What draws us toward friends is usually a mystical chemistry that is brought on by mutual likes and dislikes, history, commonality of energy and a dash of simpatico dust for good measure. There is usually a wonderfully long honeymoon period between friends that lasts until the first conflict, at which point both parties will quickly learn how the other handles conflict. And this is the test of the relationship.
Coping With Conflict
As you take an inventory of a friendship it is important to assess if the way conflicts are being dealt with in this friendship are healthy or not. Does one person stop talking when they are angry or do they communicate their truth in a peaceful and mature way? Does passive-aggressive behaviour occur, in which sarcasm and jabs become the mainstay of the dialogue or, even worse, do the two of you just ignore the problem altogether, and then brace for a future explosion?
No matter what the situation, friendships can be messy, disappointing and challenging. Yet they can be glorious and we need friendships to have balance. Life is more expansive with friends than without. Remember at any given point in a conflict, you or they are either contributing to the mess or to the cleanup of the relationship.
Many conflicts come from inappropriate expectations in relationships. Ask yourself if you are expecting your friends to act and be just like you. I encourage people to not expect others to be just like them because this is the road to sure and constant disappointment.
People are different from you, and that doesn't mean they're bad. Acceptance of other people's boundaries and truths brings about a kind of emotional safety and freedom. I feel an immediate sense of relief when people are clear about their boundaries and let me know with gentleness and clarity their truths.
In fact I think the kindest, most compassionate and peaceful people are those that are in touch with what is OK for them and what is not. These are people that will say yes only went they want to, but when they do say yes, you can be assured that they are acting from their true heart and from a sincere motivation.
I encourage clients, viewers and readers to get comfortable when other people say no. Remember that saying no is difficult for most of us but a friendship is so enriched when two people have given each other the permission to honour themselves fully in the context of the friendship. This kind of unconditional acceptance promotes emotional well-being, freedom and healing which breaks down resentment, guilt and shame.
You need to assess your friendships and see where you want to put them and what your expectations are. The healthiest friendships include appropriate expectations. I invite you to consider this concept: friends can fall in A, B, C, D and E categories. Each group describes the kinds of expectations you would have from that group.
It can help you to know the level of friendship you are at with each person in your life. It is important that you are mindful of which group you put your friends and acquaintances in so that you do not have A expectations from a person that actually belongs in a C group!
Group A: These are your closest of friends -- your life-and-death people. The people in with whom you are most intimate. You would have only one or two friends in this group. They will be present for the important events and milestones in your life and have earned this spot because of tried and true times together. They have never betrayed you, and vice versa. You feel safe revealing confidences to them because they have shown themselves to be able to keep your private information confidential. You don't judge each other, and you are entirely safe to be authentic with one another. Your expectations are higher than in any other group, though they are realistic. Be very choosy as to whom you allow in this group.
Group B: You are quite close to these people, but not as intimate as your As. You love them, but you feel you a bit more cautious as you detected some problem patterns. Perhaps they're less trustworthy or you feel less emotionally safe with them. Note: If the foibles of a friend in this group continues to get worse, you may need to downgrade them to the next group. There is no need to amputate unless there is real abuse; you just need to move them down to another group, where your expectations are lower and more in keeping with what you have learned from their actions.
Group C: Our acquaintances. They include co-workers, downgraded B-group friends and friends of friends. You could do business with C-group people, since the friendship is not the priority. These are the folks who, when they ask you, "How are you?" you answer, "Fine," no matter what you are really feeling. You show them only the social you. You have very low expectations of these people.
Group D: These are people with whom you are obligated to be social, such as your boss, your boss's spouse, some co-workers or some family members. You don't particularly like them or have anything in common with them, and you have virtually no expectations of one another, but you are courteous with each another.
Group E: These are the people you might run into or need to do business with throughout your day, such as shopkeepers. You have zero expectations of these people.
This is a mindful inventory -- taking process of all your friendships and can be applied to all relationships in your life. As you place each person in their right category and adjust your expectations accordingly, notice a sense of empowerment, maturity and healthiness come forth.
The realization that you cannot have the same expectations of every person in your life can transform how you deal with your relationships and can bring about emotional safety as well as healthy friendship connections.