When “Know Your Audience” Applies to Friendships…
In my land of unicorns and rainbows, friends were viewed as one-stop-shops… I could talk about anything.
While there are people and friendships that do match that description, as I have gotten older, I have realized that, for me, that is not always the case… In actuality, it is very rarely the case. In a recent email discussion with my friend Chris, he said:
“You know there are so many different types of relationships that work in so many different ways but still all beneficial to growth…”
While I completely understand the benefits of friendship, I have never been one to think in terms of “beneficial”.
However, it wasn’t the first time that I’d heard that… One friend called me her gym friend and implied that she had other friends for other situations.That was my first true understanding of categorical friendships.
Friendship…What’s in a Name?
Friend in Greek is filos. The Japanese language has different words for different levels of friendship.Many Latin-based languages share “ami.”
Our English word, “friend” comes from the Old English freo of Germanic origin, as well as the German frei, from an Indo-European root meaning “to love.”
So…love…love is in the name. Maybe I wasn’t so magical in my thinking.
For me, genuine friendships are rooted in love and acceptance. In accepting people as they are and where they are, we demonstrate love.
When we learn to view others as individuals with their own thought processes, values, and experiences, we are able to engage with them as their own separate entities, rather than extensions of ourselves.
We can appreciate them for their unique qualities and characteristics , rather than need them to reflect ours.
However, it is imperative to understand which friends are capable of loving us and being loved in return…which are capable of truly accepting us and that we are able to accept.Warts and all.
As Kayt Molina writes in her article, “ Learning to Spot the Frenemies in Your Life,” there are times when we have friendships that are absolutely toxic. Recognizing the dark side of friendship allows us to learn and understand what healthy friendships are and feel like.
Hint…they don’t drain us.
Healthy friendships don’t hurt (consistently). They aren’t demeaning or demoralizing.
Healthy friendships allow us to show up rather than cause us to hide. They energize, encourage and expand us. Simon Sinek sums it up nicely:
“The strong bond of friendship is not always a balanced equation; friendship is not always about giving and taking in equal shares. Instead, friendship is grounded in a feeling that you know exactly who will be there for you when you need something, no matter what or when.”
Do Online Friendships Count?
Some people find as much value in an online friendship as they do in an in-person friendship.
These friendships may exist entirely online or the individuals may actually meet.
There is one bond that I especially cherish and our friendship started on an online platform. I can talk to her about anything and she has been a gift.
In an entirely unrelated post she said:
“I know it’s a personal thing, but we are all people here, and we can make real friends on this platform. Actually, I’ve worked with ALL of them. But we are also friends. Like, for real.”
I loved reading that and she was right.
Personally, I have found that, in many cases, some of my online friendships have been more supportive, loving and accepting than my in-person friendships.
Just as in-person interactions, we must learn to differentiate between the authentic and inauthentic.
Although online friendships can feel amazing, we are deprived of context. Is the person presenting who they really are? Are they genuine? Are they healthy?
Online or in-person. Exercise caution.
I have my online friends, Christian friends, homeschool mom friends, gym friends, and old friends from the past.
I have also been blessed with the kind of friends that I can tell anything to and for that I am grateful.
Sometimes, because of the different groups, I wonder what friendship means to different people.
No matter how friendship is defined or by whom, what I truly appreciate are those people with which I don’t have to wear a mask… The people that see me, know me, love me, and accept me for who I am.
The people that support me and yet will call me out for my benefit.These people are priceless.
When Did Friendship Become So Conditional?
As I was writing this, I realized that my previous article, “The Mental Shackle of Expectations,” touches on how much perspective influences our interpretations, which I related to friendships.
When we give (what we feel) are diamonds, and we receive (what we feel are) stones, relationships/friendships can feel unequal or at worst, one-sided…what we may think are “stones” may very well be their attempt at gifting diamonds.
When asked, one friend stated :
“… I have very few people I would consider close friends…the kind you could go years without talking to and pick right back up where you left off, the loyal friends or the people you feel most comfortable around…I have many social friends, who I really like to have lunch with or hang out with through our children. I guess my social friends are the ones that if I never heard from them again, I would be ok, but that’s the kind of person I am. I don’t really get attached to people. That’s how I have always been.”
Understanding how others view friendship can circumvent the disappointment of expecting more than they are capable of giving and allow us to accept with gratitude that which they can offer us.
Oh…Sorry! Wrong Audience
Trial and error taught me about audiences.
Not all of our conversations, thoughts, dreams or aspirations are meant for everyone in our lives.
I can be a chatterbox and there are times when my excitement about something spills over.
I will excitedly text or email a “friend”, only to have it not responded to or to be met with a lack of enthusiasm.
However, in other situations, these friends are my go-to.
What I have, at times painstakingly, learned is to know my audience.
Interestingly, in writing this article, I asked some friends (in messenger) what friendship means to them…