I was an only child until the age of 20. Being an only child is an experience on its own. Besides not being the best at team sports, children without sisters or brothers tend to gravitate toward friends to fill the void of siblings.
I grew up hearing my grandfather say, “Friends does get yuh in trouble!” In response, we would either stupse, roll our eyes or both. It was not until I started to mature that I realized some level truth in his sentiment. With friendships, quality trumps quantity.
In one year, we can go from a solid social group of fifteen to having only two close friends – one of those two, being a parent. In 2013, I personally went from being someone who would scoff at people who went to therapists, to someone who went to one!
I can write this piece now because I am fully comfortable with my story. It is amazing how life throws us into situations where we have to go to therapy to learn how to deal with people who should really be in therapy. It is only after such experiences that we are better equipped to assess ourselves, prospective friends, current friends and red flags we may fail to see.
One of this column’s readers suggested that I provide a list of red flags (there are more, but I am working with a word count here!) we should be aware of in our friendships. This was one evening after we had a very candid discussion on this same topic. Here are six simple red flags to be aware of as we navigate our friendships:
People who talk a lot are more inclined to tell lies and possibly be untrustworthy with your business. “Open mouth, story jump out.” The friends who openly discuss their other friends’ confidential business are waving a red flag in front of your face. A mention or a reference is acceptable. However, after the first half hour of a full report on someone else’s business? A HUGE RED FLAG. We have to be weary of compromising our friendships just for the sake of a ‘scoop’.
There is nothing like a person who arbitrarily changes with the tide. If you have a friend whose temperament toward you is dependent on who they are around – beware. Living in a small society like ours, one tends to see many instances where people ‘jump ship’ of decade-long friendships simply because it was no longer the ‘cool thing’ to be someone’s friend.
Friendships will span through our triumphs and misfortunes. However, friendships should not span through ignorance. If a friend is experiencing true hardship and one decides to assist in their time of need, great job. However, acts and attempts to transform you into a personalized ATM for frivolous expenses is a big, fat, NO.
In truth, we always know deep down when we are being taken advantage of. No justification can ever make this right. If we are always on the giving end and never on the receiving end in our friendships, it is not a friendship. It is a volunteer project. Giving in this instance does not only refer to monetary gifts. If one is constantly a support system to a friend who is always too busy to lend an ear, assess the friendship.
“…More importantly, what did you say?”
Many of us are always most willing to report on what other people have said about someone behind his or her back. Perhaps it is part of the Perlie-mentality or perhaps it is just human nature. One may even question whether any of it is genuine. What good does this kind of reporting do? Is there a teachable moment from the entire exercise?
When it comes to friends, I am always more concerned with the response of my friends to such comments rather than what strangers have stated. After all, the strangers do not know me. It is what your friends say behind your back that indicates how they truly feel about you.
If your friend engages in gossip sessions or joins in on the bashing of you, it supports the bashers’ sentiments. In the words of one of my uncles, “Keep yuh mout shut… even if yuh agree, keep yuh mouth shut!”
Additionally, it would not be remiss of the bashers to mention, “Wuh if his own friend could agree or say so, it gotta be true!”
Friends should not be enablers. We all should aspire to be the types of individuals that hold our friends accountable. However, we should never encourage open criticism of our closest allies. Wait for a one-on-one with your friend and then you can criticize them until the cows come home! Otherwise it is a bad look and not something a friend ought to do.
My grandfather (rest his soul) used to tell a funny story about friends. The story was about a fox and his tail.
The fox had the most beautiful tail in the forest and he knew it. He used to prance around the other foxes and ask them if his tail wasn’t the most beautiful thing they had ever seen.
One day Fox was working in a factory and a cutting machine mistakenly chopped off his tail making it a bob. Instead of crying in despair, the Fox started prancing around and declaring to the other foxes that the bob tail is way more appealing and encouraged all the other foxes to cut their tails into bobs.
Usually, after telling this story my grandfather would state, “That is friends!” Misery can in many instances like company.
Watch for people’s reactions and immediate exclamations when you give them both good and horrible personal news. Be aware of the “hmmphs”, the “I was telling X-body so!”, and the killer whale of “I told you so!” People are simpler than we believe. Eventually, our true colours and feelings are revealed. It takes a very genuine and evolved person to be happy for you regardless of how their life is going. That is a true friend.
In conclusion, although these are just a few red flags, I truly hope today’s column can assist at least one of us to navigate current and prospective friendships. The best advice on friendship I can give is: what we want in a friendship, we ought to first become. Only then, would we be more likely to attract those with the qualities we admire.
Toni Thorne is a founder and entrepreneur who enjoys a great debate, family time, island life and minding her mouth! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org