Something that I definitely believe that we learn to appreciate more, the older and wiser that we become, is our friends. Well, let me back that up a bit—first, we discover what it means to actually have real friends. Then, once we get them, we value them in ways that are truly indescribable.
The friends that I've got? Oh, how I adore them. Aside from the fact that I write about relationships for a living, I think that's why I'm constantly pondering ways to be a better friend to the people I truly care about. Some of those ways, I've comprised into seven different hacks. Once you're done reading these, I'm thinking that they'll mostly be common sense. Still, sometimes, we need a bit of a reminder of what we can do to maintain and nurture the connections that we've got. I'm hoping this article can make that happen for you and your peeps.
FRIEND HACK #1: Use, Don’t Abuse, Your Friend’s Support
One of the best things about having friends—true ones, anyway—is they are there to support and encourage us, through good times and bad. There's no doubt about that. However, just because someone is down for you, that doesn't mean that you should take this kind of gift for granted. What do I mean? I've got a former friend who I had to transition out of my life because I pretty much only heard from them when they needed something—and oftentimes what they needed was to vent and then be told that nothing was ever their fault; that they were always right. Not only was that untrue but it got to be mad exhausting; especially since, when it came time for me to share, either they were only halfway listening or their time was super limited.
Something that I adore about the Bible is there is pretty much a verse for any dilemma. When it comes to this particular point, Proverbs 25:17(AMPC) comes to mind. It says, "Let your foot seldom be in your neighbor's house, lest he become tired of you and hate you." Basically, this breaks down to making sure that you don't wear out your welcome. Be sensitive to your friend's lifestyle and schedule. Learn to read the room when it comes to their energy when the two of you do connect. Also, be open to giving the kind of support that you desire. Yes, your friends should be down for you (as you are for them), but they are only human. Sometimes they need space. Definitely some reciprocation too.
FRIEND HACK #2: Speak Your Friend’s Love Language
Some of my friends are quality time people. What this pretty much boils down to is, I can't make up for not hitting them up on the phone with gifts or affirmations. No, I've got to set aside time to converse with them; preferably in person. Some of my friends are acts of service folks. It truly moves them when I retain something that they said they were doing or needing and then I take care of it for them. Physical touch friends are interesting because they don't seem to do well with respecting personal space (LOL). They wanna hug when they first see me, they touch a lot during the visit, and they wanna hug again and maybe even kiss me on my cheek or forehead before they go. For years, I used to try and get my friends to not put these kinds of expectations on me. After learning more about how love languages apply on a friendship level, I realized that how they are isn't "weird" or "wrong", it's simply how they desire for love to be expressed to them. Noted.
While we're on this topic, it's also not a good idea to simply assume that you know what your friend's love language is. For instance, I have one friend who assumed that I was a quality time individual when I'm absolutely not that (shout-out to the ambiverts). I am absolutely a words of affirmation kind of gal. Before they knew this, sometimes they would plan dates that had me on the "Yeah, I'll pass" tip, simply because I wanted to stay at home. Then they would get offended. Once I explained that a card or affirming email is more than enough, we stopped butting heads in this way. I accepted that going out was more for their benefit than mine and so we met each other halfway.
I think I'm always gonna be a fan of love languages because they really do remind you that we all need to feel loved…differently. If you want to learn more about how to speak your friend's love language, check out "This Is How To Apply Love Languages To Your Friendships". It can be a real lifesaver when it comes to making your friends feel special in their own unique and specified way. Same goes for you as well.
FRIEND HACK #3: Don’t Dish Out What You Can’t Take
THIS. ONE. RIGHT. HERE. Have you ever had a friend who feels like they can just say whatever to you, even about you, and then the moment you're like, "Hold up, sis. You ain't Jesus", suddenly they either turn mad passive aggressive or they act all bent out of shape? One of the things that I adore about all of my friends at this point (and it took some sifting to get here, believe you me, chile) is we all want to see each other grow and win. This means that sometimes we ALL have to hear some things that are difficult to take in about ourselves.
If you're someone who believes that the definition of a true friend is someone who only compliments you and never calls you out on your ish, you might want to cop some self-help books on what healthy friendships consist of. In the meantime, if you know that you're too sensitive to take rebuke or correction, how about you don't dish it out? It'll reduce the drama in your friendships by at least 30 percent. No joke.
