Making and keeping friendships isn’t always easy. Friendship coaching helps you assess where you are now with your friendships, where you want to be and how to get there.
Throughout the course of our lives, some of us are lucky enough to meet people along the way who we simply 'click' with.
Perhaps you meet someone who happens to like the same things as you - a love for rock music, or maybe a passion for wildlife - someone who you can talk to for hours. Or perhaps you don’t have much in common with this person, but you admire their qualities - their sense of humour, their positive outlook, their down-to-earth attitude. Friendship, like love, is built on a feeling - an instinct that tells us when something fits.
Although the feeling of friendship can come naturally, the development of a long-term friendship requires time, effort and compromise to become something durable and long-lasting.
Sometimes, friendships can become sour and filled with resentment. No matter how long you’ve known someone, sometimes the best thing you can do is to go your separate ways.
Friendship coaches help their clients with all kinds of issues in this area, including:
- making friends
- dealing with conflict
- maintaining friendships
- recognising a toxic friendship
Do I need a friendship coach?
As humans, we are social creatures. While we may enjoy alone time, most of us need some sort of human interaction to feel connected, supported and loved. Friendships are integral to this. When family problems arise and romantic partnerships fail, it’s often our friends we turn to. Therefore us through everything, they can pick us up and be a safe space in times of need.
Just like any type of relationship, however, friendships need attention. To have that support network, we need to go to the effort to make friends, navigate any conflicts when they come up and put in the necessary effort to keep the friendship alive.
If you think about the friendships in your life right now, how do they feel? Are there as many as you’d like? Are you coping with conflict? Is there a sense of disconnection? Do you have friendships that feel unhelpful? If you’re wrestling with any of these questions, you might benefit from working with a coach.
How a friendship coach can help
The topic of relationships in general is a big topic and friendship coaches can help in a number of ways, depending on what you need support with. To give you an idea of the type of concerns a coach can help with, here are some examples.
Making friends: it's one of the first challenges we face as children and something many of us continue to worry about well into adult life.
At some point, most of us do learn to walk into a room full of strangers without feeling the urge to cry and cling desperately onto our parents' legs. But, more often than not, that slight 'first day at school' apprehension never quite goes away.
Of course, everyone experiences different levels of anxiety in social situations and making friends comes much easier to some than it does to others. Even seemingly outgoing people sometimes have to fight their inner doubts to appear as confident as they do.
Take a look at the following personality traits. Which resonate with you?
You might want to make friends and join in during group situations but, for some reason, you just can't. Perhaps you're worried about what others will think of you; you might be afraid of going red when everyone turns to look at you. The fear of public humiliation is one of the main reasons why people shy away from taking 'social risks', for example approaching a group of people and initiating a conversation. Some shy people lack self-confidence and may suffer from low self-esteem, too.
If you feel like you're being held back in life by your shyness, a coach might be able to help. A coach can encourage you to think about what your limitations are. They can then support you to see yourself differently. By focusing on your positives and realising that it's only you who really cares (everyone else is too preoccupied with how they think they're coming across to worry about you!), you will be able to build confidence to be yourself - making meeting new people feel that little bit easier.
For some, shyness goes beyond self-doubt and becomes a social phobia. This is known as social anxiety and can add another layer of difficulty to relationships. Learn more about social anxiety and what treatments could help.
Lots of people make the mistake of thinking introversion and shyness are the same thing. Whereas shy people want to talk but can't due to social insecurity, introverted people tend to be fairly confident in their ability to engage in social situations but still feel more comfortable taking a background role. Whereas extroverts get a buzz from socialising with new people, introverted people get their energy from spending time either alone, or with a select group of friends. Introverts can, therefore, find social situations like parties exhausting.
Working with a coach could help you understand your introverted tendencies and use these to your advantage when making new friends.
'Easy-going' people are by nature at ease in social situations. They don’t necessarily feel the need to be the centre of attention and enjoy being alone as much as they enjoy the company of others. Easy-going people find it extremely easy to make friends because they are so open, non-judgemental and laid-back.
The only potential difficulty in being an 'easy-going' character is the issue of maintaining friendships. This is usually down to the simple side-effects of being a laid-back personality type.
For example, easy-going people are more likely to forget to call friends up on birthdays or make it to gatherings. All too often, easy-going people spark up wonderful but very brief friendships, before letting them fade away due to neglect. A friendship coach can help an easy-going person introduce more structure to their lives and encourage them not only to make new friends but to build durable and long-lasting friendships too.
