Exceptional Friends: May We Have Them, May We Be Them

Emily Hemming

The foundations of a successful friendship are arguably similar to those of any healthy relationship. Whether between parents, siblings, coworkers or lovers, our best interpersonal experiences enable us to fill our lives with growth and joy. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Unfortunately, many of us have lingering friendships which are dissatisfying or even damaging. So, how do you know if you’ve surrounded yourself with quality company? I’ve made it my mission to recognise (and hold on to) exceptional people, and now I’m finding them everywhere! Here are the key features to look for...

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

They want to see you thrive. 

We hope that your life is absolutely full of things to celebrate. Whether it be a healthy body, a strong mind, or a prosperous future (perhaps even all of the above!) the friends who care deeply for you will feel genuinely happy for you when you are thriving. Having said this, it is natural for humans to compare themselves to others. If you find yourself wondering how your friend’s success reflects on you, try to ‘honour where you’re at’ and speak kindly to yourself. Instead of comparing and judging ourselves based on the success of others, we must remind ourselves of how far we’ve come in our own journey.  Just remember; quality friends don’t diminish their friend’s happiness. 

Speaking of which….

Friends don’t say nasty things behind your back. 

Remember the movie Mean Girls? Of course you do. The poisonous posse staged three-way conversations to catch each other backstabbing; a timeless example of how not to be a good friend. Undermining someone’s choices or reputation is not what empowered people do. It has been referred to by psychologists as ‘leveling,’ and is a manipulative tactic to make a person feel equal or superior to another. But we (the superior friends) know that building one-another up and celebrating our uniqueness is a more rewarding way to play the friendship game. Don’t be a Regina.

They tell you truths.

Yes, even those that can be difficult to hear. One of the greatest statements I heard from my girlfriend felt rather harsh at the time. She was referring to a deeply unfulfilling relationship, but one which nevertheless I was holding on to with wasted hope and determination. She said: “I want so much more for you than this.” In matters of insignificance, we might bite our tongue or falsely agree (like when my sweet friends would assure teenage me that my fake tanning streaks were “not obvious at all!”) But when it comes to your significant life choices, your friends should be brave enough to have an honest conversation with you about the path you’re taking. 

Friends understand if you need to cancel plans. 

Sure, they may be disappointed (of course they are- you’re delightful company, darling!) but they don’t inflict guilt or create a dramatic fuss about your need to reschedule a catch up. We all have times in our life when we need to juggle or just to rest.

Hint: be mindful not to repeatedly cancel on the same friend, or they will inevitably feel de-prioritised!

They listen to you. 

Really listen. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek says “there’s a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.” There will be times in your life when you’re in a quandary and need others to be there for you. But a balanced friendship means that you can talk about your family, your fears, your career or your relationships (would you believe that people like to talk about their relationships? Crazy, right!?) and also give that time and consideration to others. You may even write yourself a little reminder for your friends’ significant events, and you can be that wonderful human who sends them a message or a bunch of flowers to say you’re thinking of them. There is always space in the world for acts of kindness such as this. 

Friends recognise and appreciate your best qualities. 

It can be enthralling to listen to the way you are perceived by someone who loves you, especially when you need a bit of a confidence boost. Sometimes, a person may even summarise your character in a way you’d never considered yourself! It’s also delightful when people recognise a quality in you that you’ve consciously emulated. If you go out of your way to organise a good party or you have a knack for remembering details, it’s rewarding to be noticed for this. Take opportunities to tell your friends the remarkable qualities they possess… and no, not just the physical ones. 

You have FUN with them! 

Laughter has a profound effect on our personal well being. It’s also completely contagious! We can all-too-easily fall into a trap of worrying or talking about the minutiae of life, but it’s so important to have people around you who can spark joy. 

I hope you thought of many people with fondness while reading the aforementioned qualities. Even if there was just one, be sure to tell them they are appreciated. And say ‘hi’ from me!

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