explain themselves, listen to what they have to say (quietly- don’t interrupt them) and if they offer a sincere apology, then accept it for the sake of saving your friendship, put the incident behind you, and never look back at it again.
This, of course, would be the ideal situation. Sometimes they can be messier than described, as can all things that involve two or more human beings. But keep in mind- even if he/she does not apologize or perhaps does the same thing again shortly after your discussion and first apology- no matter what, you want to try to save this relationship. If that means one person being the bigger person, then so be it.
Now sometimes these conflicts can also arise because we outgrow people in the friend-arena. It’s never necessary to stick around with someone who keeps dragging you down with negativity and hurtful tactics. But a loving friend and person, fight until the very end to maintain that once-beautiful relationship. And if the time comes to let that relationship go, do it with grace and ease and never let the bitterness of the ending get the best of you.
Living in harmony with other beings is always a challenge, even if we love those beings. We need to go back to the original golden rule and take a moment to step back and treat others as we would like to be treated, even if that means expending extra energy and time to do so. When you come into a real friendship with someone, don’t let it slip out of your grasp: good friends are hard to come by and always worth nurturing the relationship throughout its entire lifetime.