Forming real friendships isn’t often a major consideration in life until well into your twenties. Although there are always going to be exceptions, until at least that point in time we tend to take our friendships mostly at face value. Speaking of values, it’s also often true that our own are not fully formed until around the same time. That’s not necessarily a sign of immaturity; more a lack of the kind of life experiences that shape our perception and lead us to understand what we truly want out of life.
As we grow older, we may learn the hard way that friendships aren’t always quite what they originally seemed. Even if they are, it’s also possible that as we change and grow, we also outgrow the friendships that once served us so well. For others, forming friendships in the first place may be one of life’s challenges. Communication and intimacy in any form don’t come easy to everybody. Some are more introverted and take time to let others in, for various reasons.
Real friendships are a crucial component of a stable life
Whatever course life takes, one way or another, forming real friendships tends to increase in importance as we age. Life can be pretty dull without reliable relationships, and the challenges life brings are not always easy to tackle alone, so we all need support from time to time. A real friendship will be resilient, weathering storms when required… and until our friendships are tested, we may not even know for sure who our real friends are.
When you first meet a potential new friend, it is wise to approach things similarly to how you might with a potential life partner. Although expectations may be different, the disappointment of losing or being let down by a friend can be equally as painful.
So what are the signs of a real friendship, and how will you seek these people out? Considering the following aspects of genuine friendship (by carefully assessing character and behavior) is a good place to start:
1. Real friendships are supportive
There are people out there who just don’t have time for others’ issues or challenges. Maybe their primary focus is fun and adventure, so these ‘negative’ aspects of life feel too draining. Perhaps the problem is that they don’t know how to handle their own problems, let alone someone else’s. Although such friends can be fun to hang out with, you’ll know how deep the connection can go once you try to confide in them. If they casually brush off your appeal for a friendly ear, they may not be capable of the depth you seek.
The real litmus test is when you want to discuss something challenging about their behavior within your friendship. Someone who genuinely cares about having you in their life will find a way to navigate such problems and consider your point of view; they’ll always want the best for you. When you can both show each other care and consideration regardless of the circumstances, this is what cultivates intimacy and trust between friends.
2. Real friendships are based on shared values and interests
Although some friendships can survive just fine based on something as simple as a sense of humor, real friendships usually require something deeper – or at least a number of similarities. If you have virtually nothing in common with somebody, the conversation will be limited and meeting up for mutually interesting activities may be difficult.
Similarly, it’s going to be difficult to understand somebody’s decision-making processes when their values are out of sync with your own. Even with the best intentions, it can be harder to establish genuine connections with those that don’t share a similar enough perspective.
3. Real friendships are balanced
We’ve all met people who seem to want an audience above all else. “It’s all about me” syndrome is unfortunately rife in the modern world, no doubt in part due to social media influence and other unhealthy societal factors. Depressingly often, this makes for toxic friendships. Not everybody is fully aware of their social impact; nor may they have well developed social skills. On top of this, their communication habits may be ingrained. It’s tough for people who are self-absorbed to form real friendships.
Likewise, some friends just want everything their way. Their desires come first, and their opinions matter most. However, a real friendship should be balanced; both parties should be able to listen to one another and make allowances in terms of time and activities now and then. Imbalanced friendships never make it long term unless one party compromises unduly, and that usually leads to resentment rather than authentic connection.
4. Real friendships allow for differences
We can’t always expect to have everything in common with another person. Friendships are usually based on having a lot in common, but not always. Sometimes they are based on mutual respect and admiration. Sometimes it is precisely those differences that lead to admiration, but when the differences between two people cause one or the other to be triggered, mutual respect is what prevents separation.
It may be the case that one person has a baffling way of handling situations. For example, nobody wants to watch a friend making a hideous and potentially painful mistake; yet when we can allow our friends to make their own mistakes with our blessing, and remain supportive in the event something goes wrong anyway, our friendships will flourish.
5. Real friendships welcome honesty
It can be emotionally uncomfortable when someone we care about has an opposing viewpoint to our own over something personal or important. Yet if we can keep in mind that having our views, ideas and opinions challenged is an opportunity, we can learn to appreciate such contradictions.
We will either stand more firmly in our convictions or recognize that there may be other aspects worth considering. Respecting that both parties are entitled to their perspectives means the friendship can always remain authentic.
Ultimately, as you grow as a person and start to understand what works for you, you will require healthier friendships in which your boundaries are respected and your emotional needs are met. Finding your tribe is not so difficult so long as discernment is applied. At XOH!DNAIR, we hope that our perspective benefits the lives of our followers… so if you liked this article, don’t forget to check out our other blog posts!