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What About Your Friends?

5 Kinds Of Friends You Need. 3 Kinds Of Friends You Don't.

Hopefully, as you age, you are maturing. And as you mature, you accept that although our society and culture seem to act, in many ways, like life is forever one big high school (cliques, peer pressure, caring about looks more than character, etc.), it’s not supposed to be.


Five Friends You Need In Your Life And The Three You Don't

Take friendships, for example. While, when you were a teenager, having a ton of friends was typically an indication of being uber popular, as an adult, you realize that popularity ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be and that if you have three solid friends, you are truly blessed. In fact, some studies reveal that most adults have between 3-5 true friends (not people you are cool with or even close acquaintances…good friends), with almost 50 percent professing to have three or fewer of those.

In the spirit of finding that conclusion to be absolutely true, let’s look at five types of friends you need — and three kinds of friends you don’t. Hopefully, when it comes to the five, you’ve got folks in your life who have all of these characteristics. Also, once you review the three kinds of “friends” who are probably doing you more harm than good, you will be ready to do some shifting — so that you have more to offer the friends who are actually benefiting you and your world (as you do the same thing for them). Ready?

The Five Friends You Need In Your Life

1. You NEED an ACCOUNTABLE Friend

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I’ll tell you what — if anything is currently on the endangered species list, it’s accountability. I don’t know what’s up with the current state of our culture, but people holding themselves responsible for their own words and actions (along with allowing others to do it) is becoming so rare that I recently wrote an article about it (check out “What It Actually Means To 'Hold Yourself Accountable'” when you get a chance).

It’s like egos are so large — and fragile — that so many folks have fooled themselves into believing that they want a romantic partner when what they actually want is a mesmerized audience and/or that they long for a true friend when what they actually want is a diehard fan. Don’t believe me? How many times have you heard someone say, “If you were my friend, you wouldn’t judge me, you’d support me”? And usually, it’s in the context of them being called out in their ish and them not liking it.

Supporting you doing something that is potentially unhealthy, obviously counterproductive, or even simply against your friend’s personal convictions? Nah, a real friend is gonna tell you what you don’t want to hear — especially if/when you don’t want to hear it because one of the main purposes of friendship is to look out for you and check for blind spots that you may not notice any other way.

Does that mean you are always expected to agree with your friend and their findings? No. Still, if they truly care about you, they will put their concerns on record. That’s the sign of someone you can actually trust. Besides, have you read an entertainment website or blog lately? Audiences and fans are fickle as hell. Accountability comes with maturity and stability. It’s something that the foundation of friendship is built upon.

2. You NEED a FLEXIBLE Friend

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I don’t have kids. I do have goddaughters, though. One of them is a preteen (lawd, where does the time go?!) who is a bit on the dramatic side. So, one thing that I try and emphasize to her is she needs to be flexible when it comes to her approach to life. Otherwise, her rigidness (that life should go the way she wants to with no wiggle room for shifting) is gonna make her…unnecessarily miserable.

Sometimes she listens, sometimes she doesn’t — especially when it comes to her friendships. It’s like she wants everyone to be just like she’s decided in her mind that they should be, and then they are only loyal from her perspective if they never switch up. Bless her heart, because could anything be more unrealistic than that?

Thing is, I know grown folks who act the same way, not just when it comes to their friends but their own marriage. Listen, when you sign up to be in an intimate relationship with someone else, one of the things that you’re doing is agreeing to be loyal to the person they were, the person they are, and the person they are becoming — as they do the same thing for you. And that? That requires quite a bit of mental and emotional flexibility. And no, it’s not always easy.

Just recently, I was talking to a friend of mine about how much I have grieved certain dynamics of our friendship over the past (almost) 20 years. In so many ways, although core values like loyalty, trustworthiness, and dependability have pretty much never wavered, because he’s become a different person in other ways, to a certain degree, it’s affected how we interact and how much. Many times, when we would discuss it, he would have to remind me that I’m comparing who he is now to who he was when he was damn near two decades younger — and to him, that was unfair.

In many ways, he’s right. There’s something wrong with a person who can go years at a time without evolving, and there’s also something wrong with a friend who won’t “let” a person do so. Hmph, that actually makes Alice Walker’s quote make all the more sense: “No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow.” Yeah, if you want to have good friends and be a good friend, flexibility has to come into play. No doubt about it.

3. You NEED a PROACTIVE Friend

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In the many years that I have been a marriage life coach, if there’s one thing that personally irks me to no end is passive aggressiveness. I’ve said it many times before because I absolutely believe it to be true that Disney and rom-coms have too many people out here thinking that a sign of true love and real connection is mind-reading abilities when that simply isn’t the case. What I mean by that is, if you want someone to know what your wants, needs, and expectations are, you need to tell them. Guessing games are just that: GAMES.

And what does that have to do with this particular point? Well, until you state what you need from someone, it’s not their responsibility to try and figure it out and then fulfill it. It’s once you communicate with them and (this is key), they agree that it is something that they can rise to the occasion on, and then they don’t, that it starts to translate as neglect or even disrespect as far as your relationship goes.

