When it comes to friendship, we often focus on the actions and attitudes of others while failing to truly examine ourselves. Reflection and self-awareness are essential to friendship because while we will never be able to control another person’s behavior, one of the best things we can do to have strong friendships is to be good friends ourselves. Here’s how:
We are all imperfect, which means that for any long-term relationship to be successful, both parties will have to show grace and forgiveness to one another. Part of being a good friend is knowing when to show grace. When you care about people, there’s a strong possibility that they will hurt your feelings at some point. Most of the time it’s unintentional or the result of a misunderstanding. As long as it’s not some egregious offense that puts us in danger or plays into toxic patterns, we should be willing to forgive our friends when they are truly sorry. While grudge-holding may work wonders for our egos, they do nothing for the sustenance of long-term relationships.
Healthy friendships are built on equality. We should always be humble in our friendships and we should never get so gassed up that we view ourselves as better than or more important than our friends. There should not be an imbalance of power and we should never be too proud to apologize when we’re wrong.
“Humility is about emotional neutrality.,” explained Karl Albrecht, PhD, in an essay for Psychology Today. “It involves an experience of growth in which you no longer need to put yourself above others, but you don’t put yourself below them, either.”
Empathy is defined as “the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person.” It’s the glue that holds friendships together because we all need and are deserving of it.
“A threat to ourselves is a threat to our resources,” explained James Coan, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia College of Arts & Sciences. “Threats can take things away from us. But when we develop friendships, people we can trust and rely on who in essence become we, then our resources are expanded, we gain. Your goal becomes my goal. It’s a part of our survivability.”
Trust is essential to any relationship. Friends should be able to confide in one another without concern about their business being shared with others. Further, they should feel comfortable being vulnerable with one another because they know that their weaknesses, shortcomings, or misfortune won’t be used as a weapon against them later.
Finally, a foundational trait of strong friendships is dependability. We all need people on whom we can rely. Good friends are there for their loved ones in their times of need and they follow through on their promises. As Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., puts it, “If you are as likely to let friends down as come through for them, the relationship often becomes superficial, less engaging, and even resentment-provoking, if it doesn’t end altogether.”