There are many people in our lives that we spend time and connect with, all to varying degrees. Some are genuine friends, others are mates and the rest are associates.
Friends are genuine and beautiful loves, mates are those we have spent considerable time with but don’t connect with as deeply as some others and associates are the people in our lives that we know through our adventures.
All have their place in our lives, as we do for them.
These five keys are based on the best of the best friendships I have been blessed with in my life. They have taught me how to be the greatest friend I can be and what to expect out of a real friendship.
Offer no less and encourage no less.
1. Always be genuine and real
When we catch up with a good friend, there are no lies and no bullshit; it’s real.
It isn’t about competing against each other—except of course when we’re playing a game like pool or table tennis—it’s about appreciation and connection. There may be elements of sledging involved—as Aussies do—but when it comes to the crunch we genuinely care for each other and communicate in a way that is supportive and compassionate.
We truly understand (most of) each other. If one of us is doing something self-abusive or silly, we say it to them. We don’t hide what we think or feel because they expect that we give them a genuine response, as we do from them.
We also discuss our passions. It may be deep and meaningful, it may be just a hobby or interest, but it’s expressed, listened to and enjoyed together. The stuff that really means something to us will always be on the table in these friendships.
2. Give as much as you receive
Even though sometimes we won’t see each other for weeks or even months, it’s always important to share ourselves and our lives.
It’s not just material items, such as food or CDs, but also our time, attention, skills and love. It may be that each party has different gifts that they can bring to the friendship, so there’s always a mix of stuff that is shared. Just as long as it’s kept balanced, it will feel like an equal partnership.
Sometimes it will get out of balance, and it’s up to the receiving member to ensure they recognise it and respond appropriately. But even if they don’t, the communication and respect is strong enough that it just needs to be mentioned and the imbalance will be resolved.
Essentially, we completely give ourselves to our great friendships, including both our vulnerabilities and invincibilities.
3. Learn and grow from each other in mutual respect
We all have different strengths and weaknesses. If we truly love our friend, we won’t be jealous or resentful of the strengths that we don’t have, we’ll be grateful that they’re in our lives to model a power that we can grow to have ourselves.
There is always nothing but respect. We don’t say anything behind their back that we wouldn’t say to their face. We’re definitely supportive and defensive of them when they’re not there to guard themselves against put downs by other individuals.
The positive influence on each other is strong. We encourage each other to be our more real, developed selves, and are there to help pick ourselves up when we fall.
4. Laugh your guts out
Great friendships always make each party feel good and a sure-fire way to achieve that is to have lots of humor woven into it.
There’s always time to have a laugh over something serious or something meaningless. It’s also integral for our health to laugh at ourselves and our mistakes too, so a friend will make us find humor in all the idiocy that we operate in our life.
They won’t judge us negatively for our shortcomings—they’ll point them out in a light-hearted way so that we can embrace it and are inspired to change it for the better.
5. Make your friends your family and your family your friends
We can’t choose our family, but we can our friends.
Sometimes though, we don’t choose them—they just happen to manifest in our lives in a potent and powerful way. One minute we’re strangers, the next we’re brothers from another mother, or sisters from another mister.
Great friendships are considered a part of our family; they’re the people that would protect us to the earth and back, and vice versa.
On the other hand, even though we can’t change our family, we can still embrace them. Of course we’re not going to get on amazingly with everybody in our blood, because sometimes we might just be too incompatible and at others we’ve been so close with them that our perspective is twisted on who they are.
The history that we have with each other has tainted the way we feel about them. For example: do we treat or speak to our parents, children, brother or sister in a way that we wouldn’t our friends? Is this because of our long record together and could it evolve so that we communicate with and share time with them in a way that a genuine and real friendship does?
Our family members can be some of the best mates we could ask for, yet sometimes it takes a little hard work to overcome the past and rebirth the relationship into something greater than it ever has been before.
It’s worth it though because a great family goes hand in hand with great friendships.
Ultimately, real relationships with both our family and friends have their ups and downs. Mistakes are made and lessons are learned.
If it’s great, it grows.