The kids had a lot to say about the meaning of friendship. We didn’t plan on this topic...just spontaneously erupted into a hearty discussion that I think we all benefited from. Here are the key takeaways.
There are three broad categories of friendship:
1) Fun friends 2) Growth friends 3) Comfort friends
Of the three, Fun friends are perhaps the easiest to find and are, well, a lot of fun!! Fun friends are often new and exciting, but be careful not to stop investing in your growth and comfort friends.
Growth friends are typically older and wiser. This often means they more pressures on their time. They don’t need you as much as you need them so don't feel bad if they are hard to get hold. Growth friends have a growth mindset. They want to be around people they can grow from as well. You want to show your growth friends that you can help them grow as well. What you lack in wisdom you can make up for by being a Fun friend and helping them in times of need (Comfort friend).
Comfort friends are those few gems that are there for you when you are no fun and have little to offer. They care deeply about you and would sacrifice a great deal of time and energy to help you. Comfort friends are the hardest to get because they take effort over a long period, but hopefully they are also the strongest/ most resilient.
Friends are different from acquaintances in the following ways:
1) Friendships have strength...meaning you can survive strong disagreements and struggle. We all screw up sometimes and a friend that can’t stand a mistake every now and then is not really a friend.
2) Friends can be more honest and open. People are actually quite guarded. A huge part of being a friend is that you can trust each other to share the things that might bother others.
3) Friends are willing to sacrifice meaningful amounts of time and energy for each other.
4) Friends generally feel good about each others successes and are rarely, if ever, jealous.
Rules of thumb for improving and keeping friendships.
Advise your kids not to use the phrase “best friend”. It can only cause trouble and isn’t really helpful. People are unique. Recognize the unique contributions that your friends make to your life instead of stacking them in a linear hierarchy.
When in doubt about someone, ask yourself, “are they a positive influence in your life?”. You want friends that can make life more enjoyable, help you grow, and to lean on. But be careful. Sometimes, Growth friends are not fun to be around because they are honest and open about things that make us uncomfortable. Sometimes, Comfort friends are so comfortable around you they do and say and silly and immature things. Don’t mistake these qualities for a bad friend...it’s quite the opposite.
Great friends trust us with their thoughts. I read a definition of friend recently that said, “a friend is someone you can share your half baked thoughts with”. We need to have friends we can relax around and not worry about everything we say. This is especially true for folks like your Dad that need to talk (or write 😉) to think things through.
We didn’t talk much about when to end friendships. That’s a rather dark and sad reality that the kids have luckily avoided...but is inevitable. Here are two key things to look for in a friendship gone bad.
First, "Pull back from people that don't listen". This is the advice from our family hero Jordan Peterson. Real friends will care about you enough to listen. Some people are more talkative, but if your "friend" generally redirects your conversations to their experiences and their interests than they are (not surprisingly) much more interested in themselves than you. Dr Peterson suggests that you pull back from people who don't listen because you devalue your own thoughts and feelings when you share them with someone who doesn't care.
Second, good friends will be happy for you when you have something to celebrate. A good friend gone bad will often find ways to make you feel bad about good things that have happened to you. Be careful who you share good news with.
I did say that while you won’t always be friends with folks you should always be friendly. On numerous occasions I’ve thought to myself, “now is that 1-in-a-million moment when it makes sense to really give so-and-so a piece of my mind” ... so far each of those times has proven to be a mistake.