Navigating new friendships can feel complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you are 3, 13, 33 or 63, certain rules of friendship are constant. Here are some things I teach my children and also, remind myself of to this day:
(1) Allow great friendships to happen organically: We may feel lonely. And we may want a group of supportive, wonderful friends that seem to be featured all over TV today. That doesn’t mean it happens instantaneously. Friendships happen over time. Create opportunity to allow friendships to grow and thrive without forcing them to happen. When we force friendships, everyone feels awkward and the opportunity for real friendship to form is diminished.
(2) Just because you’re friends with certain people, doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with someone else: There is a tendency for cliques to form in both childhood and adulthood. Be careful you are not shutting out the opportunity to meet other great people outside of your proscribed group. When we shut out such opportunities, we also diminish our own chance to grow and become better, more well-rounded people.
3) Gossip is an ugly habit: If you are finding that you and your friends have a habit of talking negatively about others, give it a rest. Gossip creates drama. And frankly, it’s just an ugly thing to do. There are too many other wonderful and interesting things to talk about besides other people. If your typical friends won’t stop gossiping, it may be time to go out with some other friends.
(4) Branch Out: Try meeting new people. Join a new class, go outside your town, attend a meet-up or go someplace you haven’t been before. Spend less time on Facebook and give people more Facetime in order to get to know others better. Ask someone new to join you for a playdate, cup of coffee, or a walk around the park. When we branch out, we give new friendships a chance to grow.
(5) Nurture the friendships that feel mutually easy, refreshing & positive: Sometimes we overlook the friends we have in exchange for focusing on the ones we wish we had. Think of those people who have always been consistent, strong friends. Make sure you carve out time to be with them and show them that their friendship is important to you.
(6) Get back to people: If people call, message or ask you to get together, give them the courtesy of an answer. Even if you would prefer not to go out with them, have the character to be respectful of their time and their feelings. Ignoring people is rude whether you are a child or an adult. It feels horrible. The Golden Rule Applies—do unto others as you would have done to you.
(7) If you don’t feel good when you are around them, move on: Friendship should feel good most of the time. If you find that you don’t feel like yourself or feel unsure of yourself when you are with certain friends, either talk about it openly with them so you can address the problem or move on. True friends don’t want you to be anything other than what you are because they like the real you.
While some friendships might take work, most of the time, they should feel pretty easy, meaningful, fulfilling and fun. Friendship should make you feel like the best version of yourself. If you have at least one friendship that does that for you, count yourself very lucky. It’s a beautiful thing.