After ending some unhealthy friendships, and moving across the country I realized I noticed some trends as I began to form new friendships. And I also recognized some red flags from my previous unhealthy friendships. As I navigated building new friendships in my new location, I wanted to compile a list of what I now call my “friendship standards.” It was originally just for me, but I thought it might be helpful for others to think through and see which of my standards they might want to adopt for themselves.
1. My Friends need to be healthy individuals
As I started to make new friends in my new location, I noticed a lot of unhealthy people were drawn to me, the new girl. I would go on coffee dates in hopes of making a new friend, and find someone who was looking for a therapist, looking for someone to dump their life struggles onto, and didn’t genuinely care about me. There will be people who aren’t healthy on their own, and the reality is it’s ok to let them sort through their stuff before engaging in a relationship with them. Of course this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage with people when they’re walking through a difficult season or dealing with the daily struggles of life. However, it’s ok to admit we sometimes don’t have the capacity to be a friend to someone whose health relies too heavily on your friendship.
2. My friends should champion instead of competing
This is a reality we all face in the world of comparing “likes” on social media posts and numbers of followers. I’ve had friends who want to compete, even little things become a competition, but I’ve now decided it’s OK to walk away when someone chooses to be competitive and catty instead of being a cheerleader. True, genuine, friends love us for who we are — even if our successes come faster than theirs, even if maybe our success feels threatening — genuine people are able to say “I’m proud of you! You go girl!” Instead of constantly competing instead of cheering us on.
3. Consistency is King
For a good, honest, healthy friendship to happen it needs to be consistent. In my new location, there were people who I would meet and genuinely love their company and have common interests with, but when I tried to get on their calendar they were so busy we would be trying to plan something months in advance. Personally, I don’t want a friend who I see only as much as my dentist, and that’s a decision I can stand by. It’s OK to recognize when schedules don’t allow consistent conversations and hangouts, and it’s also OK to walk away when you just can’t be consistent with certain people. These types of people are acquaintances we can occasionally enjoy the company of, but they don’t often become our deeply trusted friends when we can’t be consistent.
4. Dishonest people are never worth it
In my adult life, I started to realize how frustrated I quickly became with people who had the opportunity to tell the truth and chose not to. Personally, I’m over the high school style drama, the gossipy tones, and the talking about people instead of talking to people. We’re grown ups now, and I would be overjoyed if we could all start acting like it. When there’s an issue and there’s an opportunity to address it, no matter how awkward it might feel to communicate with our actual words (not passive aggressive texts, tweets, or DM’s) it’s always worth it. Honesty moves any relationship forward, because both people are choosing the more vulnerable, open path, and even if it feels uncomfortable for a bit, it’s always worth it. When I start to notice someone has had a few chances to spill the tea about something and has chosen not to, I see it as dishonest tendencies and I don’t stick around for them to figure out how to tell the truth.
5. It has to be mutual
This should be an obvious one but it can be an awkward one to figure out. We all know what it’s like to feel like you’re just barely on the outside of the popular group, and begging for their friendship and attention. Most of us have tried that one in high school at some point, so please don’t let it sneak into your adult life. If someone is taking time to make you feel less than or like you should be grateful for the invitation to their party, please don’t show up. There are so many people in the world who will text you first every once in a while and remind you that just as much as you want to be their friend, they want to be your friend too. A good friend will want to talk to you, and listen to you. It won’t just be about what you offer them, but it will be about what they can give to you too.
6. Genuine Apologies
I’ll admit that I’m a pretty confrontational person. I would much rather address conflict than not. Being a confrontational person, I’ve also learned to easily initiate apologies. I require my friends to have the ability to genuinely apologize. Let’s be honest, everyone makes mistakes, including me, and my standards for friendships might be broken at times. We all mess up, and I mess up as a friend too. Because I know that, I know how important this one is to me. If a friend forgets to invite me somewhere in the moment and I’m bummed when I see them on their Instagram Story, it isn’t a huge deal breaker if they’re quick to offer a genuine apology. However, it really needs to be genuine. Watch out for people who say, “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt,” and aren’t able to take responsibility for their actions.
7. Constructive Criticism is different than a critical spirit
I eagerly receive constructive criticism. As a writer, I’m used to having my work under inspection and knowing people will critique my style and grammar. I welcome constructive criticism because it’s how I grow. But there’s a big difference between friends who want us to be better, and so they gently point out things we have done or said that aren’t cool or wise to urge us toward growth, and people who have a critical spirit. Someone with a critical spirit looks for the worst in you in every situation, and usually they criticize the people around them, trying to make others feel small so they feel big. Honestly, it’s kind of your classic grade school bully. Even if they try to make their critical words seem like they’re wanting to “help you,” be cautious and discerning. A critical person kills the vibe, but they also discourage us from things that we may really be called to do — they might criticize the leap of faith you need to make, and if so, don’t invite them into those pivotal decisions anymore.
For me, these are the seven things I want in friendships that became really clear to me as I let go of some relationships that were only bringing me down, and walked into new relationships after I moved. I hope they are thought provoking and helpful for you too. Let me know what standards you have for your friends and what you’d add to the list.