Here’s a good example. I’m a Gemini. I’m also a unique woman on a few levels because, although I don’t observe holidays (and no, I am not a Jehovah’s Witness), I do treat my birthday like it lasts the entire Gemini season. Back in the day, I used to assume that my friends found their own birthday to be as much of a big deal as I did mine, and so, I didn’t think it was necessary to mention that I wanted to celebrate beyond a mere “Happy Birthday.” Interestingly enough, though, most of my world is kind of “meh” about their day — and so that energy initially translated that way when it came to observing mine.

For years, I would be HOT. At the same time, I wouldn’t say anything. I chalked it up to folks not really caring about me as much as I thought they did. That is, until I stated it as a need and — BOOM! Even the friends of mine who don’t get it will make sure to bring up, right around the beginning of June, what I want and/or want to do for my born day. They are proactive instead of reactive because I communicated my needs.

So, with this point, there are two things to remember: don’t expect out of people what you haven’t clearly stated. Once you do, though, if they value you and your dynamic with them, they are going to be proactive. In other words, you won’t have to keep asking, keep reminding, and/or keep being disappointed. You will be too important to them for that to transpire.

4. You NEED a SAFE Friend

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Probably, until my last breath, if someone were to ask me about a self-help book that they should read, I’m going to refer them toSafe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren't. Listen, when you’ve survived the kind of stuff that I have over the course of my lifetime, “safe” is a word that is truly music to your ears. And yes, when it comes to the types of friends that you need, safe is a word that you should never compromise or waver on.

When someone is safe, they are “secure from liability to harm, injury, danger, or risk” and “free from hurt, injury, danger, or risk.” Some synonyms for safe include protected, cherished, alert, considerate, and even “taking it easy” (they aren’t pushy or pressuring). And because the word “safe” isn’t used nearly enough when it comes to setting the bar for romantic, platonic, or hell, even familial relationships, let me go a bit deeper.

Characteristics of a safe person include:

  • They are honest and direct in their communication
  • They let you share your feelings freely
  • They keep things confidential
  • They operate from a place of humility
  • They do not weaponize information against you
  • They’re forgiving
  • They’re understanding
  • They are affirming and validating
  • They are consistent (they aren’t wishy-washy)
  • They don’t expect perfection yet they do expect growth
  • They keep their word
  • They help you to become a better person

And honestly, these 12 things simply scratch the surface of what it means to be safe to someone else; however, the list is vast enough (hopefully) that you know what kind of bar you are holding your own friends to.

For the record, a safe friend isn’t a perfect one. That needs to be said because friends are human and humans are fallible. At the same time, the reason why I’ve penned articles for the site like “10 Signs You’ve Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend,” “6 Signs You're About To Make A Huge Mistake In Making Them A Close Friend,” and “Ever Wonder If A Friend Is Just...Not That Into You?” is because, it’s one thing for a friend to make mistakes, yet it’s another when they are reckless and honestly couldn’t care less if their words or actions are doing you harm.

So yeah, do yourself a favor and think about each of your friends (close friends especially). As you go over the safe list — which of them are safe and which ones…honestly aren’t? And then, in the spirit of holding your own self accountable, ask yourself if you are a safe space for them as well. In order to be objective, you might want to send them this article and let them be the judge. Straight up.

5. You NEED a SECURE Friend

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It’s hard for someone to love you if/when they don’t love themselves. And when I think back on one of the things that I totally underestimated back in the day when it comes to healthy friendships, it was making sure that the people in my life weren’t insecure — especially the women. From the mean girl that I met in the first grade, to one of the worst people to ever come into my life who was kind of forced upon me in my childhood (just because your parents have friends, that doesn’t mean that you should automatically be put together with those people’s kids), to some people who were not-even-remotely low-key jealous and competitive — you really need people in your life who are so secure in themselves that they can root for you, they won’t try and copy you and they don’t feel some type of way about the goals that you reach along life’s way.

So, what are some clear signs that you’ve got a friend who is secure with themselves, which means that they will be solid when it comes to you and your friendship with them?

Secure people:

  • Don’t always have to be right
  • Do not feel threatened by your success
  • Aren’t using you as a meter for their own life accomplishments
  • Don’t give backhanded compliments
  • Aren’t defensive about every damn thing
  • Aren’t super clingy or needy
  • Can take criticism
  • Aren’t petty
  • Don’t switch up on you on the regular
  • Feel like a breath of fresh air instead of someone you have to walk on eggshells around

In short, insecure people feel like projects, and when it comes to healthy friendship dynamics, the last thing you should want to feel is like you’re always working on someone — or that you’re constantly working to make things work.

