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9 Moments in Friendship that Highlight Its Vital Importance

9 Moments in Friendship that Highlight Its Vital Importance

I tend to think of friendship as its own unique form of love and friends as family. I don’t mean to start this article with a walloping dollop of cringe-worthy sap right from the get-go. All I want to do is emphasize just how important friendship and friends (human and non-human) are to us as human beings. They are the lifeblood of happiness, health, safety, security, community, family, and a liberated sense of well being.

As you go about that all important life-task of building your community of friends and loved ones, here are 9 moments in friendship that highlight it’s vital importance and the winding path to true friendship (grounded in reality of course, not the beautiful, well-moisturized, social scenes of the umpteen sitcoms apparently featuring friendships in their narratives.)

1. The spark of bonding

This is that moment when you know, you just know, that there is a connection. It’s really awesome. If it were an intimate partnership or a dating scenario, you would call it a crush, or chemistry, or maybe even falling in love. Who cares what you call it? It’s that spark of bonding (see, now you’ve got me labeling it), and it can only happen at the level of the soul. It is that instantaneous moment that, whether realized or not, there is a bond between the two of you and the likely potential for a beautiful friendship.

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2. Building the relationship

This is the slightly longer-term phase of building the friendship that can provide a steady, solid supply  of happiness. The relationship begins with activities together, lots of conversation, good amounts of fun, and more. But do remember that real loving friendship prioritizes healing, care, and nurturing just as much as laughter and joy. It’s important to find that balance to ensure that the relationship is built across multiple emotional planes – joy, sadness, care, solidarity, pain and so on – and not just the ones that are easy social highs (but by all means, have those too.)

3. Figuring out imbalances

All relationships have imbalances. They are imbalances based on differences of gender, race, national identity, ethnicity, colonial norms, economic status, access to education, and a myriad other social structures. We can choose to ignore them like dysfunctional sociopaths or deal with them like healthy people who care for each other. A great example is going out to a restaurant and splitting the bill, if one friend is better off financially they will not make their friend shell out for a place they can’t afford. Instead, they will visit a place that is good for everyone’s price range.

4. Dealing with friction

In a healthy way. Not by sweeping it under the carpet or, worse, backbiting and pretending to like each other while in each other’s presence. Friction needs to be seriously addressed it by affirming the care you have for each other, while being honest about differences and how much each can give to navigate those differences in a healthy, loving way. It’s not all hunky-dory mind you (indeed, I think the term “hunky-dory” itself should never be used by a human being ever again.)

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5. Hurting one another

Real hurt can develop and be inflicted within friendships remarkably easily in our alienated, commercialized society. Even relatively healthy, safe friendships are not immune to this. It is worth remembering — the hurt has to be minimal at times or very quickly smothered with affection, tears, and caring laughter in truly nurturing friendships. But sometimes, the hurt lingers, even getting reproduced ever so frequently. Then there are some problems. And that means that either the friendship has to be over and done with (yes, sometimes the healthiest thing one can do is end a friendship.) Sometimes though it might just be worth fighting for it

6. Struggling together

This is the trial by fire. The rite of passage. The struggle for friendship together is probably the richest, most deep-rooted phase of the relationship. In truly healthy friendships, this means one and only one thing in my mind. We need to commit to the well being, happiness, and liberation of our friend and ourselves in equal proportion. If there isn’t a more or less 50:50 meeting point in the mutual support and care, efforts must be sought to arrive there.

7. Fighting for each other

When we fight for each other’s happiness, freedom, independence, well being, health, families, lives even, it establishes a mighty strong foundation for friendship. It doesn’t have to be a big deal either. Just the little things even. Whatever is possible within the limitations of your respective lives. But fight for each other. If you don’t know how. Talk to each other about the different life problems you’re going through with honesty and care. Try and figure out how you can help mitigate each other’s problems. If one friend is really in the doldrums, it’s the responsibility of the other to help as much as possible, not out of charity of altruism, but out of solidarity.

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8. Laying a permanent foundation

You both know that you’re friends for life. Soul mates even. Once you lay that permanent foundation, it’s a great place to be in. Lots of fun, tears, shared joy, care for each other, even the occasional fight (or not, conflict is sometimes over-rated in a patriarchal world – why fight and argue when you can affirm each other’s humanity while agreeing to disagree if needed?). Then you move on, almost spiritually, dare I say it, to a space in your friendship where you are committed to and nurturing…

9. Love and liberation

I am of the firm belief that when humanity is truly liberated from all the forms of oppression we see around us, we will know the truest love and the most awe-inspiring happiness. In particular this means committing to the liberation of our loved ones from all-encompassing forms of oppression that vast majorities of the global population experience. Thus, a commitment to destroying oppression is ultimately the truest commitment one can make to love and happiness, in our lives and the world around us.

And of course, with our friends.

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Featured photo credit: Happy Friendship Day by Premnath Thirumalaisamy via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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