How would you define a good friend? If you are like me, you would expect a good friend to be great company, loyal, reliable, sincere, and trustworthy. This is someone you can phone at any time for advice or to chat. These friendships take time to build and effort to maintain, and they are reciprocal. So, what are some things you should never tell your good friends? Here are twenty sentences you should definitely avoid.
1. “Flossing my teeth” (AKA the Facebook status update)
The problem with taking your friendship online is that the whole world sees it! Use social media for trivial chitchat, but have a real conversation with your best friend. If he is far away, write him a decent email.
“Posting information is like pornography, a slick, impersonal exhibition.” – William Deresiewicz
2. “Let’s phone each other sometime”
This is a vague and rather wishy-washy commitment. We use it all the time for acquaintances we have just met. It works fine for people we don’t intend to see again, but using a sentence like this with a good friend gives the impression that you can’t be bothered. Why not make a firmer commitment by saying, “We must phone each other every Wednesday evening?”
3. “Let me just check my cell phone”
Cell phones ruin many relationships and friendships. Text addiction is now part of our consumer mentality but it can erode a friendship or relationship in no time at all. If you are always checking your phone, your friend may get the signal that he or she is not worth your time. You’re letting them watch you manipulate an electronic device. Isn’t your friendship worth more than that? Give your friend your full attention while you are together — switch off your phone! Tell him or her, “I can take this call later, what have you been up to since we last met?”
4. “Can we talk about this at another time?”
Your friend may need your help and advice, and she has rung at an inconvenient time. Perhaps you’re watching your favorite comedian or preparing dinner. Asking her when she is in tears to phone later on is not what she expects from you as a good friend. Being available when the other party needs you is an important element in friendship and it is what you yourself would expect if you were going through hell. Instead, you should say, “I’m here for you, tell me all about it.”
5. “You never get it right”
Who wants criticism all the time? Are we not together to bolster each other’s self esteem and confidence? There may be moments when we have to face or give criticism and a real friendship will survive these moments. But constant criticism will erode your friendship. Friends are there to celebrate, rejuvenate, and to rely on. Try something encouraging, like, “It will go better next time.”
6. “I can’t tell you – it’s private”
Telling your good friend this means that you do not trust them enough with confidential information. True friendship is about sharing our real selves and that will include private stuff. Start something confidential with “I know I can trust you with this.”
7. “I never have enough time”
In ancient times, friendship was such a high calling and a privilege that it was often more valued than marriage. Achilles and Patroclus spring to mind, as do David and Jonathan. Time is an essential ingredient in nurturing friendships. Telling a good friend you have not enough time is a real turn off. Try saying, “I’ll always have enough time for you.”
8. “I know I talk too much but I have so much to tell you”
Being a sympathetic and empathic listener should be two-way traffic! Exchanging news and updates can be a fun way of nurturing the friendship. You should never try to dominate the conversation. You should say, “I know I’m talkative but I want to hear about what you have been doing too, so please forgive me if I go on a bit too much.”
“Exchanging stories is like making love: probing, questing, questioning, caressing. It is mutual. It is intimate. It takes patience, devotion, sensitivity, subtlety, skill – and it teaches them all, too.” – William Deresiewicz
9. “I am going to be late”
This shouldn’t sound like a chronic condition. A lack of punctuality can mean missed restaurant bookings or walking into a film that has already started. If you are unpunctual, it might be time to start getting more organized. You should say, “I really am going to get my unpunctuality under control.”
10. “I didn’t tell you the whole truth about X”
“O what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” – Sir Walter Scott
We could write a book about how lying betrays trust and leads to all sorts of problems. Withholding a truth puts a friendship is at risk. There are those people who argue that a white lie is sometimes necessary to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, but think carefully about the justification for the lie and its consequences later on. “I am going to tell you everything, no holding back on anything,” is a good start.
11. “You can decide where we are going”
Letting your friend decide everything can be damaging. The other end of the spectrum is where you make all the decisions and you are a control freak. Obviously, a happy medium needs to be found where you both take part in the decision making. “Let’s decide together what we want to do,” will offer more democracy.
12. “But we have always done it like this”
Real friends push each other out of their comfort zones. Doing the same old thing offers a comforting routine but it can also lead to fossilization! Why not suggest new venues, different activities, alternative restaurants and so on? This is important because we tend to become locked into our own little worlds. Instead try, “We should be trying out some new things, don’t you think?”
13. “You could have asked me for advice or help”
The truth is that good friends know when to be there and when to lend a shoulder to cry on. You should not need to be asked or told. You should say, “You know that I am always around, if you need help with anything.”
14. “I told Y all about your problems”
Gossip and betrayal will damage a friendship irrevocably. A true test of friendship is communicating fully with each other. You can rely on each other not to gossip and this adds a great sense of security and serenity to your friendship. With a good friend, “You can trust me, I won’t tell anyone else.”
15. “I told you there was no point in applying for that job”
“A true friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.”- Aristotle
Saying this will not help your friend see the positive side of things. It is not very encouraging. You should say, “It is always worth trying, because whatever way it goes, it will give you a new insight on how things work.”
16. “You know I never criticize you”
A test of a real friendship is when you are able to gently point out some faults in your friend’s character. Good friends are not afraid of indicating where they have screwed up, without being overcritical or harsh. Be constructive: “Maybe that was not the best way to respond when the boss reprimanded you.”
17. “I forgot that you were getting your medical results”
Being there also means not forgetting the important moments when your friend may have to face a stressful situation as regards health, work, or family issues. Genuine friends make a note and send a text to wish their friend well. Put a reminder on your phone and tell them, “I will give you a call when you get your results.”
18. “I am never going to nag you about your laziness”
Good friends are going to be on the lookout to help each other get over a lack of drive or initiative. Saying that you cannot be bothered to even gently nag means that you do not value the freindship very highly. You should say, “I know it’s a pain, but you should really try to get some more exercise. We should go to the gym together, maybe.”
19. “I cannot really offer any advice about your being bullied”
Whether at school or work, people often find they are in a stressful situation and they may be bullied. Don’t leave your friend to fend for himself — at least offer some advice or help. Extend a hand by saying, “Tell me about it because my brother was bullied at work and he was able to resolve the issue.” Genuine friendships can also help to reduce the stress in these situations, one study has found.
20. “I do not think friendships can last for ever”
This is sending the wrong message. Not every friendship can last a lifetime but those that do are pure gold. You should say that you value the friendship, for example, “Honestly, the fact that you are always on the other end of the phone is a great source of comfort to me.”
Did you know that people who have more friendships in their old age are much more likely to live longer? This was the result of several studies which have highlighted how friendships and social interaction are the greatest health resource you could have as you approach your old age.
Let us know in the comments what really makes a good friend for you.
Featured photo credit: Friendship/Mathias Klang via flickr.com