The Three Friends You Don't Need In Your Life

1. You DON’T NEED a HYPOCRITICAL Friend

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Have mercy! If there is one thing that our culture enjoys doing to the utmost, it’s cherry-picking the Bible. Meaning, if there’s a Scripture that makes them feel good, they’re all about applying the Good Book to their lives. On the flip side, if there’s something that challenges them to the utmost, suddenly, they want to deflect or manipulate it. Take when Scripture speaks of Christ saying, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Folks are good for stopping there, yet let’s look at the statement in its proper context:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” — Matthew 7:1-3(NKJV)

Now, for the record, there are verses like “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24 — NKJV) that make it clear that judgment is not a bad thing; it’s just that there is an attitude and order that we’re supposed to apply when doing it — and Matthew 7 is clear that the spirit that we have when we judge is one that we can expect from others. Not only that, but whatever area we plan on judging in, we should make sure that we’re good in that very same space.

For instance, how can you call out your friend on being in unhealthy relationships if you’re in a toxic one yourself? Are you being a good friend, or are you merely deflecting — or worse projecting? It is easier to take out your frustrations with yourself on them because you don’t want to look into your own mirror. Or how are you going to be hard on your friend about their financial decisions when your credit score sucks, and your savings account is empty?

See? The issue when it comes to being a hypocritical friend is you either hold people to a bar/standard that you don’t even hold yourself to, or you seem very comfortable with the “Do as I say not as I do” approach — and that is just ridiculous.

No one needs a friend who thinks it’s their job to police everyone but themselves. It’s draining. It’s arrogant. And, at the end of the day, it benefits absolutely no one.

2. You DON’T NEED an INCONSISTENT Friend

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A few weeks ago, while sitting in one of my classes, an instructor asked all of us to share what our biggest pet peeves were when it comes to relationships. I didn’t have to think twice — I can’t stand it when people are inconsistent.

I think a lot of it has to do with PTSD from my childhood because I lived with people who were unpredictable as all get out. And while it might be ironic to those who’ve read/heard that a popular trait of Geminis is moodiness (although I would say I’m pretty consistent on that front), is there anything more exhausting than someone who is one way on Monday and another way on Thursday or they make plans and then bail at the last minute (on a pretty regular basis), or they suck at clear communication, or they make promises yet don’t keep them, or they aren’t there for you when you absolutely need them to be? NOPE.

And while we’re on this particular kind of friend that you don’t need in your life, some definitions of consistent include compatible, not self-contradictory, and “constantly adhering to the same principles, course, form, etc.” Yeah, the older you get, the more you realize that long-term friendships need to have more than “we like the same music or food” in common. It’s important to have some people in your life who share your core values — who have similar (good) character traits as you do.

Also, some synonyms for consistent include words like dependable, logical, rational, steady, and unwavering. For better or for worse, if there’s one thing that just about all of my friends say about me, it’s that I’m consistent as hell — what you see is what you get. Rarely does something ever blindside them about me; especially since I’m going to pretty much overcommunicate my needs and will give a heads-up when I’m about to shift into some sort of internal growth spurt. That way, there are no unpleasant surprises.

Life brings enough of those without your friendships being full of ‘em. Feel me? I’m sure that you do.

3. You DON’T NEED a SELFISH Friend

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As I’m gearing up to write my third book, one of the things that I will be addressing is how selfish a lot of my past friends — well “friends” — were. A lot of self-work and healing has helped me to see that a huge part of that is because my friends reflected quite a bit of my familial experiences because, well, your family is all that you know…until you know something different.

Friends got to get away with it because it was a cryptic kind of selfish. They were self-consumed like a mug yet also manipulative enough to do just enough to make me think that it was okay for me to do more than them. Probably the best way to explain the hamster wheel is bread-crumbing — you know, giving you a little bit to keep you hanging on and rarely much more than that.

For instance, I have shared before that one former friend? Over the course of our friendship, I literally spent thousands on her, yet I can’t think of one time when I ever received a wrapped gift. Not one. Instead, she would bake a cake or cookies (mostly for my birthday), which was nice — yet still, how do you go 15 years with someone purchasing for birthdays, bridal showers, weddings, anniversaries, etc., and you can’t seem to muster up one present that actually comes with a receipt?

Meanwhile, you show me things that you purchase for other folks? Wild. Yeah, she was a selfish person, and a big part of that was because she was a self-consumed woman. Somehow, even when she claimed to call to check on me, the conversations would always become about her (chile).

So, what else does a selfish friend typically do?

  • They’re constantly asking for something while rarely offering anything
  • They display horrible timing when it comes to their requests (they don’t know how to “read the room”; they only care about their needs being met)
  • They rarely apologize (if ever)
  • They don’t really commit to anything unless they can get something out of it
  • They do what’s best for themselves — even at the expense of others
  • They have controlling tendencies
  • They act entitled
  • They’re typically easy to get along with until they can’t have their way
  • They lack empathy
  • They don’t mind you doing most of the work

To be fair, most of us have selfish moments that our peeps have to love us through (because, well, love is patient, right?). However, because friendships are about reciprocity, look out for folks who, if you pulled your effort out of the picture, there would barely be a friendship to speak of because that’s how much you put in and how little they do.

_____

It was a long read, I know. Yet because one of the most important relationships we will ever have in this life is our friendships, I hope this cheat sheet will help you to see what a real friend looks and acts like — and doesn’t.

Because, after all, life is too short and precious to be out here not celebrating the friends you need as you hold onto the ones…you…don’t.

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