How to build positive friendships
Social Intelligence

Friendship 101 – 8 ways to build positive relationships with your friends

Do you need to build more positive relationships with your friends? Are your friends annoying you a little? It’s not easy when you have standards for your relationships. In today’s article, I’m going to be talking about some criteria and standards to keep when cultivating strong relationships with your friends. Let’s be real, the world has been pretty difficult to live in lately. Our incomes are not rising. The globe has been on fire. We’ve been super busy. There’s always a million things to do. We’re suffering from burnout. Even with all of this happening, my question to you is, does that excuse poor behaviour when it comes to maintaining friendships and relationships? I mean, it hasn’t been easy, but does this just expose poor behaviour from our peers?

If you haven’t done so already, I would check out my article on emotional intelligence as it supplements and provides context for this. Now, let’s get to the first step. 

1. Proactive outreach

Some people believe that there are unspoken and assumed roles within a friendship. Maybe you’re the person who always reaches out, or perhaps you’re the person who’s always providing some sort of practical support. But if these roles have not been communicated, then how can these assumptions be made? Behaviours, conditioning and experience is the answer.

Proactive outreach is really important because it can potentially highlight a level of care or concern for that individual. Characters may still say: “Well, I can still love a person even if I don’t reach out to them…” Yes, of course, that is probably the case, yet for some reason out of sight, out of mind becomes even more revealing. The saying also goes, actions speak louder than words. Having the ability to just check on your friends is always a nice thing to do, because as friends, niceties, I think at least can be a positive. P.s. In this instance, do not mistake niceties for lying to your friends about things that do not support their growth.

If you’ve been in a situation where you’re the one who’s always reaching out, I would love to ask: has that ever made you feel a certain way? And if so, what has it made you feel? If your friends do not reach out it may mean a number of things such that are based on conditioning, expectations, lifestyle and circumstances. It doesn’t always mean that they’re trying to cut you off. There are a whole host of reasons, and as their friend if it is bothering you bring it up and discuss it.

Depending on whether you carry more masculine or feminine energy, the general observation I have made is that those with masculine energy do not focus on factors like this as much. Those with feminine are more likely too as they pick up on vibes and nuances more. Questions pop up such as:

  • What’s the value of this friendship?
  • Have I done something wrong?
  • Can someone really be that busy not to reach out?

You’re going to get some individuals who want to talk about: 

  • Junk and trash TV
  • More deep and meaningful stuff
  • Surface level things
  • Wanting to really connect

I believe in any friendship or relationship, there needs to be a level of vulnerability, trust, and rapport that shifts it into a transformational state. Without these foundations it is hard to do or say anything within anyone.

2. Responsiveness

This essentially comes down to the following:

  • The speed of your response
  • The quality of your response

Now, of course, you can’t expect people in this day and age to respond straight away all the time. I totally used to be that person, and then I realised that everyone else wasn’t responding this way, and slowly conditioned myself to conform. All forms of instant messaging and social media are constantly pinging, and they all have different rules and guidelines, unspoken rules and guidelines. Because the social media boom happened in the early 2000s, these unspoken truths remain unspoken. Essentially there is more chance of misunderstandings, assumptions and failings to comply to a person’s particular standards of communication.

For example if someone’s responding to you in a week, pull them up on it, especially if there’s urgency behind the communication. If it’s a day, there may be reasons for that and feels “normal” from a societal standpoint. You need to feel and understand where you are with that individual and what you deem as acceptable and applicable. 

When it comes to quality responses, that quality is dependent upon your expectations. Here are some questions to think about:

  • Do you have a transactional relationship where you feel like you have to keep up with the Joneses?
  • Are you keeping up the relationship only based on the fact that you’ve been friends for such a long time? 
  • Are you giving them your all in terms of how you respond, yet feel like you are not receiving the same back in some way, shape or form?
  • Do you think there are minor trust issues that have spiralled?

These questions will give you an idea of where you are in terms of how you feel relating to the response you get from your friends. This also to say that responsiveness adds to the dynamic within a friendship. You can see why it is interlinked with the first point of proactiveness. Your nature (or commitment) to be proactive and respond appropriately says a lot about the person you are.

3. Empathy

Empathy is an important quality and is linked to emotional intelligence. It can be displayed as having a level of understanding and patience for another individual when they are expressing a challenge or a concern. It’s allowing yourself to be in their shoes, knowing how to respond appropriately, catering to their emotional needs. And so that understanding gives you a better toolbox in terms of your response, in terms of how you handle the situations, and in terms of how you cater to them as a friend. Empathy is crucial when it comes to creating the glue between you and that other individual. If your empathy level is low, for many people that tolerance level is not going to be great because it comes down to the perception of care.

People want to connect with other individuals, feel loved and be part of a tribe. And so, part of creating the ‘tribe effect’ partly comes down to empathy and being able to demonstrate that you understand where that person is coming from. At the basis of this connection you are creating a ‘tribe effect’. This allows people to open up and be vulnerable, and in essence, creating opportunities to build rapport. What ends up happening is that you move from a transactional relationship into a more transformational one. 

4. Coach-like tendencies

This quality is utilising the art of deep and active listening making your friends feel like they’re being heard. Aim not to talk about you all the time. We all do it to some capacity. Many of us love to talk about ourselves whether we think we do or not. But if you can put yourself in a position to just listen and then follow up with the right sort of responses that caters towards a “responsive empathy”, then that rapport is built.

