There should be a recognized global holiday to celebrate the value of friendship. Good friends — because there’s a distinction between them and the placeholders — are therapists, cheerleaders, and hosts of positive energy. Unfortunately, the hustle and bustle of everyday life seems to be pushing real friendships out of style faster than this summer’s trends.
As we chase recognition online by way of likes and mentions, plus inclusion and validation from strangers, meaningful interpersonal connections seem like they’re on life support.
We’re becoming content with being alone for hours, days, and weeks on end as long as we have our phones — and to that end, we’re quick to cut someone off or limit their access to us the minute we feel wronged. Notice the use of feel because your perception might not be the reality.
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Social media tells us to guard our hearts and the most intimate details of our lives out of fear that “outsiders” — i.e., most people on the edge of our inner orbit — could cause destruction and distraction. But, there is something to be said about people who hang onto the now archaic concept of friendship; real ones who skirt the current cultural norm of distance, fear, and avoidance.
The scariest part about maintaining an authentic connection with a person who isn’t a romantic partner or classified as family is the necessary act of vulnerability.
By definition, vulnerability is “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally,” according to the Dictionary. Translation: You’ll have to shed your layers to receive love. The open access of vulnerability without guarantee of preservation or protection keeps us locked in and bottled up.
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Let’s face it — no one wants to come out of any type of relationship feeling like a fool. A 2006 M.I.T. study, reported in the New York Times, detailed the frequent unbalance of friendship.
The study analyzed friendship ties among 84 subjects (ages 23 to 38) in a business management class by asking them to rank one another on a five-point continuum of closeness from “I don’t know this person” to “One of my best friends.” The feelings were mutual 53 percent of the time while the expectation of reciprocity was pegged at 94 percent. This is consistent with data from several other friendship studies conducted over the past decade, encompassing more than 92,000 subjects, in which the reciprocity rates ranged from 34 percent to 53 percent.
Now, the study might be a little dated, but the facts remain: Many of us are afraid to jump into the friendship pool because of rejection and the quality of friendship might not be mutual.
Unfortunately, we can’t make like Cher and turn back the hands of time to when Twitter, Instagram and group chats didn’t exist. It’s up to us to recognize and honor the value of our relationships and work to maintain the sanctity of our acquaintanceships.
SUGGESTED: Do you know how to help?
How can we be better at being friends? The question of the hour requires an honest, introspective analysis of your general qualities as a person. Here are a few keys to looks at:
Am I self-absorbed when it comes to friendship?
We all are focused on self to a degree and that isn’t necessarily a bad trait to have. The problem lies when you let your problems and ambitions consume you to the point where you can’t even look outside of yourself to see what else is going on. The way to work on it is to employ intentional consciousness to your interactions. Check yourself if you feel like you’ve been talking for 30 minutes straight and you haven’t even asked your conversation partner how they’re doing.
Am I overly sensitive?
Some people have a complex that leads them to believe the whole world is against them and most of the time that just isn’t the case. Jumping to conclusions about how people may feel about you is the quickest way to destroy a fruitful relationship. Sometimes all it takes is pumping your breaks and taking a breather in the situation.
Do I understand people are flawed?
Nobody on this big, green earth is perfect and it’s to our detriment to think so. We hold our confidants to unreachable standards and it aids in the quick demise of our relationships. People are flawed and people can change and grow. Continue to be optimistic in this regard.
Can I tap into my compassion?
A lot of people are walking around with this stoic expression that pretty much says the world is a dead and lonely place. It’s almost comparable to a scab on a knee — you have to pick away at it to get to your human side again. Tapping into your compassion is always a good thing to do if your goal is to become a better friend.
Do you place a high value on friendships or are relationships fair weather in your world?