Friendship Advice for a Shrinking Planet

Ahh, friends. The people we pick up along the proverbial bus ride of life. Some hitch a ride and get off after a couple stops, and others hang on for the long haul. As our world grows ever smaller, the friendship pool extends ever wider. But does it grow shallower, too?

So many friends, so little time. We have our life-long friends, whose children we watch grow bigger each year. We have our work friends, those great comrades who hear our daily frustrations and celebrate our biggest achievements. Then there are the old school friends; we came of age shared our best memories with these guys! And of course, our extra-curricular friends; bowling buddies, drinking buddies, kindred souls from the writers' club, moms from the PTA. Last but not least, the internet friends... some of whom may know our deepest secrets even as we have yet to know their faces!

These days, a friend is a phone call or an email away. Friends can find us on our cell phones and on the internet, even if we move across country. Seems so easy, to just have friends and more friends by the boatload. Why, you can have a friend in every city if you want to (and that would make for some cheap and interesting vacations!). But the fact about friendship is... if we want to have deep friendships with some folks, others will simply have to take a back seat. And if we want healthy relationships all around, we'll have to learn not to be so petty.

With this new ease in communication comes new categories of friends, and a brand new set of considerations. Sometimes you fight yourself caught between a friend whom you really feel a close connection with, and another, more persistent friend who jockeys for your free time. Then there is the matter of social engagements. If you throw a party and only invite family and long-time friends, will your internet friends feel left out? Should you start living secret lives with multiple sets of friends? What about friends who lay guilt trips on you? Does the you-can-run-but-you-can't-hide aspect of cell phones, voicemail and email make it easier to just silently bear these people than shake them off for good?

The world is getting pretty crowded. With every new friend we make, we give away another little piece of ourselves. This can be exhausting! So how do we keep the cup of love and friendship from spilling over? Here's a little new-age philosophy to keep your relations peaceful and joyous, the way that your God would want them.

Take responsibility for yourself and no one else. Why is it so much easier for us to point fingers instead of taking the blame ourselves and then making a motion for improvement? Why do we say things like, "Hey, you never call me anymore!" when it should be more like, "Gee, I've been so out of touch, maybe I should give [Cathy] a ring." If everyone just owned up to their own shortcomings and corrected their own faults, things would be better all around.

Learn to love people for the ways they fulfill you, instead of resenting them for the ways they don't. Ever catch yourself saying, "Oh, I can't talk about [work] to So-and-so. She just doesn't want to hear it." Well, is there something else you CAN talk to that person about? Do you have different friends for different interest categories? Well, that's a positive thing! What a lucky person to be able to share your multiple facets of personality with so many wonderful friends.

Never argue via email. Unfortunately, there will be times when feelings get hurt and grievances must be aired. Whatever you do, don't hash it out on email. Putting harsh and defensive remarks in writing is a terrible thing to do to a friend! Here's the thing: if you feel you can't call someone or "have a discussion" face to face, I have some sad news for you. You're probably not as close to this person as you think you are. Maybe instead of hurling accusations, it's time to think about saving (or severing) the friendship.

Don't push the (guest) envelope. So you're getting married. Wonderful! Do you invite everyone in the free world, or do you keep it intimate and exclusive? With so many friends in so many circles, it's hard to know where to draw the line. Suppose you ask an old friend who you haven't been particularly close to of late, to your wedding... and they decline. Should you feel offended? Should you pursue them for an explanation? No, and no. Sure, you may feel upset that someone from the past doesn't wish to share in your joy, but why not just concentrate on your happy times ahead instead of dwelling on the negative? If someone doesn't feel like participating, just let them be. You have the rest of your life to work on getting close to them if you really want to.

Remember your true friends. That guy from happy hour is not your real friend. The woman from Yoga who calls you only when she's mad at her boyfriend is not your real friend. Someone who still thinks you're the same person you were two decades ago is not your real friend, either (although they may think they are!). Your real friends have known you in your darkest hour and love you all the more for it. Your real friends have watched the birth and death of your thousand selves. Your real friends tell you the truth and not what you want to hear. Your real friends would drop everything to come to your rescue, and you'd do the same for them. Never forsake these people for friends of a fair-weather variety!

Go with the flow. My eighth grade reading teacher wrote the following in my yearbook: "Stay happy and lithe and go with the flow, and love shall follow wherever you go." What great advice! If you're going with the flow you're not really resisting, are you? If you're going with the relationship flow, you're realizing that things can't be perfect with everyone at all times, and that's okay. There's always tomorrow, next week, next year or the next century for the winds to change direction and reawaken an old friendship that may have been dormant for some time.

Don't say goodbye; say, "See you later." Sure, there are times in our life when we'll feel like we've outgrown certain people. Was there a crowd who you always partied with, who maybe you don't seem to have as much in common with anymore? Did you become more religious, and did that leave you with some tough choices to make about which friends to keep? There is no reason to hurt someone by telling them, "I don't want to be your friend anymore." Go quietly and gracefully if you can. You never know what the future holds, and whether or not an old friend may return to your life at some point down the road.

Whoever said "It's a small world after all," was more right than they realized. We need to figure out a way to keep our relations peaceful on this ever-shrinking planet. Let's all be a little more thankful for and forgiving of our friends. After all, what would we be without them?

Copyright 2005 Dina Giolitto. All rights reserved.

Find out how thought-provoking articles can position you as an expert in your field. Dina Giolitto is a Copywriting Consultant with ten years of experience writing for print media and the web. Visit http://Wordfeeder.com for a free consultation and copywriting quote.

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