Friendships are a peculiar beast at times and this becomes more and more apparent as you grow up and understand yourself better. Some might say it has to do with getting older, but I’m not entirely convinced that it is just down to maturity.
I think it is to do with your own boundaries, knowing and accepting yourself and what you expect from others and what you are willing to do for them without compromising who you are.
But most importantly it’s about accepting people for who they are – yourself included. We are all different, have been shaped by different experiences and that is absolutely terrific. A true friend will not want you to change and you wouldn’t want them to either.
I would say that I love people. I love observing them, I just don’t particularly like being in close proximity to others for extended periods of time. This does not make me a social pariah or that I am dreadful company (I hope) but I am comfortable in my own skin, where there are no demands or social expectations.
What do I mean? Well, it seems to me, harmonious interactions are largely down to how you respond to situations, the behaviour of others and accepting differences in the people you surround yourself with. I don’t just mean close friends, I mean acquaintances too.
You see, I’ve become cantankerous and verbally so at times. In my journey, I have come to learn my boundaries and in so doing have learnt to be assertive when I do not agree with something and crucially, I’ve learnt when to speak and when to stay silent. Note the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness – I do not like confrontation. I tend to stand in the shadows and will go along with the bunch for an easy life.
Like everyone, I do have a pet peeve… I do not like being ordered around by people as I find it disrespectful – there are ways to ask someone if they could do something for you without it being an order. We are not in the army and good manners do not cost you a penny.
Teenage years are when the gender divide makes itself heard, with a hormonal scream and a spot to boot. Boys tend to let stuff slide, mock each other or have a fight and then draw a line in the sand. Not girls. Oh no! Girls will manipulate, scheme and before you know it you have a long-standing grudge and a princess of darkness ruling over a thiefdom of pre-menstrual teens, with dodgy make-up (yes, I grew up through the white eye-liner craze of the 00’s) and still nursing that anger about a pencil topper from year 7. Girls friend-hop. They backstab and they have no real sense of loyalty until they are bitten by the princess of darkness and her thiefdom themselves.
At this time, in particular, my Mum imparted some real pearls of wisdom that I still stand by to this day. Particularly when people rub me up the wrong way or I feel like I’m being a little intolerant, selfish or anti-social. Yes, we all feel like that sometimes!
Take everything said to you as a confidence and do not repeat it
This shows that you are trustworthy and loyal. It also means that you escape the drama of “Well she said…” because you haven’t and even if someone accuses you no one will back them up. Do not retaliate. Respond with “I can’t talk to you about it because it was a private conversation. Maybe you should talk to them on your own in private.” They may mock you at the time, but they will also realise that you will also be keeping their secrets too. You treat everyone the same.
Keep your counsel
No seriously. You have two options in this situation. Sometimes people are frustrated but it does not mean that they do not care or like someone, they may be venting about something that has taken place and not want to raise it with the offending person because the time has passed. That is their decision.
Listen to them and either just let them talk OR try to give the other side to give perspective to the upset person. At no point though do you betray that confidence or give your personal opinion. It may come back to bite you.
You can say no
This counts for conversations and toxic friendships. People grow apart. If you do not want to hear something or you feel uneasy listening to something, you can walk away or say “No offence but I don’t want to hear this.”
Equally, you do not have to stay in the same circle. If there’s someone you talk to in class, ask if you can hang around with them for a bit or walk home with them. It will forge a new friendship. It doesn’t hurt to be sociable with multiple people. You may even have different friendship groups depending on where you are; school, clubs, teams, religious groups, family friends. That’s good! Variety is the spice of life and you will learn so much from different people.
Besides, saying no can be empowering and stop you feeling out of control, scared, anxious or upset.
You are not going to get on with everyone
Tough. Sometimes you just have to get on with it. Do not change who you are. Be polite and kind. Besides, you may be surprised first impressions and experiences can be so wrong…
Not everything is about you
Sometimes people will behave in a way that rubs you up the wrong way (a la my dislike of being ordered around) this is their way. If they do not see it as a problem and no one has brought it to their attention then it doesn’t really matter. The person probably has loads of lovely qualities. Is it worth a confrontation or upsetting someone when you can focus on the good rather than the bad?
They may be behaving that way because they feel anxious about a situation. It’s not because they don’t like you. It’s not aimed at you. Perhaps they feel like they have control so they are behaving that way to be able to calm down. It doesn’t make it right, but it helps you understand and not react poorly.
Jealousy is the curse of hormones
Or should I say insecurities?! Throughout life, you will come to realise that a lot of criticism is steeped in jealousy or insecurity. The jealousy that someone looks a certain way when someone hates that part of themselves and cannot change it; jealousy that someone is confident but because they are it comes across as bulshy – it may not, it may be that you feel anxious so want to be invisible and cannot be because they’re drawing attention to you. If it’s about body shape – in ten/twenty years time I can promise you, you will all be wildly different.
When someone behaves in a certain way – question why and then question why it bothers you!
Make sure you get enough sleep
Everything seems worse when you’re tired. Your tolerance will be lower too!
If you haven’t eaten your Shreddies and “Kept hunger locked up ’til lunch” then you will become irritable and Yorkie are absolutely spot on when they say, “You’re not you when you’re hungry” #FACT
Some people just love drama
Seriously. I don’t understand why, but some people seem to thrive when things aren’t going well and like to try and drag others into it. Avoid getting involved. Let them keep the attention they crave.
I hope these tips help you as much as they do me and if in doubt, please know that the journey is often more fun than stressful and if nothing else we have songs we can sing in our heads to stop us from saying things we shouldn’t…