I study emotional responses in relationships and write about them to help others improve their well-being and self-awareness.
The purpose of this article is to share some thoughts about social skills that we often overlook when considering our relationship with friends. Think of it as “friendship etiquette.”
I wrote this article based on six decades of learning to appreciate good friends and knowing how vital it is to treat them well—but also knowing how to recognize when we might be accepting negative people into our lives.
Every Friend Is Part of Your Life Story
You can think of your life as a movie script. And each of your friends is a character in the play that becomes part of your reality.
People seldom realize how their present state of existence is directly related to the people they have been in contact with throughout life. Therefore, it’s crucial to encourage constructive friendships with a caring attitude.
Our positive attitude and how we treat them are crucial to having a well-balanced life with meaningful interactions.
Actively Embrace Influential Friends
Engage on a social level with people who share the same thoughts and feelings as you.
When you are with people who share common goals, you’ll feel better and energized to accomplish things more enthusiastically.
Some of the most outstanding achievers in society have fulfilled their pursuits with the inspiration of influential friends who motivate their actions.1
Eagerly Expand Your Social Friendship Circles
Think for a moment about how many close friends you have. Now think about the people they know. Now, imagine how many really close friends each one of your friends has.
Is there any overlapping? Do you know who the friends of your friends are? Are they your friends too? Or are they just acquaintances known through someone else?
Take into account the fact that they must be quality people since they encompass a social group your close friends are inclined to be involved with and appreciate. So, reach out and welcome them into your life. Relish those connections and treasure any moments when you can get to know them better. Expand your possibilities.
Take Responsibility to Avoid Misunderstandings
When people have communication problems, they may say things that are taken the wrong way. That can leave one feeling troubled by a misunderstood comment someone made.
It would be best if you shared your feelings and emotions as soon as possible. Let your friend know when something is troubling you before it blows up into something bigger. Many times, they may not even be aware that they said or did something that disturbed you.
Hopefully, your friends will do the same, so be open to criticism when a friend needs to get something off their chest.
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Communication is the key. Acknowledge the presence of misunderstandings and take it upon yourself to share your feelings.
When you exchange true feelings and emotions, you will be more successful at working out matters that might otherwise damage a friendship.
Enthusiastically Stay in Touch
It’s nice to follow up and let friends know you’re thinking about them. Develop a routine to call friends who you haven’t spoken to for a long time. There’s always something to talk about to keep the relationship alive:
- Tell them how you felt about the last time you saw them.
- Ask them how they felt about an event you both once shared.
- Discuss what was on your mind since your last encounter.
It leaves a pleasant feeling in their mind, knowing that you got something positive out of the last get-together.
Encourage long-lost friends to get back together by offering various suggestions for meetings. For instance, meeting for dinner in a nearby restaurant usually works.
Eagerly Ask a Friend How They Are
Your life can’t be so busy that you forget what your friends are going through.
Our ability to develop close bonds with friends is related to how much we know and remember about them.2
When a friend tells you that they have a cold or had an injury and will see their doctor, take the time to follow up with a phone call to ask how they are doing.
Some people keep disturbing things to themselves because they don’t want to bother others with their problems. Make an effort to follow up with friends who may have a crisis on their hands. When you give it some thought, it can make a difference for them.
Always Remember Birthdays
Friends will remember that you thought of them on their birthday. It means a lot to them. It shows you’re thinking about them and that you care about the friendship.
You can always send a card, but a phone call to say Happy Birthday has more meaning, in my opinion.
If it’s too late to send a card by mail, you can always send an Amazon gift card by email. (That’s just another idea to consider).
Willingly Show Interest in Your Friends
Mindfulness is a fantastic trait. Friends will never forget those who showed interest in the incidences of their lives. So put some attention to what you know about them, and follow up when the occasion requires it.
- Congratulate friends on their achievements.
- Ask about the status of a friend’s troublesome endeavors.
- Strengthen and reinforce mutual respect when differences occur.
- Complement friends when you notice they did something remarkable.
Be Mindful of Non-Sociable Friends
Do you have friends who never want to join in when other people are around? I know a few people like that. They seem to be afraid of social interactions with large groups, even if they know the individuals.
They could be introverts who need a lot of personal space. They are okay with just one or two people. We can't achieve anything by pressuring them into attending large gatherings.3
There can be excellent reasons why some people need to avoid large social events. For example, they might have unresolved issues that stand in the way of socializing. Or it could be a personal decision for specific reasons.
For example, one might not want to be part of a gathering when friends include other friends whose company they don’t appreciate. That’s perfectly reasonable, and we shouldn’t be quick to judge.
Additionally, if you know someone of great significance to you, but for one reason or another, they don’t fit in well with your other friends, then it’s okay to keep them separate.
Take Advantage of Online Virtual Conferences
If getting together with a bunch of friends is impractical, consider planning an online virtual social event. You can find many free apps for smartphones and laptops that you can use to include several people in a virtual conference.
Zoom is a well-known app that works well. Look for it in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for Android devices. It’s free for conferences up to 40 minutes in length.
Acknowledge Cell Phone Etiquette at Social Affairs
It isn’t polite to spend time talking to someone on the phone while sitting across from a friend in a restaurant.
I usually turn off my cell phone at social engagements, especially when eating out with friends. I only leave it on when I know someone needs to get in touch with me, such as finding one another at a get-together.
Avoid Wasting Mental Energy on Negative People
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, every friend is part of your life story. Many people don’t realize how much their paths in life result from the people they know. So it’s crucial to keep this in mind when choosing friends.
- Do you keep friends with whom you have nothing in common, or never feel enlightened when you talk with them?
- Do you feel spending time with certain friends who only talk about their self-inflicted problems is draining on you?
- Do you allow people to dictate your behavior when you see they don’t follow their own advice?
- Do you have friends who never made anything of themselves, but you think you find them satisfying for some unknown reason?
Why do you endure that? Is it a lack of respect for yourself? Do you find something of value from interactions with these people?
Any time you allow someone to influence you negatively, it's draining your mental energy.4
We only have a particular amount of mental energy within us. And when we interact with friends, some of our energy goes towards that interaction.
If we hang out with toxic or simply not exciting people, we are using up energy we would better spend with someone more gratifying.
A Final Note: Relish Your Good Friends
We only have one life to live, and it’s not a dress rehearsal. So, it’s vital to consider the time we spend with certain people.
When you know you have an exceptional person in your life as a friend, hold on to them. Keep them close and nurture their friendship with all the methods I discussed here.
- Kathy Caprino. (Jul 24, 2016). “6 Powerful Traits Of People Who Inspire Others To Become Their Best” - Forbes
- Tracy Brower. (April 4, 2021). “How To Build Relationships And Enhance Happiness: 4 Insights From Neuroscience” - Forbes
- Carol Bainbridge. (February 22, 2021). “Introvert Social Needs and Preferences” - VerywellFamily.com
- Amy Morin. (January 9, 2020). “10 ways to stop giving people power over you, according to a psychotherapist” - BusinessInsider.com
© 2021 Glenn Stok