Last week was World Friendship Day and interestingly that provided a strong theme for many BBC radio shows on the day and over the weekend. It was fascinating to hear about what people valued in their friends and how they took the opportunity to acknowledge them publicly. We also had a lovely discussion at Conscious Cafe Skipton that day (albeit on Zoom and not in person). We asked the question “What Role Does Friendship Play in Your Life?” and here are a few insights that came up from the delightful sharing that we had. Do feel free to post any comments that you have about friendship and what thoughts may have arisen from this.
Friendships for Couples and Singles might shift
When you are in a long term relationship and part of a couple, friendships can tend to be more with other couples. It is not always so easy for everyone to keep up friendships with singletons when your social life is built around being a couple. When a long term relationships ends that can potentially lead to a vacuum, when you perhaps you no longer feel comfortable socialising with the friends who are couples now that you are single .. your old couple friends might feel their loyalties can be divided. But space is created for new friendships with new bonds of support being forged. Post-relationship social life can be different for men and women, particularly if the social life inside a marriage is organised by women.
The Value of a Sisterhood
Single women in particular can find a sisterhood of women friends who can be of huge support to them. Wives can miss out on a circle of girlfriends while in a long term relationship. And not every woman manages to find such a circle of support but when they do have one it, can be life-enhancing. “Later in life I discovered sisterhood and my social life exploded.”
Needs change – finding Common Bonds over time
As we move through life and grow, our needs can change and we might start to look for more depth in our connections than we previously have had. Many people talk about looking for meaningful connection with others who are “on the same wavelength”…. “finding my tribe”. Conscious Cafe has provided that tribe connection for many folks because we create the space for good conversation and listening.
Picking up old Friendships
Sometimes the friends we make early in life in our youth or tertiary education can last the decades and even can stand years of little contact. It is wonderful when you can pick up where you left off ten years ago.
Friends as Family, and vice versa
The long-running TV series Friends was a worldwide phenomenon that is still screened daily even though it ended in 2004. At the core of its popularity was the strong bond between the six characters. It provided a new narrative for friendship which said you could have a close-knit circle of friends who in essence became your chosen family. How special if we could find such friendships… and how special if the family bonds we do have allow us to have friendship relationships too. “To be a father who is both mentor and friend to my daughter is a joy.”
The stereotype of a ‘Northern bloke’
What is it about some men who find it difficult to talk about emotions and feelings? Is it true northern blokes find it difficult to reach out, be vulnerable and open up? Is it an outdated stereotype? Maybe some men still are like this … but they are a product of an old culture that really does not serve them. We discussed how men who are willing to be vulnerable can find more support from female friends than male ones.
Making time for friends
Sometimes in your life you can have too many roles .. parent, worker, commuter, spouse … where is the time for friends after putting the kids to bed? But these periods of high demands on your time do not necessarily last your whole life. Fitting the demands of parenting into a busy career or business is often a greatest pressure in mid-life. As you get older, children grow up and leave the home and your own life moves on with much more space for friendships. The middle years may be the most challenging for people to maintain their friendships or friend clusters may centre around children and family life.
Friends – local or global?
If you stay in one place then it is likely that all your friends are close by and you will have a strong local network. However if you branch out and move around expanding your life journey to many different places you are likely to end up with a wider network of friends potentially all over the world. There are pluses and minuses for both these scenarios. If you end up living somewhere with few local friends then you have to take the effort to make new friends .. MeetUp is wonderful for doing this. If your circle of friends is global then you might not be able to pop out to the pub with them but using WhatsApp and Zoom you can reach out and stay much more connected than you could before these technologies became so universal.
Staying Connected over the distance
Technology like WhatsApp can bring friends closer. As much as it is nice to share a cuppa and a chat with a local friend it is possible to have a short regular, even daily, check-ins and bring a long-distance friend overseas much closer. That regular routine can give you both a significant boost.
We discussed the qualities in a good friendship .. what we would like to have and what we think that we can give to others. We asked how we could strengthen our friendships ….
- Being a Good Listener … the top of everyone’s list
- Being Curious … be willing to explore with others
- Thoughtful .. take time to remember the milestones in someone’s life and call them up afterwards to check on how they did after a big event.
- Be available, be present … be one to what is needed in the moment
- Be willing to talk about want matters most
- Hold back on judgement
- Earn trust .. be relied on for confidential sharing
- Accept people for where they are right now
- Be willing to be the companion in good times and bad
- Be the witness they need, don’t turn away during the down periods “You can share your sadness with me”
- Be authentic
- Speak from your heart
- Be willing to give honest feedback
- Don’t try to fix what’s wrong … just be that sounding board when asked or simply listen
- Be there for the laughter and the fun as well ….. !!
Conscious Cafe Skipton is taking a break over summer and will be back in the autumn .. most likely online again until we have the green light to gather in groups! Follow us on MeetUp.
Look here to see if there is a Conscious Cafe group near you …