Outgoing people tend to be bubbly, confident and happy to take centre stage. They are seen as the 'movers and shakers' of the world - the ones you can rely on to tell a room full of people a hilarious anecdote or make a memorable speech with no preparation whatsoever. Outgoing people love meeting new people and have no trouble making friends; however, they tend to be so busy making as many friends as possible that they neglect to really engage with any of them.
Sometimes, but not always, outgoing people will use their outspoken nature to disguise insecurities they really feel inside. These insecurities make it difficult for them to build real, honest friendships with others because they are afraid of letting their 'real selves' shine through.
Coaching can help outgoing people move past these insecurities and realise that if people are worth being friends with, they should like them for their flaws as much as they like them for their good qualities.
You may find that you recognise aspects of yourself in more than one of these categories, or perhaps in none at all. Different situations bring out different sides of us, and people typically find their ability to handle social situations depends on how they feel at that moment, and on what's happening in other parts of their lives. Your coach will try to get an idea of the kind of person you are so that they can understand what it is you want to achieve and how they can help.
Dealing with conflict
As much as we like our friends, there often comes a time when conflict arises. Sometimes it can be petty - perhaps one friend wants to go to the Italian restaurant while the other friend wants to get a take-away - but sometimes they can be messy, traumatic and final. Here are some common reasons why friends fall out:
- Spending too much time together - as lovely, funny, and interesting as your friends are, spending too long in their company can take the shine off. Although it really is a true privilege to know another human being inside-out, sometimes it's necessary to have a break so you can remember just how important that person is to you. As they say - absence makes the heart grow fonder.
- Pointing out each other's flaws - when we let other people into our lives, we must be prepared for them to learn all kinds of things about our lives and our characters. The reason we let those people into our lives in the first place is that we trust them to let our flaws go. However, there are probably still parts of us our friends find slightly annoying, and parts of our friends we find slightly annoying. Using these flaws against each other in a conflict situation, however, is a sure-fire way to have a big falling out.
- Betrayal - this is the worst kind of falling-out. Finding out that your friend has been lying to you and going behind your back can be devastating. You might find that the moment your friend betrays you, you can never trust them or like them in the same way again. Even if you do forgive your friend for their mistake, rebuilding the trust in the relationship can take time.
Falling out with a friend can often feel as devastating as breaking up with a lover. Our friends are the people we trust with our deepest, darkest secrets. We reserve a lot of space in our hearts and lives for the people we call our friends, and when those feelings turn sour, the loss can feel immense.
A friendship coach can help you to see the conflict in a new light. Perhaps you need to explore your own part in the fall-out. Is it really all their fault? What could you have done differently? What do you miss about your friend? What could you do to deal with conflict and rectify the situation?
A coach will never tell you what to do, but they will try to ease you towards a resolution. This resolution may involve forgiveness or recognising that the friendship is damaged beyond repair.
Communities in the past were often tight-knit and family orientated, with people often staying in the town they were born in. Today, many more leave home to go to different cities or even countries. Now, it's not unusual for people to have friends all over the world, or to live hours from anyone who even knows their name.
Regardless of distance, if someone matters to you, it’s important to make the effort to remain a part of their lives. If you're worried that your daily commitments are getting in the way of an important friendship, then a reshuffle may be what you need.
A coach could show you how to keep friends and nurture these relationships. You may be encouraged to look at your life objectively so that you can identify what’s really important to you. This can help you gain perspective and realise which friendships you want to keep in your life.
Recognising a toxic friendship
Sadly, some friendships can become destructive over the years. Sometimes we hold onto old friendships out of habit - we simply accept that person as a natural part of our lives. But what if that person makes us unhappy?
A friendship coach can encourage you to assess your friendship if it's making you feel unhappy. Why do you spend time with them if you don't enjoy their company? What would you prefer to be doing with your time? Do you think your friend feels the same way as you do? Is it time to gradually move on from one another and find new people to explore life with?
It may seem harsh, but if a friendship is holding you back in life and making you feel bad about yourself, it might be time to step back. This doesn’t necessarily mean cutting all ties (although, in some cases, this may be best) - but it does mean setting boundaries and keeping this friendship at a distance that won’t sacrifice your health and happiness.
Where to find a friendship coach
If you think you would benefit from working with a coach, you can use our search tool to find the right coach for you. Take your time to read through their profile and learn more about them and their approach. When you find someone you resonate with, send them a message or give them a call to set up your first session.
Many coaches offer a free initial chat so you can learn more about their way of working and find out if you’ll be the right fit for each other. This is your chance to ask any questions and to learn more about how they can help you with friendships.