Monday 23 January 2023

How To Be A Good Friend


 For reasons which are now irrelevant, I recently departed from two friends. As you get older, officially not being friends with someone is rarer – most of us will just drift away if something happens. It was a terrifying time, but their departure will not be in vain; they made me reflect on the people who want me to succeed in everything I do. They deserve the best me possible. After some trial and error in practice, and lots of soul-searching, I’m proud to present the most important blog I’ve ever written – how to be a good friend. 

Proactivity Is Key 

Being a friend involves you creating a space of trust, honesty, and openness. This isn’t just about the laughs and the socialising, but proactively thinking of what that person is like and what they may need. This is the difference, to make a truly valuable friendship. 

If your friend divulges to you a problem, for all you know, you’re the only one they’ve shared it with. Be cautious to understand the difference between a casual moan and a real problem (I’ve done this!) and react accordingly. Did they just need an ear to share it with, or do you need to step in? That may be helping them come up with a solution or pushing them to the correct conclusion with a serious tone – I’ve needed this, and always appreciated it. You know their normal behaviour and when that’s changed. Don’t forget to drop in a week later just to see how it’s going, it’s easy for us to drift away from problems and never actually resolve them. Friends bridge the gap. 

Distance is also something to consider. Is someone not responding to you in the way they did previously? A couple of times I’ve found this is a friend who has drifted away – and that’s ok. But if it’s because they are struggling, Sue Ryder below says is best. Last year, I just stopped communicating, my brain became separate to me and was the only person I talked too. Constant messages from friends, letters and little presents, brought me back.
@suerydercharity What can you do to be Grief Kind? In this #GriefKind Class, we're reminded that everyone's experience of grief is different, and what is a help for one person might not for another. Watch more on YouTube. #grief #griefjourney #griedandloss #griefsupport #grieftok #bereavementsupport ♬ Je te laisserai des mots - Patrick Watson

General Friend Maintenance 

Something I think we don’t talk about is friend layers. Every friend is in a layer, from your best friend to an acquaintance. That’s not bad, we can’t emotionally involve ourselves with everyone in the same way. 

However, some friends will unexpectantly change their layer to you. They won’t respond to your requests to meet anymore, and their messages to you will still be light-hearted, but rarer. On the same wavelength, I’ve sometimes tried to up friendships to a new level, and I do not get a response. Every friend does not need to be bells and whistles. I have one friend who always invites me to things they do but will never indulge in my ideas. And you know what, I’m more than happy with that, as the times we have are still great. Understanding the (changing) lane and layer of a friendship and the parameters of it, will make them more fulfilling, and remove emotional drainage for you. 

A Complication Happens (and you want to fix it) 

It’ll happen eventually in all friendships – they’ll be a bump in the road. The first thing to consider is the first-time block. So many times, something has happened which made me feel a little odd… but then it was never mentioned again. Likely that person felt silly saying it or read the room, and they don’t need an explicit talking too. 

If you feel you’re in the wrong too, I find getting my sorries out quick and fast also helps resolve your own guilt – and most of the time your friend didn’t even clock whatever you’re concerned with. However, it shows that you care about their feelings. 

If it’s become a pattern however, it’s time to do something. Let’s face it, in person confrontations freak us all out. I find wording a very casual message (and then sleeping on it to look at it again) which is direct and to the point allows the problem to be resolved quickly. Don’t make a big deal out of it, or your emotions. You’re ultimately just looking for an understanding and acknowledgment that their behaviour made you sad. If the friend retaliates and you realise this is going to get bigger, I cannot STRESS how you really don’t need to reply straight away. What is going to happen if they know you read the message and you don’t reply for 24 hours? Nothing. Take your time to construct a correct response that will make you heard but also repair the friendship. 

A Complication Happens (and you want to depart from the friendship)

A breakdown is a breakthrough. 

You are the most important thing in the whole world. And as my grandma famously told me when the ex-friends had riled me up once again – “fuck ‘em!’. When it’s over, it’s over. Why give it anymore of your emotion? 

If you are in a situation where you are with them for a little more time (a job, a house), this will be more difficult, but you have the knowledge that the end is coming. Make a particular effort to be more distant to avoid more opportunities for conflict. What is your end goal? 

If they’re being particularly horrible over text, why not give the reigns over to somebody else? I went crying to my dad and gave it all over, and it really highlighted that he wasn’t emotionally invested like I was. No friend will be. They’ll be able to read through the message, find the core of the problem, and address it in the most emotionally unavailable way to reduce ongoing conflict. Keeping replies as short as possible is good to stop more anger, you don’t need to be angry back. 

When the day is done, and you no longer need to connect with them – it’s time to ditch. Set fire to the rain, there’s nothing left to lose! I remember feeling quite shocked at university when a friend left a flat group chat with no explanation when there was conflict with another flatmate. But that’s how it should be. You don’t need to give a goodbye letter or a long rant – it won’t make you feel better (writing one and sending it a friend instead would be liberating though). Block them on everything, give your social media channels a little refresh, and bin some of the things that instantly remind you of them. They don’t deserve closure, but you do.

There we go! That’s everything I’ve learnt. Of course, don’t get me wrong, still learning to practice what I preach (confronting I always struggle to muster), but trying makes every connection in your life, know that they have someone who gives a damn about them. And remember, setting boundaries for yourself is not selfish, and that the reason that you do all of this, is to make your life better. I'm so proud of the decisions I made with these ex-friends. I can’t begin to describe the dreams I’m having, the new routine, the world I’m creating now that those friends are behind me. You can do it too.

“Tonight, was so much fun! Loved hanging out with you. Don’t EVER doubt yourself, you light up every room you enter and are an absolute legend. Back yourself always because you’re a gem 💎 xxx” – My friend Charlotte after meeting during my turbulent time


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