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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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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

“A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

“That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

Don’t overlook introspection.

While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

“Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

The Bottom Line

You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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