FRIEND HACK #4: Honor the Individuality of Each Person
A wise person once said, "Embrace your individuality. Love what you love without judgment." Along these same lines, there's a Scripture in the Bible that says, "He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works." (Psalm 33:15—NKJV) Individuality is all about what makes someone distinctive, unique and a complete and total original. This means that there is no point in comparing one person to someone else because, how do two originals actually compete when they are both incomparable? When you really stop and think about it…they don't.
This is so important to keep in mind when it comes to your friendships. Each person is rare. Each person will benefit your life in ways that no one else can. Each person will cause you to think differently about some things than anyone else would. And each person is definitely not supposed to be your clone. So many people suffer in their relationships with other people because they act like their job is to "make" others become more like them. What a healthy and humble person does is accept the individuality of the people in their life and embrace how they complement them, on a person-by-person basis. They love the differences; they never seek how to alter them.
FRIEND HACK #5: Pay Close Attention to Their (Friendship-Related) Strengths and Weaknesses
One of my friends is an awesome listener but sucks at picking up her phone. That's funny to process, even as I'm typing it out, because it's like she really is the best communicator—when you can reach her. Because she's an introvert (along with her daily life demands), she just doesn't keep her phone around her much, so it really is kind of a catch-her-if-you-can or shoot-her-an-email-if-it's-dire kind of dynamic. Then I've got a friend who I can reach out to at any time. "Problem" is, there's absolutely no telling how many other things that she's going to be doing and how many times she's gonna cut me off as I'm trying to get my thoughts across.
Both of these things used to irk the entire hell outta me. That was until I decided to acknowledge what each of my friends' friendship-related strengths and weaknesses are. If I needed some really serious insight, I'll shoot my introvert friend an email to let her know that I need to speak with her sooner than later. If I just want some company, I'll hit up my friend who doesn't listen the best but is hilarious and always around.
Coming to this kind of understanding has prevented me from getting frustrated and from putting totally unnecessary pressure on my friends. Oftentimes, the universe brings us different people so that we can get certain things from each one. Assess how each friend works in your life. Thank the Lord for the strengths; try not to harp too much on the weaknesses.
FRIEND HACK #6: Mutually Discuss Each Other’s (Friendship-Related) Needs
Even though I wrote "10 Questions To Ask Your Close Friends Before The New Year Begins" two years ago with a New Year's Day theme, I encourage you to check it out when you get a chance. Unfortunately, some friendships come to an end, not because the mutual love and respect are missing; it's because one or both people feel like their needs are going unmet. What's really sad is the fact that sometimes, it's not that both people are incapable or even unwilling to meet the need; it's more like both individuals assumed that the other should know what those needs are.
Listen, just because someone cares, profoundly so, about you, that doesn't mean that they can read your mind or that they are spending every waking hour trying to figure out how to keep you happy. Plus, as life goes on, typically, our needs can change, so it's unrealistic to expect someone to just "figure that out" on their own.
I can't think of one friend I've got where we don't talk about what we need from each other, at least twice a year. Sometimes the needs are the same. Many times, they aren't. It's so beneficial for us both to get everything out on the table so that we can be the best kind of friend to one another. The only thing that makes that happen is open and honest communication.
FRIEND HACK #7: Expect Friendships to Transition and Evolve
Something that I'm amazed by when it comes to long-term marriages and friendships is the ability that the two people who are involved had to stay committed throughout their individual growth and transitions. A columnist by the name of Richard J. Needham once said, "You don't marry one person; you marry three: the person you think they are, the person they are, and the person they are going to become as the result of being." And you know what? This is oftentimes the case with friendships too.
One of my very closest friends? When we met, she was single and taking a long (and much-needed break) from her music career. Over the course of our 13-year friendship, she got married, had two children (who are eight years apart) and signed a deal. All of these things have caused us to have to shift things like time times when we talk and, because our lives are very different, even what we talk about a lot of the time. I've got to endure potty training updates and she's gotta listen to me talk about past dudes who are still hitting me up (chile). Because we want to remain in each other's lives, we're intentional about not just…growing apart. That doesn't mean that this doesn't require effort and sacrifice on both of our parts, though. Evolution always does.
So yeah, I'm gonna close out this friendship hack by reminding you that one of the greatest challenges in relationships is accepting that sometimes people grow at different paces and—differently period. If the love, respect, communication and clarity about the purpose that each of you serve to one another is there, you can still be thick as thieves. You can still be the kind of friends that are very special and necessary. You can still withstand (pretty much) whatever comes your way—together.
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