Alright, alright, I’ll admit it! I’m coming out of the closet and telling you all what a big fan of Ellen DeGeneres I am. I organise my time to make sure that I can have Ellen on the telly while I’m doing something in the kitchen. She makes me laugh, she’s generous and like me, values and treasures kindness. I will even confess to thinking ‘gee it would be great to be friends with Ellen’. Go on, you’ve thought it too!
But seriously, what is it that makes people want to be your friend? Are you good friendship material? Are the people you’re hanging out with good friendship material?
Whether it’s your spouse, partner, family, friends or your workmates, these are important questions. Why? Because relationships are the life blood of our existence – without them, life isn’t that much fun. In fact, we need relationships like we need air.
In my practice, I’ve found that clients who’ve had difficult relationships during their childhood go on to marry, partner with, make friends with or develop business relationships with people who replicate the very same scenarios they grew up with. That is, they keep attracting the same people into their lives, often to their own detriment.
These relationships are attractive because they are familiar. However, the dark side is that people find themselves feeling trapped, despondent, their self-esteem drops and they will often put up with disrespectful behaviour because this has been such a norm for them. So, what’s the way out?
5 characteristics of a good friend
According to Joe DeVito who writes extensively about communication and relationships, there are 5 essential ‘rules’ of a healthy friendship. That is, if both people in a relationship stick to these rules, the relationship lives on. If they are broken, the relationship will eventually dissolve. These rules involve loyalty, openness, kindness, honesty, and respect.
Loyalty: When you’re in trouble, your friend has got your back. When your friend says they are going to do something, they’ll do it. If you’ve been promised faithfulness, they will be faithful to you. Their affection and fondness towards you is demonstrated to you.
Openness: You can be open and real with your friend, you don’t need to entertain them or put on a show. You don’t feel pressure to be someone you’re not. Your friend is trustworthy and genuinely wants to spend time with you.
Kindness: Your friend is compassionate towards you and is thoughtful in how they deal with you. They’re considerate of you, your time, what you can give and what you can’t. Your friend enhances feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. You know they value you for you.
Honesty: Your friend is truthful and fair with you. They treat you in a way that honours your dignity. You are important to your friend, irrespective of whether they agree with you or not. Your friend wants to help and support you, not exploit you for their own purposes.
Respect: Your friend respects your boundaries and the life you lead. They have a high opinion of you, paying attention to your feelings, desires, your rights and the rights of others.
Are you good friendship material?
This of course is not a one way street. There needs to be equality within a friendship for it to be a success. Just as your friend is demonstrating loyalty, openness, kindness, honesty, and respect to you, so you in turn need to reciprocate these attitudes and behaviours.
Does that mean that your friendship will always be ‘perfect’ and you won’t have disagreements? No! It’s human to disagree, to have different opinions even if you do have similar beliefs and values.
The absence of disagreements or arguing is not the measure of relationship in of itself. The measure is the ability to recognise and own our faults, to take responsibility for, and owning our mistakes, to apologise when you’ve hurt someone. This demonstrates that your friend is more important to you than the argument or the need to be ‘right’.
Good friends are treasures
Does that mean that everyone you meet will turn out to be a good friend? Realistically – no.
However, knowing how you want to be treated can give you a clear indication of who you want to be close to and who you want at arm’s length. You can make decisions about who you do or who you do not you want to have a relationship with. You also have choices of how regularly you see people and how much time you spend with them. It all rests on how they treat you and how you treat them.
Having friends who possess all the characteristics I’ve described are true treasures, adding much joy and happiness to our lives. If you have people in your life that don’t have these characteristics and you find yourself struggling, call and make an appointment with me so you can talk it through.
What do you think? Are there any characteristics I missed out that you would like to include?