Without exception every single day in our digital age we need to interact with other human beings. Most times the people we interact with aren’t even the one’s we care about. When we finally get to those we care about we need to listen, respond, follow up, make plans, keep plans, check in…. it can be daunting. I constantly find myself asking the question: Am I doing this right?
I frequently worry that I’m not doing enough and the reality is that I’m probably not. I’m an introvert by nature so it’s difficult enough for me to approach people in general, let alone keep up with the daunting process of building and keeping a healthy relationship. I forget to call, respond to texts, make plans, or worst of all if I’m feeling extra anxious or depressed I’ll cancel plans last minute. Should I just face the fact that I’m a bad friend?
Often I wholeheartedly agree that I am a bad friend, but today I’m going to take a stab at playing devil’s advocate: maybe I experience friendship in a nontraditional way. Don’t get me wrong, most of the behaviors described in the last paragraph are destructive and have/will continue to damage relationships. And I can understand why.
At least once a year I go through an outgoing phase where I make tons of plans and try to connect with lots of people. Inevitably I am faced with last minute cancellations and unanswered calls or texts. I try my best not to be hurt, but I am and in that moment I understand exactly how I make others feel when I cancel plans or fail to return messages. It sucks, but things happen and sometimes plans fall through or people get distracted.
Maybe sometimes we’re all bad friends so instead of focusing on my failings I can focus on how I can be a better friend, but how does one go about leveling up in friendship? I know that I’m a broken record, but it seems the answer lies once again with mindfulness. Sophie Dembling asks some good questions in her post for Psychology Today:
“What is our role in creating intimacy in our relationships? And what roadblocks might we put in our own way? In what ways do you feel you “can’t” contribute more to the relationship?”
Dembling’s questions should get you started on a good path. Instead of evaluating relationships in your life piece by piece, start thinking about relationships as a whole, the elements involved and how they function.
Another reason we fail to connect with our friends is because we are just too busy. Life moves at hyper-speed now and sometimes there isn’t enough time to take a breath, let alone remember to reach out. The tips in this Fast Company are clear and seem easy enough to implement, particularly practicing random acts of kindness.
I’ve thought about bringing the Pen Pal tradition back with friends it’s harder to meet up with so we still have a space to connect that isn’t as easy to tune out of like social media or texting. Will I ever get to it? Maybe, maybe not, but at least I’m trying!
If you’re curious if you might be a bad friend check out this article from Vincent Nygen that goes over eight different warning signs.
This is a side note on how grateful I am for the friends that I do have. Yesterday was hell for me. My mood plummeted and I couldn’t seem to stop crying and pull myself out of it. I was insecure about all the relationships in my life, questioning everything I have ever done… I was so ready to call it quits. My bestie texted me later that day to tell me she was there for me and it brightened me up enough to make it through. I don’t know what I would do with that woman, but once the appreciation wore off the insecurity that I don’t reciprocate enough and don’t deserve her friendship began to consume me again.The dark cloud of doubt, sadness and insecurity threatened to stick with me today, but another observant friend was determined to snap me out of it and she succeeded:
I’m 100% sure I do not deserve this awesomeness and it’s so tempting for me to feel guilty that she went out of her way for me when I’m not worth it, but I keep telling my brain that is not the way to receive this support and love. I am so grateful and glad to have her in my life. I am excited to see how our friendship will evolve over the next few decades and will do my best to spoil her and the other friends in my life with my own random acts of kindness ❤.