By Janis Kupferer
It always surprises me that given the rarity of a good friendship and the challenge it is to find one, that with one in possession, women—otherwise really smart, bright and intelligent women— would make these fatal mistakes.
“Making friends as an adult is soooo difficult!”
I hear this statement … every … single … day! I hear it from 20-year old women who have just entered college; from new moms and empty-nesters who would love to find other women in their situation; recent retirees and virtual employees who miss the office environment and camaraderie; and even from my own dearest friends (who should know better and just join SocialJane.com). The fact is, that it indeed can be very difficult to find and form new friendships as an adult. Please note that this is not to say that it is impossible, nor that sometimes it doesn’t happen very easily, just that very often, making new friends as an adult can be challenging.
Which is why it always surprises me that given the rarity of a good friendship and the challenge it is to find one, that with one in possession, women—otherwise really smart, bright and intelligent women— would make these fatal mistakes.
Fatal Friendship Mistakes
1. Avoid talking about problems/disagreements
2. Kill, rather than simply repair a friendship
3. Assume that an acquaintance is a friend
4. Understand and absolutely appreciate what a good friend can be—and then don’t be one yourself
Honestly, these are some of the same mistakes that we make not only in our platonic relationships, but also our romantic partnerships too. We get mad, or insecure, or a bit too comfortable, and then fail to tend to the relationship in a mature and nurturing manner. The result is inevitable—the premature or unnecessary death of an otherwise enjoyable friendship.
Let’s dive deeper into each of these blunders and see if we can’t head them off.
Zip it, Ignore it and Brush it Under the Rug
Put two people together, any two people—husband and wife, co-worker A with co-worker B, Betty with Wilma—and eventually there will be a disagreement, miscommunication, a faux pas or rubbing-the-wrong-way of one type or another that will rattle the dyad.
Again, there is no getting around this—not only is it a fact of life, it is kind of a universal law. And just as it is true that conflict sometimes occurs between people and their opinions and beliefs, it is also true that most of these conflicts can be resolved very easily by simply … talking it out.
And while I have no empirical evidence to support this claim, my personal experience tells me that with just a few sentences or a few short minutes of conversation, a resolution or agreement can usually be found.
So why then do most people avoid these difficult conversations at all costs? When a quick 5-minute tete-a-tete is all that is necessary to clear the air, why not take those minutes to save a friendship that is years old?
My personal opinion is that most people understand that their “issues” really are pretty minor when compared to the value of the friendships, and that, given time, they believe that the issue will work itself out or be forgotten. Thus, they reason, why even go there with an uncomfortable conversation? Why make a small issue into something bigger with an unnecessary conversation?
I say, if the issue really is minor, then simply get on with the conversation, and get on with the business of your friendship. Don’t let a trifling interrupt, even for a day, an otherwise terrific friendship. Issues left lingering begin to fester and grow, thus the need to nip these quips in the bud … and just be buds!
As a First Resort, Kill the Friendship
I’m not sure if it is pride, ego or the scared, frightened child in all of us, but it never ceases to amaze me when otherwise sensible, kind women, at the first sign of turbulence, decide to abandon, eject and even kamikaze a friendship as opposed to waiting through what might be just a incidental bump, quickly forgotten with the next passage of the drink cart.
Pride, ego, scared child—call it what you’d like, but it is nothing more than a personal protection mechanism on steroids—and a killer of future friendship fun. This friendship issue, although it sounds a lot like the previous one, is more caustic. With this one, the parties are hell-bent on destroying the friendship rather than finding a solution—of any sort. This isn’t a symptom of laziness or hopefulness like above, but rather a “kill or be killed” motivation. Again, it I think the real culprit here is the fear of getting really hurt.
My suggestion is to understand that turbulence does hit from time to time, to even the sturdiest of friendships. Usually, it only comes in spurts and if rare enough, doesn’t even register as a memory of the journey. Yep, it can be a bit scary when it happens and your natural reaction is to save yourself. But if you stay calm and take control, the airs generally clear quickly.
There are of course, emergency exits always available, but again, these need only be used as a last resort. As a side note, if you’ve a friend who always reacts this way, perhaps something to take note of and consider if this is a friendship strategy you actually want in your life.
Hi, Nice to Meet You, You are My New Best Friend
Yes, yes, she got each and every one of your jokes, all night long. Alright, okay, she is the rare woman who is equally fond of the Sex Pistols and Debbie Gibson, and you two had a hard choice deciding between the two for your duet at karaoke night. She speaks German, occasionally smokes Virginia Slims Super Slims Menthol (which is practically “not” smoking), AND offered to watch your fish while you go on vacation.
She is not, however, your new best friend … because you just met her last night and you don’t actually know her yet.
Here is the thing—friendships, business relationships and romantic relationships, (whatever the relationship) these all take time to develop. Nobody meets a stranger and can instantly know that they have found their perfect business, life and/or friendship partner.
To fully develop, friendships require sharing and the exchange of information, appreciation and enjoyment of similar interests and values, both enhanced through time and proximity. When people (and especially women) jump the gun and place too grand of expectations on a friendship, inevitably, they fail and are forced to return to the start.
Personally I think we gals get a bit drunk on the oxytocin high that comes from bonding with another (be it a new friend or a new love), and confuse the chemical with the individual. My advice, enjoy the buzz but realize for best effect, it should be savored slowly.
I Sooo Appreciate You, Which is Why it Hurts that I Can’t Help You Move
Ask any woman what qualities she appreciates in her best girlfriends and most will quickly rattle off most of the following: Supportive and Loyal, Fun and Upbeat, Reliable, Caring and Generous.
After she spits out this list of terrific traits, she’ll continue on with entertaining stories of just how wonderful her friends are, how much they mean to her, and how strong their bond is. Which is why I find it so amusing to see how swiftly a gal can forget all of these characteristics when a friendship becomes a bit inconvenient (and by inconvenient, I really mean, expects you to be her friend).
What does this mean exactly? Well it means that when she tells you about the new promotion she just earned, you squeal with excitement even though you missed out on your own promotion last month. And when she asks you to help her chaperon her toddler’s birthday party, you brush up on your “hokey pokey” moves, just in case. And when she asks for help with her move … well of course she didn’t because you volunteered before she could ask.
Ladies, when you know you have a good thing, show that you know that you have a good thing—by being a good thing yourself. Take care of the people who are important to you, and they will repay you by taking care of you for a long time too.
* * *
If you have a good friend, and you want to keep that good friendship going, then by all means, be a good friend yourself. If not, there are thousands and thousands of other women on SocialJane.com just looking to snap up that good friend that you took for granted.