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Are You Wasting Time with Bad Friends? Here Are 5 Traits of True Friends

Are You Wasting Time with Bad Friends? Here Are 5 Traits of True Friends

As we go through life, we have the opportunity to meet a variety of different people. Some become casual acquaintances who we just smile and wave at when we see them and others don’t merit a second thought after they walk out the door, but a select few will make it into the inner circle and become friends.

There are different types of friends, however, and it often takes a while to determine whether the person you enjoy spending time with is a true friend or not. Sure, it’s great to get to know new people, and you might really enjoy hanging out with a particular group on weekends, but how do you feel when you’re around them? Do they elevate your spirits, or put you down? Would the person you go clubbing with on Friday nights come and visit you if you were really sick? What about bailing you out of jail? Would they come with you to break terrible news to your family, or be willing to go for a picnic in the middle of the night just because?

Let’s take a look at a few traits of solid, amazing friends.

The Ability to Listen

“A friend asks, ‘Tell me one word which is significant in any kinds of relationship.’ Another friend says, ‘LISTEN!'” – Santosh Kalwar

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When we communicate with other people, we can usually tell whether they’re listening to us, or just waiting to speak. Their body language speaks volumes about whether they actually care about what we’re saying. If they interrupt us, text to other people while you’re talking, change the subject, or turn the conversation back to something about them, then they aren’t really paying attention, are they?

A true friend will focus entirely on you and actually hear what it is you’re saying. If you need to just rant away about a shitty situation, they’ll shut up and let you vent. If you need advice, they’ll listen to what you need, repeat back to you some key points to ensure they got all the information, and then give you some tips and pointers. Whether you’re heartbroken, elated, or just in need of a sympathetic ear, you can be sure that when you’re talking, your words are being heard.

Honesty/Sincerity

“We are all travellers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

If you upset an acquaintance by saying or doing something unpleasant, they’ll likely just pretend it never happened and then bitch about you to everyone else behind your back. A true friend will call you on your behaviour and let you know that it was hurtful/upsetting/offensive because your relationship is important to them and they want to ensure that all snags are worked through. An acquaintance will pretend that everything’s okay and then whines about you to anyone who’ll listen doesn’t care about ensuring that everything’s okay. You’re replaceable to them, and if they don’t smooth things out with you, they can just hang out with somebody else from now on.

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Complete Acceptance

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself-and especially to feel, or not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at any moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to: letting a person be what he really is.” – Jim Morrison

Do you find that your friends are constantly trying to make you into something that you’re not not, deep down? This could be as innocuous as someone continually urging you to wear clothes that you’re not wholly comfortable wearing, or more unnerving, such as pushing you to drink more, or behave in ways that you feel embarrassed about the next day. Some might do these things out of a desire to “help” you, in that they want to “improve” something about you to better fit their idealized view of you, while others might want to justify their own behaviour by getting you to join in with them. Either way, it’s not much fun for you, and doesn’t allow you to really be yourself around them, does it?

A real friend loves and accepts you exactly as you are, and doesn’t care if you live in overalls and striped socks, eat cheese and pickle sandwiches on raisin bread, or dress like you stepped out of a Renaissance Faire. They accept you as you are, “warts and all”.

Dependability

“You need not wonder whether you should have an unreliable person as a friend. An unreliable person is nobody’s friend.”
– Idries Shah

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Have you ever had an experience in which you made sure you were there for a friend when they needed you, but when you needed them in turn, they weren’t available? If you have, you might remember how much that hurt, and how betrayed you may have felt at the time. It hurts like hell when you go out of your way to take care of someone, and then when you’re vulnerable and in need, find out that they’d consider it inconvenient to reciprocate. They might say that they’re too busy, or they might even “accidentally” miss your calls/texts, but there’s usually some excuse they come up with in order to get out of whatever it is you need from them.

A true friend is the person you can call in the middle of the night if you’re sick or heartbroken, and they’ll offer to come over to help you out however they can. They’re the ones you can turn to in crisis, or will keep secrets absolutely safe if you’re planning something spectacularly wonderful. There’s never any doubt as to whether they’ll be there for you when you need them to be; you can depend on them as well as they depend on you, in a perfect balance of giving and sharing.

Presence

“The warmth of a friend’s presence brings joy to our hearts, sunlight to our souls, and pleasure to all life.”  – Author Unknown

If you were to delete all of your social media accounts today, how many people do you think would still be in touch with you next week? If you no longer subscribed to anyone’s “feeds” for information about them, who would email you in order to keep you apprised of goings-on in their lives, or to check in on how you were doing? Who would text or call you? Or (dare I ask) even write you a letter? It might be worth doing a social media fast for a week or two just to see how many people would still reach out to contact you.

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A true friend is one who makes a point to not only touch base with you on a regular basis, but also takes the time to be with you in person whenever possible. In some instances where distance is an issue, there might be Skype or Gtalk Hangouts instead, but it’s still face-to-face time wherein you can connect with them, and they with you. If someone is always too busy to dedicate time to you, or considers anything other than a Facebook “like” to be inconvenient, it might be worth re-evaluating your friendship with them.

The traits mentioned above are just a few that are associated with good, true friends, but there are many others. Keep people in your life who enhance your life, who make you feel appreciated and boost your spirits, and whom you would truly miss if they were gone. Life is far too short to spend with those who aren’t worthy of your time, or your friendship.

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Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 24, 2021

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

    Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

    6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

    Final Thoughts

    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

    Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

    More Tips on How to Say No

    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
    [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
    [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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