"A real friend is someone who knows all your faults, but likes you anyway."
- Charles M. Schulz
Friendship is what the media calls a "hot topic" and has been for years, so much so you may not even realize it. From cars to karaoke bars, we belt out odes of devotion to the people in our lives and subconsciously reinforce our melodious ideals of what a true friend should say and do. Bill Withers tells us to lean on him when we're not strong. Carole King gets even more specific, instructing us to call out her name so she can come running. Do this and the Beatles assure us we'll get by with a little help from our friends.
These songs warm our hearts and remind us Dionne Warwick-style that "through good times and bad times" someone will be our side forever more. But, is "that what friends are for?" With all this running, and leaning, and counting on each other, being the wind beneath someone's wings can be exhausting. We are losing sight of the simple advice composer extraordinaire Cole Porter offered up in 1940. "Friendship, Friendship," Judy Garland croons, "Just a perfect blendship, when other friendships have been forgot, ours will still be hot." The key to mutually satisfying, long-lasting, life-changing friendships is balance!
But what is balance? Surely, no friendship can be 50/50 at all times. Keep in mind that balance must be fluid. It's all about give and take. Are you taking as much as you give? Listening as much as you talk? Supporting as much as you lean?
Use these simple ideas to re-tip the scales as needed.
Use your ears as much as your mouth. What is going on in your friend's life? Does she have an aging parent or a job that wears her down? Check-in. Ask questions. Actually listen to the answers. Remaining silent, which can be immensely challenging, is sometimes the best option. Listening closely will also help you find an appropriate time to change the subject to a happier topic if someone has been sitting on the pity-potty a bit too long. (But do so gently, please.)
See each other as often as you intend to. So many conversations end with "we should get together again soon" or "I'll call you tomorrow." Is this actually happening? Avoid the trap of having one friend be the "planner" to the other's "tag-along." Take action if necessary. Crack open your date book and pick up the phone. Alternate who picks the day's activity or split your time evenly. (For example, "You pick the restaurant, I'll pick the movie.")
Celebrate as much as you gripe. Being there to catch someone is important, but remember to lift her up, too. Take the time to appreciate her accomplishments – big and small. Include them in your celebrations, as well. And, as always, give thanks where they are due along the way. If you have nothing current to celebrate, look back on your history together as friends. Did you grow up together? Raise your kids together? Overcome a tragic loss together? Friendships are made of a million moments; take some of your time together to cherish the good ones.
Give as much as you get. If you find yourself constantly asking "what's in this for me?" your friendship is not as healthy as it should be. Entering into a friendship with other motives never works out well. Feelings get hurt, egos get bruised, and the sought end result is usually never achieved. Jealousy, insecurity, and mistrust lurk under the surface, causing friendships that are fickle and shallow. Foster friendships based on mutual trust, understanding, and collaboration instead.
Laugh as much as you cry. Real friends will help you find the humor in any situation. They can also keep you from taking yourself too seriously. Do your part. Be willing to laugh at your self sometimes. Make sure you laugh with your friends and not at them. Do what you can to bring a smile to their faces. You just may find humor is the perfect antidote to life's rocky patches.
Remember, friendships should be fun and uplifting. Maintaining them is important and takes work, but should not be a constant struggle. Approach your friendships from a positive, grateful place. Start with simple kindness and courtesy. Forgive, forgive, and forgive. Learn from each other. Grow with each other. Lend a hand and follow up with a hug. And don't forget how valuable it is to have a friend, somebody who loves and accepts you "warts and all." Focus on what you have in common. After all, according to C.S. Lewis, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one."
© 2008 New Perspectives. Permission to copy this article is granted provided the authors are notified and the following bio information is included:
Kathleen Passanisi PT, CSP, CPAE is an internationally recognized transformational speaker, therapeutic humor expert, healthcare professional and author. She has spoken to bajillions of people about life balance, wellness, the power of perception, and the link that exists between humor and health. Kathleen is a member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame and the funniest woman in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri (and, quite possibly, the Western Hemisphere.) For more information on Kathleen's presentations, books and products please visit the New Perspectives website at KathleenPassanisi.com
Annie Passanisi is the daughter of a motivational speaker (see above) who inherited her mother's love for women's issues and the platform. If that does not tell you enough about her, she is also a Chicago-based actor, singer, freelance writer and editor, 1950s pop culture enthusiast, and swing set champion. For more information, please visit www.TheAnniePassanisi.com.