In addition, asking great questions helps create a good sense of rapport. As they say questions are the answer. So asking effective and powerful questions frames your friend in the mindset of, “my friend really cares about my wellbeing.” That is powerful. These are coaching techniques, of course, but you can utilise this in your social relationships and so really do your best to listen to what is being said before you actually speak. 

There are some individuals who feel like they do not need to talk about themselves and prefer to just listen. That’s great. But sometimes that can be suspicious as well. Sometimes listening only can be seen as weird or a red flag. It can also be seen as taking in information passively and not really being interested. The message here is to be comfortable in your skin and talk about yourself. One of the best ways to do this is to really see yourself as a personal brand. Here are some statements to help shape this:

  • Think about the story are you telling yourself
  • Describe your challenges and struggles
  • Define success and highlight your achievements
  • What are your wins?
  • Outline what you are you trying to do
  • What are you trying to avoid and what do you need more of?

The more you understand these things, and talk about this stuff, the better you will become at building that trust. There’s an underlying theme here. The communication is built on that trust, and you need to be confident enough to have those conversations. If you’re not, you need to think, what this lack of confidence is based on. Is it based on the relationship or is it based on prior experiences? Possibly, this could be related to mistrust from relatives or friends experienced in the past. I get it, but it’s best to take slow steps to overcome these limitations. You may need an objective person to help you do this such as a coach, therapist or even a good friend. 

5. Loyalty 

How loyal are you to your friends? Loyalty appears in many different ways:

  • Some people see loyalty in terms of how they interact with their other friends.
  • Sometimes people assess loyalty based on spoken or unspoken opportunities.
  • Others define loyalty based on how friends defend you in dangerous or challenging situations.

They come in many different forms. If you don’t understand what loyalty means to your other friend or even to yourself, sit down and have the conversation. Once you have that understanding, then your values will determine whether you can run with this or not. You can’t just assume everyone has the same quality of loyalty; that’s how hearts get broken.

Sometimes there are situations where you’ve introduced a friend to another one, and they become extremely brady over months where you had no knowledge of this. Some maybe suspicious and ask: what’s the motive here? Now there may be no motive at all apart from growing their friendship group. But because the communication hadn’t been relayed to you, it may feel “dodgy”. Another example, maybe that an acquaintance had said something negative to a good friend in your presence and you hadn’t defended them. Perhaps you’re not good at speaking up in those situations and you freeze, however to that other individual, you could have stepped up. 

This is all to say that loyalty appears to people in different ways.

Don’t be scared to have a conversation about loyalty with your friends. It puts you in a position of strength because you’re showing a willingness to be a better friend; that’s what it’s about at the end of the day. You’re both on a journey. You both don’t know the answers, but you’ll get to a better conclusion if you speak about it and work together. So think about what loyalty means to you and that other individual and discuss it.

6. Consistency

Some may call this area integrity. How is that individual around other people? Are they the same or do they get more excitable all of a sudden? Do they say less? Or do they act a specific way? Consistency is key because you know where you stand with that person in multiple situations.

Now if you know this person long enough, then you’ll better understand the nuances when it comes to their interaction with a various demographic of people. Some may change their behaviour when they are around a specific race or ethnicity, others may have differently around people of different sexes or genders. Are you being consistent as an individual when they are around or when you are around other individuals and vice versa? People usually sit within a range that reflects that level of consistency when exposed to different situations. As a friend, you need to question how comfortable you are with their range. Really observe and understand what makes your friend tick as a human being, and you’ll be able to understand why they do what they do, and for the most part, when they are likely to do it.

7. Ambition

How ambitious is your friend? They don’t need to be Elon Musk, but do they want more in life? Would you be happy with your friend being a bum? I’m sure you don’t want friends who are talking about low grade stuff all the time. It was Roosevelt’s wife who once said: 

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Everyone will not have the same inner drive as you, and so sometimes they need someone like you to help them develop it. A lot of people are going through a lot of psycho-social and economic challenges, so context is a key determinant here. As a friendship group you are more likely to succeed when you:

  • have drive and motivation
  • have clear goals 
  • follow a system or set of habits
  • have a philosophy in life
  • use a set of values

Being around those people who emit these qualities will reduce your chance of being a bum. How this sounds is less important than the point that is being made. Life would reveal that this is an observable truth. You can help your friends have some level of drive by being their cheerleader and coach, helping them figure out what it is that they want to do in this walk called Life.

8. Honesty

Let’s be real, some of our friends love to lie. But that is probably related to some deep insecurities they have. If they cannot commit to a level of honesty to themselves it is unlikely they will not be honest with you. Under pressure, how likely are they to be completely frank? As I have been saying for a while, commit to brutal honesty. This level of honesty exposes you to your higher priorities, navigating you down a path that is more aligned to your core values or desired principles. This in essence relates to your level of success.

If your friends are always lying in many instances they may also be breaking your trust. This can make things difficult as relationships are dependent upon trust. If your friend is lying to you consistently, be brave enough to have a conversation with them. If it continues, then you need to question whether this friendship is sensible to keep and maintain.

Remember, a great leader is someone who leads by example. In other words if you are a compulsive liar you attract what you are. This is based on the psychology of complementarity

Conclusion

Personally, I find all of this stuff fascinating, and my friends would attest to this too. Essentially to be a good friend you need to make an effort, and have a level of awareness that enables you to strive for better. What helps you do that is a good level of communication and emotional intelligence. These are my 8 criteria for solid friendships, and it’s worked for me so far. This is also applicable in romantic long-term and short-term relationships, as well as at work. However the intensity of each criterion will vary from type of relationship. Hopefully this helps you on your quest towards becoming a better friend and better human being.

If you would like to watch the video associated with this, then check it out below:

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