It’s no secret that humans are greatly influenced by their immediate environment. Spend enough time with someone and you’ll unconsciously mimic their body language, become attune to their moods and be able to predict their behaviour.
Jim Rohn suggests that we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with, and whilst I agree with the sentiment I suspect that things aren’t quite that simple, and that this influence is highly dependent on how conscious we are of our friendship choices and the impact we knowingly allow.
Here’s my dos & dont’s of friendship:
Surround yourself with positive people and relationships. Interactions with friends increase the production of Oxytocin within the brain. This interaction of chemicals within the body enhances your mood and stimulates you emotionally and mentally.
Friendships, good ones, require effort. Not dissimilar to a relationship, friendships need the right amount of attention and energy to stay healthy. A lack of effort on either side will mean that you’re stoking the fire and letting your connection wane.
Like everything, friendships are subject to flux. By this I mean, some friendships will naturally strengthen or fade momentarily depending on other life circumstances (job, routine, geography) but it doesn’t always mean that they will stay that way forever. Any human disconnection has associated emotional side effects, and depending on your nature you’ll either breeze through them or endure them with relative hardship. A fundamentally solid friendship will bounce back, in time.
Everyone communicates differently (regardless of gender). Some of us are short and practical in our comms and prefer to save more robust conversations for the phone or in person meetings, others are always checking in via text, or sending deep emotional essays. It’s best to set your expectations for communication from the outset so you’re not left frustrated or unintentionally irritating someone.
Criticism isn’t always meant to hurt. The friends that you know you really well are more attuned to your faults. A good friend will and should gently let you know if they think you’re settling for average when you are amazing, look fat in that skirt, behaving badly or need to settle down/focus/pull your socks up. If it’s delivered with the right intention and eloquently, it can be extremely beneficial to your personal evolution so don’t be too quick to get defensive.
Variety is the spice. It’s good (and healthy) to have friends that are different, (from you and from your other friends), and that’s because diverse experiences bring you diverse insight and experiences. You just need to be clued into your self awareness to understand what each unique friend brings to the table, and when you can present your best self, for that particular friendship. This also means that you’re not doing the same things with the same people all the time. You might have friends from your yoga studio that you get zen, and bendy with, confidantes that are great in a crisis, or who will always help you celebrate an occasion with a bottle of champagne, inspire you to be creative or push you to try new things. The only common denominator across all categories is that there must be an element of authenticity woven through the relationship in order for it to continue to thrive.
Keep reaching. Do you have friends that stimulate you intellectually and encourage you to think in different ways or about concepts removed from your usual discussions about work/partner/friends dating friends/snacks/ or parties? If not then you may want to re-evaluate and/or find some that do. Don’t forget, it takes two to tango so you too should be striving to be a beacon of insight and positivity to your friends.