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7 Hacks That'll Make Your Friendships (Even) Better

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."—Anais Nin

What About Your Friends?

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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