Q. I’m a 22 (soon to be 23) year old woman who’s spent most of my life being a “people pleaser.” I have gotten to the place in my life where I am focused on really developing healthy relationships (healthy boundaries included) with others. With that said, I would like to know what are some things to keep in mind when selecting “true blue” friends and building friendships that can possibly stand the test of time? – 20-something
A. Friendships in your twenties can be tricky as it is a time of experimentation and self-focus. The key is knowing early on if a friend has your back.
Do they care more about the friendship than if they are the center of attention or than if a guy likes you? Are they there when you need them or do they only call when they want you to be their wing-woman on demand, an endless source of post date / party / interview ego-boosting or receptacle of news about them.
Not to worry, there are women out there looking for the same thing as you. We all need friends! With a little time, effort and awareness…true friendships can flourish. Interestingly, many 40-something women say that sometimes friends find you …for a reason. That does not mean they have a reason to want something from you but that for whatever reason, karma or serendipity plays a role. When you need a friend sometimes they show up in surprising places.
Everyone agrees friends are your lifeline. Everyone has also had a toxic friend that they have cut loose. These women share what they have learned matters.
First of all you should be commended on recognizing your natural inclination to be a “people pleaser” and taking action to address that. Making poor choices in friends based on insecurities is never going to amount to a healthy friendship and will often lead to people taking advantage of you.
Putting yourself in places to meet people is the first step. A common location, person or interest is almost a sure fire way to meet friends. Most of us meet friends at school, through another friend, work and in common interest settings (gyms, dog parks, art classes, wine tastings etc.) When you already have several points in common (working for the same boss or owning the same breed of dog), initiating a conversation is easier.
Friendship does not have to be rushed and can start with a simple acknowledgement of seeing each other at the same place repeatedly and then perhaps grow into further conversation if that feel right. Taking time to build a friendship will also give the time to build trust. You don’t need to give everything of yourself the second you meet a person, let it evolve slowly and allow yourself the time to make assessments as things move on. In my experience, it is obvious when it is working because it does not take work!
This women shares her thoughts on how to separate the givers from the takers…
Friends that stand the test of time listen as well as share. They don’t make you feel guilty for being in and out of touch due to other issues (i.e. work, family or other crazy business that takes up time). I would suggest finding “friends” with like interests, sense of humor and adventure. Those will thus be the ones you want to spend your free time with. Avoid the people who want to use you as a therapist and waste hours talking about their problems, issues and at the end of your encounter, you feel like you got zero out of your shared time.
Another puts a twist on what the true meaning of people pleasers — taking pleasure in others successes.
The best advice I ever received about friendship was from my mother…. she said, “A true friend is there for you when times are good”.
You’re thinking, “Wait I always heard a friend was there in a time of need?” It’s easy to be there for someone when times are bad: to be the person who offers a shoulder to cry on; who curses out ‘the baddy’ or helps burn the photos. Whatever it may be. A true test of friendship is when a friend is truly happy for you when you have something good to share. This means, no hidden jealousy or competition at your good news, rather, just true joy for their friend’s good fortune. These are the friends that you want to find and hold on to.
She goes on to point out the importance of reciprocation and shared values…
Important qualities to any friendship are respect, understanding, similar interests and reciprocation. You only get as good as you give so focus your time on getting to know the people you want to be your friend… do you share their values, morals, interests? Are they respectful of their families and other friends? Are they genuinely interested in how you are doing and what you are doing? Are they people that smile and enjoy life or are they complainers and feel life is a drag? Think about these types of things when you get to know people and you’ll start to find people that enhance your life, rather than detract from it.
BTW, Not every friend you have will be (or should be) your best friend. You need a circle of friends for different things. But, remember that you need to be a good friend, too.
Gook luck and good friendship!