Friendship

Throughout the course of life, most of us are lucky enough to meet people along the way who, for some reason or other, we simply 'click' with.

Perhaps you meet someone who happens to like exactly the same things as you - a love for rock music, or maybe a passion for wildlife - someone who you can talk to for hours without boring. Or perhaps you have nothing much in common with this person, but you admire their qualities - their sense of humour, their positive outlook, their down-to-earth attitude. Sometimes two people can become great friends even when they come from different backgrounds, have different interests and want completely different things out of life. Friendship, like love, is built upon a feeling - an instinct that tells us when something fits.

Although the feeling of friendship usually comes naturally, the development of a long-term friendship requires time, effort and compromise to become something durable and long-lasting.

In particularly distressing cases, friendships can become sour, destructive and filled with resentment and bitterness. No matter how long you have known someone, or how much you have shared together, sometimes the best thing you can do is to go your separate ways.

Life coaches help their clients with all kinds of friendship issues, including:

  1. Making friends.
  2. Dealing with conflict.
  3. How to keep friends.
  4. Recognising and dealing with bad friends.

Making friends

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 scale and have a think about where you might fit:

1. Shy

You may want to make friends and join in during group situations, but for some reason you just can't. You might feel like there's some kind of block stopping you. 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' e.g. approaching a group of people, initiating a conversation, or making a joke. Many shy people lack self-confidence and often suffer from low self-esteem and self-doubt too.

Shyness can be incredibly frustrating - most shy people think that if only they could be as easy-going and relaxed as their outgoing peers, they could do so much better at work and in their social/love lives.

If you feel like you're being held back in life by your shyness, a life coach might be able to help. A life coach will usually encourage you to talk about what you think your limitations are - what do you think is wrong with you? How do you think other people view you? Why are you worried about what other people think? Then, your life coach will teach you to see yourself differently. By focussing on your positives and realising that in the end, 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 the confidence to be yourself around other people - so meeting new people will feel that little bit easier.

2. Introverted/reserved

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 uncertainty and 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 enjoyment from spending time either alone, or with a select group of friends. Introverts are reserved and find social situations exhausting. As a result they typically like to keep themselves to themselves, and rarely step out of their comfort zones.

If you think you might be introverted and wish you found it easier to step out of your comfort zone to meet new people and make new friends, a life coaching session could help. A life coach will work with you to set goals and motivate you to challenge yourself.

4. Easy-going

'Easy-going' people are by nature completely at ease in social situations. They do not necessarily feel they have to be the centre of attention at all times 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. Shy people in particular find relief from being around easy-going people because for once, they feel it does not matter what they say. 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 life coach will help an easy-going person by introducing more structure to their lives and encouraging them not only to make new friends, but to build good, durable and long-lasting friendships too.

5. Outgoing

Outgoing people differ from easy-going people in that they generally need a constant flow of social contact in order to feel happy. Outgoing people tend to be loud, bubbly, confident and outspoken. Outgoing people are 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 great, 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 loud, brash nature to disguise the insecurities they really feel inside. These insecurities make it difficult for them to build real, honest friendships with other people because they are so afraid of letting their 'real selves' shine through.

Life coaching can help outgoing people get over 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 life 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 interests clash. Sometimes conflict 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 of the most common reasons why friends fall out:

  • Spending too much time together - let's face it, even someone as popular and much-loved as Stephen Fry would start to get annoying if you were forced to spend every hour of every day with him. As lovely, funny, and interesting as your friends are, spending too long in their company can take the shine off. Suddenly, just the sound of their cough can be enough to make you feel severely irritated. 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 because 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. Learning to acknowledge and accept one another's flaws is an important part of building a good relationship. 
  • 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, you might find that the natural joy has gone out of your friendship and that, with time, it will simply fade away. 

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 life coach will help you to see your friendship problem 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 about dealing with conflict and rectifying the situation?

A life coach will never tell you what to do, but they will try to ease you towards a resolution.

Remember that the ability to forgive is one of the greatest attributes a person can have. To forgive somebody for hurting you shows humility, understanding and compassion - it is an acceptance of the fact that we all have flaws and we all make mistakes. When you hold a grudge you demonstrate pride and arrogance, and imply misguidedly that you will never do something that requires forgiveness one day.

How to keep friends

A few decades ago, young adults tended to stick around their hometowns. They found local jobs, married family friends, moved into the house down the road from their parents and grew old with the same group of people they went to school with. Communities in the past were tight-knit and family orientated. Today, young people usually leave home to go to different Universities hundreds of miles away. There they make new friends from all over the country, before graduating and scattering once again to find work. Now, it's not unusual for people in their twenties and thirties to have friends all over the world, or to live hours from anyone who even knows their name. Although this can be handy when you fancy a cheap holiday, it can also mean that 'socialising' becomes a case of sitting at the computer to answer a string of emails - not ideal.  

Regardless of distance, if someone matters to you, you should make the effort to remain a part of their lives. It's a sad moment when you realise that the person you once spent every day with now doesn't even know where you live, or what you do for a living.

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 life coach could show you how to keep friends. You may be encouraged to look at your life objectively so that you can identify the things that matter, and the things that really don't. You may be encouraged to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you really happy living where you are? Or would you be happier at home, with your friends and loved-ones?

  • Why do you keep putting off that phone call to your old best friend? Are you afraid of what they'll think of your life now? Or are you reluctant to revisit your past?

  • If it's becoming so difficult to keep in touch with old friends, is it time to make some more?

Recognising a bad friend

Sadly, some friendships can become sour and 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? Do we accept it as our lot in life to put up with bad friends? Or do we take a step back, assess the situation and think: 'do I actually like this person?'

A life coach will 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 your friend is holding you back in life, and you no longer have anything in common, it may be time to move on. This does not necessarily mean abandoning your friend - especially if they are experiencing some kind of personal crisis, but it does mean you need to think carefully about how you can help them without sacrificing your own health and happiness.

What is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live.

- Kahil Gibran (The Prophet).

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