How To Pick Good Friends
Did you know your friend group can influence:
- How much self-control you have ?
- What food you eat and how healthy it is?
- You financial success?
- How positive you are?
- What emotions you feel?
- How long you live ?
Female friendships can be a source of guidance and mentorship. The reassurance of our self-worth. Compassion and nurturance. Stability and safety during times of stress and turmoil. Friendship is a buffer against anxiety and depression. It makes us more resilient. Yet for so many of us, we never fully realize the possibilities of female friendships.
They can also be a source of great wounding and trauma. We look to them for a sense of belonging, validation. As teenagers, wives, and parents we look to them to determine if we are doing things right, if we are okay and acceptable as women.
Friendships take time, and if you want to reap the benefits of them, you need to take the risk and invest the energy. Like all intimate relationships, this can be scary.
If we have a history of being emotionally injured in our immediate family or by friends early on, it can be challenging to move forward and take risks in friendships. We might choose friends poorly and have low expectations for what friendships can hold. Or, we might wall ourselves off and have no expectations that our friendships be rewarding at all. We may have them, but keep them superficial. In the most extreme cases, we might withdraw completely from the possibility of friendships. Unlike when we do this with romantic partners, we aren’t as likely to be challenged by others if we choose this option. Deep down though, everyone wants friends.
What’s the formula you how to pick good friends?
If you are like most women I work with, you don’t have one. When you were younger, you might have been friends with whoever lived on your block. Your next-door neighbor or who sat next to you on the bus. As you got older, it may have been your college roommate or someone who had something else in common with you.
Friendship is an example of something we don’t learn enough about as a child. Our parents don’t teach us how to pick good friends. Of course, it’s not likely anyone taught them how to pick good friends either. We don’t learn enough about how to pick good friends in school either. We may have been taught how to BE a good friend, but those messages usually involved being a “giver” without recognizing what to do if a friend violated our boundaries. My female teens really struggle with understanding these issues.
- When you want make a friend, what sort of questions do you ask yourself?
- How do you pick a good friend?
- Do you like them based on whether they like you?
- Do you have specific characteristics that you require for people before considering friend worthy (i.e., thoughtful, funny, rich)?
- When you have a friend, how do you act?
- How do you recognize when acting poorly towards you, and when do you draw a boundary?
- How much do you give?
- When do you end a friendship?
Recently I had a conversation with a client during which I asked her what value a friend was adding to her life. She thought this was such a selfish question. Is this your reaction to a question like this?
What are the lessons you learned about friendship? What are the false beLIEfs you might have about how to be a good friend, how to pick friends, and how might being a woman affect the messages and beLIEfs you have about what a good friend is?
I can tell you I didn’t learn much in this area, and the messages I did learn had to do with self-sacrifice and giving despite others’ behavior. I think these things are worth discussing because, as a woman, feeling connected and supported in your friendships is a key part of your mental health.
I always encouraged my clients to think carefully about their friendships in this way and come up with new rules and new beliefs that are more helpful and healthy. Here are a few guidelines about how to pick good friends.
- Pick kind friends. We want kind friends. Kind people are happier, and they make you happier. Kind friends don’t feel happy when others are doing poorly.
- Pick generous friends. Generous people are more open-hearted and feel good to be around. You can be less guarded with generous people because they are less anxious and fearful. Generous friends give you their time and are there for you when you need them.
- Pick friends who you admire. When you are around people you admire, you are inspired to be like them. This makes it more likely you will achieve your goals.
- Pick friends who make you feel good. Why spend time with people who make you feel bad about yourself?
- Pick friends who give good advice and are good listeners. Knowing when to listen and when to give advice is an art. We all need friends who are willing to tell us what we need to hear and not just what we want to hear, but who will do it at the right time.
- Pick friends who don’t gossip. Anyone who will gossip about others will do it to you.
- Pick friends who aren’t takers. A person who takes from you has work to do on themselves. There are givers and takers in the world. You don’t need someone like this in your life.
- Pick friends who bring out the best in you. Friends should help you to be the best version of yourself. They should rejoice when things go well for you.
- Pick friends who don’t encourage your bad habits. If you have trouble with gossiping or drinking too much wine, pick friends who have better habits. They should encourage you and praise you when you are trying to form good habits.
- Pick friends who tell the truth and are trustworthy. Relationships that are solid and authentic can’t be built on lies. Friends who tell the truth confide in you and also are trustworthy and can be confided it.
What if I thought I picked a good friend but I was wrong?
Break up with your friend.
Friendships, like relationships, can be ended. If friendships aren’t working, you can break up with friends. Many of my clients end their relationships when they no longer serve them. In fact, when you are getting healthier, you might outgrow your unhelpful friendships and find yourself seeing them for what they are for the first time.
If a friend has become harmful for you, this can be a challenging process depending on the length of the friendship, and you may need time to grieve or the help of a therapist.
In one of my favorite shows Being Erica there is a scene where two lifelong friends break up. Erica, the main character, has a therapist who can magically take her through moments in her life through time travel (I wish I could do this). Please check out this show if you haven’t seen it.
Jenny is a bad news friend who continuously jeopardizes Erica’s life with her reckless ways, and ERICA always lets her take advantage of her. In the most recent episode, she helps her get a job, and she does something immoral, illegal, and selfish as she has multiple times in the past that reflects badly on Erica. The therapist takes her back through all of the times in her life where Jenny has really jeopardized her personal welfare ( through time travel), rather than acting as a true friend.
Here is the script from the scene.
“Friendship. Two people choose each other through some mysterious mix of alchemy and circumstance. On the surface, the reason for our choice seems obvious. They share our interests; they make us laugh. But is there more to it than that? And do we ever stop and wonder why one person and not another?”
Erica returns and sees Jenny sitting in front of her door. …..
Jenny: Why do I ruin everything?
Erica: I don’t know, but you do. Over and over.
Jenny: I want to change that. I’ve said it before; I mean it this time. Can you forgive me? Are we still friends? Erica: This is really hard for me because I love you. We share a history; that’s why I keep trying, but at some point, you have to stop and ask if it’s worth it and if what we have can even be called a friendship. I’m not sure if this friendship is healthy or useful for either of us.
Jenny: This feels like a breakup.
Erica: I know you didn’t mean to hurt me. But you did. And this time, I can’t fix it for you, I can’t make you feel better, and I can’t make myself feel better by helping you. Jenny walks out the door and collapses in tears.
It isn’t ever too late to make good friends and to wean out the toxic ones. As adults, we often believe that its too hard or too late to start working on making good friends. It’s simply not true. Sometimes if you look around in your network you will discover people you already know who you enjoy spending time with but never really invested in. You can start to mine those relationships and see what you discover. You can find new friendships by joining groups like BFF taking a wine or cooking class, joining a meet up group, or a skill pop class.
Just like romantic relationships, friendships can be a place where old patterns from childhood play out. If you come from an abusive background, you may need help setting boundaries with people who are not healthy for you and drawing healthy friends into your life.
Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.