Friendships are relationships, and in general, are needed for each of us to feel connected, wanted and appreciated. Regardless if these friendships and relationships are with family, partner or friends, they can be a powerful advantage for our life. Research tells us that good friendships and relationships improve our mental, emotional and physical health.
Most of us have friendships where we can relax, have fun and share those intimate secrets. Our friends are those who never judge us, keep us on track, care about us and are always there when things get a bit tough. They are our grounding people always ready to help us out.
Why then do so many of these relationships struggle? Why do we get let down or even end up with a toxic friendship when it all started out so great and supportive?
Like all relationships, those with friends need certain boundaries. There are some protocols to follow to ensure they flourish, not wither or burn. The following points are those we find that can damage or ruin a friendship. Avoiding these can keep your friendships healthy, connected and long-lasting. If you have a friend that is doing these, perhaps a rethink on the health of that relationship is in order. A friendship should add to the fun and enjoyment of our life, not cost us in stress or hurt. As you read, ask yourself, have you ever done, or perhaps doing, any of these?
1. Is it all about you all the time?
Taking time to listen to your friends’ stories, issues or success is essential in any friendship. Rather than turning a conversation of their success or heartache about yourself, listen, empathise or congratulate them leaving your experience out of it. This is about them, not you.
2. Continuous complaining
Although life can be challenging, it is nice to have some conversations that are not about your issues all the time. Many of our friends are going through their own problems and when you meet up and complain about your life, that awful job, your terrible parents, your annoying partner, this can result in your friend switching off to protect themself from going down with you. None of us should accept incessant complaining from friends any more than you expect them to put up with it from you. If your friend can’t seem to stop complaining, point it out respectfully and change the subject.
3. Use words cautiously
Regardless of how well we know our friend, harsh words can damage and cut to our core. If you need to point something out, do so cautiously so as not to hurt them. Speak in a gentler manner by suggesting, rather than telling. Instead of using words such as ‘you should’, ‘why don’t you’, you need to’, change these words to ‘have you ever thought of ..’, ‘perhaps you could possibly …’, ‘what if you did / said that…?’ This way you are not directing but suggesting. Your friend can decide (with your guidance perhaps) on the best choice so it becomes theirs. My new Communication Harmony book provides all the tips to speak informatively and amiably with everyone.
4. Offering relationship advice can be dangerous
When your friend complains about their partner or family, we often agree with how awful they were. This can backfire. Your friend likely loves their partner and family immensely and while they can complain, you should never complain about them. Agree your friend may feel as they do, empathise with them on the words or actions exchanged, but never diminish or denigrate their partner or family.
5. Keep social media boundaries
We all post on social media. Be cautious of posting embarrassing pictures of them onto social media and tagging them in. They may use their social media for job prospects or family may be watching. Always discuss the social media boundaries to ensure you all understand and never overstep your mark.
When we meet a new partner or start a new career, we can become so consumed we may forget about our friends. It is important we remain in contact with friends regardless of who or what enters your life. Vanishing then reappearing is not pleasant for the friend, therefore, always remain in contact with your friend. Friendships, all relationships, thrive on stability, respect and loyalty. If those are missing, friends may not know where they stand. It doesn’t take a lot of your time to keep a strong friendship.
7. Too reliant
Your friends are just that, friends. They are not servants and they don’t work for you. Becoming too reliant or expecting too much from them when they have a busy life can be overwhelming for your friend. Often, they feel guilty not being able to do all you request or expect, this is pressuring them
unfairly. If you need their help, ask respectfully allowing them to say no if
they need to. If they agree it is because they chose to not because you pressured them.
Friendships are valuable and should be cherished. Treating friends with respect, kindness and tolerance should be an equal expectation. If you have a friend that takes over, disregards you, treats you with disrespect, perhaps they are not really a friend and it could be time to reconsider your position. Friendship works both ways.
Read about how communicating better with friends, family, partner and colleagues can improve and change your life at www.CommunicationHarmonyBook.com
Article printed in Mamamia, https://www.mamamia.com.au/toxic-friend-traits/