In an age when texting seems more popular than talking, it can be difficult to form lasting connections and fulfilling friendships with like-minded people. We often find ourselves in less-than-ideal social situations, recognizing faces from our social media feeds without knowing how to interact with them IRL. There’s no Snapchat filter to hide that awkward moment when we know everything about a person but never actually speak to them.
Outside of social media, our relationships can often feel forced and laced with toxicity, leading us to believe that our painless online relationships are more worthwhile. It’s becoming easier and easier to enjoy the safety of virtual friendships more than our face-to-face interactions. But there is good news: it doesn’t have to be this way.
Life is all about choice. Though it may be uncomfortable, an examination of current real-life friendships could prove beneficial for all of us. How do you choose your friends? Would you describe your relationships as healthy? Productive? Do they bring you joy?
As Jordan B. Peterson asks in his runaway bestseller, 12 Rules for Life, “If you have a friend whose friendship you wouldn’t recommend to your sister, or your father, or your son, why would you have such a friend for yourself?”
Toxic relationships can be identified by their constant state of imbalance, while quality friends will strive to inspire, challenge, and uplift. Where a toxic relationship may feel crushing, a quality friend will feel like freedom.
Now that we’ve defined what a quality friendship is, you may be thinking that it all sounds too good to be true. But the reality is that if you know where to look and what to look for, you can set yourself up for success. Here are just a few ways to identify a quality friend—and how to be one yourself.
The Importance of Self-Assessment
Who am I?
The importance of self-assessment cannot be overstated. If you don’t know yourself, your desires, and your values, how will you recognize like-minded people? (Hint: you won’t.)
The ability to respect differing opinions is great for expanding your worldview, but choosing friends with similar values helps you stay on track when it comes to your personal life.
Think about it. This is why friends often exercise in pairs, make use of co-working spaces, go to conferences and seminars together, etc.
Once you know and are comfortable with who you are, another, more difficult question arises: What do I want?
When you are clear about your goals, you can seek friends with a similar mindset. You can encourage each other in the direction of your dreams
When you are clear about your goals, you can seek friends with a similar mindset. You can encourage each other in the direction of your dreams. When you connect with the right people, you can share your areas of expertise and tap into theirs, as well. With this in mind, we can consciously choose to associate with driven individuals who are making a positive difference in the world.
In Peterson’s words, “It’s appropriate and praiseworthy to associate with people whose lives would be improved if they saw your life improve.”
Looking Beneath the Surface
It may be intimidating at first, but getting to know people outside of social media is a huge step in the direction of creating lasting connections.
Now that you know who you are and what you aspire to accomplish, you can begin actively seeking healthy and fulfilling relationships. Get excited! It may be intimidating at first, but getting to know people outside of social media is a huge step in the direction of creating lasting connections. Your future tribe may be chugging coffee at a coworking space, hanging out in downward dog at your local yoga studio, or soaking up knowledge at a conference. Whatever your interests, there is most certainly a place for you.
It’s a good idea to approach any new relationship with a give-and-take mindset. Give what you are expecting to get. That being said, there are some surefire ways to identify potentially healthy friendships. Notice how your new acquaintance responds to feedback. Are they eager to understand your worldview? Do they show genuine interest in your thoughts and ideas? This is an unmistakable sign of emotional intelligence and the mark of a quality friend.
Up for a Challenge
There is nothing quite like having a quality support system as you pursue your goals and dreams. Good friends will not stand idly by while you engage in any form of self-destruction—especially mental. They will be there to lift you up when you hit rock bottom, and they will be there to cheer you on and celebrate when you rise to the top. Your success is their success and vice versa.
It may take some getting used to, but don’t fear a healthy challenge from a friend who wants to see you happy. Such a person will encourage you to take the necessary steps to reach your goals, no matter how big or scary those steps may seem.
It may take some getting used to, but don’t fear a healthy challenge from a friend who wants to see you happy. Such a person will encourage you to take the necessary steps to reach your goals, no matter how big or scary those steps may seem. But they won’t expect you to walk alone. And they may provide chocolate, too. Quality friends know that chocolate is important.
Lastly, ignore any voice that says you are undeserving of quality friends. This false sense of humility downplays your strengths as an individual—strengths this world needs.
Ready to Find Your Tribe?
With a little self-discovery, a little confidence, and a whole lot of understanding that we’re all imperfect, you won’t need to rely on your online friendships for fulfillment anymore. By letting go of toxic relationships, you’ll make room for supportive friends to enter your life.
As Peterson puts it, “It requires strength and daring to stand up near such a [good, healthy] person. Have some humility. Have some courage. Use your judgment, and protect yourself from too-uncritical compassion and pity.”
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