Evolving Strong Friendships

A friend asked me about friendship dynamics. I'd never put words to paper on the subject but I have thought about it exhaustively.

She specifically asked about the evolution and strengthening of friendships. How would I even begin on such a topic? What research should be done? Am I over thinking it?

The answer finally came after speaking to a long time friend- well, we became friends down

the road. The topic of 'friendship evolution' struck me tonight. In his words "We're grown now. If we still had the same issues that we did when we were younger I wouldn't be able to be friends with you now!"

He is right! If we had the same issues individually and/or with each other our friendship would have died long ago. Why? For the simple reason that relationships of any kind, without growth die or remain torturously stagnant- and THEN die. Efforts need to be made with respect to understanding, communicating, and changing behaviors that cause the recipient trauma or discomfort. We've all heard the saying "It's a two way street", it truly is.

If we, as persons, intend to have friendships (relationships) we must learn the rules of the 'Road'.

Rules of the Road:

1) Communication means hearing AND listening NOT just speaking.

This is number one in ALL relationships, this is how relationships are built. What we understand about communication is that it involves talking or expressing individual thoughts and feelings to another person(s); but what we tend to ignore is the listening component. During communication between friends we ‘hear’ each other out but hearing is not the same as listening. How so?

Hearing only needs a functioning ear, a basic sense. Listening combines basic sense with basic sensibility- the ability to be aware of the subject matter and to understand it before responding. Listening is a sign of respect- something we all desire in our relationships. In friendships we need to learn to shut our mouths and open our minds.

2) Make an effort to please the other with the understanding that it is mutually beneficial.

During a phone conversation with a friend, he made this admission: "I listento you now, hear what you have to say because I don't want to keep making the same mistakes." This took me by surprise, I admit. First, because it was such an unexpected moment; and second, it is exactly what I want in my friendships. The same is expected of me. Two way street indeed!

Let’s not get it twisted when I say, “make an effort to please the other”, I am most certainly not saying that we begin to be caterers. What I am saying is that necessary effort is to be made to recognize and learn what things we do and say that produces negativity in a given relationship/friendship. Example, you have a friend that hates it when you make plans with them and then consistently cancel at the last minute. You have talked about this over and over, you apologize each time but still commit to plans and then cancel at the last minute. The problem here is that Rule #1, is not being applied, you hear but don’t listen so now you’re at Rule #2. When the first rule isn’t applied it is impossible to apply the second rule.

You may be wondering how in the world is this all mutually beneficial- I’ll tell you. You get what you give, right now we’re not talking about abusive relationships. You don’t have to believe in the words of the Bible but you cannot deny that what you sow is what you reap in due time. If you want your friend to listen to you and quit doing the things that annoy you on a consistent basis 1) communicate that and 2) make the effort to do the same for them. Friendships are made stronger when both parties feel and know they are appreciated and respected.

3) Arguments and disagreements should be handled like toddlers NOT adults.

Children forgive faster than adults because they don't yet comprehend grudges. Childlike innocence is major when it comes to the progression of friendships and relationships in general. I, for one, admit that I used to hold in resentments and anger just to replay them in my mind. Honestly, I cannot say that they’re all gone but I can say that I now know how to make a conscious effort to NOT mentally go over an argument after its been discussed, forgiveness given and all parties have moved on. Truly, it is pointless to do so because no one benefits- one is bitter and the other oblivious.

Recently, I encountered this rule. I laugh now but was upset then. Maturity could be seen on both parts after legitimate points were aired and some stubborn silence (on my part) passed- the conversation ended with FaceTime, reaffirmation of value and laughter. We moved on.

It is important to remember that disagreements do not mean that you cannot be friends anymore, it just means that you do not see ‘it’ the same way. So unless these disagreements will significantly alter your lives, agree to disagree and move on. The same goes for arguments, many times they are pointless but egos get in the way of sensibility and run the risk of bringing to an end a great friendship. Because we disagree does not mean that we do not love each other, that’s ridiculous! I’ve seen friendships fall apart because one friend said they did not agree with a lifestyle choice or romantic relationship the other friend was engaging in. I will say it- that is petty and nonsensical. This issue resurfaces in Rule #5.

4) Foster trust.

Trust is a building block used to strengthen the infrastructure (foundation) of a relationship. It rarely happens overnight because it comes from experiences or tests. Over time you will know whether or not a person can hold your secrets or even keep their word. It’s hard to trust a promise breaker or a liar. No, them you watch closely.

I, myself, have had troubling experiences with so-called friends. This I count as my mistake, I did not let experience prove trustworthiness. Eagerness in friendships will cause all kinds of misjudgments, causing us to attribute characteristics to a person that are not truly there in them. However, on the flipside, a person who has demonstrated a trustworthiness, loyalty and genuineness toward you and your relationship with one another IS a person to trust. Despite rocky moments, that WILL happen, through and through this is a friend. History is your greatest measuring stick for trust.

Along with trust is influence. Momma always said to keep away from bad influences. Listen to Momma! There’s no doubt that people who are bad influences can also demonstrate trust and loyalty to one another, how? It goes back to agreements and disagreements on what is ‘liked’ behavior. Take for instance gangs, gangs exhibit trust and loyalty like nobody’s business BUT their influences are negative. If your friendship track record is a positive one, one that promotes the best in both parties, then that is a friendship to keep strengthening.

5) Recognize when truth is being told in love.

Oh boy this is a tricky one. Truth told in love. Yes truth can hurt but we need it. The Bible says in Proverbs chapter 17 verse 17 that “a friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity”, very true. I think for this reason we forget that it is in love that truth comes but if it is not something we want to hear we consider it unfriendly. That’s a misconception; we SHOULD want the truth from our friends. If we’re doing something stupid a REAL FRIEND will call us out on it. Personally, I do not consider someone to my friend if they only tell me what they think I want to hear. We do not need YES people in our lives, we need REAL people in our lives. A real friend cares about how your life will turn out and if they can see some thing in the road ahead that may harm you it is their duty- you gave them that permission when you called them ‘friend’- to warn you or stop you. Don’t cut them off, hear them out, listen and respond accordingly.

A recent conversation with one of my best friends (haha let’s not go there on the multiple BFFs thing) reinforced this rule. We are able to tell each other the absolute truth, we know when it’s serious because that’s when the middle names get called out! Because of the love and respect we have for each other disagreements do not matter because we care for each other above ourselves and this way we KNOW some one is ALWAYS looking out for us.

I hope this helped shine some light on evolving and strengthening friendships. This is not the whole sum of the matter just the beginning because friendships are more intricate and delicate than we know. These Road Rules are foundational and the truth is that friendship is not about you its about the person you have befriended (each person should have this view). Reciprocity is the word of the day; keep in mind though it is not about “I do for you so you MUST do for me”. True reciprocity comes out of selflessness.

If you want me to talk on another topic, comment or email me!