A deep, strong friendship just might be a double edged sword. A friendship that bolsters your confidence when it’s low and gives you support and connection but also someone who can recognize when you are off track and call you on it. A great friendship is an investment of the heart and soul, an emotional connection as well as physical and it requires both to be active participants.
The Wrong Way To Do It
Just a week ago I returned from an over 8000 mile road trip with my boys Ryder (11) and Dax (8). We made it to all the way to Knoxville, TN where I finally got to meet my very best friend – in person.
Planning for this road trip had been in the works for over a year. While I was deep in the building of my business after opening a physical studio location last year, I knew I would need a “life line”. This road trip would be that line.
It was my beacon of light at the end of the 16 hour days.
But while I worked for days, weeks, months, holding this plan in sight, I neglected my best friend and the basic essentials of a happy life. I neglected her so much that I feared I lost one of the best gifts a human could possess.
I was so focused on getting through the day and checking off actions items, I became nearly a hermit to a healthy daily life. I felt I only had the capacity to care for my clients and my children. I’d get up at 4 and go to bed at 10 repeating this over and over until I finally broke.
By the time I came out of my self inflicted turmoil, I finally reached out to my best friend, only to find that I had broken her heart.
“You don’t just luck into things as much as you’d like to think you do. You build them step by step, whether it’s friendships or opportunities”
Cultivating Great Friendships
1. Friendship is about sharing openly in the good times and the bad. You don’t have to always get into deep, meaningful conversations but cutting off connection when things get tough isn’t the way to go. Laughing often, playing regularly and trusting always, that’s most important. It’s about caring deeply, both how the other person feels as well as allowing to be cared for deeply. Playfulness of friendship is an integral part of a great relationship so when the serious business of needing a trusting shoulder occurs, it’s been built on a firm foundation.
I breathed a song into the air: it fell to earth, I know not where…. and the song, from beginning to end, I found again in the heart of a friend.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
2. Do not dilute or pollute your friendship with unnecessary drama. But do be willing to share authentically what is happening. While I don’t think a mission statement is needed for a friendship, we do need to be intentional in what we need and want in a friendship and invest wisely through our words and actions. Constant complaining isn’t what builds great friendship. It doesn’t mean you can’t share your frustrations but a great friendship isn’t about taming the shrew.
3. Keep the communication lines open. Learn to speak empathically. Instead of saying “You…” use “I feel…” If you are feeling scared or misunderstood or ignored, say “I feel…”, rather than – “you make me feel…”. Be willing to hear from your heart rather than your head what is being shared or not shared. Instead of cutting off communication, open up about what you are needing – even if it’s time and space. Remember, it’s a two way street – communication flows both ways. Listening is one of the greatest qualities of a great friend. But keep it balanced.
4. Let your actions speak louder than your words. There is a big virtual world out there. I actually met my best friend on line a few years ago and we’d not met in person until recently. Yet we formed a truly great friendship; caring, genuine, supportive all through the internet and phone. In my business I am on social media daily, and I have a policy to keep things positive. Anything intimately related to the ups and downs of life, I work to spare the moment by moment drama and wait until the lessons are learned to share insight. So if I didn’t specifically communicate with my friend how I was doing, all she would know is the snap shot of the moments of connection with my clients whom I adore, and the joy or success I choose to celebrate publicly.
But when I did reach out after months, I find out I had hurt her deeply by cutting off communication. A pattern I have used my entire life as a way to stay “safe” (more on this lesson later).
Luckily for me, my best friend is the most understanding, forgiving and gracious women I know. After spending a week with her in person in her home being lovingly cared for and supported, actions bolstered us both. This lesson is an important one I intend to keep in practice.
Little actions like sending a handwritten card, calling instead of an emails all the time to big actions like connecting in person and making plans to connect in person if you do not live in the same city.
There is something basic about friendship. It is like the structure that holds up a building. It is mostly hidden and absolutely essential.
5. Don’t have only transactional friendships, instead build a deep and meaningful friendship. I’ve had lots of transactional “friendships” and am working on building better relationships in general. This is like never allowing roots to deepen enough for the fruits of a true friendship to blossom. For me, that was a pattern, I believe it stems from self worth issues. Constantly judging myself. So when there are “bad” days and I’m not “perfect” the gremlins take me under letting me know I don’t deserve to be loved.
6. Seek professional help for issues that warrant such help. Your best friend is not your counselor nor a door mat.
Constantly dumping your marital, parental, business, personal issues on your best friend is like emptying out the air in your camp mattress. You are left with a hard, bumpy surface, poor sleep and a bad back in the morning. And that’s not pleasant for anyone (first hand experience analogy from our camping trips to Knoxville!)
Being aware that you need professional help is not a bad thing. Sometimes we do need that counselor or the right homeopathic remedy or big time intervention. Do NOT be afraid to get that help. Just get the RIGHT kind 😉
And sometimes we just need the deep and meaningful connection of a beloved great friend.
I believe that building a great friendship is one of the most valuable uses of our time. It’s revenue is endless. But it’s not passive.
Blessed are the ones God sends to show His love for us…our friends.
Questions: Do you have a deep and meaningful friendship? How does it affect your life? What special things do you do to cultivate a deep and meaningful friendship? You can leave a comment below.